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Watch the best and worst international charity videos of 2016

(Credit: SAIH/@AfricaForNorway/Twitter)

The worst international charity video for this year features a sad young girl waiting to join the rest of her classmates by having a foreign sponsor. The winner of the dubious “Rusty Radiator Award” from the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund only gets worse.

Helena and her family are sad because she does not have the support of some far-off person. All is solved when she suddenly gains a sponsor from Compassion International. The tears of disappointment are replaced with tears of joy as she reads on camera the first letter from her sponsor.

“This video promotes deep-rooted perceptions of Western superiority over the South. It reinforces the white-savior complex and depicts that there is nothing the parents can do for their children other than to wait for the sponsor who can save their lives and their future,” says the five-member jury in describing the video.

Compassion International beat out Save the Children Netherlands and World Vision Australia for the award. The other two videos follow the similar theme showing poverty as a problem that is solved by benevolent foreigners. People living in poverty are seen as victims and unable to help themselves. The videos play on the emotions of the viewers to make them feel both sad for the plight of the poor and assured that their donation can save these helpless people.

The awards also feature a parody campaign to highlight the worst aspects of charity. The name Radi-Aid comes from the first campaign – a plea for Africans to help cold Norwegians in the winter by buying them radiators. This year, they take a swipe (pun intended) at social media activism. Often derided as slacktivism, the video features an app that allow Africans to simply swipe and help out a needy Norwegian cope with the winter. Needy Norwegians can get aid including flashlights, axes and a tan.

“Congratulations! You just saved a Norwegian,” exclaims the app.

The site does not just call out and make fun of the worst in charity advertising, it celebrates positive examples. The winner of the ‘Golden Radiator Award‘ demonstrates empathic and nuanced portrayals of poverty, but that doesn’t mean the videos are boring.

This year’s winning entry tells the story of Daphine, an HIV-positive teenager from Uganda. She provides peer-to-peer counseling through the program Link Up so that her fellow teenagers do not contract HIV like she did.

International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s video puts a young girl at the center of the story and as the change-maker in her community. People from the U.S. are not flying in to save her and her friends. She is taking charge and making her home a better place.

The winner has managed to present HIV in a way we seldom see within this sector. The young woman has taken control of the disease and her own life. She speaks actively for herself, without the presence of a “white hero,” said Inga Nymo Riseth, president of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, in a statement.

Another charity campaign might portray Daphine as the victim, but in this video she is the hero.

“I’ve really gained courage and strength to tell about my status wherever I am and to whoever I meet,” she said.

Her story beat out videos from Amnesty Poland and Plan International U.K. They, too, show people as more than victims. The Amnesty video shows the many faces of refugees and the personal connections that can develop by being present with someone else.

The awards name and shame organizations continuing to depict poor people as passive recipients of foreign aid. Radi-aid said such depictions can harm the greater effort to alleviate poverty by creating misperceptions and enabling bad programs. The contest also shows that it is possible for charities to develop campaigns that are empowering.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]