By: Ashur Sada
James Robertson is a factory worker in Troy, Michigan.
Assyrians should be more active and generous in donating money to help their people
Jarrid Tansey is a pizza delivery driver in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.
For those of you who haven’t heard of them-assuming the majority of you-and what is common between the two, let me give a brief background.
Both of these two men were the subjects of online fund raisers by complete strangers. For the former, his story was very inspiring and got a student to start an online fund to collect money to pay for a car, so he doesn’t have to walk some 20+ miles to get to and from work. For the latter, he was the subject of what amounted to being bullied on the job by a customer, and this in turn received some strong reactions from the online public and lots of sympathies and donations.
In both cases, the original goal for the fund was not only reached but completely shattered. For Mr. Robertson, the original goal was $5,000 which was broken in a matter of hours. It was then raised to $25,000, which was also reached in less than 24 hours. By the 11th day, an astonishing $350K was raised for him! Mr. Tansey may not have been as lucky, but he too got close to $30,000 in donations from complete strangers online.
Online funding for Assyrian causes
So what, if anything, can these two stories teach us as Assyrians? they are great examples of what online funding can do for people and causes. What if we attempted the same thing with Assyrians? say we launched an online funding campaign to do one of the following:
-Help an Assyrian family in need
-Donate to arm an Assyrian defense force in Iraq or Syria
-Give money to help build an Assyrian church in a certain city
-Donate to help build an Assyrian library
-Give money to help Assyrian students make a trip of a lifetime to their homeland
One such online fund-raiser was already done. It was a fund-raiser for Assyrian activist Suzy Younan to help her travel to Iraq to provide humanitarian relief for Assyrians displaced from the Nineveh Plain by the recent ISIS onslaught. So what were the results? While encouraging, you would think such a noble cause would have generated a lot more money or at least met the goal of $25,000. The end result was $13,290! That is $11,710 short of the goal set. But Suzy and her travel companions made the best of these donations and helped as many people as they can.
But it is so much more than just the money. It is about sending a message of support, unity and sympathy. If so much money can be raised for two individuals, by complete strangers, why can’t we raise a lot more money for more urgent needs and much nobler causes? If the plight of Assyrians living in tens, in extreme weather conditions doesn’t get us to open our wallets, what will?
In the past, we have come across so many different Assyrian fund-raisers and for different causes and rarely did I see one that matched or exceeded its goal, no matter what the objective was. Whether it is a trust issue or one of laziness and lacking of generosity, we just don’t do enough to help those in need.
Assyrian Aid Society and ACERO are the two most established and credible Assyrian charities out there. I trust them with my life, never mind my money. The two have achieved some success in convincing Assyrians to open their wallets to those in needs. They have done a great job of matching donors’ money with those who need it the most. But even they (ACERO and AAS) can do a lot better, if more people become more generous and comfortable with donating their money, especially online.
Despite all of this, the responsibility actually starts with the fund-raiser organizers first, rather than the donors. If the organizers (i.e those who run AAS, ACERO etc.) do a good job of explaining where the money is going, publishing regular reports, posting their accounting online, people will be a lot more trusting and give more of their money. If you go to the two organizations’ respective websites, you will find that both do an excellent job of being accountable with the money they collect from donors. Moreover, their own directors and founders are often on the ground, helping with the relief effort themselves.
Unlike other ethnic groups who may have richer groups and nations behind them, Assyrians only have themselves to support their own. The responsibility and stakes are higher. We simply can’t run away from it and hope that someone else will donate. The ‘by-stander effect’ doesn’t apply here! Each has to do their work. When you go to church on Sunday morning, you don’t tell yourself “I won’t put anything in the basket today, other people are doing that already.” Why would you treat Assyrian charity any differently? You can donate once or you set a reminder in your calendar to donate multiple times a year. For example, if you believe in ACERO and AAS, you can set a reminder in your smartphone to donate to each one every other month. For example, on January, you donate to AAS, on February you donate to ACERO and so on. If each or most of us did this, the two organizations would have more than enough money to help almost every Assyrian in need.
And when all else fails, put yourself in someone else’s shoes: image you are one of thousands of people who used to live in Mosul or the Nineveh Plain, and were driven out from there by ISIS and have lost your home and all that you built in your lifetime. You are now living in dirty tents under such extreme wintery conditions. Your kids don’t even have a proper blanket to cover themselves, let alone a proper bed to sleep in or a good meal to enjoy. Would you not want people to donate and help you get out of this misery? I am sure you would! Count your lucky stars. You are not living this miserable life. You are sitting comfortably in your home and your kids are well-fed and taken care of. The least you can do is to help these needy Assyrians by making a donation.
Next time you come across an Assyrian fund for a noble cause, don’t hesitate to reach for your wallet or credit card and donate. It will help someone who is in extreme hardship. People did it a pizza delivery driver and a factory worker, whose condition was not nearly as bad as what our Assyrian people are enduring.