What do charities do?

What do charities do?

It’s not a question that I thought was particularly difficult to answer, seeing as though so many people benefit from their work in so many ways every single day.

But then on 23 February, the BBC ran an article posing that very same question, which it failed miserably to answer.

Instead of explaining about the services charities deliver and the ways in which they help people, the BBC focused on how charities operate, such as how much money they raise and how many people work for them.

Which, as I noted at the time, is a bit like going to see a movie and being shown ‘the making of’.

Or like going to a restaurant and being given a tour of the kitchen but not actually being able to sample the food.

I figured I would help the BBC out by providing a short overview of some of the brilliant services that charities offer.

Charities are organisations that exist to make the world a better place. All that they do must have public benefit – whether that is the advancement of health, human rights or heritage, or one of the other 13 categories of work that charities can deliver – you can read more about those here.

When you look at it, they do rather a lot – most of which happens in very difficult and even dangerous circumstances. And never with enough resources.

For instance…

When other people are fleeing an area affected by natural disaster or conflict, charities are the ones entering it. Their brave and dedicated workers are the people who provide medical care to the injured, provide clean water, toilets, food and shelter to those who have nothing – all while dodging bullets, bombs, infectious disease, floods, fire and other incredibly dangerous situations.

Take Oxfam for example. In Syria, millions have fled their homes in search of safety. But not everyone has been able to make it out. Those who remain in the country live in unimaginably insecure conditions with little access to the basic facilities that we take for granted every day. Oxfam is there to help though. It is working hard to restore local infrastructure and has provided clean drinking water to more than 1.5 million people.

Much of this crucial work only made possible thanks to the generosity of the general public. The more people give, the more lives that can be saved.

Charities are also the organisations that are helping to plug gaps in public services.

We have all seen how austerity measures and cuts to public spending have meant that health and social care services are stretched beyond their means.

But thanks to charities such as Age UK, Royal Voluntary Service, Salvation Army and thousands more like them around the country, older people have access to practical care and support that helps them stay healthy and happy; homeless people are fed and given shelter; women and children are given a safe space where they can escape domestic violence; disabled people are provided with accommodation so they can lead independent lives…

What would happen if charities were not there to help? Who else would step in?

It’s also charities that help young people, veterans and former offenders to learn new skills, find employment and reach their potential.

It’s charities that help people understand the impact of plastic, climate change and pollution on our environment. That bring smiles to the faces of children who haven’t had a reason to laugh for a very long time…

It’s charities that rescue tortured animals, provide grants to people living on the breadline, that enable teams of young people to enjoy sports every weekend…

There are too many examples of the life-saving and life-changing work that charities do to list them all here.

But one thing is for sure – what charities do is about much, much more than just raising money and hiring staff.

Just ask Randolph Yarde. After a stroke landed him in hospital for ten months, Randolph wasn’t ready to face the world again – until the British Red Cross lent a hand.

“In those early days, the Red Cross was the link between me and the outside world. Without Michelle’s help and kindness, I’d never have been able to recuperate so easily,” he said.

So, the next time someone asks: ‘what do charities do’, point them in the direction of one of the 168,000 organisations that work tirelessly to help others – and maybe make a donation while you’re at it. You will be helping them reach even more people who need a hand.

If you fancy adding to my list of what charities do, that would be wonderful – let’s help the BBC and others like them understand just how important these organisations are.