“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. ”So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R TOLKIEN)

Often criticised for hoarding his wealth, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, was recently asked whether he was going to give away part of his huge fortune within his lifetime. He responded: “Yes, I am going to give away most of my money in the span of my life, but I am finding it incredibly hard to know how to allocate these funds – to which causes, to what issues, to meet which needs.” Now, I could probably make a few suggestions to Mr Bezos – the needs of our world are so great but while cash donations are helpful, especially to worthy causes, contribution should not be limited to money alone. Everyone can contribute, whether they have money or not. Rolling up our sleeves to meet the needs of the many who are suffering around us is within everyone’s grasp. We can’t just rely on the collective conscience of the wealthy to “solve” the world’s problems. We need to take responsibility and use our giftedness and strengths to reach out to others.

Although most people can’t influence geo-political security or other pressing needs in our world, all people can be influential within their respective neighbourhoods. There seem to be two key factors that need consideration for those that wish to be involved, viz.:

  1. Alleviating immediate pressing needs – helping to find short-term solutions to meet the stand-out needs within communities.
  2. Finding long-term solutions – sustainable solutions are critical if community wellness is to be achieved. Communities don’t just need gifts, but need opportunities to work, to be involved and to be part of decision-making that affects them.

An example of the above key factors – the story is sometimes told of a community that lived in wooden huts, each with a tin roof, and who really struggled to find warmth in the very cold winter months of the year. They also sweltered in the heat of the midday sun during the summer months. As winter was approaching, a motorcycle club raised awareness of this community’s need for warmth and collected donations of blankets, winter pyjamas and other pieces of winter clothing to meet the immediate need.

The club didn’t stop there, however, as they realised that this solution was not sustainable. Their leaders met with the elders of the community to discuss more sustainable options. The community leaders explained that their men and women needed work to be able to send their children to school and buy food. To get everyone actively involved in the project, the bikers and the community leaders decided on a sustainable business model to meet these needs – the creation of a factory that manufactures insulation materials and installs the same for their clients. A cheap warehouse was bought alongside the community and a ‘not for profit’ organisation was registered. At first, the company took time to establish itself, but as machines and other pieces of equipment were donated and strategic partnerships with construction companies were formed, the business grew. The leadership decided that any profits would be reinvested into the community by training extra installers and using excess insulation to cold/hot proof all the huts within the community. Hundreds of people now had jobs and the insulation of their homes was secured. As the factory was situated alongside the community, people could walk to work, thus saving transport money. Shops sprang up in the community as the buying power of families increased. The community seemed to ‘normalise’ itself as their quality of life was enhanced.

We need to use our strengths and connections to contribute. Whilst donating money is helpful, one’s offering of time and energy can be decisive in establishing wellbeing in others. What contribution are you going to make with the time at your disposal?

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