I know a disabled filmmaker, activist and all-round nice guy. He uses a power wheelchair that is unfortunately no longer fit for purpose. His girlfriend set up a Go Fund Me fundraiser to raise money to buy a new one, as the US government won’t help him and he is stuck at home as a result. I, along with many others, happily contributed a small sum towards this, and passed the message on, without incident.
And then, one day, a nasty troll came along. A troll who happened to be disabled themselves. And who insisted that disabled folk asking for a bit of help from their friends, or even from total strangers, was somehow harming ‘the cause’. That it was ‘begging’ and ‘demeaning’. And a pile of other baffling statements.
And it made me stop and think. And remember my pledge, made after the Central Remedial Clinic scandal in 2014 and the Rehab scandal of the same year. The pledge was to only give money to people I knew and trusted. And not to faceless ‘Big Charity’.
And I was reminded again of my pledge as I read of proposed cuts to the special school my sister went to, while staff from the parent charity stayed in fancy hotels while at conferences. These cuts have now been reversed, for now. But the lack of accountancy remains.
And again as more details emerge about the Console charity scandal.
And so, I have kept my pledge. I donate clothes etc to the charity shop at the end of my street. The owner is Kenyan, and her mother and sister run an orphanage for AIDS orphans there. I have seen the photos, I have talked at length with her. I trust her.
I give money to Katherine, the homeless lady who sleeps rough beside my local shops. I try to stop and chat whenever I see her. I suspect she may be autistic as we seem to have conversations without ever making eye contact. And she sometimes makes inappropriate remarks. But, she’s been sleeping rough for over twenty years, and no official charity’s going to change that. And yes, she may spend the money I give her on cigarettes. But that’s her prerogative. Again, I trust her.
And as for the folks I’ve supported through sites such as Go Fund Me. Or even by direct donation to their websites. These people are not begging. They are not letting down any cause. They simply need a bit of help from their friends. And the one thing they all have in common is they do a lot of unpaid work in areas that are important to me. Some are disability advocates, some help those with eating disorders, some simply write articles that make me think, or make me laugh when I’m feeling down. And again, I trust them.
Might I be a bit foolish and naive? Might some be con artists parting me from my cash? It’s a possibility. But it’s a lot less likely than if I were to trust Big Charity. That much I know.
And so, I’m happy with my pledge. And all that troll has achieved is make me even more determined to help those I can. And when they get their shiny new wheelchair, or pay for that specialist treatment, or even take a well deserved holiday, I will be happy I helped contribute to that.
UPDATE: the filmmaker I mentioned is Dominick Evans, and here is a link to his Go Fund Me. Just in case you too were inspired by a troll!
[image of a wheelchair symbol in black]