The Lives We Have Saved

In the 12-months of 2015, myself and 11 other comrades embarked on a commitment of Effective Altruism.

Our pledge was to donate a percentage of our monthly wages to charities that are capable of making the biggest impact at the lowest cost. Embodying the very nature of the phrase “more bang for your buck”, we paid money to those organisations who could save, or at least drastically improve, the most lives.

I am delighted with the results of our charitable giving and I take my proverbial hat off to the other members of The Lives We Will Save group for their commitment and for putting up with my nagging.

In the order that they were recruited, I would like to thank Lauren Grove, Emily Sanders, Ben McBride, Joseph Frampton, Chris McSweeney, Alice Larkin, Jack Williamson, David Redfern, Carwyn Rahman, Michael Politt, and James Clarke.

Over the last 12-months the impact that these people have had, upon the lives of people they will never meet and never receive a thank you from, has been tremendous.

Though the focus of this group, and the charitable giving that we embarked on, was to give money to those charities deemed most effective, there were understandably issues that sat particularly close to people’s hearts. In these instances money was divided between charities that dealt with these issues that people felt strongly for, and charities that were considered most effective.

The overwhelming majority of charitable giving will improve someone’s life somewhere, so to deny money to a particular charity is nonsensical. When, however, we were purely concerned with the issue of saving the most lives, then a child in Asia took precedence over a child in the UK. After all, £50 in Nepal will do far more to improve someone’s life than £50 in London.

A life is a life, no matter where it may be located on this planet.

With the final figures in from the 12-months of 2015, I am delighted to say that we have surpassed the target that I had set at the start of the year. An average of £282.42 was given in donations in each calendar month, though the month of May was particularly good for giving with £435.62 being transferred.

The total figure donated was an impressive £3,389.66. To put that into perspective, it is roughly only £1,000 less than Facebook paid in tax the year before.

Not only does this show the contempt that Facebook has for the UK, its laws, and its citizens, but, more positively, it also highlights what a small group of passionate and dedicated individuals can achieve.

Using the Impacts Calculator on The Life You Can Save website, we are able to determine exactly how our money improved the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.

£312.62 was given to the Against Malaria Foundation, providing “181 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos”, and “protected 272 people from malaria for three to four years on average.”

£68.83 was given to Development Media International, providing “11 years of healthy life to audiences of DMI’s mass media campaigns.”

£72.80 was given to Evidence Action, resulting in deworming 1,055 children, or providing “safe water to 125 community members for one year”, or channelling “$105 towards testing and scaling highly effective poverty interventions.”

£130.60 was given to the Fistula Foundation, transporting “6 women to and from hospital”, or providing “3 anaesthetists for fistula surgeries”, or providing “a patient with nursing care.”

£39.56 was given to the Fred Hollows Foundation, providing “2 screenings for diabetic retinopathy and eye disease in addition to distribution of spectacles and other interventions” and providing “2 interventions to save or improve sight for those with failing vision or curable blindness in addition to other interventions.”

£410.67 was given to GiveDirectly, providing “541 dollars directly to recipients to use as they wish. An independent impact evaluation has shown that GiveDirectly’s cash transfers increase recipients’ assets, food security and mental health.”

£10 was given to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, providing “72 individuals with a lifetime of adequately iodized salt, improving health and protecting against iodine deficiency disorders such as debilitating brain damage, stunting, and miscarriage.”

£186.53 was given to Innovations for Poverty Action, channelling “270 dollars toward discovering and promoting the next most effective solutions to global poverty problems.”

£39.56 was given to Iodine Global Network, providing “5733 individuals with a year of support sustaining existing protection against iodine deficiency disorders via salt iodization programs”, or reaching “1146 individuals through strengthened universal salt iodization programs, reinforcing the work of GAIN and other implementation agencies, to serve those currently not protected against iodine deficiency disorder”, or providing “a year of healthy life to the average recipient of iodized salt, as measured by disability-adjusted life years.”

£10 was given to Living Goods, serving “7 Ugandans through a Community Health Promoter providing families with vital health products and services.”

£273 was given to Oxfam, providing “school meal programs to 11 children for one year”, or providing “7 households with seeds and tools for farming”, or building “3 latrines to protect the health of families displaced by natural disasters or conflict”, or building “2 washing stations for hand sanitization at rural schools to prevent the spread of disease.”

£230.85 was given to Population Services International, providing “24 years of healthy life, on average, through disease-prevention, maternal health, family planning and other health services provided to those in poverty around the world.”

£25.40 was given to Possible, providing “a patient with high-quality healthcare in rural Nepal.”

£180.50 was given to Project Healthy Children, providing “1006 people with food-based micronutrient fortification for one year.”

£279.30 was given to Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, protecting “505 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.”

£6.61 was also given to Seva, helping to tackle worms and other parasitic Neglected Tropical Diseases.

And that was not the limit of our charitable giving. Organisations dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the broader refugee crisis received tremendous help with a total of £628.05 being given in donations.

Refugee Action (£10), Save the Children (£40), Syria Relief (£10), Medecins Sans Frontiers (£20), UNICEF (£16.40), Calais Aid (£50), Human Care Syria (£120), Hand in Hand for Syria (£223.65), Calais Action (£35), Migrant Offshore Aid Station (£43), UNHCR (£50), and the International Rescue Committee (£10) all benefited.

19 other charities share the remaining money, the most notable among them were Medical Aid for Palestinians who received £126.40, Tackle Africa who received £60, WaterAid who received £67, Animals Asia who received £60, and the Ummah Welfare Trust who received £53.34.

In total 47 charities received money from the 12 members of The Lives We Will Save.

What started as a personal project of my own soon grew into a collaborative campaign by a small group of like-minded individuals. With an average donation of £23.53 per person each month, it hardly broke the bank and it helped to produce some truly life-changing impacts.

I will continue with my charitable giving and I hope this will also be the case for the other 11 members of The Lives We Will Save. Though I will no longer be keeping a spreadsheet of our donations and bombarding them with reminders on payday, I think the seed has been planted.

There are some things that money can’t buy, but I know that £50 can buy a child in Africa a better future, or prevent blindness for a farmer in Asia, or limit a families exposure to malaria. The value of a human life is far more than I will ever hope to earn, but the price of saving a human life is something I can certainly afford.

The Life You Can Save – Effective Giving Against World Poverty


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