Mamma Mia! Fans dig deep for victims of tsunami
GENEROUS theatregoers have stunned charity bosses by donating an incredible £100,000 to the tsunami appeal in just two months.
The money was collected from Capital crowds at the hit musical Mamma Mia! based around the songs of supergroup Abba.
The Playhouse show raised so much, staff at a city Oxfam shop where they donated the cash had trouble keeping count of it all. And when the figures were all totalled up, it emerged they had helped the shop become the charity’s highest earners in Britain for the appeal.
James Haworth, the general manager of the Playhouse, said staff were amazed by the final total of £98,000.
"The Playhouse staff and the Mamma Mia! company felt honoured to be able to help with the appeal and were delighted by the generosity of the Scottish public.
"The money raised on the first night alone was beyond everybody’s expectations and the final figure was more than anybody had ever dared to dream of.
"We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our patrons for their support and the generosity they showed to the unfortunate victims of the disaster."
The money was all donated to the Oxfam shop in Nicholson Street. In total, an unprecedented £108,000 passed through the collection boxes at the shop, making it the number one fundraiser out of the charity’s 750 nationwide shops.
Shop manager Jo Christison paid tribute to the work of the Playhouse staff, and admitted they had struggled to cope with the scale of the donations at times. "We want to thank the Playhouse Theatre, whose staff collected huge amounts during the run of Mamma Mia! and passed the collections on to Oxfam at Nicholson Street," she said.
"At some stages we were almost overwhelmed by counting the cash, which was pouring in. Our volunteer staff did a magnificent job handling it all, as well as running the shop in the normal way.
"We are delighted to have collected so much for such a cause and want to say a major thank-you to those Edinburgh people and visitors who gave so generously to the appeal. Donations came from all types of people - it was really inspiring to be involved."
The shop also received thousands of individual donations of cash, as well as "a mountain" of clothes and toys to sell, which will help raise money for the charity’s drive against Third World debt.
And it even has a few more volunteers now, after people came into the shop wanting to help.
Angela O’Hagan, campaigns and communities manager for Oxfam Scotland, said: "This collection typifies the outstanding generosity of the people of Scotland. It is the result of a magnificent co-operation between the staff and cast of Mamma Mia! and the staff at the shop. The money raised in this tsunami appeal will now go towards the long-term recovery of people in the devastated regions."
The tsunami appeal raised £300 million nationally for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s fund. The humanitarian response to the disaster was one of the most successful in history.
Oxfam workers are currently in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the other areas affected. The charity specialises in providing water and latrines in disaster situations.
Tsunami Aid by the Numbers: Who Is More Generous?
Rachard Itani, Arab News —
Following the recent Asian tsunami disaster, Western media outlets commented on the apparent “stinginess” of Arabs and Arab governments compared with the “generosity” of Western governments and individuals. The numbers not only debunk this notion totally and turn it on its head, they serve to reveal to the Western world positive aspects and qualities of Arab culture that are systematically occulted in Western media, including true hallmarks of Arab culture and Arabs everywhere, like generosity, compassion and solidarity toward fellow human beings.
Over the past two weeks, “Tsunami-Aid” concerts were organized in many countries, including one in the city of Cardiff, England which the BBC described as an “event set to be Britain’s biggest charity concert since Live Aid 20 years ago.” These and other numerous events that mobilized people around the world for the past month, are a testament to the solidarity and generosity that ordinary humans can feel and display toward fellow human beings struck by calamity. Or are they? An article published on Jan. 16 by the Observer on Sunday (“West’s tsunami pledges $200m short: Oxfam”) compared the donations made by private individuals of 12 countries to the victims of the Asian tsunami, in the first 15 days following that natural disaster. The Observer’s article reported the donations in absolute terms, showing that Norwegians donated the most per head of population ($13.20) followed by the Swedes ($12.04), the Dutch ($9.16) the Australians ($5.23) and so on, down to the Americans with a donation of $1.08 per head, and the French, whose per head donation amounted to 80 US cents. The Observer table places Saudi Arabs in the middle of the pack, at No. 6 with a donation of $4 per head, but still outranking Canadians, Austrians, Brits, Greeks, Americans and French in their generosity.
