I used to live in the U.S., about four years ago, and I am still on one of the Oxfam America email lists.
I opened an email from them today. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that this isn’t something I do very often. And it then occurred to me that this was a potentially interesting fact.
I’m an ad hoc Oxfam donor and just generally a big fan. I’m lucky enough to get the inside track on their work because I know some truly amazing people who work and have worked there. So I get the download on programmes over a glass of wine, random celebratory emails or I get to look at the photos uploaded onto Facebook from the field (I’ll ask if I can post one up with this, actually – watch this space). So I regularly stand in absolutely nothing short of awe. Though apparently not of their emails…
I had a hunch about the why-fors of this. I use Gmail, so can run a reliable search of all of my emails momentarily; which, in this case, pulled up reams and reams of unopened campaign updates and calls to action, along with the odd how-to, going back about five years. Then there was one that just asked me, “Will you help Joanna?” That one was open.
What? This is new?! Who the hell is Joanna? What's all this? Are you implying that I can help an individual, real actual person..? Sweet.
There was no click through from the email, that I could see, to find out more about this woman (really? Yes, really), so I Googled her a bit. Her name’s Joanna Manu and she and Oxfam are doing some inspiring, inspiring things in Ghana. You can read about her here if you want. It’s basically just some woman’s story...Thus it is, of course, very cool.
If you don’t have the time to go read, here’s my favourite bit:
"After this training, I can see how important education is, so I am enrolled in school," she said. "I want to be a political leader, maybe a member of parliament."
Manu's motivations and sense of responsibility go well beyond her village. "I see fellow human beings as I see myself, and if they can't defend their rights, then I have to help them," she said.I will try to crystalize what I'm getting at here by stealing some other people's well made points of view:
Stolen from theLaCproject: Tell the stories of those served.
Even as a fundraiser of many years, I can feel disempowered by the abstract stats. Just tell me someone's story and give me something I can get my head around enough to inspire my heart to give.
Very exciting update (22/05/10):
My friend was brilliant enough to give the go ahead to post some of her photos from Haiti up here. Obviously they are NOT official Oxfam, they are from her personal Facebook. Some snapshots of what Oxfam is working on in Haiti, post-earth quake, right now...
Kids in Oxfam's ad hoc canteen. One on the left clearly knows how to strike a pose.
More kids who are working with the Oxfam programmes there.
I'm failing here and don't know this woman's name off the top of my head, but I do know she worked with Oxfam's Livelihoods programme to restock her store after the quake - which is what you can see in the shot there. Will try to update again with her name...
And some gorgeous Haitian paintings, about which I probably don't know enough and so am no doubt missing a zillion cultural references.
Big thanks to Clare for letting me share these. Oh, and for doing all the life-saving stuff in Haiti, that too...