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Sevathon 2012 and why donate?

July 24, 2012

The India Community Center (ICC) in San Jose, started to organize Sevathon every year since not too long ago – just last year that is. The idea is to have all non-profits organizations (NPOs) in the area group themselves and raise funds for their causes by running half-marathon, 5k and10k runs. ICC will provide all logistics, publicity, help with creating runner pages, and also return half of the runner registration fees to the NPO (cool deal isn’t it?). Like last year many organizations in the area participated this also on July 15th 2012. About 1600 runners registered although not all of them showed up for run that day. There were lot of cultural events, free food, and a festive atmosphere filled the air.

Like many others, I decided to run a 10k for Asha. My travel plans being confirmed only two weeks prior to the event, I did not have much time to train nor saw the possibility of running more than 10km. I set a modest target of raising funds. I started contacting all my near and dear friends. Thanks to their generosity, I managed to raise more than my target. I didn’t have to make much effort either. There were people who I haven’t met in person also contributing to my campaign. I am proud to be in “good company”.

So, while I was in the process of seeking funds, one of my dear friends from India said to me that she doesn’t believe in donations and therefore decided not to donate. I have wised up lately not to disagree with women:-). So, I agreed with her and told her not to worry about contributing. But that set me thinking as to why people should donate in the first place. Is it just because their friends asked them to? or is that they just feel good about it? or do they believe in good karma and think that this gesture can return to them by other means? or is it to impress others? or to write up in their resumes that they work for an NPO?…there may be as many reasons as there are people. I had to answer this question myself. Besides I had a job to persuade my friends to contribute.

So, why do I donate? To me it is purely selfish interests. It is fair to say that I (like many others who are probably reading this blog) are closer to the top of the economic pyramid. Now it is definitely not fun to be inching closer towards the apex when the base is extremely weak. You might ask – sitting in the US or Europe, this statement may not make much sense and stop pontificating. Well, I still have family, extended family, and dear friends in India. My well-being is tied to their well-being  which is tied to India’s over all well-being, and so on. Even if you are not Indian for that matter, if 1/6th of world’s population is moving towards impoverishment, it’s not a good situation to be in. The reasons for India’s impoverishment may be many but recognizing the problem and doing our bit is perhaps a good starting point.

Given the magnitude of the problem in India, it may seem donations may not make much sense. The impact created by good economic policies or entrepreneurs is a lot more than the over-all work of NPOs. But everyone can’t become an entrepreneur nor make policies. So, donations via NPO is a good channel for those who are not into policy making or building companies. This is where the collective action of society to solve the poverty problem by volunteering takes lot of importance.  Any time aid goes to governmental institutions, that too governed by venal politicians, the money transfer would be inefficient. India suffers from bad institutions which are basically extractive and exploitative. This is where NPOs come into the picture where the money you donate is at least going to the poor and deserving. The money is at least going to an organization you trust, you follow up on, and care about. Note that this is different from the foreign aid given to governments which may not be efficient again for reasons mentioned above.

Like the proverbial flapping of butterfly’s wings at one place causing a cyclone elsewhere, the effect of a simple contribution is immeasurable and can change the lives of many immensely. The dollars you donate could lend a morsel of food that quenches a fire raging in a hungry stomach and lighting a hope that there are good times ahead, could give life to a girl child who was never wanted, could help someone live beyond the age five, could be a blessing to someone who always wanted to read, go to school but whose parents could never afford, could bring a twinkle in those emotionless eyes of all those rejected that could light up their lives for good…

As my favorite poet SriSri wrote his heart out in one of his most famous poems:

“నేను సైతం ప్రపంచాగ్నికి సమిధనొక్కటి ఆహుతిచ్చాను
నేను సైతం విశ్వవృష్టికి అశ్రువొక్కటి ధారపోశాను
నేను సైతం భువన ఘోషకు వెర్రి గొంతుక విచ్చి మ్రోశాను…”

Every bit counts. It doesn’t matter how much you contribute, even a thought spared for a few minutes is perhaps worth millions.


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  1. Satish permalink

    Totally agree. I think we always make the mistake of looking at someone else, someplace else, who ought to be donating while we ourselves can set the ball rolling with a relatively small contribution. It might sound too darned idealistic but every bit counts. It will always make a difference. All the best!

  2. trevor permalink

    I, myself get puzzled when people ask the question of why donate. Given the way this world is, the imbalance, it just makes sense. But if any way your asking yourself that, then simply. giving some one who is less than you, who cant fend for themselves, not because they are lazy but because they really cant do that, would it not give you a sense of accomplishment. It does to me, a lot, it beats smoking after a hard day*(addictive behaviour).Only difference is this behaviour builds a life. I donate to //…. everytime I have a crunch. everyone sholud have someway to put away their excess, let us not kill ourselves.

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