Understanding philanthropy

I’m currently 28 years old and I’ve only recently had an epiphany about civic duty, social good and philanthropy. I never understood it growing up. Like, why would you donate your own hard-earned money to others if you don’t know them? How do you know if you’re actually helping people or if it’s just a scam? Why would people want to work in an unglam nonprofit?

I felt like charity was meant for the rich to give and the poor to receive  — and we were middle class, so it wasn’t a part of our life. It seemed like it was better to be one of them, rather than in the middle, because you don’t get to participate in cool programs or leadership camps. Not unless you’re paying for it yourself.

There were some random moments in school where I think they tried to teach us. I remember I volunteered to wash dishes during a Pizza Night Fundraiser, but don’t know what we were fundraising for. I remember vaguely that one of my social studies/history teachers in junior high talked about it, but she was one of those teachers that none of the kids respected, so the message never got through. We had to do 40 hours of community service as a high school graduation requirement. I volunteered at a community center, where all I remember doing was cleaning the floors. So, overall a lackluster education in doing social good.

Growing up in a sheltered, middle-class, suburban area, I never questioned the world around me. I thought rules, laws, how the world operates was all fixed and permanent, just like the sunrise and sunset.

Then I realized that it’s all just made up. That our laws and boundaries are man-made and are followed because of mutual consensus (that’s where politics and government come in). That you happened to be born in one particular country gives you more rights and privileges than if you had been born in another country. That if you wanted to live somewhere else in the world, you couldn’t just go there. That laws and societal norms change. That how the world operates is dictated by how people operate.

So, helping your community and other people is your way of shaping the world.


By the way, if you’re interested — I recommend reading this book: Half The Sky. It opened my eyes to how important women and women’s education is. Before, when I saw women-focused programs and charities, I didn’t understand why they were necessary, because growing up I’ve always felt I was equal to guys. But there are still so many places out there where this is not the case. One part of the book said that when governments gave money to the female head-of-household, their children and community benefited from it. When the money was given to the male head-of-household, they would just spend it on alcohol, cigarettes and prostitutes. While I know that’s not the case all the time, women usually are the ones that are taught to be caregivers and it makes sense to empower them, to in turn empower everyone else.

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