The World is Ending: Donating without dignity


Photo by Cathryn Russ

Senior Allison Cheng donates a gently used coat to the winter clothing drive for Ukraine. She is donating with dignity.

It’s the season of giving, and donation bins are lined up in the main office. The holidays have traditionally brought out charitable spirit within the school, but in recent years we’ve taken the conscience out of conscientiousness, donating without dignity for the illusion of charity rather than to better our community.

Donations without dignity are food or material donations that are too low quality to be useful to donors. Examples of donations without dignity include clothes that are stained or torn, chipped or dented dishes and expired or unhealthy foods. “We get a lot of bread, but not a lot of protein. For breakfast, we have a lot of bagels, but not many eggs or bacon. We deserve to eat foods that give us the same protein and nutrients as other people,” Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) client and advocate for the homeless Antonio said (last name withheld).

According to MCCH, donors frequently ask: Isn’t donating something better than doing nothing? Shouldn’t people be grateful for any donations they can get?

No, and no. While the majority of donations are sent with sincere intentions, receiving battered, worn-out belongings and less-than-fresh food can have a detrimental effect on the recipients’ mental and physical health. When people donate without dignity, they send the message that less fortunate people aren’t worthy of finer amenities like themselves, deepening the socio-economic divide between those who have and those in need. “We just want the same level of equality as the people who can afford to donate their things. We’re all on the same plane,” Antonio said.

A common stereotype of the homeless is that they’ve ended up in their current situation due to some fault or mistake of their own doing, which serves as false justification for donating without dignity. “I believe people think… it’s their own actions that caused them to be the way they are and not the system screwing them over,” senior Kyle Ashley said. “The superiority complex leads to a condescending attitude towards donating because they [donors] believe they are better than those ‘less than them’.”

However, people like Antonio often find themselves without a home and reliant on donations for reasons out of their control. Antonio has been a client at MCCH ever since he turned his landlord in to the inspection department for a violation of living conditions, and as a result, his house was condemned. “They took my yorkie poodle Buster to foster care. I’ve been fighting for them [the county] to buy me a new place, and trying to get my dog back,” Antonio said.

To donate with dignity, make sure your material donations are new or gently used, and any food is nutritious and unexpired. A good rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to donate something is to think, would I want to use or eat this?

The world is ending, but donating with dignity can save us.