There has always been a divide between the rich and poor, strong and weak, the able and the differently-abled all of who exist in parallel and at times depending on where one is located in close proximity.
Perhaps it would be untrue to say that during previous times inequality was not as stark or severe. Today, however, the divide between the haves and have nots seems to be growing exponentially and this ever-widening wealth gap threatens the lives of so many and in less transparent ways. Even the likes of those who belong to the privileged class experience social divisiveness that may potentially give rise to instability and injustice.
Of all the inequalities that persist, the one most challenging is economic inequality which refers to the unequal distribution of income and opportunities between different groups in society that are in co-existence. This leads to a system of class that results in separating humanity on the basis of material wealth and monetary resources. Causing some groups to be extremely well-off whilst others to be living hand to mouth and more than often in extreme poverty.
It has been estimated that Pakistan contributes more than one percent of its GDP to charity according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2018. Furthermore, a study by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy shows that Pakistanis are believed to donate Rs240 billion (which is more than $2 billion) annually to charity. The report further indicates that nearly 98 percent of people in the country give in-kind donations, which is one form or otherwise if not cash then by volunteering for needy causes.
The greatest gift then perhaps is giving back to the community and contributing to making lives better. It is generally assumed that when we donate or extend charity we are in fact touching lives and spreading light to those in need, and that by doing so we enlighten our souls in the process. The practice of charity is thus a means of voluntarily giving and helping; a truly humanitarian act.
There are many positive aspects of giving for those who donate and those who are recipients of these donations. Charity is essential in the sense that it has a lot of positive social impact and public benefit. These selfless acts of extending relief and providing assistance to people at times of need cannot only be done for those physically around you but one can also donate internationally to any part of the world for any cause you wish to support.
By and large, charity is given to those who may be victims of war, natural disaster and catastrophe, hunger, disease, poverty and orphans. The money can either be given directly or by providing basic needs such as supplying the needy with food, shelter, clothing, medical aid and catering to other life supporting needs. Many people believe that the widowed, orphaned, the ailing or injured are generally regarded as the most genuine recipients of charity. Yet, other actions may be performed as charity in addition such as visiting the imprisoned or the homebound, educating orphans and/ or even supporting by funding or taking part in social movements.
Although a vast majority of charities act responsibly, an unfortunate reality is that there are those that are in reality fulfilling other underlying causes under the pretext of charity operators. Charity fraud is real and involves acts of using deception to extract money from innocent and naive people who believe they are making donations to charities that are aligned with their values. They do this by making material representations that they are a charity or part of a charity and ask prospective donors for contributions to either a non-existent charity or an organization that is working in pursuit of a dangerous cause or belief. Charity fraud includes fictitious charities and also on occasion deceitful business acts. Deceitful business acts include businesses accepting donations and then not utilizing the money for its intended purposes.
Charity fraud has consequences that are far-reaching with generous donors losing money and trust, social issues staying unresolved and/ or in worst-case scenarios money potentially collected and distributed for terrorism financing as charities can be possible channels for criminal activity. It is therefore essential for everyone to be vigilant while giving money to charity as it may end up in the wrong hands such as extremist groups who receive financing from innocent citizens.
There should be ample research on charities you are supporting which should be safe, use secure methods of giving and do not take advantage of your generosity and compassion for those in need. It is absolutely vital to research charities before you decide to give, to ensure your generosity is going to a trustworthy organization and not towards a scam. Always protect yourself and verify that the charity you selected operates ethically and is legitimate.
To conclude, feelings of compassion, humanity and sense of self appreciation are awakened when we give to those who are less prosperous than us. Giving, no matter how big or small is something mutually valued and treasured. Being aware of charity fraud should not stop us from extending help; in fact, we must understand the power that we have in our hands collectively to effect change.
So, when you decide to support a cause you care about and you want your donation to count then take a few extra steps in planning your giving and help safeguard your donations to reach where they are most needed and deserved.
The writer is project assistant, Resilient Development Program at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad.
This article was originally published at: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/649743-the-art-of-giving
Approved By SDPI