Last week the Brits forked out £47 million plus in one night for ‘Children in Need’ a BBC initiative that is an annual event to help voluntary agencies in the UK help children in need in the UK. This is not the only event of mass charity efforts held each year. ‘Comic Relief’, ‘Sports Relief’ are two others that come to mind the difference is that Children in Need is confined to the UK, the other charities are not.
Watching the show last night one could not help but be moved by the heroism and agony of those unfortunate enough to have the needs exemplified in ‘CIN’. I was astonished to see so many sad stories in a rich nation like the UK, where so many are at the mercy of overstretched voluntary organisations.
My first reaction was to give thanks for all these wonderful workers in the volunteering sector from Hospices, to grief councillors, to play therapists and many, many more. My second reaction was to feel proud of the generosity of the Brits. My third was to wonder why we need such a wide community of voluntary organisations in a wealthy country like ours?
Whilst this charity focused on children, there are many others in our society who have needs. There are many too who could give more of themselves into the voluntary sector. We had a prime minister who asked that we concentrate on what he called the ‘big society’ and I see what he meant.
In an aging society we have droves of senior citizens who are lonely and many that are living close to poverty. Then again we have many who are well off and sit at home worrying about their failing health and the issue of age itself.
It seems there is a circle to square here. The concept of mobilising the legions of ‘retired’ folk to help in all the above mentioned sectors seems self-evident. Yet because of our traditional beliefs of ‘youth’,’ maturity’, ‘middle age’ and ‘old age’ we seem to have given up the mass of older talent which ought to be conscripted into a much more vibrant voluntary sector. The word ‘Conscripted’ will put the shivers up many a back, but life has changed and we must change with it.