Every year, Guyana joins with the rest of the world to observe International Day of Charity.
The day and its observations were chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace.”
In any society that we dwell or live in, there will always be pockets of persons who are desirous of help in one form or the other. Poverty is not just limited to Third World or Developing countries, it is a global phenomenon that exists in even the richest of countries. Experts have articulated that once there is a disparity in the distribution of wealth, poverty would always be prevalent.
In as much as the causality may be open to debate and interpretation, the actuality of the condition remains, and the onus on the rectification of same should not lie solely on the governing institutions in place.
All of the world’s religions prescribe for the need to render assistance in one way or another to those who are less fortunate. It was built into our cultural systems, and that knowledge was passed down from generation to generation.
However, this traditional norm, as we would describe it, has somewhat been diluted with the passage of time and with the modernist take on cultural assimilation.
Invariably, the day-to-day existence and the proverbial rat-race to pursue wealth generation as a medium to transcend class stratification has meant that the majority of families have focused more on building themselves over expending resources to help persons outside of their social ambit.
Nevertheless, according to the UN, “notions of volunteerism and philanthropy provide real social bonding and contribute to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies. Charity can alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises, supplement public services in health care, education, housing and child protection. It assists the advancement of culture, science, sports, and the protection of cultural and natural heritage. It also promotes the rights of the marginalised and underprivileged, and spreads the message of humanity in conflict situations.”
There is no denying the benevolence of NGOs and other non-profit organisations that have contributed tremendously towards the social upliftment of those in need.
But their help is contextualised on a more macro scale.
Beyond the support of the State, there is supposed to be the support of thy neighbour, the support of the village, the support from those who have enough that sharing would not have any effect on their economic footprint.
How do we ensure or bring about a resurgence in providing service to those in need? Well, fundamentally, it should start at the level of our education and upbringing. Just as how we are taught togetherness and tolerance among all ethnicities in school; education catered towards inculcating formative values that enshrine the need for us to care for each other must also be incorporated in the teaching curriculum from an early age.
We cannot account for the behavioural change in persons who are already entrenched with a particular perspective of thinking, but we can inculcate within the malleable minds of our young ones the need for them to extend their social and economic responsibilities beyond the confines of the family structure.
The bigger picture is that we are all interconnected.