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How to help the vulnerable following the Oxfam scandal

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In the wake of the Oxfam scandal, many people have started to question the charities they support, and how those charities spend their money. 

We all want to help where we can, and for many that means donating to charities when possible. It can also involve shopping in charity shops, volunteering at charity events or dropping the odd pound off in a charity box. No matter how small an act, we all help where we can, and we trust the charities to whom we donate to use that money wisely and ensure it helps the vulnerable. 

We expect those who work for or run charities to be above reproach. We place our trust in them and rely on them to do what many of us either can’t or won’t do ourselves. The people who dedicate their lives to helping others are supposed to be the good guys. More than that, we often assume they are the very best, beyond reproach, scrutiny or suspicion. This complete, and often unchallenged, trust we have in charities makes scandals like this most recent one so disappointing. 

In a world where so many people already seem untrustworthy, what happens when the few we still trust let us down? Is the betrayal worse? Moreover, in the wake of such disappointing news, how do we continue to help the vulnerable?

Some may never forgive and will abandon Oxfam permanently, though they might continue to support other charities. Others will continue to support Oxfam, arguing that a few bad seeds within a company should not mean the ruin of an entire charity. A valid argument, though how highly placed those bad seeds are is undeniably disturbing.

For those who can’t (or won’t) forgive, here are a few suggestions on how you can still help the vulnerable and use your advantages to help others. 

1. Volunteer

Perhaps the best way to understand a company, its values, and how it affects the lives of those who depend upon it, is to volunteer. 

Rather than donate money, why not donate some of your time instead? You will be able to see how the company treats those who rely on it, as well as meeting those who are vulnerable which will allow you to better understand their situation. 

Charities always need volunteers, no matter their campaign. The more volunteers a charity has, the less staff it need employ, thus allowing more money to be spent on the vulnerable. Similarly, the more people talk about a charity and advertise its needs, the less that company will have to spend on advertising, which allows more money to be put aside for those who need it. 

2. Research charities

If you still want to donate money, you can always thoroughly research a charity first.

The internet can be a wonderful thing, and it will have a great deal of information on most charities. Of course there will be the official sites and most popular pages, however, there will likely also be news articles and websites where volunteers and people who relied on the charity review it. Additionally, there might be blog posts and vlogs where people discuss their personal experience with the charity, as well as any strengths or weaknesses they noticed. 

Among this clutter of information and feedback, you should hopefully get a reasonable understanding of the charity and how it treats those who rely on it. This is not to say that you will find all the answers, as this newest scandal highlights how the voices of the vulnerable can be ignored and the ugly truth hidden, however, it should hopefully help. 

If you still don’t feel confident enough to trust a big charity perhaps look closer to home at a smaller, more local charity. In times like this, it can often seem easier to trust such companies and charities, as they do not have the money or power to hide as easily as their counterparts. 

3. Do something on your own

If you still don’t feel like you can trust the charities available, who can at times feel far too much like big businesses, why not start something yourself?

It doesn’t have to be something big or time-consuming, but it would be something you had control over and whose aim and direction would depend on you. In this world of internet and social media, you would be surprised how easy it is to start your own campaign!

Need some inspiration? Have a look at six-year-old Frankie’s online campaign to raise money to clothe the homeless during the winter.

This is something you could do online through campaign sites like JustGiving, or it could be done on your own through word of mouth or with the help of family and friends. It really is up to you.

4. Be aware 

Whether your volunteering, working in a charity or just occasionally donate money, if you ever see something out of the ordinary or hear of something occurring which seems wrong, look into it.

It may not seem like your business, and it can be awkward to stick your nose where you may not feel it belongs, but you should always put the welfare of others in front of your discomfort. 

In best case scenarios, it will be nothing and you can continue with your day without any trouble. This will likely be the most common scenario, and will result in you feeling slightly foolish and proud of yourself for at least making sure everything was ok. In those rare worst case scenarios, there will be something wrong and you will need to act in order to protect the vulnerable person being exploited. 

If you are not sure, report what you have seen to the police anyway, as they will be able to properly investigate the situation and see if there is indeed anything going on. It can be tempting to make excuses or worry about the perpetrator, especially if you are not sure about the situation, however, it is worth remembering how devastating the consequences can be if suspected abuse is not reported. 

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