Inner Conflict over the #IceBucketChallenge

I’ve been feeling conflicted about the #IceBucketChallenge.

As a fundraising writer who has written a great deal of copy for international development organizations over the years, I know that people in the world’s poorest countries have access to only 20-30 litres per day (on average, some have much less) of safe drinking water. ¹ In Canada, we use that in 1 or 2 toilet flushes. I’ve been struggling with the high profile waste of water to help one charity, while people on the other side of the world are dying from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions – 30,000 every week, and most of them children under five.²

On the other hand, I’ve watched a vibrant, smart, funny woman spiral into a painful, terrifying death from ALS ³. It’s a devastating disease. And one that has languished in the shadows for too long. Because it doesn’t affect as many people as other diseases, pharma companies aren’t interested in spending billions on research for drugs that will have a limited market.

And then I watched this compelling video.

My heart broke for this young man. I rejoiced that he finally felt heard. I was ready to write that all the wasted water was surely worth it. For people with ALS, it’s finally their time. To be recognized for the slow, quiet agony that snuffs out their lives.

But then I thought again about the video… that hilarious image of him draped across a car, and the poignant moments as he cries in a spotless, modern kitchen. As much as I feel for this young man, I recognize he’s still sitting in a place of relative privilege compared to people in poor countries.

He has access to a video camera and the Internet to post his plea for support. Millions of people in the world’s poorest countries don’t have access to electricity, never mind a computer and the Internet.

I believe that most caring people would agree that all of their lives are equally worth saving.

Just like the person waiting in the chemo suite next door to my office at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, who wants to be able to watch their children or their grandchildren grow up. And the woman in Kenya who’s dying of cervical cancer because she doesn’t have access to a PAP smear.

There’s so much suffering in the world, it can feel overwhelming at times. Perhaps that’s why people in North America are attracted to something fun that still helps others. It’s natural, it’s human, and I still think it’s a good impulse. But please, don’t forget that there are people on the other side of the world who are just as worthy of your respect and support. Please help them too.


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