It was in February 2014 that I first heard about Peter Singer's organization The Life You Can Save, and I have not looked back since.
At the time I was living at home with my family in South Wales, in a similar position to many recent university graduates: hunting for a job, lacking any money, and with no real direction. Despite the fragile state of my finances at the time The Life You Can Save really struck a chord with me. I took the public pledge to give a portion of my yearly earnings immediately after I finished reading all the information on the site.
My giving journey begins
Charitable and voluntary work have always been activities that I have taken great pleasure involving myself in. Following my time in university I embarked on a six-month voluntary placement in Ankara, Turkey, in order to help out at a youth centre. While there I was also able to establish a small aid giving project of my own that helped Syrian refugees who had had their lives devastated by the conflict raging across the border. It was named Do What You Can, which has since become a mantra that I try to follow in whatever I do. Following those experiences I knew that helping others was a duty that I had to perform.
I have always been fascinated by the concepts and theories behind such actions. Why do we do what we do? Is there such a thing as true altruism? What is the most good we can do? I experimented during my time in university, participating in small projects of my own in order to see what was possible. Monthly donations to charities, participating in fundraisers, and giving out roses to members of the public on Valentine's Day free of charge. It was always a case of "what can I do to improve this world?"
No doubt my time in university laid the foundations for the work I was to do later in Turkey and in Syria. The seed had been planted, and as the years progressed it began to sprout and grow. Taking The Life You Can Save’s pledge can be seen as simply the next step in this process.
A new job made it easier to give—and give more
So, back to 2014. My measly weekly income of £57.35 did not go far, but what little income I did receive, I made sure that I honoured my pledge. Three percent of anything that went into my bank account would then be donated to my chosen monthly charities. For a few months, times were very tough. I was lucky in that I had a caring family who were able to support me, as without them I would have struggled tremendously.
As the year progressed, my circumstances changed. By the end of 2014, I found myself in Brighton–the most open, liberal and progressive city in the UK – and I was working in the non-profit sector for Renewable World, an international development charity that seeks to alleviate poverty. I was finally living the life I wanted to live.
But more important than how content I was with my own existence was the fact that in the 12 months of that year I had been able to give a total £268.02 to my chosen charities. That figure might not seem like a lot, but when it represents 3% of my entire earnings for the year, you can understand how difficult my own situation was at times.
The power of a collective pledge
For Christmas of that year I requested, and received, a number of books on charitable giving and philanthropy. Once I had looked through these I knew that it was time to progress once again.
Though 3% of my earnings for 2015 would be a higher amount than what I'd given in the previous 12 months, I didn't feel it was enough. In the spirit of Do What You Can, I knew there was potential to do more. It was for this reason that, as well as reaffirming my own pledge, I then actively recruited friends to take The Life You Can Save’s pledge themselves. Knowing the tremendous difference that donations can make, and as this personal project was very much related to The Life You Can Save, I chose to call it The Lives We Will Save.
I set about recruiting, and now, in mid-July, there are 12 of us regularly donating a percentage of our income to the most effective charities. We’re a donating dozen, but we are always looking to grow. At the time of writing, the 12 of us have just paid a percentage of June’s paycheck to the charities listed on The Life You Can Save. The total amount that we have donated so far this year is £1,689.43.
This is just the beginning of something that I hope will grow and attract more like-minded people over the next 6 months and beyond. Individually I was able to make a small difference by donating my own money, but collectively, as a group, the members of The Lives We Will Save are set to make an even greater difference. By the end of February, the group will have already given away more than I did in the entire 12 months of 2014. As the months continue to pass, I hope the group will expand, with more people coming on board and wanting to be a part of something that truly makes a difference.
As an initiative, The Life You Can save is truly incredible. It is moral, admirable, and open to absolutely anyone—no matter where they live in the world, and no matter their financial situation. To paraphrase Peter Singer, we as humans have a duty to help our fellow man and woman. I aim to dedicate my life to this cause. If I am able to persuade a few comrades to join me along the way, then that is even better.