This time of year, many of us will make a pilgrimage to see our families. Hopefully the holidays will be a time of relaxation and reconnection with the people you love. Halls will be decked, fires will be lit, and presents shared around the tree. So far, so festive.
But everyone knows that it’s difficult to keep politics away from the dinner table, especially after such a turbulent year, and bogus news stories about UK aid often rear their ugly heads at this time of year. So how do we stay cool when the debate hots up?
Remember: it’s good to talk. If we want to challenge misconceptions about aid, we have to find out where people are coming from. It’s important not to dismiss people’s views – we’ll never get anywhere if we shut down debate. Listen and ask questions.
Our family and friends have legitimate concerns about where their money is spent, and about how to help those in the UK too. We agree – that’s why Save the Children runs programmes to reach the poorest and most marginalised children in the UK too.
But if we want to change people’s minds about UK aid, we need to understand why they’re sceptical in the first place. Convincing them can be tricky, but I’ve found telling real life stories (rather than throwing stats at people) helps.
Here are three stories from this year that show we can be proud to support UK aid:
The UK shares what it knows
This year, the brightest minds from the UK’s National Crime Agency served as police and anti-corruption mentors in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.
Detective Sergeant Emma Gilbert had already transformed the way British police serve D/deaf citizens. UK aid allowed her work to go global this year, as she volunteered with police forces in Kenya. “We always look forward to our ultimate goal,” says Emma, “to protect and safeguard D/deaf children and young people, which is a global issue and not just a UK call for help.”
It’s not just our police. This year over 2,000 NHS staff volunteered overseas to train more than 84,000 health workers, and brought their enhanced skills, motivation and confidence back to the UK.
The UK leads the way in recognising the needs and rights of children with disabilities
Millions of children across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia face difficulties learning because they don’t have glasses and hearing aids. Few blind or profoundly deaf children have access to specialist teachers or the materials that could transform their lives.
This year the UK’s Department for International Development helped convene a Global Disability Summit. It set out the work it’s going to do for children with disabilities – things like supporting inclusive education in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Pakistan, and getting glasses, hearing aids and wheel chairs to children across Africa and Asia. These relatively simple things will change lives.
The UK helps where it can
The UK’s compassion plays a vital role in improving the lives of families who have been forced to flee their homes. In Rwanda’s Mahama Refugee Camp, UK aid is providing medical care, education and emotional support to more than 30,000 children. These children and their families escaped conflict in neighbouring Burundi, where violence has been steadily rising for years. Made possible by UK aid, this work is vital in helping them build a better future.
As these stories show, UK aid has the power to change futures. Talking to your family and friends about it could help shift the conversation from ‘For v Against’ to ‘how do we best spend it?’ – and we’ll be talking more about that in the New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.
If you want to know more about how aid is spent, or if you’d like to do more in your community to get people talking about aid and development, email firstname.lastname@example.org.