Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Charity fatigue

3 comments

Standing on a street corner on Friday - on my birthday, no less - jingling my bucket to raise money for Plunket, a man wheeled a large suitcase past me and spat out "charity fatigue!!!"

At first I was a bit taken aback. But honestly, I couldn't blame him. Standing along the road from me were Save the Children with their hands out, and Barnardos was also hitting people up to become "committed givers".

It's also Breast Cancer awareness month, has just been prostate cancer month, and CanTeen (for teen cancer sufferers) always seems to take the same publicity space as Plunket as well.

All great causes of course, many doing pretty fundamental work - especially Plunket and Barnardos. You would think, in fact, that they should be totally government funded.

It's been interesting to find that many Kiwis actually do believe Plunket is totally Government funded, and "why the hell are you doing this?" (bucket jingling, BBQs, door to door collecting etc.) they ask as they throw shrapnel in the bucket.

Short answer, because Plunket would have an even lower profile than it already does if we did not.

Yes, Government funding pays for Plunket nurses and their work tools. But everything else that Plunket offers in the community - play and music groups, newsletters, hampers for needy families and new mums, and a host of other things, all come out of volunteer-raised funds.

We have one main shot to raise it, during Appeal week. We need to raise at least $10K, and this year we were looking for $20K.

Maybe our methods need a tune up. But we persist with door-to-door collecting because it seems to generate quite a bit of money still (not huge amounts, but it all adds up) and because there is something fundamentally Plunket-y about getting out into your community with your kids and meeting neighbours.

I've always found people to be reasonably receptive - although there are always those that are rude, or hide in their houses once the door bell is rung, keeping their heads below the breakfast bench until you've moved along.

It's all part and parcel of collecting. This year we've also been jingling buckets on street corners and we held a jumble sale, selling some of the most fantastic second-hand gear from Mt Eden families you've ever seen. We didn't quite get enough punters this year, but those that came would have been laughing out loud at the bargains they got.

All up, it's huge amounts of work and sometimes the attitude of others - those that won't support the cause or are openly hostile - can bring the usually buoyant volunteer troops down.

Our poor husbands are ready to strangle us by the last day of the appeal (Sunday), as the household's gone to the dogs, the kids are wearing potato sacks, and no one can move for the amount of child detritus littering the floors of committee member houses.

But even given all these impediments, I still believe whole heartedly in the cause.

One of the stories that makes me glad to give my time to Plunket was that of Tahani Mahomed, the little girl who died on New Year's Day this year. The child was so malnourished that she weighed, as a three month old, the same as she had when she was born. She had horrific injuries.

An all too familiar story and one where there is no reason or excuse good enough to explain away what happened.

But I do remember that the two little girls and their mother - new immigrants to the country without a safety net or social support - were cooped up in a tiny, cockroach-infested flat all day while their father studied or worked.

Again, it's not an excuse, but if there ever was a scenario likely to cause depression that has to be it.

Had a Plunket nurse called on the scene she may or may not have been able to alert authorities to what was happening in that miserable little home.

But a well-funded Plunket organisation also arranges play and music groups, facilitates new mums getting together, provides toy libraries and the like - all activities designed to make getting out and about with your child a little easier; a little less daunting.

Whether this little girl's Mum would have availed herself of these facilities and events is unclear. Perhaps no amount of intervention - active or passive - would have made a difference. But for many other mums and dads out there struggling to get through the day with young kids, struggling to know how to feed them or bath them or when to put them to sleep, Plunket, in its various guises, is there.

And so, continue to bother you for 30 seconds for your spare gold and silver, we must!

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