I was watching television the other night. I haven’t been watching much TV lately; there are just too many commercials. Especially the Discovery group. They show 10 minutes of programming and then fall into a pattern of four to five minutes of programming punctuated by four or five minutes of advertising. I timed a show they ran about manufacturing and at the end of the hour I’d only seen 38 minutes of program. I find that particularly annoying since I’m paying for this programming. I give a lot more latitude to over the air broadcasters who get their revenues from their sponsors. But cable companies get advertising dollars plus significant subscriber dollars as well and so I feel like I’m being double dipped. Anyway, I don’t watch that much television anymore, instead watching streaming video services from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and a bunch of independent channels via Roku.
Anyway, there I am watching television and on screen is some guy explaining how little Emanuela standing next to him goes to bed hungry every night. He talks about how terrible her lot in life is, repeating a few times how she goes to bed hung every night, just as she will tonight.
“What?” I say, startled. “What do you mean she’s going to go to bed hungry tonight. You’re using her in a commercial solicitation and you should damn well be paying her. The last thing she should be is going to bed hungry tonight. That little girl should be getting paid scale and that means that at the rates this jokers is quoting on how little it takes to feed her, this little girl should be anything but hungry for the next six months.
This schmuck was doing okay until he made the comment that her hunger would continue. At that point I went from annoyed to saliva projecting anger as I yelled obscenities at the television set. I’m not asking this guy to cure hunger throughout South America, I am though, asking him to pay for the exploitation of this little girl’s story and image.
Of course, this causes me to question other things. In the next extended commercial he shows little Jose scooping water from a puddle from which you can almost see the dysentery jumping like porpoises from its surface. I recognize this man from ages and ages of these commercials over the years and I wonder how come this dude and his organization hasn’t installed communal activated charcoal filters for the village. His organization has been collecting significant sums over the years, it seems like they should have, by now, improved the lot of these little villages to the point that they’re asking for clothing, medicine and education, not the fundamentals of clean water and minimal protein intake.
As I look them up I discover that this company actually has a pretty high rating. 80% of the 230 million dollars they took in during 2012 went to helping children. In spite of that gold star, my questions still persist. In the last five years they’ve collected roughly a billion dollars yet the children still aren’t eating and are drinking from parasite laden puddles.
What’s wrong with this picture?
In reading about welfare assistance to children in South America and Africa, I discover that small religious groups are able to provide large geographic areas of fresh water, free of contaminants and parasites. “We have to address the most basic need, sustenance, before we can move on to higher purpose.” commented a member of one of the religious factions volunteering her time with others doing six month hitches. “Clothing, education, and even to an extent, housing has a much lower rating for us. They may live in shoddy little shacks and wear torn clothing that’re the discards of more prosperous, but none of that matters if they have no access to potable water and nutrition. Education is at the bottom of the list.”
I agree completely. While I think it’s just great that the organization advertising on television is a transparent company that’s spending 80% or 230 million on kids, I have to wonder if they’re spending those dollars in the right way. Of that 80%, how much of that goes to the direct benefit of the kids and how much is paid to local ‘oversight’ that takes a cut as the cost of doing business? There has to be something wrong with the process somehow.
There are a fair number of organizations, religious and secular, that are providing assistance to impoverished children around the world. That adds up to a stunning amount of money and both volunteer and low paid workers that can attack this problem. So why is little Emanuela going to bed hungry and how come Jose is drinking the birthing waters of the anopheles mosquito. Especially with Mr. Plea standing next to them? And I ask again, how come Emanuela is going hungry tonight when she just starred in a commercial?
Something is just a little off about this. What do you think it is?