Reaching out a Unified Hand to Those in Need
Unifying the financial, charitable, governance and community spheres, World Wide Generation looks to help end some of the sights our adolescent Mayfair scribbler saw on his youthful travels to Romania
Column by Guy Shepherd
I received the following text from the National Westminster recently. “You’ve gone over your agreed limit on Account ending ***. To minimise fees, please pay in cleared funds by 3.30pm today, 17Oct.” The importance of this message was not lost on me. It meant I have ten days before payday to survive with nothing. Disconcertingly, this includes half term with my seven year old son. My ex reports that he has been ill so I should take it easy with him. Financially, this is a relief as it will negate the adventure park or cinema haemorrhage.
But this text is not an unusual occurrence, nor is my stubbornness to reduce the “agreed limit”. I am just like many people in western society nowadays. I hang onto a hypothetical brink, by my bloodied fingernails, to debts fashioned in care free times, issued to those with little means to repay, at prices inflated for short term gains and long term misery. Governments ended up bailing out banks, our wealthy world was changed forever, our wages froze for a decade, our cost of business and living didn’t, the banks reluctantly lent us more money and we now continue to slide slowly but surely into further chaos and poverty. Around the world, people become angrier and poorer, forcing charities to operate in ever increasing environments of discord and unhappiness.
I learnt my lesson, regarding the rigorous demands of charitable work, a long time ago. You may or may not remember my recent tale of a squirmish with our German cousins regarding occupation of a particular beach head. If you didn’t, but wish for some light relief, I recommend it in the Mayfair Beatnik archives of this omnipotent literary cascade. But I would. I was travelling with a couple of friends in 1992 and our adventures had landed us in the Middle East. But the original reason for the journey was to explore Eastern Europe, only recently emancipated from decades of Soviet rule. In particular, we were carrying a few medical supplies to an orphanage in Romania. The country had been run into the ground by the puppet dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. I remember driving through the barren wastelands of towns made of crumbling concrete unable to stop because desperate human beings threw themselves towards our foreign vehicle in an attempt to waylay us. We even found a little girl lying unconscious in the middle of the road. Rushing on foot to help her, her eyes suddenly opened wide, she smiled knowingly and her family and neighbours rushed to rob us. Our saving grace was that one of us remained at the wheel of the van so we had the means to escape. It was strange to feel elation as their shoulders bounced off the side panels as we sped safely away.
But that was nothing compared to the horror of the orphanage. The spectre of communism had cruelly ignored these, mainly disabled, children. The building was smashed with no electricity and overflowing drains. The kids had no medicine, rags for clothes and carried rough sticks rather than crutches or wheelchairs. Often they would just squirm along the floor in their own excrement and others’ sewerage. They threw themselves on us, grabbing our trouser legs and would not let go. Their sallow skin was corpse like and their eyes were like the hollow pits of some Tolkein-esque nightmare. And they all screamed. It was at this moment I realised that, despite my best intentions, I was defenceless and useless to assist them. I just could not help them and my mind shattered into a million shards of despair. We left a few short hours later. Broken. My head and heart now permanently honour the brave non-governmental organisations (NGO) workers and peacekeeping soldiers who do this work all day everyday for people with nothing else. I couldn’t.
So it was, twenty five years later, that a dear friend, having read my Riddle column, invited me to contribute my words to her cause. At last, I have something to give back. The pen is mightier than the sword et cetera. My friend, Manjula Lee, is the founder of World Wide Generation (WWG) and has an extraordinary vision for the future. Despite the best efforts of most governments, financial institutions, charities and communities, the world slips towards further destruction. She saw that the unification of these four sectors, to act together in partnership, in a holistic and transparent way, was the only solution. And they have the technology. If we all act together as one, whether we are a prime minister, banker, charity worker or whoever, we can help each other and pull ourselves back from the brink. By doing this, we can succeed together to complete all seventeen of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) by the 2030 deadline. And we can prosper.
So, the irony of my bank’s text was not lost on me because that day, 17 October, was the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty”. An appropriate place to start this part time work given that poverty is the first of the seventeen UN SDGs. For those into numbers, 17.10.17, will always be a point of synergy in my life where I started to do my little bit towards this enormous cause. But alleviating poverty isn’t about some middle classed Brit who has got a few debts. It is about helping the three billion people on this planet who live in abject poverty. Despite the trillions of dollars thrown at this tragedy, the problem worsens. But it is people like me and you who are going to kick start the change, to vote for people who will help us all, to fund business to support those less fortunate and to push the resources quickly and transparently to the NGOs that tirelessly assist those in desperate need. You can do this simply by joining together through the WWG movement. By creating a groundswell right now, we can solve this issue forever so we can all prosper as one. Now is the time for action.