Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Clueless helpers

My sister gave me a lovely present - a book with patterns for crocheted hats, presented by two young men fond of skiing. Cute, I thought. But then I arrived at page 77 where it said (my translation from German): "As male crochet pioneers, we have supported the action 'A Hatful of Life' of the children's Charity Save the Children. With 40 enthusiastic supporters, we crocheted and knitted 2,231 children's hats, shipped to Sri Lanka by Save the Children."
To Sri Lanka? To a tropical island state where the temperature varies between warm, hot and very hot? And why on earth would Save the Children, an established organisation one expects to be well-informed, engage in such shining post-colonial foolishness? An internet search reveals that "A Hatful of Life" does exist (one site says, in German, "Knitting to Save Children's Lives", no less than that). The campaign was reportedly initiated by Save the Children (or a confused fundraising manager working there?) at the occasion of World Public Knitting Day, 13 June. (Do we truly need a special day for knitting in public? I tend to stop knitting in May, anyway, because it gets too warm in the Northern hemisphere.) One site says (my translation from German again), "the hats are for newborn babies in countries like Rwanda and Afghanistan" - well, one of the few things Rwanda and Afghanistan have in common is that their climate is at times cooler than that of Sri Lanka. But my impression is that Afghans and Rwandans are quite good at covering their babies' heads without German knitaid. And they seem definitely more "advanced" than Berliners - I suspect - in that it would never cross their minds to leave their baby unattended in a pram on the pavement outside a café, on cold days, while they (the mom or dad) have coffee with friends inside.
How come that despite years (or even decades?) of "development education", funded by the European Commission and by various governments, so little seems to change in (more or less overtly) racist minds? Even the Ministry of Cooperation has indulged in a postcard that projects doubtful ideas - if you read German, find an interesting comment here.
I suspect that widespread ignorance (or aloofness?) persists because valuable efforts to popularise a more accurate image of life outside of Europe are annihilated by advertising that tries to please "the masses" with clichés. For example, every week I see billboards in Berlin that display pretty black-haired women and cute babies in picturesque villages who tell "us", the rich-country-based viewers, that they need our help. You know what? It's the other way round! Check out Radi-Aid!