Tag Archives: charity

Indian Olympic Team Snubs Charity

India has a small Olympic contingent in the 2010 Olympics. Although India sports a warm climate, there are mountains in the country but not a lot of winter so it makes sense that there might only be three winter athletes. It also makes sense that although India has over a billion people and a sixth of the world’s population that there might still be a lot of poverty.

It doesn’t make sense that three athletes representing their country should not even be given matching outfits for the opening ceremonies. The Indian government spent about the equivalent of $2000 for each of the eight team members, which is not a lot for the length of the Olympics. I don’t think the government is that poor but I’m not an economist.  But here’s something else that doesn’t make sense. On arrival of the eight members (including the three athletes) in Canada the local Indo-Canadian community found out about Team India’s plight. A local Indo-Canadian businessman chipped in, and had suits made up, and the community raised $8,000 for expenses through a local radio host.

Before that, luge athlete and flag bearer Shiva Keshavan was given about $9,700 by a group of lawyers so that he could get a new sled. The Indian government has put out a statement saying they did supply uniforms (which were supposedly mismatched) and some money, as well as giving Shiva $2o,000 the year before for his training. I don’t know how $20,000 translates in India compared to cost of living and other expenditures but it probably goes farther than here, but how far?

It’s unclear whether the outfits were done in time for the opening ceremonies but most likely were. However Keshavan was not wearing the outfit. And it seems that the $8,000 raised by the Indo-Canadian community has been turned down by Team India (after Keshavan said they were grateful) with the comment that they will not accept charity and are embarrassed.

I think it’s time to leave egos at the door. Olympic athletes don’t just compete for themselves but for their countries. A country is made up of individuals and it’s obvious that the Indo-Canadian community here cared enough to want to help. They wanted their athletes to look good and do well and win for all of them.

And on top of that, Keshavan accepted money from the government of India as well as from the lawyers. In fact, almost all Olympic athletes accept charity, or donations to further their training, whether from governments, organizations, benefactors or other commercial donors. How does the Indian team (which member has his knickers in a twist over this?) decide that this is not acceptable? If they’re embarrassed by their government’s lack of funding, the damage has already been done. They should be grateful that their fellow country men and women are wishing to participate in their own way and help out.

If a country is poor and people chip in I think that just shows more of a team spirit to those who are happy to be behind a team, to support them and cheer them on and do a little bit in any way they can because they are not the athletes. It should be country’s pride in helping, not embarrassment in accepting.

And what will the overabundance of Team India’s pride get them in the end? Probably nothing, including no support from the local Indo-Canadian community and no medals because they didn’t accept what was needed. Team India, take some humility here and use your pride in your athletics, and be happy that some people were willing to help.

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Holiday Fever: How To Tame It

Every year, and it seems, earlier every year, merchandisers and stores whip the public up into a fine shopping froth. Maybe calling that day after Thanksgiving in the US “Black Friday” is a good way to put it. When I hear of Black Friday (or any day for that matter) I think of a massacre or some other dire happening. And it seems to be the beginning of when people take leave of their senses and massacre their pocketbooks.

Christmas (or pick your other seasonal holiday that involves gift giving) used to be around Dec. 25th (the actual celebration) and involved a gift given to represent the gifts that the wise men brought at Jesus’s birth. But even for those of minimal or no Christian belief, there was Santa Claus who brought gifts to girls and boys. And there are many festivals of light (for that is really what Christmas and Jesus represent) that involve food and celebratory gifts.

But in North America this got distorted along the way. Now retailers see it as a way to make more more more and holiday decorations

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go up sometimes before Hallowe’en, which is good for buying food and costumes but not for buying stuff. Thanksgiving in Canada happens before Hallowe’en and in the US it happens after, being the last big holiday (good for buying food) before the mega merchandise shopapalooza blowout greedfest.

I guess you can tell how I feel about having decorations shoved down my throat for two months and holiday carols ringing out from every store speaker from Dec. 1st or earlier. When I was a kid it was tradition to get into the holiday spirit some time around Dec. 12, two weeks before the big event. For some people whose culture involves Epiphany, New Year’s or Twelfth Night, it would start later and go to January 6th.

