For The Price of One Pint of Erdinger

I have always been a very sympathetic kind of guy. When my friends got into trouble, I will always try to help. When I read about some noble charity work, I always try to find out how to pitch in.

The trouble in the past was that I was financially incapable to help. The occasional loose change for some school flag day would be the extent I can go.

Recently I realised that I could help and make a difference. But I also come to term that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be helping everyone and everything. Money does not grow on tree, and I need to see if the cause deserves my sacrifice. Yes, it may be a small sum, but it’s still sacrifice on my part.

In the past week, I have randomly helped a biker who was diagnosed with cancer to keep his beloved bike; he wanted to sell it off to fund his treatment.

And just today I reread Marian Keyes’ “Further Under The Duvet” (I lost count of how many times I have reread that book) and was moved (again) by her journalistic piece on the charity body, Concern. Snippets of it keep coming back to my mind.

“One of the many people I met was a beautiful woman called Darma – by and large the Ethiopians are extremely good-looking. Darma has nine children, her husband is ‘gone’ and she’s younger than me. With great pride she ushered us into her new house – a ten by ten room with a packed earth floor, no electricity and no running water. With a smile she indicated the roof, – ‘no holes so no rain gets in’. Which would turn the mud floor into a quagmire. I was beginning to understand. The sturdy walls provoked another smile – ‘secure against rats.’ Gotcha.”

“When I asked her what her parents had died of, she bowed her head, began to cry and didn’t answer. Later the director of the programme told me that she has never said, but he suspects they died of Aids. Despite at least one in ten and maybe as many as one in six adult Ethiopians infected with HIV, there’s such a stigma that few will admit to being affected by it.”

“Back into the four by four and after another bumpy hour on muddy roads we arrived at the three roomed clinic. At the same time a young woman called Erberke showed with her husband, Bassa and their sick baby girl, Jelsalem. They’d walked for forty minutes in their bare feet to reach us because Jelsalem was passing blood; she was fifteen months old, but she was so stick-like and shrunken that she looked a good year younger. Bassa was wearing what might have been Farrah slacks once upon a time but was now a collection of rags held together with yellow twine. I’d seen so many sad things but for whatever reason this was the one that did it for me. I couldn’t stop crying.”

“She is constantly coming down with infections. She’s ostracised by her peers. (She wouldn’t let me take her photo because she got harassed enough, she said.) There are anti-retroviral drugs which can cure her but aren’t available in Ethiopia because they’re so expensive. And the number of those infected with the virus – particularly women – continues to escalate. “I’m angry,” she said with vehemence. “I’m always so angry. Will you tell the people in Ireland we need their help,” she asked. I said I would.”

You can read the full piece by Marian on her website.

Feeling the knots in my stomach again, I went online to check on the charity work done by Concern. They strive to tackle problem of the world’s poorest, in 26 different countries.

The more I read, the more compelled I felt that I could make a difference. So I signed up for their monthly donation programme. For the price of a pint of Erdinger – and that’s S$15, or USD10 – I could feed a malnourished child for a month.

It’s a small gesture in a world of pain. But hey, a little bit of help makes the world a little better, one good deed at a time.

So, would you? Better that than funding someone golden-plated water tap in the name of “charity”. Pffft.

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