March 5th 2014
I can’t really forget this day. It was the day that I stood in front of 1100 people at London’s Lancaster Gate Hotel. For the first time ever, I spoke about Eritrean refugees in Sudan; about their enormous need for food and water; and about the countless lives that had been forgotten about in the region.
I had to talk about why we – Charity Right – do what we do. But as I left the platform, I was less sure than ever. And since that day, I’ve been in constant battle with myself, asking: why does Charity Right do what it does?
I used to think that it was because people were in need of food, water, and education. Though this is true, I’ve come to realise that’s not why we do it at all. Providing people with food and education is the result of our work, not the motivating factor.
Best Picture Goes to…
I needed photos for my presentation, so I had a look through the images we’d taken of the situation in Sudan. There was one that I wanted to include; a picture of a young girl crying. Her name was Khadijah.
But 2014 was a terrible year for Palestine and Syria too. I remember looking at some of the photos coming out of these regions – of Aisha clinging to her father’s lifeless body in Syria - and I realised that my images weren’t doing a good enough job. They didn’t convey just how serious the issue in Sudan was.
It felt like I was competing, on behalf of Eritrean refugees, for attention. But my competition was war and bombardment.
When I found myself wondering which photo - which child - would get more people to donate, I knew it was time to take a step back for a moment of self-reflection.
When I reevaluated my intentions and motivations, I focused my thoughts on my belief that the answers to all of life's questions can be found in divine scripture.
So if I wanted answers, I had to go back to God.
God tells us to feed and help the poor. That in itself is a good enough reason to do the work that we do. But it gets better.
God urges us to feed the poor - and then tells us how doing so will help the person who is doing the feeding. At no point does God mention that a charitable action is beneficial because it alleviates someone’s hunger or pain – though it does, and feeding the hungry is undoubtedly a great deed.
Interestingly, God tells us that by helping others, we help ourselves – and this act of goodness, this benefit, takes effect immediately.
As soon as you’ve made your donation; as soon as you’ve handed a homeless man a piece of fruit, you feel anything between good and awesome just knowing that you’ve ‘helped’ someone - and that’s before the donation even gets to them; before they’ve even peeled back the skin on their banana.
I do what I do not because people need feeding. I do it because God told me to.
By Sajad Mahmood, CEO of Charity Right
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