Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
September 2020
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I make contributions to a number of charities, but in this modern world it has become an automated process: I signed up at some stage and they take money out of my bank accounts. This has the advantage of me not having to think about it too much, and the charity has a nice regular contribution it can count on. The disadvantage is that I have somehow lost my connection to the process and the outcomes. Sure, I get updates and information, but it is a little distanced from me, and the act of giving really requires no engagement with the event at all.

Anne has a passion for a couple of things at the moment. Last night we were bundling up a whole pile of medical books and equipment to be sent to medical students in Zimbabwe who don’t have a proper library. These were real books, lugged into a real lounge-room, that we packed into boxes and wrapped in packing tape, with the address of a real person on the outside, and a real shipping-agent-kind-of-person is going to come and collect them this morning in order to get them into a shipping container and on their way.

Anne’s other project concerns an orphanage/youth shelter in Soweto. It’s run by an elderly woman, who just does it because it needs to be done. It’s not official, because official has complications that might result in better outcomes but which are impossible to address; so the choice for this woman and her street kids is between this unofficial, unsanctioned, unsupported compromise or nothing at all. Thus it is that the woman houses 41 kids in her own home, when, technically speaking, there are only 17 beds; but this is where the kids want to come because they feel safe. Anne and John were able to visit the orphanage recently and see what she is doing, and what work needs to be done. Inspired by this, and by the fact that (i) there is a South African maths ed visitor with us at this time who also has connections to this orphanage and (ii) a few other miraculous contacts seem to be falling into place, Anne has embarked on a fund-raising effort to raise £2000 to repair the roof and maybe some other things. After two days, Anne’s efforts are already over half-way there.

There is something very direct and personal about this process. I understand why the big NGOs and charities have to work the way they do (and that if I give a family a goat from one of the charity giving catalogues I don’t have a problem at all with the knowledge that their requirements may mean that this gets turned into chickens or mosquito nets in some other country instead); but the medical books and the Soweto orphanage projects feel more connected, perhaps because I know exactly what difference is going to be made, and the people along the chain are linked to me and I know who they are in some sense.

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