Ben Aris, (c)
A free week in a luxury hotel on the sun soaked Anatolian coast doing nothing. Sounds all right doesn't it?
Apparently lots of orphans and down-at-the-heel children are going to be better off from sending me and the missus on this luxury holiday most expenses paid in Turkey, which is where I am this week.
The good old German ambassador's wife organized a raffle on behalf of the International Women's Club. They do good work for youngsters in the hospital, whose families (or whoever) can't afford to do them right. Very noble, and I, for one, am happy to do my bit for those who are less fortunate than me. I find it easy to be flippant and have become a bit jaded on the topic of charity. During a six-year stint as a youthworker in London, I spent most of my time surrounded by middle-class twerps (of which I must admit I was one) talking in weighty terms about "the kids." We used to spend hours in the ILEA (Inner London Education Authorities) offices in Bow talking to scruffy council members about "what we could do" or being sent to workshops to discover our latent resentments to homosexuals or Indians. All we ever achieved was to teach the kids how to speak in the same hyperbole as the powers-that-interfere and got sore throats in the process.
Travelling further afield it gets little better. Charity may begin at home, but it usually ends up making $50,000 a year plus expenses in Samarkand teaching out-of-work Uzbeks how to weave baskets that they can only sell to souvenir-hunting diplomats. One of the worst I ever saw was last year: a UN program that sent four workers to the decimated economy of Karalpakstan next to the Aral Sea, where they spent their time building chemical toilets.
However, the Cucumber is a vegetable of a different color. Charity is actually useful here. The International Women's Club's money goes straight to the people that need it and others, like Downside Up, do sterling work.
But at the risk of sounding pompous, it is still small potatoes compared to the needs of the less well off and the incredible amount of money frittered away by Cucumberites.
There are some exceptions. Downside Up was set up by Jeremy Barnes, whom I have seen on a few occasions somewhat worse for wear at 4 a.m. in the morning. A well to do banker, he has a brother with downs syndrome and so did something to help those in Russia. He began by twisting the arms of his rich mates, but it is now one of the best known and most successful charities here.
These groups have organized some wicked trips, such as a cycle ride out of Moscow and a Kilimanjaro climb. My free week in Turkey is not too bad either.
I must say that it is not a holiday that I would have chosen for myself. We went out yesterday on one of the Russian group excursions: a day on a huge yacht, puttering about in the bay with stops off for swimming and a "Swedish Table" lunch buffet to you and me. I was expecting us to slip cables and drown in a bath of drinking, burn and general belly-dancing mayhem. But everyone was too busy video-taping each other, the shore and their children to really cut loose. I think the person that got most burned and blathered was me. After the winter I am so white that I am blue. I reckon that it is going to take at least two weeks of sunbathing to just get to white.
Downside Up just hit me up again for $20 to sponsor a mate in their walkathon this Sunday. You could spend the whole summer doing good for someone. Take my advice: Go and get a tan for a worthy cause tomorrow.
Опубликовано 31 марта 2016 года
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