I still remember the summer day back in 2016, when I was walking down the street in central Helsinki and I was stopped by one of the tens of street fundraisers who spent their days trying to reach out to often uninterested and occasionally rude passers-by. That summer I was on holiday in Helsinki and every day I walked by what seemed like an army of street fundraisers representing in my eyes and and all possible NGOs a person could think of. I had always walked by them briskly, with my head down as to avoid eye contact and slightly apologetic for not wanting to devote my time or money to help someone else. It’s not that I didn’t want to donate, it’s just that money was very tight and I kept telling myself that first I needed to increase my income and then I could become a sponsor.
But that day something in my mind changed. Out of sheer coincidence, the person who stopped me was a representative of Plan International‘s Finnish chapter. “Are you interested in children’s rights?” Of course I am, I thought. And I’ll donate in the future, I swear. I just need a better salary. And then I’ll donate, I really will. But I can’t afford it just now. “You can start with as little as 10€ a month,” the representative went on. 10€ a month? I did some quick calculations. That’s roughly 33 cents a day. No matter how broke I might consider myself, there was really no excuse for someone from the Western world to no be able to cough up 33 cents a day for charity, I thought. Especially if it meant helping girls go to school, combating genital mutilation and supporting them becoming equal members of society.
And so instead of making my usual excuse of having to catch my bus or being late for work, I decided to stay and chat with the friendly face who had stopped me only a few moments earlier. He told me a briefly about Plan International as an organisation, about their chapter in Finland and the types of projects they worked with. He explained to me that as a monthly donor my donations would be spread out according to the needs of the various on-going projects the organisation was working with at any given time. However, all of my donations would go to projects related to girls’ rights and gender equality in developing countries.
That day I decided to challenge myself. Were my finances really that tight that I couldn’t spare 10€ a month? That’s less than a movie ticket or a meal out. Right then and there I made the choice to donate 10€ a month for 12 months, and if at the end of those 12 months I found it impossible to come up with that money on a monthly basis, I would cancel my sponsorship. Plan International Finland is an organisation that is neither religiously or politically affiliated, promotes girls’ rights especially in developing countries and works tirelessly to end the injustice they face on a daily basis. Surely that’s worth more than a movie ticket once a month.
As an added challenge, later that same day I also signed up with WWF Finland, more specifically as a Saimaa Ringed Seal sponsor, and pledged to donate 10€ a month to them as well. That meant that my goal would be to donate a total of 20€ a month to two non-governmental organisations. 20€ x 12 = 240€ for the entire year. That is the price of a return ticket from Helsinki to Málaga. But instead of spending on myself, I would be investing in the future of others.
As of February 2018, nearly two years later, I can say that that the day I couldn’t make my monthly donations has yet to come. And that isn’t to say that money hasn’t been tight at times. But never has it been that tight that I haven’t been able to squeeze out just 20€, especially for a good cause. 20€ is the equivalent of a few drinks with friends, or a meal out, or 1,5 movie tickets. I haven’t found it at all challenging to give up these personal desires, if that means that there are more funds for young girls in developing countries to get an education and find a way out of poverty, or that a global community of just 380 Saimaa Ringed Seals can get through another year at risk of extinction. It’s a no-brainer and a trade that I am more than willing to make.
This post is not sponsored by WWF Finland or Plan International Finland, although I would be more than happy to work with either of those organisations at any time. I simply want to highlight the fact that donating money to those who have much less than we do is not difficult at all. There are so, so many local, regional, national and international organisations that are contributing to making our world a better place, so there really is something for absolutely everyone. I only donate to two organisations, but I can easily think of another dozen that interest me as well.
I challenge anyone and everyone reading this post to sign up as a sponsor or donor for any organisation of your choice. Giving back has been made so easy and there is absolutely no reason for all of us to do just that.