The new masters of Social Media

Trending on twitter this week were two people fundraising for charity. One started out with the goal of fighting poverty, the other’s money-raising was more or less incidental to her original goal. Both, though, have raised far more than their original goals, though the power of social networking. And both are under ten years of age!

Joel is six. He had heard about poverty in school and church, then saw a video from Tearfund that tipped the balance. He couldn’t stand by and let it happen any longer. He might not be able to eradicate all poverty worldwide, but he could do something, and he would.

I’m getting really sad about the people who are poor in the world, [he explains on his dad’s blog]. I don’t understand who did this to them. I watched a video about people who are poor, and I want to help them. There has to be somewhere for them to live like a proper house, and I want someone to give them lots to eat. I want the children to have proper toys, like proper balls, toy trains… I’ve got so many toys at home, and they’ve got none. It isn’t fair that they drink dirty water from wells, and we get clean water from our taps. Some of them can’t go to school, and they don’t have any money. I want to help them so that they can have lots of food to eat.

His dad reports that, after raising £7.22 from family and friends through his ‘Poor Box’, Joel got frustrated. This was going too slowly; what could he do?

He decided he’d like to do a sponsored challenge. He has decided to run for two miles (which is further than his dad can comfortably run), and so we’ve set a date in a couple of weeks time to do it. He is aiming to raise £60, because that seems to him to be the sort of amount that can do some serious good (his other suggestion was ‘a trillion pounds’).

The story was tweeted on Monday, then retweeted, then blogged about and tweeted some more, and by yesterday (Friday) Joel’s Virgin Money page was showing donations totalling over £5,550 (including tax-back from Gift Aid) – 925% of his original goal!

Nine-year-old Martha is trailing a bit. She’s only raised 424% of her target, though her target was higher – at £7,000 – and she only burst onto the twitter-sphere today, after her blog was shut down in a massive over-reaction by Argyll and Bute Council. [Update: I drafted this yesterday – as of this morning, she has raised £58,491 – or 835% of her original goal.]

Martha is an aspiring writer. She asked her dad for ideas for a writing project, and between them they came up with the idea of blogging about school dinners. Martha writes engagingly about the food that is served to her each day, uploads a photo of it, and rates it on how much she enjoys it, how many bites it takes to eat (as a way of assessing portion-size for a growing girl who needs to concentrate all afternoon), and how healthy it is. On the side, she decided to link up with a charity called Mary’s Meals, which raises money so people in countries like Malawi, Liberia, Kenya and Haiti can provide school meals for children in their communities. Anyone who’s interested can donate through a link on the blog, and Martha was aiming to raise £7000 – enough to build a kitchen in a new school.

The local council asked Martha to stop posting pictures of her – sometimes disappointingly inadequate – school meals, claiming that “media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.”

And then twitter leapt in. By mid-afternoon, the council had reversed its position, and the blog was ready to be reinstated (just as soon as Martha gets home from school). She’ll arrive home to find she’s had over 3million hits on her blog, and raised enough for four and a half kitchens!

It is wonderful to see that in an age of cynicism, financial difficulty and multiple demands on our time and attention, innocence and guilelessness can still inspire a response of compassionate action.

Well done, twitter!

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  2. […] post in question was this one, written last week about 2 children whose humble fundraising attempts were massively helped by the […]

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