Monday, 18 January 2010

I have no skills, but I really want to dig

I have had a very slow day.

Perhaps it's the knowledge that I'm not in work for the next three days that makes each hour that I have been there tick along with agonising slowness. Despite myself, there is something more than that, though. I'm a great reader of news in all shapes and sizes, and it will have escaped no-one's attention that the news for the last few days has been focusing on the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and this news inspires a little more attention from me than most.

Bear with me here. I'm keen that this blog will be a positive and light-hearted look at the world, rather than another means to vent my myriad frustrations about things. But this quake has been described by UN officials as the worst humanitarian disaster that they have ever had to deal with, and it is a subject that touches me for a good reason.

I am my local trade union branch's International Officer (I especially love the ironic way that I type the capitals there.) It would be fantastic if this was a highly responsible post that resulted in James Bond-style adventure and plenty of exotic foreign travel, but in practise, it means that I get my own in-tray which is filled monthly with letters from different charities from around the world. It falls to me to research these charities, pick out the worthiest and then attempt to persuade a large number of sceptical union stewards to make small donations towards them from a central fund.

Make no mistake, it's a worthy job and I enjoy it very much. I may not get paid, but I constantly learn new things and I like to think that in some small ways, the money that we donate makes a difference. But as I crawled through my day job today with my usual listlessness, it occurred to me that with each passing minute, the chance of finding live people under the rubble of Port-au-Prince dwindles. An incident of this magnitude really brings home our impotence in the face of the world, and in that context, no donation of money really cuts to the quick for me.

I know that conducting rescues in itself is a highly skilled job, that it requires specialised equipment and training or the would-be rescuer is at best a hindrance and at worst a danger to themselves and others. But this isn't a rational feeling, one that reflects common sense and good judgement. I joined my trade union for no more reason than I wanted to help people, and I am feeling that same way now as I look at the pictures on the TV. I may have no skills, but I really want to dig.


  1. Time has passed since the tragedy collapsed this Haiti city and the media has since moved on to other disasters. Now they are in Queensland ,Australia and earlier in Pakistan. Not a day passes without some natural disaster occurring somewhere in the world.

    I came across this blog because I have the same feeling. I want to help but don't have the skills. Even in Haiti the country is far from recovery and I am sitting in my warm office thinking what I will have for dinner later and what film to watch at the weekend.

    Life is so unfair and it's time to put some time aside to helping others. I want to dig and make a difference but at this moment its not possible. I will look a little closer to home and start there.

    Thanks Kris for writing your blog. I think there is a lot of us out there that listen to the news as well as watch it.

    I will go home early tonight and help make supper. It's a start........

  2. Hello Julian,

    Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate that you've taken the time.

    You don't say where you live but as you have identified, there are so many deserving causes in the world and each new day means that more people need help.

    Here in the UK we are suffering from a financial crisis and one of the things I hear regularly is that we devote too much money to international aid. The UK tax revenues amount to about £550 billion a year, and we pay out approximately £6 billion to countries abroad in aid. If anything, that amount seems like a miserly one to me. We are, after all, sharing the world, and we have a responsibility to others to make it a better place to live for all.

    I hope to write about the Queensland flash floods in the next few days but I did previously plan to write about the flooding in Pakistan and just didn't find the time.

    It definitely pleases me to know that there are others out there who care about world issues. I wish you the best in bringing about your own positive changes.