Greetings from the Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in Bentiu, Unity State northern South Sudan. I’m here working with UNICEF South Sudan as a communications specialist for the polio eradication program.
That paragraph should suggest that Giving What We Can is a natural and almost automatic fit for me. But I’m happy/sorry to say I am a new recruit to Giving What We Can.
In the past 15 years I have dedicated my time and energy working towards the end of extreme poverty. My goal is that anyone born anywhere will have access to a life like the one I am fortunate enough to have, and which over a billion people today still don’t have.
I have learnt to give not out of sympathy or charity but through empathy and justice. I know that the lottery of having food, water, shelter, education, health and security should not be decided by where you are born.
One of the reasons it has taken me a while to make a financial declaration of my global poverty ambitions is that I have largely been a perpetual volunteer. I still spend most of the year not earning money. But this should not be an excuse, especially as I set myself the enriching pursuit of being the best humanitarian I can be.
I will always have more than the people I aim to serve and support. It is a privilege that I can afford to volunteer, work, or be in their country, either out of my own pocket or on an organized program. I don’t have to financially support my own family and community in Australia or make any sacrifices to my lifestyle (let alone my own well-being) - as I see people doing on a daily basis here in South Sudan.
But here’s the secret that I already knew but didn’t convert into dollars…
Giving is receiving.
The more I give of my time and efforts, the more I receive in learning, sharing, experiences, perspectives and more. I feel filthy rich from my learning and experiences in the past 15 years in over 70 countries around the world. It feels good to commit at least 10% on any money I earn regardless of my accumulated wealth (or lack of it over a year), adding my value to the world, and increasing my effectiveness as an active global citizen, including financially.
If anyone should already know this it should me, as I connect with great people doing great things in difficult circumstances on a daily basis. I know donations translate into the vaccine that went into the elderly woman’s mouth today so she can escape catching cholera this rainy season; to train tireless home health promoters to deliver important and new messages on routine immunisation; to allow mothers to access health facilities to give birth; and also to the folks from UNFPA who lead a graphic but significant discussion with community leaders on gender based violence. None of these programs would happen without support from UN agencies, NGO’s, local Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and now committed donors like me and hopefully you!
I’m fortunate in my life that I gain from giving in many ways, but I also don’t have other responsibilities. If you are giving what you can, know that it has a significant part to play in reaching a world without extreme poverty for everyone, everywhere, forever!
My time with UNICEF in South Sudan is close to an end and for the next six months I will be back on the volunteer trail doing the other form of giving (and receiving) that I love: advocacy, education and global awareness presentations. I will be travelling from the Middle East to Australia via Turkey, the Balkans, Europe, Central Asia and SE Asia on a global citizen presentation tour called Teaspoons of Change. I will be sharing personal choices, decisions and actions that have a positive impact on people and the planet. I hope to create teaspoons of change and advocate for Giving What We Can as a very significant teaspoon of change.
I thank Giving What We Can for providing the platform, ignition and support for me to commit on a financial level. Anyone, anywhere can also share in the gift of giving and all the receiving that comes from it - so be sure to check it all out by exploring the Giving What We Can website, and getting in touch with a nearby chapter!