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Every now and then we here of a celebrity, who attaches his or her name to a certain cause or charity and raises money for the project, for example HIV/AIDS orphans or prevention of malaria, one of the biggest killers of children around the continent. Because of their status they are often able to raise a lot of money in a short period of time and all kinds of possibilities, offered by modern ITC technology, are used like the social media etc. Giving to good causes has become a trend. A few years ago, for example, former president of the USA, Bill Clinton, had just written a book about giving and Andre Agassi, a retired tennis champion, supports education projects and set up a school in a particularly poor neighbourhood. But not only celebrities attach their name to charity. There are examples of ordinary people around the world who have a passion to make a difference and with a strong zeal manage to support projects and people.
A 15 year old school girl from the USA, for example, set up a fund to support AIDS orphans in Africa, the idea of which she developed while herself lying in her hospital bed, after undergoing some surgery. As she had proven to be able to manage her fund effectively, she received half a million dollars extra from an anonymous person because he believed in her making sure that the money was going to be well spent. Similarly, I know of many Ethiopians living abroad who have joint hands to set up projects in their home country to make a contribution to better the lives of the less many.
Giving has surely become a trend and those who do put their money where they believe it will be managed well and will contribute to making a difference in the lives of people, who have difficulties making ends meet. Giving does not only make people feel good, it is about taking responsibility to indeed help change the lives of peoples, many of whom find themselves in desperate situations, not as a result of their own choice. Learning about and listening to the stories of the children and people of some projects are convincing that indeed a difference can be made. Examples of such projects include education support and building schools in poor neighbourhoods, health care or re-building a destroyed neighbourhood. No quick fixes but tangible projects with long lasting results.
There are many small NGOs in Ethiopia that work with a particular community in the city or the countryside and, for example, support women and families in difficult circumstances. Founders of such organizations will explain that they had grown up in similar circumstances themselves and that they are now in a position to provide support. Some did not  wait for financial support from elsewhere but invested some of their own money and that of some friends to begin. Now that some results of the work are becoming visible, such organizations begin to receive some external support, which will make it possible to step up their activities. Visiting the kind of communities thus supported walking through their neighbourhood will open anybody’s eyes to see the kind of circumstances families in some parts of the city and the country live in. We normally drive by and pass through the main roads leading into and out of town but rarely do we realise what life is like in the backstreets. Sewage is a main problem and health hazard, while children play on the streets as there are no public play grounds or parks.
Giving to the poor is inherited in the Ethiopian culture and I always see people give to beggars on the street, at the traffic lights and around the churches. It is usually pennies though, which go from hand to mouth without making a lasting difference. Some people try to do more, however, and they deserve all the support they can get. I would like to think about ways though that their efforts will be scaled up and results will be longer lasting.
Support to individuals and those in most need is necessary but projects that benefit the larger communities, like investing in education and health care, for example, may in the end be more effective and will probably have longer lasting results. It takes money, however, to make it happen and people who are motivated to make a difference in the lives of people and children who do not have the means themselves to break out of the poverty trap. Some NGOs will indeed be successful and receive some funds from external donor organizations. I believe though that there is enormous potential within society to raise money for good projects. The Lions’ and Rotary Clubs are good examples of local fund raising and their example can be followed and stepped up. I am convinced that companies and individuals will be happy to give to good causes and projects that will show results. What it takes is people driven by a vision and a passion that something needs to be done to turn desperate situations around. And it takes the generosity of all of us as to support initiatives that we come across and believe in. We need to look for any opportunity to give and help make a difference. It is a responsibility indeed for those of us who have to give to those who have not.