On Charity

Disclaimer: This is neither an official, nor an approved, page for Canadian Food for Children. It is my personal observations and comments re charity in general and this one in particular.

The charity has its headquarters in Etobicoke / Toronto, and its warehouse is in Mississauga. We (I can say we, because I have volunteered here for a few years) ship containers of food and supplies to third world countries. We reach something like 30 countries, some of which have several recipient locations. In all cases the recipient is visited from time to time by a volunteer who travels, on his/her own dime. We know our recipient distributors. One of my co-workers has been to Africa at least twice, the Philippines, Honduras, and El Salvador. I content myself with lifting boxes on Wednesdays and doing the list (container contents) on Thursdays.

Last financial statement I saw, the charity is about 97% efficient. Nobody is paid, with the single exception of an accountant. We do have professional maintenance of our forklifts. There are volunteers in the GTA, across Ontario, and satellite helper groups of significant numbers elsewhere, including at least one major operation in British Columbia and another in Kitchener. There are many groups who regularly bring us food and clothing. Individuals bring us donations in the trunks and back seats of their cars.

You may have seen shipping containers. The container ships pictured in the Panama Canal are carrying them, for example. There are three sizes, twenty foot, forty foot, and an oversize super-tall forty or forty-five foot container. In a typical year we ship approximately four hundred containers. That works out to about two per working non-holiday day.

If you are faint of heart, do not get onto this charity’s mailing list. (I call the letters, read this and destroy yourself missives.) There are before pictures of starving children. There are horror stories of displaced and/or brutalized families. Fortunately there are also after pictures, shedding some hope on this planet for our least fortunate fellow human beings. These letters are heartbreaking. They also include a message of hope, and document the effective reach of this charity into some very difficult situations.

Much of what we ship is donated. Major corporations have donated cookies, cereal, sauces, jams, flour, pasta, soap (a precious commodity), and many other items. Individuals and groups gather Christmas packages, clothing, canned food, bicycles, mechanical sewing machines, tools.

While the main focus is on food, clothing can be a necessity. The strategic value of a bicycle to a travelling nurse, or a plastic bucket to one hiking to get water, can be imagined.

Many also give cash. I used to call this helping the ea$y way as that was what I did before I volunteered. I should be more generous. The charity uses donated money to maintain the building, pay for shipping, and purchase key commodities we might not otherwise get – cooking oil, for example, is necessary to absorb vitamin D.

This is a plug for this charity, obviously. But I also mean it as a provocation in the de Bono sense. If you aren’t giving anything back, nothing at all, what are you? If you’ve never been helped when down and helpless, what do you think of propagating that world view?

To quote Pope John Paul II on World Youth Day: You will not be content to live in a world where other human beings die of hunger.

Disclaimer: I am not Catholic. I am not even a good Christian. But I can contribute to something besides myself, at least for a few hours once in a while.

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