No I won’t pay for your holiday, even if I’m giving part of the money to charity

4 May, 2011

The other day, I was prevailed upon to give a tenner to “sponsor” an acquaintance who is undertaking a mountain biking, trekking and rafting trip to Tibet and the Himalayas next August. Now I don’t usually pay for holidays for people who are not members of my immediate family (and not always then either), but this was in a Good Cause as the “proceeds” were going to the Irish charity, Concern.

Ever since I was parted from my hard-earned money for this “Tri-Adventure Challenge”, a niggle of resentment has been afflicting me.  Not because I have anything against giving money to charity – in fact, I give rather a lot – but because I am simply browned off at being asked to pay for exciting trips for people to far-flung destinations, with an unspecified (and probably negligible) quantum of the money eventually finding its way into the coffers of the charity itself. 

I want all of any donation I might make to go directly to the charity, and not to have most of it spent in flying (with attendant carbon footprint) an army of under-occupied do-gooders to the ends of the earth, where their energies will be dissipated in pointless activities that serve no purpose, and where no doubt many a pleasant evening will be spent relaxing and socialising, all at my expense.

I was musing on this last Saturday when I opened the travel section of the Irish Times and found an article entitled “Charity begins away”.  Here I read that “It’s supposed to begin at home but charity can also take you abroad to some of the world’s most exciting places. It’s the ultimate win-win so Sandra O’Connell rounds up some great holidays for worthy causes”. 

At least the article doesn’t pretend that the trips are not holidays.  Here is a sample of the sort of trips somebody with time on their hands could undertake under the guise of charitable endeavour [my comments added]:

Walk the Great Wall  Easily one of the wonders of the world, the 6,400km Great Wall of China stretches from the Gobi Desert to the mountains of Korea. Happily, you’ll only be taking in a tiny bit of it [must leave enough time for sightseeing, after all]……Once you’re off the wall there is a guided tour of Beijing, including Tiananmen Square, the Olympic Park and the Silk Market, as well as free time to undertake your own excursions [that’s more like it].   Charity: Irish Cancer Society. Event:Great Wall of China Trek. Date: October 14th to 23rd, 2011. Sponsorship required: €4,500.

Grand Canyon trek   Children’s charity Barnardos already has a full quota for its big trip this year [I’m not surprised] but if you fancy giving yourself plenty of fund raising time for next year, check out its Grand Canyon Trek which takes place in June 2012.    Fly to Las Vegas [party!], transfer over the Hoover Dam into the Lake Mead National Park for an acclimatising walk. By day three you’ll be spending your first full day on the trails, with an early start [not too early, I hope] into the Hualapai Indian reserve and a trailhead that overlooks the Grand Canyon.  From there you begin your descent along remote paths past waterfalls with the Colorado River snaking far below. You continue down the canyon, crossing creeks and waterfalls and pitching your tent at night.  Expect to walk around 15km a day [OK…but let’s not overdo it], taking in highlights such as the “wet route” to Beaver Falls, swimming through to a subterranean cavern under the first tier of the waterfall, before jumping 5m into a frothy pool below.   Charity: Barnardos. Event:Grand Canyon Trek. Date: June 2nd to 9th, 2012. Sponsorship required: €4,600.

Make for the Cape   A much gentler option open to volunteers of all fitness levels [now you’re talking] is a nine-day meander [a good stress-free word, that] through South Africa, helping to raise funds for people with disabilities back home.  The walking tour of Cape Town and the surrounding countryside includes treks through the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens and the Silvermine Nature Reserve, enjoying views out over both the Atlantic and Indian oceans on the Cape of Good Hope peninsula [mustn’t forget my camera].  Equally unmissable is the panoramic views of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain [wonder what the suckers back home are up to?] , a visit to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach and an exploration of Stellenbosch in the country’s winelands [yes!].  You’ll also get to take a boat over to Robben Island for a guided tour of the former prison Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in [can I skip this bit? –  sounds boring], now a Unesco World Heritage site.      Charity : Rehab. Event: South African Challenge. Date: November 2011. Sponsorship required: €4,950.

If I’m going to subsidise somebody to take part in a trip or an event, I want the sponsored efforts to have tangible beneficial results in themselves, and not be just a diversion or holiday for the participants.   Why not a sponsored clean-up of Dublin parks and canals?  A sponsored cook-in for homeless people? A sponsored house clean for sick and elderly people?  A sponsored day out for handicapped children?

In the Sunday Times, Daisy Waugh has similar feelings:

…. I’ve made it a rule never to contribute to fundraising efforts where fundraisers are simply finding a moral high ground from which to bore us all about a new personal hobby.  So: premenopausal ladies struggling with weight issues, wanting sponsorship to run half-marathons: forget it.  Ditto middle-aged fathers demanding money for week-long bike rides in exotic and manly places.  Not a chance. In fact, now I think about it, any begging communication at all which uses the words “challenge” or “fun” – or which suffixes their named endeavour with a facetious “athon” – doesn’t even make it to my Maybe One Day pile.  No matter what the cause.  It goes straight in the bin.

Her article appears under the headline “Nobody’s having fun at my expense”.  Join the club, Daisy.


3 Responses to “No I won’t pay for your holiday, even if I’m giving part of the money to charity”

  1. rayoshae Says:

    just looked through your site and although quiet amusing it is also very sad that people like you would go to any lenghts to undermine the work of the people who give a great deal of time and effort giving up there free time and family time to raise money for these charities. my father passed away this year he was only 64 today we walked in his memory already we have raised 6000k for i.c.s and its all thanks to people who are not so narrow mined as you. i am doin the china trek but i have paid my way and its not a freebie if ever have the unfortunate luck to ever have a familt member suffer from such a devasting illness you may understand until keep your unwanted and hurtfull opionins to yourself.

  2. PuckstownLane Says:

    Thank you for your comment. But my wish is to ensure that more (not less) money finds its way into charities for direct use in alleviating suffereing, poverty and sickness. I think that the whole sponsored trip thing has got out of control and is in danger of being counter-productive. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

  3. Susan Carroll Says:

    I understand what you are saying, however, I do believe like many things in life, there is a reciprocal relationship here, and the treks offer a great incentive for people to raise money for many really worthy charities, I do not agree with your point that this causes the charity to have less money as much of this money would never be raised without the challenges. I am sure one does not raise up to 4500 overnight, this would take a huge amount of work and giving up free time organising events, a friend of mine recently undertook one of these trips and raised over 4000 euros in ten weeks but she worked very hard to do this, she did not ask anyone for direct sponsorship but organised and ran a series of events which were very enjoyable and sociable for those who attended and who were very happy to give a donation to a worthy charity in return. Most of these companies also make extra charitable donations to offset their carbon footprint and support local tourism in some pretty underdeveloped parts of the world whose people also really benefit. In a world where there is so much bad stuff happening overall, observing the experiences of my friend I could only see good stuff and the enormous amount of goodwill that was generated and money raised for one of smaller but very necessary charities which in these recessionary times is struggling. I wish all of those people the very best of luck and if those people enjoy the trip having worked so hard to raise the money what is so bad about that.

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