Finding ways to give

Larisa Manescu

Last month, the Distinguished Speakers and Music and Entertainment committees brought “Arcade Fire: A Lecture on Hope, Haiti and Service” to the LBJ Auditorium. Whether students lined up in anticipation for the event out of genuine interest in Haiti or because they appreciate the band and its music, it was difficult to not be intrigued by the optimistic two-hour talk about the type of service Haiti needs, its continued development and its rich culture.

The band’s lecture provided UT students with basic but necessary guidelines on how to get engaged in service, not only in Haiti but for any issue of interest.

Ultimately, philanthropy is an active choice; no force compels students to improve their community, country or world. Of course, most students involved in philanthropic causes are not doing so out of a guilty conscience but because giving back is important to them and because involvement in philanthropy makes them feel connected to others.

Deciding to chiefly dedicate to one cause does not have to be based on its relative worth, but on personal interest, connection and previous experience. When an incoming freshman enters the university, he or she encounters a tremendous variety of clubs and programs dedicated to widely different efforts. They are all significant to someone and they all need advocates, so it can be difficult to commit to just one. Arcade Fire, who has been working for Haiti for six years, advised UT students to “stick to one thing and make it happen.”

This advice is perfectly reasonable as students can fall into the trap of spreading themselves too thin or becoming too overwhelmed and ultimately doing little of substance. Band member Régine Chassagne recalled that the band had a difficult time initially deciding which cause they could use their newfound influence to support until she asked herself, “What is the most relatable thing?” answering her own question with “Well, my family is from Haiti and Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere.”

But deciding where to give your time is just the beginning. Researching effective ways to make a difference is in some ways even more difficult. Although some observers think contributing money to a cause is overly simplistic and doesn’t qualify as good philanthropy, money is the basis of aid and shouldn’t be viewed as harmful. The key is that the donation of money should be to a reliable and well-established organization with a transparent record. Arcade Fire donates one dollar from each concert ticket to the Haitian effort and has collected about one million dollars to date.

They give to Partners in Health, the second largest organization in Haiti, which provides informed and thorough aid. The majority of its directors are Haitians, and the organization has worked in the country for nearly 25 years to give the community ownership of its own development.

For those wanting a more direct, personal way to give, the opportunity to travel to the region to witness improvements as can be inspiring and rewarding. Goodwill is only the first ingredient in the recipe for becoming involved in a cause. Afterwards, what must be added is the duty to become informed, to act smartly when choosing how to convert your desires to help into concrete strategies (whether it is through a promising, ambitious start-up organization or a well-established one) and the determination and persistence to continue and evolve the effort.

Manescu is a journalism and international relations and global studies freshman.