by Claire Ward
In the 1970s and ’80s, Sally Struthers hysterically wept over African children with big, sad eyes in TV ads for the Christian Children’s Fund. Last year, Helena Bonham Carter held up a singing fish toy in an Oxfam ad and, turning the cliché on its head, pouted with equally big, sad eyes about the number of junky gifts that rich Westerners give one another.
International aid charities have changed their marketing over the years to try to guilt, cajole and otherwise persuade Westerners to donate to the world’s neediest. One of the largest changes in the industry over the last decade has been the rise of “animals for Africa” programs such as the ones pioneered by Farm Africa, Christian Aid, World Vision and Heifer International. These programs allow donors to buy individual animals that will help improve the lives of poor people by helping them achieve self-sufficiency, or at least a leg up.