The Giving Game: why give?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on The Giving Game and effective altruism, looking in particular at an article by Ware (2015), ‘Cosmopolitism, National Interest, Selfishness and Australian Aid.’ In reflection at the time, I wrote “I have gained insight that often there is no clear answer on how to do the most good because the issues at-hand are so complex.” After final allocations of the $1000 funding for The Giving Game, my reflection here still accurately reflects my thinking, however, I will add that although there is no clear answer, you can still do something.

After a rather lengthy and involved discussion, we decided on the following allocation of funding for The Giving Game:

  • $500 Seva Foundation.
  • $300 Empowering Youth Cambodia
  • $200 Kantha Bopha Hospital

Seva Foundation partners worldwide to create self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight – a world free of avoidable blindness. In 35 years, Seva Foundation have helped 3.5 million people in 20 countries see again. Seva Foundation can fund one cataract surgery for $35-50, and one fistula surgery for $450. We donated $500 to Seva Foundation partly on the basis that restoring the site of a parent, for example, would greatly benefit their family in terms of being able to work and support the family, and afford an education for their children thereafter. Also, the ideas of a global approach, sustainable programs, and training leaders in eye care influenced our decision.

Empowering Youth Cambodia (EYC) work with young people through four schools in slums in Phnom Penh. Although EYC do not reach all of Cambodia, they have fairly expansive, high quality programs in place for the schools and their students, including English teaching, Computer teaching, health services, job placement, sports and fitness and social work. Collectively, we agreed that the focus EYC has on positive change, rather than benchmarks, is strong and worthwhile, especially when you consider that change occurs over time (no matter how long).

Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, established under the leadership of the incredible Dr Beat Richner, have treated 13 million outpatients and 1.56 million seriously ill children requiring hospitalisation in the last 23 years. Initially, I attempted to persuade the group to allocate the full sum of $1000 to Kantha Bopha because put simply (in Dr Richner’s most recent book), these hospitals are saving some 90 000 lives a year. Without Kantha Bopha, these children would have died. I discussed this concerning issue in greater depth on my post, Dr Beat “Beatacello” Richner, where I look in particular at the corruption of the healthcare system in Cambodia and the unequivocal importance of sustaining Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals.

At the beginning of the allocation meeting for The Giving Game, I opened my discussion by explaining that I could not, while working through the allocation process on my own, find reasons that outweighed or outnumbered giving the total sum to Kantha Bopha. After gaining insight from the discussion with my peers, I can see that dividing the money as we have done so can be justified by the reasons outlined above. I am proud of our decision for the allocation of funding – each receiver is doing ‘good’ things!

I enjoyed The Giving Game and the level of responsibility I felt when researching how to allocate the money. In the lead up to my decision, I looked into the movement of effective altruism. I watcher Peter Singer’s TED talk, ‘The why and how of effective altruism’, and read the preface of his book, ‘The Most Good You Can Do‘. In considering these resources, one idea aligned strongly with my beliefs: “Saving a life is better than making a wish come true, and saving three lives is better than saving one.” More than this, in his book, Peter Singer notes that the most effective altruists are ordinary people. In other words, you don’t need to be a billionaire to do the most good you can do! To start, take a look at Peter Singer’s 10 reasons addressing the question, WHY GIVE?

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