Be a Hero: Give a Dollar.

If you’ve heard about the horrible injustices going on in Burma, you might think there is a lot of action being taken to help the incredibly oppressed Burmese people.

I know I thought so, but to my surprise and disappointment, almost all of the advocacy campaigns we found had already fizzled out. There are seemingly only a handful of organizations advocating for the people of Burma; only a handful of voices still working to help those oppressed in a country with a military regime that uses rape, torture, and death to maintain social control.

Is this because people don’t really care about helping Burma? Or perhaps they care, but they’re just too lazy to run an organization? Or maybe they care and work hard enough, but they’re too dumb to know how to advocate effectively? I would guess, in most cases, no; this is likely because it takes much more than a compassionate heart to make a difference.

It is unfortunate, but due to the country’s military regime and their strict control over social services, one person who cares about the injustices in Burma cannot really save or help anyone over there without a lot — I mean a lot — of support behind them. The U.S. Campaign for Burma is one of the few Burma advocacy organizations still standing, and it’s no wonder why. It was organized on a national level, it has celebrity spokespeople, it has exceptional financial support, it was able to quickly spread its message all over YouTube, and it has built an impressive and easily navigational website. It has many resources that smaller Burma campaigns do not have.

Money is not the answer for all problems, but for some problems, it is the only truly valuable thing we can offer those in need. In the case of helping the victims of injustice in Burma, the most effective way an average American can help is by donating money to an established Burmese social justice effort. It is important to donate to an established effort, because that campaign must be doing something right if they are still running — therefore, it’s not a blind donation to just any organization, but to one that is successfully making change.

Those thriving groups are not only good choices for your financial support because they’re the only ones around, but also because they are clearly knowledgeable about the problems of the Burmese people and knowledgeable about the best way to use your bucks to make the greatest amount of impact. For example, the organized efforts of the U.S. Campaign for Burma helped renew the Freedom and Democracy Act, Prospect Burma gives scholarships to gifted and needy Burmese student refugees to study at universities outside Burma, and Oxfam supports a microfinance program that collaborates with community leaders to make their own decisions about establishing five-member savings and credit groups led by women.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be a superhero to help the people of Burma. You don’t need to buy a plane ticket and live on the border of Thailand, teaching Burmese refugees math or science. You don’t need to make big signs and march down Westheimer to spread awareness of the injustice in Burma. You don’t even need to talk to another human being about Burma if you don’t want to.

All you have to do is find an organization making a difference and open up your checkbook. This act of kindness is anything but empty — it is the best thing you do for those suffering in Burma right now. But if you already bought your plane ticket, rock on, and good luck.

Katherine Dilger is a student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a founding member of Students EnACTing Change (www.studentsenactingchange.com).


Post by . This entry was posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2010. Filed under Posts.

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One Response to “Be a Hero: Give a Dollar.”

  1. JTD on December 15th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Thank YOU for making a difference, Katie and for making us all aware of the atrocities and injustices in Burma. Mom

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