Since the Mail on Sunday’s supposed ‘sting’ on foodbanks I have read, seen and heard a fair amount of criticism aimed at foodbanks, the people who run them, charities in general and of course the people who use them.
As someone who runs a charity to help disadvantage families I have one message for those who are critical: get involved or get out. There is nothing constructive about the criticism I have read. Charities, like businesses, are constantly trying to improve the service they offer. Feedback is essential for this, however, generalised and misinformed abuse is not. If you don’t like what charities like this do then ignore them. Ignore us and ignore the families we support. Bracket them, as you will, as ‘benefit cheats’ and scroungers. People who want something for nothing. Lay-abouts. Thieves. You will never know the truth because you don’t want to. I wonder if admitting that there are people in society who need help with food and clothing, people who are similar to you (you know: human) would make you feel guilty? Is that why you attack? Fear of guilt? Is this why the foodbank critics and the people-haters at the Mail on Sunday label all users of such services in this way?
Here is the truth:
There is nothing pleasurable or joyful about getting help from a charity – going to a foodbank or coming to a charity like First Days for support is not getting something for nothing. Sure, you might walk away with something essential for your child or three days worth of food but it is not pleasurable. How can it be? There is no pleasure in being in a situation where you can’t fulfil your primal instinct of caring for your family. It is not a joy to be working hard, as so many of our clients are, trying your best to raise your family and still not being able to provide for them. I can guarantee, each and every person who has ever been to a foodbank or a charity for emergency help does not want to be there. But they are. For whatever reason they are. Instead of punishing them, degrading them or criticising them (not to mention comparing a reporter who fraudulently obtains food to them) try and understand why they are there. If you are not satisfied with their answer use the handy ’5 Whys’ tool. Ask why again and again and again. You will find, after really trying to understand why people – human people just like you – are in a situation of needing emergency food or supplies that their reasons are at best unfortunate and at worst terribly sad. Take a walk in their shoes and I expect you’ll want yours back pretty quickly; getting ‘something for nothing’ has never felt so desperate. If after pondering this you still believe that charities like this shouldn’t exist and that people, other humans, do not deserve help at their hour of need then please just look away. Turn your head back towards your own life and ignore what we are doing. There are enough kind hearted people who can see that society hasn’t provided enough, or has taken away too much, and they are working hard to help their fellow man. If you don’t want to help, to acknowledge or to contribute you don’t have to – just please, do not stand on the sideline shouting at those who do.