They say laughter is the best medicine—but did you know that it is also a tool to alleviate global poverty? British charity organization Comic Relief has harnessed the power of laughter and comedy to improve the lives of impoverished people both in the UK and in Africa.
Comedians Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry launched Comic Relief from a refugee camp in Sudan on Christmas Day in 1985 in response to a devastating famine that was crippling Ethiopia. Their winning idea was to use popular British comedians to “make the public laugh while they raised money to help people in desperate need.” More specifically, Comic Relief has paired up with BBC to sponsor the popular Red Nose Day, which elicits the help of much-loved British entertainers to donate their services in various evenings of entertainment and to associate themselves with the movement.
Red Nose Day burst onto the scene in 1988 as Comic Relief’s biennial telethon event aired on BBC ONE that now has become the charity’s most successful venture. The event has become so popular that it has expanded beyond the evening’s telethon event. It is often treated as a semi-holiday, with many UK schools having red-themed non-uniform days and various shops giving out plastic or foam red clown noses in exchange for donations.
Red Nose Day suggests a new approach to fundraising: one that rejects the strictly serious mold typically associated with charity foundations in favor of a more uplifting, fun and popular-culture-based affair. Some highlights of Red Nose Day 2013 include performances by actress Miranda Hart and the popular band, One Direction as well as an impromptu “marriage ceremony’ between David Williams and Simon Cowell.
Red Nose Day 2013 has raised nearly $150 million USD, which will be used to create lasting, positive change in both the UK and in Africa. IN the UK, the funds are put towards sheltering young people living on the streets and giving protection to those living with domestic abuse. In Africa, the telethon funds help save thousands from malaria and provide communities with fresh water and life-saving vaccines.
The organization’s aim is “bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged people,” which they believe requires investing in people’s immediate needs as well as tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. Comic Relief prides itself on its “Golden Pound Principle” in which every donated pound is spent on charitable projects, with all operating costs, such as staff salaries, are covered by corporate sponsors.
Though critics of the organization may claim that Red Nose Day’s emphasis on entertainment detracts from the seriousness of global poverty, those staffing and participating in the event have remarked that Comic Relief’s efforts are better suited for a generation enthralled by popular culture and entertainment. Associating the charity with something “fun” associates feelings of inspiration and hope with the movement where other charitable foundations may not. Associating the charity with famous bands and actors is a great marketing tool that widens Comic Relief’s scope of influence.
– Alexandra Bruschi
Source: Comic Relief Website, Red Nose Day Information Center