While updating my iPhone I found a peculiar application, Stand Up Take Action, which allows people to click a button and get counted to express their support for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The application didn’t have any other purpose, like asking you to make a donation. So I went to their website, which is entirely oriented around holding events where people literally stand up and get counted, and the count of participants is sent to SUTA headquarters.
Where in this process of raising awareness does a hungry or oppressed person get food or freedom? How does skipping a meal give food to the poor? Do the organizers think that the Third World can be lifted out of poverty with good thoughts? If these events result in nothing more than people spending an hour chanting and feeling good about themselves, they are worse than useless, because the participants have done nothing but express their expectation that someone else solve the problem.
When I am concerned about poverty I write a check to Heifer International, because people can eat cows, but they can’t eat awareness. If you actually care about poverty, skip the awareness building, accept that you can do something about the problem, and donate you money or time. If you do go to an awareness event, bring your checkbook and demand that your friends do the same.