Comic relief 2013

Blog editor Emily Wight muses on the fundraising efforts going on around the country for Comic Relief

As I type, people up and down the UK are coming home from work in their pyjamas, packing up their bake sales, or settling down for a night in to watch David Brent back on our screens – all for Comic Relief, the charity founded in 1985 by Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry in response to the Ethiopian famine.

Sadly, nearly 20 years later human beings the world over are still in need of some relief; likewise, many people in this austerity-stricken country could do with a giggle on a rainy Friday in March. Comic Relief proceeds go to admirable organisations working with vulnerable people in both African countries and the UK itself.

But, damn, doing the same old thing time and again to fundraise can get old, can’t it? It’s always difficult to come up with fresh ideas; ways to fundraise that will bring a natural reflex smile to people’s faces and make them that extra little bit more likely to donate money to a good cause. Personally, I believe a decent array of cake can never go amiss, but we’ve got to remember there are people still trying to kid themselves that they’re following a new year’s resolution to eat more healthily (we won’t tell them we saw them scoffing that Twix when they thought no-one was watching).

Clearly the wackier the plan, the better. If you go to work dressed as Harry Potter, chances are you’ll have the office chuckling as they throw money at you. If you challenge yourself to answer every question with the words “comic relief” and let nothing else pass your lips, people should be pretty impressed.

One of my friends decided to get his (admittedly pretty hairy) chest waxed in order to raise some money. He’s aiming for £100, and at lunchtime today had already raised £56. Good for him, I thought. Until I told a colleague, who dismissed the idea.

“Getting your chest waxed?” She said incredulously. “Big deal! Women wax their legs all the time and nobody donates money for us to do it!”

This annoyed me slightly, mainly because it was an obvious point that, as a feminist, I should have thought of. But I also thought, as a feminist, that we do have a choice. Nobody is making us wax our legs, and if people have a problem with a shaved leg, or indeed a hairy one, then they can take their sexist views elsewhere as far as I’m concerned.

Nonetheless, I saw her point, and it got me thinking. Why is a hairy man getting his chest waxed extraordinary enough to instigate charitable giving? The pain element is nothing compared to what women do on a daily basis in the name of beauty.

Let’s compare it to other fundraising challenges. When I was a teenager I used to take part in an annual 24-hour fast organised by the charity World Vision. I’d always raise at least £100 from friends and family, because not eating for 24 hours, especially for a growing girl, is pretty hard work. But following the argument my colleague was suggesting – that an effort is undermined by the fact that other people do the same thing all the time – being so hungry that you can hardly move for a day is no biggie. Look at all those people starving in the developing world! They have to go for days without food – why shouldn’t you?

Doesn’t this seem ever so slightly harsh?

The point of fundraising challenges is, I think, to put things in context and do something that is outrageous – for you. For someone who is used to three healthy meals a day to eat nothing, that’s commendable, as is for someone who’s never had their chest waxed to go through all that pain. For the chattiest person in the world to do a sponsored silence, that’s impressive.

And for someone who’s still on their healthy eating resolution to eat a cake for charity, that’s fine too.

To donate money to Comic Relief, please click here.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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