Now I have friends going gaga over Christmas by Dec. 1 at least. They think I’m a Scrooge but really I just get grumpy with hearing the same songs over and over for weeks on end and I’m sick of them by the time I should be enjoying them. The long, drawn out state of such great festive fun ends up making it like every day and just losing any aspects of being special and magical. There are also those people who have their tree down by Dec. 26th which seems just odd to me.

But since I do like the holidays (Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, Yule, you name it) as a time of getting together with people and enjoying company, here are a few things to remember and a few to forget. First, forget that gifts matter. It’s how people treat you and that they care for you that matters most. It shouldn’t be shown in material objects and is a cheap facsimile for truly caring. I used to exchange Christmas stockings with a few friends. We would buy cheap, little dollar store items that weren’t much of anything but just fun, and wrap them individually. It was one of the best parts of Christmas when I was a kid. My friends and I would exchange these and unwrap the tiny gifts and enjoy each other’s company. If you have little money, this still encompasses the spirit without getting into a huge cost that bankrupts people for a year.

Don’t go elaborate on wrapping because it’s on the gift for only a short time and is a waste of trees. I started making cloth sacks that could be reused. I also save old calendars and use them to wrap gifts throughout the year. Or you can make the wrapping actually part of the gift. Reusing containers like baskets and tins is also a great way to wrap.

Make things. Whether it’s nuts, cookies, jams, liqueurs, jewelery, potholders, mitts or potted plants; these may take a bit more time but can save money. I’m one person who is quite happy to receive food or tiny little home-made items and appreciate the work that went into them. And as many of us grow older we have a ton of “stuff.” Also if you give something, give it with the caveat that if the person doesn’t like it they can either re-gift it or let you know and trade for something else. Some people feel uncomfortable doing this but I would rather a person enjoy their gift than hide it on a back shelf.

And don’t buy into having to buy buy buy. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it and many people can’t even though the government (in Canada) likes to say the recession is over. In Canada, Boxing Day happens on Dec. 26th but I have already seen signs for those “Boxing Day” sales for this last weekend. Sales all the time, really means the items are just regularly priced and not on sale.

The biggest thing to remember is that the holidays are about community: that means spending time enjoying being with someone, not fighting over all the things that bubble up in families. And it means charity, giving if you can and remembering that others have it worse. It’s funny how at this time people get stressed and get nastier (especially when shopping) than they do at other times. So, even though I won’t have a tree for a week or two yet, I hope I can remain stress free and hope to be making some gifts this year.

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Welfare: For Freeloaders or Desperados

The history of social welfare has been long and varied, being part of the Roman, Islamic and Jewish empires. It has covered different groups with different criteria but overall it was for the poor and needy, for the elderly, widows and people with disabilities.

Canada has had a welfare system since the Great Depression. Part of a social welfare system, in Canada’s case includes health care, education and supporting the underprivileged. It can vary from province to province as to what specific criteria are. There is also the specific welfare part of welfare, which is helping those who are unemployed or unemployable.

I have had the unfortunate experience of needing welfare firsthand. When I was in my 20s I hit a time of recession in the province and couldn’t get a job. Putting in over 50 applications a month landed me nothing. I had no choice but to go on welfare. As it turned out there was a period when my other two roommates were in the same situation. We would get a few tins of food from the food bank and limp celery and eked by. I had no savings, no car and was not even sure how to do more than I already was.

Eventually I ended up with a part-time job for two days a week. The business was good enough to pay me under the table. If they had taken deductions and given me a pay slip I would have had to report it to welfare. That amount I made would then be deducted from my welfare payments. Welfare at that time paid something like $300-400 a month, hardly enough to live on. I could lay around and get $400 or I could work part-time and get $400. There really wasn’t incentive to even work part-time. So the under the table arrangement helped me survive because who can survive on that amount when rent is $300?

I then got a second part-time job and worked under the table there for two days a week. That gave me four days at part-time. It made the welfare bearable but still hard to do much. At the same time both businesses offered me a full-time job and I went with the one that I thought would keep me interested longer. I got off of welfare with a huge sigh of relief. It was humiliating and belittling.

