Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On the 2010 World Partnership Walk in Montreal

When the 2010 campaign of the World Partnership Walk launched in February, I was asked to talk about "Why I Walk". And I, who is usually full of motivating marketing messaging, struggled. After a tumultuous year full of a variety of experiences relating to the not-for-profit sector and international development, I was at a loss for words. I didn't even know where to begin, how to start thinking about the question, though I did have an answer last year.

Fundraisers for international development NGOs typically focus on stories and images of death and despair.

"Help now, or else," is the message they spread.

"These children will die without your support," they say.

And then there's the spectrum of messaging associated with emergency response aid. Not to say that these statements aren't valid, but with so much negativity in the air, I found it hard to focus on why I persist in supporting not-for-profit initiatives. "What's the point?" I asked myself.

In the summer of 2009, I participated in an Aga Khan Foundation Canada Awareness Trip to Africa. In 5 quick days, I visited a variety of international development projects sponsored by Aga Khan Development Network, from the Frigoken factory and the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya, to the Coastal Rural Support Programme (CRSP) and Kenya School Improvement Programme (KENSIP) in Mombasa, Kenya.

This whirlwind tour left me with a few key impressions. Surprisingly, I didn't encounter a world full of desolation and desperation, as most of the advertisement would like us to believe. I met real people with real goals and real aspirations for their children, just like us. I met children who, like me, were excited to go to school and learn. I saw a vibrant city that moved at the same pace as New York City or Montreal. And I saw farmers and hospitality workers who were not just struggling to get by but trying to make a life for themselves, no matter the gravity of their situation.

The World Partnership Walk raises funds to help improve the lives and livelihoods of families and communities like those I visited in East Africa, through health, education and rural development programs as well as community-led initiatives. During my trip, I was fortunate enough to see the fruits of our labours, the benefits of this grassroots approach. By enabling local populations to decide what they need the most and then empowering them to find the proper long-term, sustainable solutions, we are investing in their future.

100% of the funds raised through the Walk go directly to these programmes, and in some cases, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) offers additional support. Not one cent is spent on administration.

Let's overcome the negativity and look to the future with compassion, hope, and only positive thoughts. Let's unite in the noble intention of helping to alleviate global poverty. As Canadians, we all come from somewhere else, sometime in the past. Someone invested in us and allowed us to flourish in this country, both personally and professionally. It is time for us to give back to society at large and help make the world a better place by investing in someone who, like us, simply wants the best for his or her community.

Join me for the World Partnership Walk on June 6, 2010 at Place des Vestiges in the Quays of the Old Port of Montreal or donate online. Together, we can spark a beacon of hope and show the world what it truly means to be Canadian. Together, we can discover why we walk.


Arlette Martinez said...

Kudos on this post!
It's true, we are constantly bombarded by the sad images of children and women struggling in the development world; I think it was overdone, to the point we are now desensitized, think violence on tv, same thing.
It is true most of these people do live in a precarious situation, but it conveys a hidden message that actually backfires to what the organization wants to achieve, which is people to help, many of those ads make me think "it doesn't make a difference, they are still struggling" or "they need so much it won't make a big difference"... I don't think that's what the people who came up with these ads meant to make them that way, and I know they do make some people take action, but once it a while, it is necessary to show that progress IS being made, in order to keep us motivated to keep helping.
So yeah, I agree :)

Arlette Martinez said...

oh I meant "once in a while" not "once it a while" lol. I need coffee!

Naila J. said...

I just hope more people can realize that it's not about death and desperation.