week #42 celebrate successes

streetpartyThis past weekend has been filled with jubilant celebrations and festivities to commemorate Elizabeth II’s sixty year reign as Queen. Here in the UK there was a real sense of patriotism and appreciation as people filled the streets to acknowledge the dedication of the monarch. What is obvious from these occasions is that people love the opportunity to celebrate; to rejoice in successes and throw a big party. Why, then, do we spend so much time dwelling on bad news? I am just as much a culprit of this as the next person, perhaps worse. As a self-confessed cynic I am naturally inclined to see the glass half empty and I tend to find shocking statistics and tragic stories strangely captivating. It is people just like me who ensure that doom-and-gloom will always be a media success.

However, I am learning that bad news is very rarely an enduring motivator for positive change.When it comes to issues of poverty and affliction there has always been a tendency to show the tragic stories in order to shock people into contributing funds or lending a helping hand. While this can work, it is also a method that is unlikely to have long-term benefits. In all areas of ours lives, we need to believe that our efforts are effective in order to continue to work toward a particular goal. The same goes for poverty alleviation or eradication of disease; if we believe that the things we are doing are working, we are more likely to keep the good work. For the Queen, standing composed on her balcony yesterday, seeing and hearing one and a half million people shouting ‘hooray’ was surely encouragement enough to keep going for another ten years!

I received a lovely letter from our local MP (Justine Greening) last week, acknowledging the beneficial work of the Global Poverty Project – an organisation for which I am an ambassador. The letter also outlines the ways in which the UK are having a massive impact through international aid. A small portion of UK taxpayer’s money (less than 0.7% at this time) is going toward saving the lives of women in pregnancy and childbirth and giving ten million woman access to family planning. This is merely a part of the story. I also know that those funds are vital to immunising many people against deadly disease and UK taxpayers are responsible for putting hundreds of thousands of children through school. If you knew how your tax money was powerfully changing individual lives, would you want the government to give more or less? It’s a no-brainer really.

When giving the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation, I am always struck by how much people’s perspective is altered by the end of the presentation. So many do not realise that the efforts to eradicate poverty are actually working. Of course, we cannot naively deny that there are major setbacks facing those who live under dire circumstances. Yet, there is also so much good being done by those who desperately wish to see change. And as the echoes of ‘God Save the Queen’ slowly fade around the nation, I propose to start shouting the good news about poverty eradication…because we always need reason to celebrate.

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