Ranking people’s generosity in absolute terms however is not very instructive. A more informative approach would compare donations as a percentage of per-capita income, the average amount of money each head of population is theoretically supposed to earn. Thus, if two people donate $1,000 each to a charity, but one makes $50,000 per year while the other earns $100,000, the former has of course proven to be twice as generous as the latter. This more accurate measure of generosity reveals private Saudi individuals as the most generous amongst the people of the 12 countries mentioned in the Observer article, followed in descending order by the Swedes, Dutch, Norwegians, Australians, Germans, Canadians, Greeks, Austrians, Brits, French, and in 12th and final place, Americans. In terms of percentage of donations relative to their per capita income, the Saudis are revealed to be extremely generous indeed: 112 percent more generous than second place Swedes, 134 percent more than 3rd place Dutch, 154 percent more than fourth place Norwegians, 194 percent more generous than 5th place Australians, and so on to a staggering 1,421 percent more generous than 11th place French, and 1,617 percent more than 12th place Americans.
What do the above numbers tell us?
They seem to shatter the widely held myth often quoted by US media and government spokespersons, namely that “Americans are the most generous people on earth.” Since the above analysis compares private, not official donations, the generosity of Saudi individuals cannot be dismissed away as resulting from their “oil wealth.” Indeed, Saudi per-capita income, at $8,530, pales in comparison with American per capita income at $37,610. Interestingly, the pattern of poorer people giving a larger percentage of their income to charity than richer people is mirrored in domestic US private charitable donation patterns: It’s a well documented fact that poorer Americans donate a larger percentage of their income to charity than the richer amongst them do.
The numbers also serve to reflect a certain moral confusion on the part of donors.
When the statistics discussed above were compiled, close to 150,000 people were known to have died in the 2004 tsunami (the number to-date has risen by another 100,000) and more than five million were rendered homeless by it. Very soon thereafter, apparently before governments got their acts together, people all over the world generously and seemingly spontaneously dug deep into their sometimes-shallow pockets to give to the victims of this natural catastrophe, shaming the hesitant stinginess of their governments’ original response. Very soon thereafter, movie celebrities and music stars rushed to anchor telethons and concerts to raise additional funds. Then the establishment emerged from its initial lethargy and coopted the program: The nominee Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared in a crass remark that the tsunami had “paid great dividends” for the US since it “was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people” (an assertion unfortunately not supported by the numbers, as shown above,) and two former American presidents were enrolled to appear on TV, urging people to open their hearts and purses to the poor victims of this natural disaster.
For victims of natural disasters: Billions of dollars in donations, dozens of live-aid concerts and celebrity appearances, and two former US presidents urging their compatriots to give generously. But for victims of man-made disasters, be they Iraqi, Afghan, Rwandan, Congolese, Timorese, or Haitian, no worldwide fund-raising efforts, no concerts, and no former presidents urging relief: just current ones intent on bringing them more harm. This is not to take away from all the courageous voices that were raised in protest at the war. But between protest and life-giving monetary donations there exists a significant gap that begs to be explained in this case.
Does this mean that we should not give generously to the victims of the tsunami or other natural disasters? On the contrary: Solidarity with our less fortunate fellow humans who are struck by any type of disaster is a virtue. Indeed, we need to nurture and expand it to include long-term, inexpensively avoidable calamities like malaria, diarrhea, trachoma and other endemic, infectious diseases that kill and maim more people each month than the total number who died in the 2004 tsunami. What this also means therefore is that we must learn to be consistent when we dig deep into our pockets to help our fellow humans: We must extend our generosity to the long suffering Iraqis and other people in the non-white, poor countries of the globe, who deserve the same worldwide fund-raising effort and celebrity-anchored telethons and music concerts to bring them relief from their man-made disasters as the victims of the 2004 tsunami deserved our compassion to help them manage the consequences of their natural cataclysm.
While ever mindful that many celebrities and extra-ordinary people around the globe are still courageously speaking out, organizing and working against the war in Iraq, one is still compelled to ask: What was it that led millions of people to march two years ago against a war that hadn’t yet started, a historic first, only to then do next to nothing monetarily for the victims of that war once it got under way, but to give billions of dollars to the victims of a natural disaster a couple of years later?
Did the poor Iraqis and Afghans not need and deserve monetary help and relief from their man-man disaster as much as the tsunami victims did from their nature-induced catastrophe? And did the poor Congolese, Rwandans, Sudanese, Timorese, and other Asian and African victims of modern-day holocausts not deserve the same widespread indignation that their Iraqi brethren inspired, let alone, along with the poor Iraqis and Afghans, the same fund-raising drives that the tsunami victims rightly received? These questions speak to the very foundations of morality. Or, for those who would prefer to think of it in another term, of faith.
