They say charity begins at home, but I think it begins a little closer – in your heart.
It’s the desire, and then drive, to help someone that you don’t know, and to care about something greater than your own needs.
Sometimes if it’s not in your face it’s easy just to not think about the less fortunate, but getting their face all up in it is what some people do with their lives.
Oxfam are those people.
I was flown to Oxfam HQ in Melbourne two weeks ago to be a part of their exciting new blogger outreach program.
Working with bloggers is new for Oxfam, so it was an opportunity for us all to meet and get to know a little about each other, and for us to gain a greater understanding of the scope of work Oxfam does throughout the world.
I had no idea how far reaching the organisation is and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be collaborating with them.
We spoke with women (there are men there too but we spoke mostly with women) who are legitimately helping to change the world, little by little.
Jo Pride and Conor Costello talked to us about campaigning and advocacy. They are helping to make long term changes such as ‘closing the gap’ – closing the mortality gap between indigenous Australians and the rest of us.
Although Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders are likely to die 10 to 17 years before other Australians.
You would imagine in our civilised first world country that everyone has access to quality healthcare, and support, but this is not the case and Oxfam’s efforts on home turf have the ability to change the course of history.
Further afield, after the shocking fires in Bangladesh where a ‘sweat shop’ factory went up in flames and more than a thousand people were killed due to negligence and poor working conditions.
Oxfam communicates with the people who work under these shocking conditions, and recently one survivors of that fire flew out here and told her story.
A story of terror as her work place caught on fire but instead of halting production they locked the doors and told the workers to keep working. This lady jumped from a third floor window alongside her friend. Her friend died instantly but she survived after breaking nearly every bone in her body, and sustaining injuries that will forever remind her of that day.
These people make our affordably cheap clothes, literally with blood sweat and tears. Oxfam has a long term plan to turn the industry around and make all Australian brands accountable for where their products come from, it is a long road but they are walking it….. one company, one factory at a time.
We also spoke with Sophie Ford and Meg Quartermaine about humanitarian work and emergency response. These are the people who are the people on the ground within hours when crisis strikes, helping the victims of natural disaster and conflict with the bare necessities of life.
Water, for drinking and to wash for disease prevention, toiletries, sanitary pads…. they were telling us that although the men in the camps will build latrines of a sort, they often need guidance to know that women are not safe unless there is a lock and a light in bathrooms.
Tragedy breeds primal behaviour and the displaced become vulnerable in more way than we care to imagine.
I was so moved sitting in a room with these heroines.
I decided there and then that I simply had to help. I wanted to strap on a backpack and somehow throw myself into the fray and help my fellow citizens of the world. My problems are inconsequential when I hear these stories, and my desire to join the fight is strong.
But I cannot.
I imagine myself flying to a remote community and bringing back the stories and images that highlight this amazing work, but I cannot. At the moment I am needed here by small people and daily grind, but if I cannot help in this grand way, perhaps there are small ways that add up? Also, Oxfam does not recommend the untrained, or inexperienced fly off to join them at the front.
I am not a trained humanitarian, but I am a consumer. I buy coffee, I eat chocolate and I give gifts, if I can do nothing else right now I can help in small ways that add up to large ways if enough people are on board.
Oxfam have their own ethically sourced coffee and chocolate (and both are awesome quality) and all of the proceeds go back to the communities that produce them, and the organisation.
I took a stroll through the Oxfam shop and was delighted and surprised that not only were the products gorgeous and interesting for all ages, they were not expensive. Shopping for gifts at the Oxfam shop, or online, is comparable to shopping anywhere yet the industry created by the manufacture of these goods is making a huge difference. Some gifts, like the sock monkeys from South Africa come with the name of the lady who made it.
Or you can by the ‘unwrapped gifts’ and give the gift of a goat or veggie garden or breakfast for a family in a far flung country where they have so little, while we have so much.
Oxfam concentrate a lot on empowering women, giving them industry and one of the most powerful quotes I recall from the day was –
“We don’t teach a man to fish.
We teach a woman to fish, and then we teach her how to teach her children to fish, and how to teach her community to fish.”
I was inspired by so much on this day, and if cannot strap on a back pack in the name of humanity at this present moment in time, I can write and share the great work, and the easy ways we can all become humanitarians fighting for equality and peace for all.
***This is not a sponsored post***
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