The art of giving has undergone a sea change, from the times of our grandparents who didn’t think twice before giving up their own food to a beggar, to online donations today. We donate some amount to a charity or an NGO and attach the 80G certificate in our IT returns. We trust them to put our money to good use. Individual involvement is mostly not sought or is possible.
Oh yes, there are enthusiasts amongst us who run marathons, bake cakes and take out collections and others who do their bit at an individual level. But what of those who are unable to do any of the above for health or other reasons? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they can be a part of dynamic social change? Sounds great, doesn’t it?
But before going into that, let me get something out of the way. I have a major problem with the word charity. It not only brings to mind images of the poor and the needy, but also conjures up another image, which is equally disturbing — that of a benevolent giver and a grateful receiver. The givers might feel superior or even smug for having done their bit for the poor, sometimes even going to the extent of expecting abject submissiveness from those who take their largesse. At the other end, the receivers either take it as their right or feel small and ashamed since their self-respect is compromised while taking the dole. Also, a dole only temporarily alleviates the need of a person and establishes a vicious circle of giving and receiving. Even indiscriminate populist sops and doles by the government fall into this trap and more often than not, are counterproductive. I had dealt with this in this post.
I wanted another word that made the act of giving satisfying for the giver and dignified for the receiver to accept it. A quick look at the thesaurus threw up gems like aid, support, endowment, fund, and assistance among others. Don’t they sound infinitely better than ‘charity?’
Just imagine the impact, if a needy person were to get assistance or aid to set herself or himself up in life. It leads to oodles of confidence and self-respect and sets in motion a ripple effect that impacts many lives. That’s why probably Confucius said, Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
This is also precisely why I liked the concept behind the Milaap model of aid. Their motto is to give the needy a “hand and not a hand-out.”
Milaap is a crowdsourcing company that funds several NGOs (Milaap calls them Partners) working in niche areas including skill training, education, energy, water and sanitation at the grassroots level to bring about social change.
Recently Indiblogger held the Hope Project meet in collaboration with Milaap in Mumbai. It was one blogger meet I wanted to attend but unfortunately couldn’t. The Hope Project focuses on the liberation and rehabilitation of Devadasis, who appallingly are still to be found in parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra. As part of an activity at the Meet, bloggers were asked to pick one defining word for the New Year. And just look at the words! I recognize many words that the thesaurus had thrown up as alternatives for ‘charity!’ Aren’t they all so positive, making one want to be part of the change?
It is true that anything given free of cost has little value and is treated as dole or favour by the receiver and even taken for granted. But when the aid comes as a loan, there is motivation to work and repay the loan. Milaap works on this premise and so any donation made is actually a ‘loan’. Once the loan is returned, it can be lent again to another applicant. It is a win-win situation all round because the NGOs have a ready source of funds, the individual borrower gets directly benefited and the person ‘lending’ the money gets back his loan in the stipulated time frame.
It comes as a revelation that a loan of less than Rs.10,000 can buy a solar powered lamp for a village household that has no electricity. And that it can make dramatic changes to the productivity of that household. Or for that matter, a small loan can help a family build a toilet – one of the basic needs of human beings, which is lacking in millions of households in India’s rural hinterlands.
One can start with as little as Rs.500 – an amount we spend in an ice cream parlour, without a second thought. Is it too much to set aside such a sum for helping a student, a family struggling without running water or toilet? I would think that the satisfaction gained from doing this would definitely be more than the momentary pleasure of eating an exotic flavour of ice cream. I was gratified to know how students in US universities raised money to help borrowers in remote towns and villages of India. Why, one can even become a volunteer to write and edit the stories of borrowers for the website if one can’t do any of the above.
The Milaap model should appeal even to the hardest-nosed businessman, for the amount one gives as a loan is repaid in the stipulated time frame. One can then extend the amount to another needy applicant. This is ‘reinvesting’ at its philanthropic best, isn’t it?
Milaap maintains a wonderfully exhaustive website where all details of its partners, their work, the number of people they have helped till date and other such details are provided. Individual applicants are featured, with such details as the money they need to complete their education/training or other requirements. The best part is that one can select the candidate one wants to help and even follow up the progress of that borrower. Ways one can be part of the efforts and success stories are presented in the form of videos. All this is done by volunteers around the world. I would strongly advise you to take tour of the website.
I particularly liked their ‘Gift a card’ idea. We all know that often it is a challenge to select a suitable gift for a loved one. Sometimes the gifts are duplicates, sometimes we only add to the already crowded wardrobes. Instead why not gift a Milaap card? The gift voucher can be redeemed at their website by the receiver to help someone. They then get updates on the progress of the person they have helped. I think it is especially a great way to teach children to learn the joys of giving and sharing with someone they have not even met, and that it actually gives them more joy than getting a gift for themselves
Come, let us give a hand to the deserving needy of our society by ‘investing’ in their future and discover the joys of giving and sharing.