Giving at the holidays isn’t enough
Over the holidays, the spirit of giving is present everywhere you go. At the mall, there are collection bins for the Salvation Army. Classrooms and workplaces across the city create hampers for the food bank to give to the less-privileged on Christmas day, and charity balls and suppers occur every night of the week in December. However, once the happiest time of the year is over, many people forget about donations and charity until next Christmas. Bonnie Morton, an anti-poverty advocate at the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, considers this to be a failure of our society.
“What happens at Christmas is we get this warm fuzzy feeling inside of us, and it makes us feel really good to be able to give, whether it’s to the food bank, to the church, or it’s to Santas Anonymous, giving out gifts to children and that,” Morton said. “Those families have those same needs day in and day out, short of the gift side of it. It makes us feel good to do that, but the reality is the day after people then fall back into [the sterotype of] ‘If they just did more for themselves.’ We get a buzz from giving at Christmas time, but that buzz doesn’t last much past New Years.”
With the demands on food banks and other charities increasing during the colder times of the year, and Morton said that demand simply doesn’t go away after the holiday season.
“At Christmas time, we’re all into the giving. Very quickly that Christmas cheer wears off. You see that after New Years. The reality is, after Christmas, the people living in poverty are one more time targeted … They have the same needs 365 days a year. [But, our society sees it as] ‘as soon as it’s given, it’s gone.’ People’s needs don’t begin and end on Christmas.”
“Number one, you need to educate yourselves of the reality of living in poverty. Nobody woke up one day and said ‘God, isn’t poverty great. I just aspire to be poor’ That’s not a personal choice of anybody.” – Bonnie Morton
Although the extra donations during Christmas time are welcome, Morton believes that it is time the public starts understanding the year-round demand chairitable items.
“We need to be helping all of our brothers and sisters. We, as a community, have a responsibility not just to give to charity,” she said. “We need to be moving in the area of justice and be asking our government, our communities, and ourselves to do the right thing for people living in poverty.”
Morton outlined several ways this can be done.
“Number one, you need to educate yourselves of the reality of living in poverty. Nobody woke up one day and said ‘God, isn’t poverty great. I just aspire to be poor’ That’s not a personal choice of anybody.”
Morton insisted charity must be coupled with action toward justice in order to be completely effective.
“We need to call on our government to bring in rent control so that people can have a roof over their heads. We need to ask for an actual living wage,” she said. “Anyone that looks like they’re really poor is removed by the police or by security. Out of sight, out of mind, right?”
Morton believes that the problem is exacerbated by the physical appearance of people who are asking for money.
“Treat people the way you’d like others to treat you. If you’re downtown and you’re well dressed and need a quarter, anyone will give one to you. If you’re poorly dressed, you won’t get that quarter.”
Her advice for those who want their charity to extend past giving and into justice is to “make that charity 365 days a year. If you don’t know the details, call our ministry and we will explain it to you. Part of this poverty is systemic, and we’re a part of that because we support whatever the government does. If we want something to change, we have not only the right, but the responsibility to call on the government and say this is something we would like to see. As an individual student, you can call for things like a living wage, because eventually that will be you working out there. You can also ask for things like reasonable tuition rates…The provincial government needs to be called on to create reasonable tuition. Housing is an issue too. We need rent controls.”
Photo courtesy stutteringmessiah.wordpress.com