As I sit here typing this blog post it is the last day of what I would call my idea of a "charity shop" (and I am not the only one who thinks this way). The LCiL Pop-up Shop has been about raising awareness - not picking people up by their ankles and shaking them until the last coin they possess falls out of their pockets.
I have been following the arguments about "Kid's Company" with interest. (If you haven't got a clue what "Kid's Company" was or claimed to be - it was a charity set up to help vulnerable children which closed its doors rather more rapidly than anyone expected for reasons which I am not about to go into on here.)
I was interested because of my ideas about what charity should be about.
If you have read this blog before you will know that I will promote, discuss, argue about, attempt to educate you about, etc, things which interest me. What I will never do is attempt to influence you one way or the other about the topics I discuss on here. You get the facts as I see them (with the odd comment from other people I have had contact with about the subject) and I leave you to make your own mind up.
In some cases this has been proven to work better than I could have expected - at least two people who have known me for several years have told me that they learned more about me through reading my ramblings on here than they ever did before (the poor things) and one of them actually used something they had learned to help me the last time I saw them.
I blog because I love writing (correction - I am addicted to it) and I feel it is my way of contributing to making a difference to this world we live in.
We live in a society which appears to value "throwing money at problems" more than practical things like blogging or getting our hands dirty trying to help.
I must admit to being rather hurt and upset when a Chugger near the Clocktower in Leicester refused point blank to understand my argument. I told him I was more prepared to make a "practical" contribution to his charity through my blog rather than handing him my Bank Details and forgetting about it. Going one step further I also told him that I had previously volunteered for a group in the same Sector of "Charitable Work" as a Blogger. Unfortunately, his mind was set on the target of emptying as many Bank Accounts as he could for his cause.
Chuggers are a bit like protests on "Facebook" and internet petitions. You can "Like" a protest page on Facebook or sign an Internet Petition and forget about it. All you lose is a few minutes of your time (and the price of however much internet time it cost you to either sign the petition or "Like" the page).
The next level up is things like going on Marches or doing thimgs like raising awareness through blogging (or even "Letters To The Editor").
However, there is nothing like getting a group of humans together who have got a problem or concern and giving the humans themselves the tools to sort it out.
My story is not the same as yours - I can help you raise awareness of your problems through my blog but it would be using my words - I would prefer to sit down with you and give you the tools to use your voice to raise awareness using your powerful story. I have spoken to people whose stories have nearly brought me to tears but I know I would feel like I was being disrespectful to them if I tried to tell their story no matter how much permission they gave me to quote them in my ramblings.
To me - charity should not be about raising as much money as possible for whatever cause is now fashionable. Instead it should be about coming together to use our individual gifts, talents, whatever you want to call them, to help each other.
The LCiL Pop-Up shop has (in my eyes at least) been more successful than an actual Charity shop selling stuff would have been. It gave people the opportunity to learn about the organisation and how it might help them, it also showcased some really talented people who otherwise would not have had a chance of so much publicity, and it also told people it is "OK" to get involved in a debate about 'Disability' in a 'Mainstream' venue like the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester city centre.
What I am trying to say (in my usual rambling uneducated way) is that a project like the LCiL Pop-Up Shop was more useful than - for example - a hundred adverts telling people that "Only £2.00 per month will save a child in Africa from dying of Malaria" for two simple reasons.
The first one being that we have become so desensitised to those adverts that we ignore them (the fact that the "Charities" who put them on TV and Radio never actually tell you how much of your £2.00 per month will actually be spent on saving the children is beside the point).
The second reason is that you learn more when you can get involved with activities or look at things which interest you (whether or not they are directly connected with the aims of the organisation).
For example, last Saturday I went right out of my comfort zone and had some photos taken as part of "Models of Diversity" (regular readers will know about me and camera flashes). This is a campaign to get more "realistic" models on the Catwalk and in magazines in place of the Stick Insects we are usually bombarded with.
So - next time you decide to hand a Chugger your Bank Details - stop and think if you can make a practical difference instead.
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