Kent Macaulay grew up on a grain farm in southwestern Saskatchewan. Wholesome. Canadian. Fibrous. Like many, he gave to charities and causes when and where he could. Don’t worry, this isn’t a Frank Capra script.
“I had made a number of small donations to a range of health-related and other charities, particularly in response to their direct solicitation. However, I then decided to be more strategic with my giving, proactively deciding which charities to donate to, based on how closely they aligned with my values,” says Kent.
This is where Oxfam enters the picture. For Kent, the organization “made the cut, as it gets past addressing only the symptoms of poverty and injustice and addresses the underlying causes of this inequality.”
Kent is no stranger to the idea of giving. His eclectic employment background, which includes work as an educator in community college and museum settings, as executive director of an NGO, and as a servant at the federal level and provincially in Saskatchewan and BC is underscored by the concept of service. Oxfam seemed a natural fit.
“My affiliation with Oxfam Canada began in 2005 as a volunteer in Saskatoon with the local Oxfam group’s awareness, education and fundraising activities. From 2007 to 2016, I served on the board of Oxfam Canada, chaired the board’s Policy Committee for most of that time, and was on the board’s Governance Committee during a major overhaul of the organization’s bylaw and regulations.”
Kent isn’t one to testify from the mountaintop about how he contributes.
“Overall, I hope that through volunteering my time and contributing financial support, I am, in some measure, modelling the activism needed by citizens in order to make the world more equal and just,” he says.
You know who else led by example? Detroit Red Wing legend Gordie Howe. Is it merely a coincidence that both men are from Saskatchewan? Of course, it is. And Kent would never deliver an elbow to help make his case.
Kent walks the walk, puts his money where his mouth is – and where he won’t be able to take it with him. When he goes, that is.
“When updating my will seven years ago, I decided to leave a legacy gift to Oxfam Canada. For me, it’s quite simple: I want a portion of my estate to go to initiatives that seek to make the world a more equal and just place. My years on the Oxfam Canada board gave me numerous concrete examples of how Oxfam’s assistance to organizations in recipient countries had improved the situation of residents – especially women – frequently empowering them to take greater control in their social relations and their livelihoods.”
Thousands of charitable organizations are worthy of your hard-earned dollars. Oxfam, though, may be at the top of the heap in terms of worthiness. Like many other organizations, they seek to alleviate suffering. Where they differ is in their approach. A bandage might stop the bleeding, but Oxfam addresses the source of the hemorrhage.
“I was initially attracted to Oxfam because of its fundamental belief that alleviating global poverty can happen only if social and economic justice and equality are strengthened and achieved. I was energized especially by the Oxfam Canada board’s decision to emphasize gender justice to focus its resources and expertise for the greatest impact within Oxfam globally and within the development community overall,” explains Kent.
The fix is part of Oxfam’s mandate, just not the quick fix.
“If there is a ‘best-kept secret’ in Oxfam’s work, it is that its most enduring work goes beyond providing quick expertise or cash to address a crisis, and fosters resilience, skills and confidence for the longer term. This helps distinguish Oxfam from many aid organizations and provides hope that the world indeed can become a better place,” says Kent.
The notion that charity beginning at home seems a little parochial. Maybe, like for Kent Macaulay, charity begins where compassion and empathy intersect with the need for them. That may be home or half way around the world. Perhaps that very crossroad is in southwestern Saskatchewan. The possibilities, after all, are wide open.