About the event
This day was inaugurated by the UN in 2012 and aims to raise awareness about the importance of charity, volunteering and philanthropy. Coinciding with the anniversary of Mother Theresa’s death, this is a day to celebrate the impact that charitable work can have on alleviating poverty, responding to crises and supplementing public services.
How to approach it
This is a good opportunity to give students a basic understanding of what charity is. See if anyone in your class can offer an initial definition. Explore how charity is both a thing one person can do, such as give money to homeless people or help a stranger in need and a thing organised groups can do such as through NGOs and charities with specific goals. Explore how charity can involve different actions such as giving money, food, or volunteering one’s time. Ask students: what kinds of things does charity aim to solve? How might a charitable organisation function?
Next, shift the focus of discussion to the values around charity. Discuss with students what motivations one might have for being charitable such as altruism or compassion. Ask students: Why is it better to be generous than to keep everything we have for ourselves? What are the benefits of altruism for others? What about ourselves? Show students that a world in which we are kind and compassionate towards others is better for everyone and is the basis for strong, equitable communities.
Finally, to challenge older students, encourage them to critically evaluate charity and charitable organisations. Ask: Are there some instances in which charity is a bad idea or an incomplete solution? Some examples of this might be charities that funnel donations to its staff or charities with ulterior political or religious motives. You could also introduce the idea that, for charity to occur on a large scale, there often needs to be a significant disparity in wealth and power between different groups. Ask: in a more equal world, would charity exist? If so, what would it look like? Get students thinking about how charity might help us build a better world and compare this with other methods such as government funding, social enterprise or community organising. Ask: what are the pros and cons of each?
Charities are organisations which help people and the planet, and they have existed for thousands of years. Do you think we will need charities in the future? Why, or why not?