Why I want to see less Poverty-Porn and more Love on TV

‘Today was one of the first times in my life I actually went out to help another human being. I can honestly say it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done’ Jamie from Made in Chelsea.

This quote from the BBC documentary ‘Famous, Rich and Hungry’ for Sport Relief was awful to hear. It made me realise that there are probably fewer people than I thought in the public eye who turn to face the situations that other humans are living in each day. Jamie had gone through his whole life able to count on one hand the amount of times he’d helped someone in need.

To hear Boris Johnson’s younger sister say that before she met the family she lived with for the programme she would have looked at them and thought ‘typical chav family’ is sadly not very surprising. Her observation was probably revolutionary to her though, she said ‘Britain is now two countries – I have just left them in the land of the poor and I am back in the country of the rich’. Slow hand clap.

Whilst it could be interesting to some to see very rich people see how a lot of very poor people are living it left me frustrated. This type of poverty-porn, like C4’s Benefit Street, serves a thinly veiled purpose of highlighting problems to the the masses, which in my experience is wholly unnecessary. There are good people everywhere who rally round to help when help is needed.

Reading Hard Work by Polly Toynbee was a defining moment in my life. I read it a few years ago and it made me determined to do something to practically help families in need – the idea for First Days was born when I read that book. I have to remind myself daily that supporting each family who we support is better than supporting no family at all – otherwise the problems faced seem too vast and overwhelming. The inequality in this country is infuriating and fighting it sometimes feels futile up against powerful people who don’t appear to mind too much. Then I remember the people. The real people we are helping and the real people who help.

Recently I took some emergency supplies (a cot, mattress, bedding, clothes and food) to a local family. They had two young children and when I arrived the father cried with gratitude. It didn’t feel like enough. How did we end up like this? How, as a society, have we ended up in a position where children are going without beds and clothes and their parents are choosing not to eat so they can?

The more people hear about the work we do at First Days the more demand there is for our service.

I’ve yet to come across a family needing First Days’ support who were not doing their very best with what they’ve got for their children. A young Mum I recently met was spending all her money on fresh vegetables and fruit to wean her baby, she was going without so that she could provide the best she could for her child. Another Mother was sleeping on a fold up bed which could be moved away so that her child could do her homework on a fold out table in its place. Love for your children doesn’t change according to what you have. This is a fundamental principle that our work is based on: love is at the centre of what we do.

I have seen so much love and compassion from people. People who have donated money, possessions and time in order to keep First Days running and keep helping families. The overwhelming majority of the general public we have come across have such big hearts and care deeply for people who are struggling.

Perhaps, instead of exploiting those who are struggling and in crisis the media and celebrities could focus more on the good things. I’d love to see those celebrities who had their eyes open to the food poverty in the UK now commit to helping those in need. Perhaps that is where this journey with Sport Relief will take them – I hope so. There are so many ordinary people who are selflessly helping and loving one another – often complete strangers – so that collectively our lives can be improved. So, tune into the TV programmes over the next few weeks that will celebrate the services that help those in need and donate accordingly – your time, money or voice. That is what really does make a huge difference.

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