In the Blog

net gains

June 3rd, 2008     by Cate Simpson     Comments

So, I have some mixed feelings about this. It’s an article about campaigns like Nothing But Nets that ask for donations of $10 to buy a mosquito net to guard an African child against malaria, and how they’ve captured the imaginations of young people in the States (I did some research into why the nets are so expensive - they’re also treated with insecticide).

The $10 mosquito net campaigns have caught on with younger folks because it’s a small amount that many of them can afford, that equates to a tangible result - one child gets a mosquito net - rather than that money sinking into a charity’s coffers to be used towards some more fuzzy end. So far, so awesome. A seven year-old (with the help of her mother and five year-old brother) has raised a total of $43,000, and it’s hard to quibble with that.

Still, you kind of have to wonder if it could really be that simple. It sounds a lot like those Buy A Village A Goat campaigns that were disputed in the current issue of This Magazine. Economist Chris Blattman also takes issue in his blog with the New York Times’ use of phrases like “a hip way to show you care” and “making charity cool.”

But maybe this is unfounded cynicism. After all, “hip” and “cool” is frequently the language that gets used in descriptions of trends among young people (because obviously that’s the only motivator for doing anything if you’re under 20). Just because something can be couched in these terms doesn’t make it automatically frivolous and empty.

The usefulness of a mosquito net against malaria is certainly less questionable than the usefulness of a goat against poverty. And if you look beyond the magazine copy, tons of young people are raising thousands of dollars for charities. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Tags: activist report

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