Does charity begin at home?

8th, 2014
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Does charity begin at home?

Among the most misused and misquoted phrases in the English language surely one of them has to be that “charity begins at home.” It was often used by my father when he was annoyed that I spent more time with local church groups, youth clubs and charity organizations rather than being the model homeboy he would have preferred me to be.

 

Sibling strife and the usual adult/adolescent conflicts added to his fatherly frustration and the usual parental perplexity in the face of the fact that teenagers tend to look out rather than in for friendship, fun and fulfillment. It was forever thus, and successive generations of parents have continued to wrestle with the problem of trying to balance creating a supportive home environment with allowing the young fledglings freedom to fly.

Membership in charity organizations and the burgeoning of high street charity shops are a peculiarly British phenomenon. Indeed, commercial booksellers have recently complained at the “unfair advantage” enjoyed by one of the largest high street charity shop chains, Oxfam, following their rapidly expanding second-hand book sales success. Any Oxfam shop window is, in fact, dominated by presentation book shelves professional enough to give commercial outlets a run for their money. The rub is that charities receive donations of new and used “unwanted” items, thus reducing the need for a purchasing department, aggressive competition strategies or assertive sales techniques. People drop off bags of clothes, books, DVDs, videos or bric-a-brac, or arrange for larger items of furniture and household goods to be picked up and taken to outlets. The charity shops then only have to sort, select and stock what they feel is good enough for re-sale. Even more galling for commercial retailers is that charities get preferential rental terms and tax breaks, especially as they often take up long-vacant high street lets which they then retro-fit or refurbish at their own expense, again with absolutely legal tax breaks long-ago agreed between successive governments and Britain’s charitable organizations.

According to the Web site www.charitychoice.co.uk there are over 10,000 registered charities in the UK. Ten thousand! I Googled “Charities in Turkey” (and was led to www.charity-charities.org/Turkey-charities ) and while I could not get an exact number or case-by-case breakdown of charities in Turkey (including non-profit organizations — NPOs), there is a list of categories — for example animals, children, disabilities, disaster relief and so on — although many of these involve foreign charities or NPOs working in Turkey often in tandem with indigenous groups, such as Kızılay. What I did not notice during my time in İstanbul, however, was the presence of charity shops in the high streets. If anyone knows better in any city in Turkey, please let us know.

Anyway, as my relentless search for employment grinds unsuccessfully on, one of the pieces of advice given to jobseekers — especially middle-aged ones like me — is to get involved as a volunteer with a local charity. Volunteers make up the vast majority of all those working in the charity sector with mainly managerial and upper-echelon administrators actually on the payroll. There are two major reasons for getting involved in charity work: getting out of the house and making new contacts and thus networking to know and be known on a wider plain; and using and updating and sharing your skills as well as often learning new ones, thereby improving your CV and the broader possibility of finding work, even if it should be in a different direction from your normal career path.

Cancer Research UK is one of the top three fundraising charities in this country, with literally millions of pounds being channeled into local diagnostic and treatment centers in partnership with private and public health organizations. Donations apart, the vast majority of the charity’s income is derived from high street second-hand stores. Having lost three of my extended family members to cancer, I used that proximity of experience to make the decision to put myself forward as a volunteer. I currently work on the rota every Thursday morning manning the till and generally assisting and advising customers. Due to holidays and illness I worked four out of the last five weekdays. Never having worked in the retail industry exactly, the experience has added to my knowledge and skills and provided me with an additional string to my CV bow.

The majority of clients are middle-aged to senior women but also young people looking for good-quality clothes at bargain prices (many often new with the original shop tags still intact) as well as those hunting down a long searched-for book or wishing to fill in the gaps in their back catalogue of videos or DVDs for a mere 50 pence or one pound, respectively. As the great commercial “shopathon” that is Christmas begins to crank up a gear, we now stock individually designed Christmas cards and gifts which are starting to shift off the shelves. The bric-a-brac section is also beginning to turn over as people snap up little items to, perhaps, put in the stocking. Apart from the salaried management and the eclectic team of volunteers, I am also interacting with a diverse cross section of the general public and I am really enjoying the experience in itself, regardless of whether it makes any real difference to my CV or leads to full-time employment.

Norfolk, in particular, is proud of the fact that Voluntary Norfolk has been voted Civic Charity Of The Year. Voluntary Norfolk looks for volunteers who are enthusiastic regardless of where they live, how much time they have to spare, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith, whether they are disabled or able-bodied, employed, unemployed or retired. More information can be obtained from www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk.

With so many expats living in Turkey it may be possible that the collective, almost genetic, experience of charity work and organization could be brought to bear in order to assist in addressing the many social issues faced by diverse sectors of Turkey’s population. There are a number of charities and NPOs operating in the country and they may just be looking for local representation and organization. One could start by browsing the above-mentioned Web site and also, if you have a particular project in mind, checking with the local government authorities concerning any by-laws or general rules and regulations as well as lobbying local councilors and politicians along with business leaders or the Chamber of Commerce (Ticaret Odasi). It is extraordinary what the accumulated donations — however modest they may appear to be — add up to in the long haul. Charity work, once the preserve of idle, wealthy upper-middle class housewives, is now an area in which we can all participate. And as the economic misery metamorphoses into personal deprivation and destitution, shops like the one for which I work are coming into their own. Does charity begin at home? How about at ours?

Resource: Today’s Zaman

 

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