Given the above discussion, can we offer a reasonable understanding for the failure of people to be consistent in their generosity? One might be tempted to offer one easy explanation for the extraordinary generosity displayed by Saudi Arabs toward the tsunami victims: They were merely giving to fellow Muslims, since the majority of the tsunami victims were also Muslims.
That would not explain, however, the absence of an equal amount of collective Saudi generosity toward, and fund-raising drive in favor of, their Iraqi Muslim brethren. Nor would it explain why Europeans and Americans did not give another five or ten dollars per head to the victims of the African holocausts or to the millions who suffer and die each year in Africa, Asia and South America, as a result of easily preventable infectious diseases. This points to one obvious conclusion amongst others: The failure, here, was not of the people, but of their political leaders and societal role models. Given half a chance and organized leadership, as in the case of the officially-sanctioned and celebrity-sponsored tsunami fund-raising drives, people, be they Saudi, Norwegian, American or otherwise, will do the right thing. That same leadership went AWOL in the case of recent and less recent made-by-man disasters. This should give us all reason to pause, reflect, and perchance, act.
(This article was first published by www.CounterPunch.org under the title “The US Really is a Miser”?)
West's tsunami pledges $200m short: Oxfam
Martin Bright, Nick Mathiason and Nico Hines
Sunday January 16, 2005
Western nations lauded for their generosity following the south east Asian tsunami disaster are failing to honour pledges of aid, leaving shortfalls of millions of pounds in the recovery programme.
Despite the huge response by international governments when the tidal wave hit on Boxing Day, the United Nations humanitarian appeal is still underfunded by a third, with just $723 million received out of a total of nearly $1 billion originally demanded and pledged.
According to an Oxfam report to be published this week, donations have followed the same pattern as pledges to other recent disasters such as the Bam earthquake in Iran and Hurricane Mitch in central America, where initial promises were not honoured.
The report will also attack western governments for refusing to push ahead with debt and trade reforms that would free reconstruction money for the region.
It will be particularly critical of the debt relief deal hammered out by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, with other members of the Paris Club of creditor nations, which suspended repayments rather than wiping out debt. There are concerns that interest payments will continue and the debts will have grown when the moratorium ends.
Oxfam is demanding a full assessment of the level of debt sustainable for each country hit by the tsunami. It will also demand reform to trade tariffs from Europe and the US on textile and clothing from the affected region.
Bernice Romero, Oxfam International Advocacy Director, said: 'In the immediate aftermath the public and governments responded admirably. Pledges were made and the world focused on the disaster. Rich country governments sadly appear to be dragging their feet on vital trade and debt reforms to help relieve poverty in the long term.
'The world must not let the spotlight shift away from the devastation caused by the tsunami until rich countries have done all that they can to help victims for the long term. So far they haven't made the tough choices needed to bring fundamental change.'
A World Bank official in New York said: 'It's all very well that a freeze on debt repayments has been agreed, but countries will be hit by repayments as soon as the moratorium ends.' The official confirmed that wealthy countries are likely to fall short of the $1billion demanded by the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is expected to say it will lift tariffs on clothing exports from poor countries hit by the tsunami. Sri Lanka and Indonesia paid more than $900m on goods sold to the US and EU last year - almost equivalent to the aid promised by wealthy countries.
The generosity of the British in the wake of the crisis has also been called into question by figures comparing the charity of private donors around the world.
Per capita figures compiled by Reuters and UN agencies from the first 15 days of the disaster show that the people of Norway contributed most, averaging £7.06 for every man, woman and child. The Swedes raised an average figure of £6.44, while the British contributed on average £1.65.
UK donations have now topped £200 million and the average donation per person has moved closer to £3.50, but it is still behind many other western nations.
While Mark Astarita, director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, insists, 'We have one of the most vibrant voluntary sectors in the world,' the Giving Campaign has calculated that voluntary donation fell from 1.2 to 0.9 per cent of Britain's GDP between 1992 and 2002.
The promises per person
Private donations made to the tsunami appeal in the first 15 days. In £ per head of population.
Saudi Arabia £2.14
United States 58p