Thursday, August 18, 2011

Diapers and Band-Aids

I have written several blog posts before about some charitable actions being noble, but are ultimately short-term in their vision and scope. A band-aid, if you will. See Charity, Poverty, and Band-Aids, for example.

As someone actively working for social change, I am often torn between staying focused on the reasons for a certain need - be it food, afforible shelter, or access to medial attention. If we don't work on the underlying causes, then organizations like food banks and soup kitchens and shelters are just band-aid solutions to a greater societal problem.

However, at the same time, there are those in immediate need for something tangible. A person who is hungry needs food. This is why I have volunteered in the past with a mainstream charitable organization, Edmonton's Food Bank.

My latest dilemma involves a diaper drive for the single teen moms at Terra. A friend of mine on Twitter, @Sirthinks has organized a team of politicos to challenge a group of Edmonton realtors as to which group can raise the largest number of diapers. I have put his call below for reference.

Now, although this is supposedly a non-partisan endeavour, the only politicos involved thus far are from the PCs or Wildrose Alliance. As the organizer himself is very conservative by his own admission, it comes as no surprise that this group would be compased of his immediate contacts.

How did I get involved? I received a challenge to try to get the Left involved, particularly people from the NDP. So, I have been trying to garner support for this action, while at the same time failing to bite my tongue concerning the irony of this. People from the PC part are involved in an effort to help teenage moms. Wonderful, applause. However, it would be even better if their part would stop cutting social programs that help women and single mothers.

One of my Facebook friends, who is an outspoken activist for mothers and children, took this idea one step beyond, pointing out that if mothers - all mothers, regardless of age or marital status - actually had the necessary resources (financial and community/social) "to live beyond survival mode without constant scrambling, they might be able to buy their own diapers, or better yet, they may even have the community resources and support to use cloth or EC."

She continues that, "Diaper drives mostly mean we put money into the giant paper/chemical companies, with the spin off benefit of helping a few moms in a small way for a short time. It's yet another way to get good PR while funneling money into corporate hands. It's sticking a band aid on a gushing head wound."

I definitely think the single moms in Terra need diapers desperately. Giving some to them does not bother me in the least. But giving them what they need in the long term is so much more important - a social structure that will allow them and their children to live comfortably. This is why I would love to see political parties who are better able to provide that involved in this initiative. Otherwise, this whole campaign is just a conservative PR opportunity. It's a farce. If this is really a non-partisan effort, then some of us Lefties (or even, dare I say it, progressives and centrists) have to get involved.

Provide the band-aids while working on healing the wounds underneath.

Terra Association, in Edmonton, assists teen parents and young families overcome the hardships faced when unexpected pregnancies occur. Terra assists an average 600 clients and their children annually. These clients are teen moms, young dads and young families striving to make a better life for themselves and their children. Terra offers a broad range of services to assist these young people in reaching their goals. Like any other charitable organization, Terra requires the help of the community as a whole to provide these services.

For the past two years, Terra Association has held a diaper drive in Edmonton with the goal of raising 5,000 boxes of diapers. If you consider a baby can use up to 200 diapers per month, the number of diapers utilized by Terra clients can be in the area of 1.4 million per year. Terra’s goal of 5,000 cases of 24 diapers is 120,000 units, or just under 10 per cent of the needs of their clients. Money saved by these teens and young families can be put towards educational pursuits, rent, food and other incidentals babies require.

In 2009, Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski decided to challenge people, using social media tools, to fill his Smart Car with diapers for Terra. In six days we raised approximately 12,000 diapers for Terra. We did this utilizing social media, two phone calls, and one short meeting to plan the event.

Teaming up with the Realtors Association of Edmonton as we did in 2009, we offer the following challenge. Can a group of politicians from various parties and levels of government raise more diapers than a group of real estate agents? We believe, by putting partisan politics aside, utilizing our fundraising skills, and having some non-partisan FUN, we can raise in excess of 65,000 diapers and, at the same time, exceed the 52,000 units raised by realtors last year. Our volunteer public relations coordinator will plan small social events between where we would invite friends and the public to attend fun evenings and show their support for Terra by donating diapers as an entry fee. Once again, our internal challenge would be to do as much of the diaper and fundraising utilizing the various social media tools available to us, rather than conventional methods.

So far we have received commitments from Edmonton-Castledowns MLA The Honourable Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Employment and Immigration, Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski, Edmonton-Riverview Wildrose Party candidate John Corie, Edmonton-Rutherford Wildrose Party candidate Kyle McLeod, Edmonton-Manning Wildrose Party candidate Daryl Bonar, and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood Wildrose Party candidate Wayde Lever. This team is being supported by public relations professionals, graduates of NAIT’s computer technologies program and other well respected Edmontonians.

To join our team, please contact me at or Doug Elniski, at

Remember, were it not for people like us, organizations like Terra Association could not do the work they do.

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