In Canada’s past, women and single mothers on welfare weren’t allowed to have boyfriends and their virtue and chastity were watched as much as their bank accounts. This attitude can perpetuate in our society. It’s one thing to be buying designer clothes but to have nice clothes and a haircut for applying for jobs is another thing. Yet people have been scrutinized and punished if they try to have any normal aspect of living. “Welfare bums” are relatively rare and those who are like that often have other underlying conditions that could do well with other government services. If a person is an alcoholic or drug addict or socially inept or unhygienic, which stops them getting a job, then the answer is not to leave them on welfare but to help them become another useful cog in society’s great machine.

Yes cogs. The cut and dryness, or the black and white world of welfare is denigrating and hard. Most people don’t choose to be there as it’s no way to live. My second brush with welfare was at a point when I was trying to move out of freelancing into another job. I was in school full-time for three months doing an apprenticeship program in script supervising. Unlike every other person in the course I had neither a spouse to support me through the program, nor was I able to get unemployment insurance because I was a freelancer. I did have two publishers in New York and on average received one manuscript a month from each. This was enough to get by on while finishing the program.

Unfortunately, both publishers went under or changed focus (one to movies) at the same time and I lost my source of income. I didn’t want to forego the course but what money I had got me through to the end of November and I still had December to go with no options. I went to welfare and said I only needed $300 to pay my rent and I could get by. ( I lived alone and had no roommates). At that time I had a grand whopping total of about $4,000 in RRSPs. RRSPs are heavily taxed if you take them out early. They are also taxed if you take them out when you’re older. But people get them as retirement income, a way to cushion one’s unemployed elder years.

Welfare would give me no money at all. Not even $5. Here I was, in school, going through training, with no options and they wanted me to cash in that $4,000, so that I could then depend on the state for longer when I was older, use medical services more because I was not living well, or more likely, end up living under a bridge. This was the government’s solution. Of course the rate of welfare isn’t much higher than it once was but I probably needed to be a drug addict to get any support. It was the only time in my life where I was seriously contemplated prostitution. I just couldn’t get up my nerve to do it, yet this is where my government wanted me to be.

So the next time you pass judgment on one of those welfare bums, trying walking and living a mile in their shoes. Welfare isn’t for the weak at heart and most people can’t even survive on it. There is no such thing as living a free and easy life while on it. Oh, and how did I get through that month? By the good graces of friends and family. My landlords only charged me a half a month’s rent. People sent me money and I gave out no Christmas gifts. I thank my lucky stars I had such generous people in my life.

http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/bc_welfare_time_limits.htm

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Perspectives on the World

The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

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Carleton Votes Against Cystic Fibrosis

Carleton University is getting more attention than they want right now. The Student Association voted against fundraising for cystic fibrosis, something they’ve been doing for more than 25 years. Although one council member argues that they wanted to rotate charities, the statement that cystic fibrosis was primarily a white man’s disease was a deciding factor.

Yoicks! Where have the brains of students gone? As it turns out, CF affects as many girls as boys (not men here, many young people). From what I remember from anthropology there are three distinct racial groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, where specific physical and genetic traits differentiate them. The Caucasoid or Caucasian group includes white people, some North American First Nations, Indians, people from the Middle East and Europe. Many of them have brown skin but they’re of the caucasoid group. Not to mention many people are of mixed race and therefore can be black and white.

So, the Carelton U council got their facts wrong. But let’s say their facts were right, that the disease they were fundraising to help eradicate only affected white men. What if they then had voted this in, as they thought they were? It seems some people can’t see the reverse racism here. Should a person suffer because they are of a certain color, or a certain gender, even if it is the one we joke about as the least popular: white male? Should a child suffer because he was born a white boy?

Sickle cell anemia predominantly affects black people. Other diseases affect particular ages, or races or genders. Should one disease be barred from research or its victims from the benefits of such research because of this. Carleton U Student Association, time you guys took a class on ethics.

I’m all for equality but that means not biasing one group over another, not favoring one and not ostracizing any. If Carleton had voted to rotate their charity, that would have been a different story. But they didn’t. It’s sad to think that people get so caught up in being politically correct that they don’t see how incorrect they have really become. And in case anyone doubts the words, here is their motion:

Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities
And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/11/25/ot-081125-shinerama.html

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