Are Africans donating radiators to needy Norwegians? [Video]

November 26, 2012

Now that it's open season for holiday charity campaigns, one group has released a new song designed to drum up international donations for the less fortunate -- except that the targeted donors are Africans and the intended recipients are the not-so-needy Norwegians. 

In an apparent spoof of the 1980s charity song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" the group of Norwegian activists and South African students is urging people to send radiators to Norway to help Norwegians through the bitterly cold winter there.

The song kicks off cheerily:

Collecting radiators –
Shipping them over there –
Spread some warmth –
Spread some smiles –
Say yes to Radi-Aid!

A spokesman explains that the group is "getting Africans together at this time of need for Norway." 

"It's kind of just as bad as poverty, if you ask me. We don't ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people?"

The video then launches into a ballad that supposedly urges Africans to share their heat with freezing Norwegians, overlaid with images of bundled-up Scandinavians shuffling through snowstorms: 

"Here in Africa we've had our problems too, with poverty, corruption, HIV and crime. Norway gave a helping hand. And now it's payback time."

The site of the group responsible for the song, AfricaforNorway.org, explains that images in Africa-related fundraisers are almost exclusively of starving children, but that there are "many positive developments" in African countries that the West regularly ignores: 

We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development.

The group argues that if this were the only video someone were to see of Norway, it would leave a lasting negative impression of that country. They call for a less depressing depiction of Africa in both fundraising campaigns and in the media:

We want to see more nuances. We want to know about positive developments in Africa and developing countries, not only about crises, poverty and AIDS. We need more attention on how western countries have a negative impact on developing countries.

A number of other aid groups have recently pushed for a new take on aid campaigns, as well. A YouTube video released by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Mama Hope last year showed a "typical" Tanzanian boy gleefully recounting the plot of an American movie, with the message "Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential." Norwegian artist Morten Traavik's "pimp my aid worker" project is another "mock fundraiser for Western aid workers."

Of course, it could just be that aid workers have figured out that a sad, starving African child is more likely to inspire charity than a happy, singing one is.

 What do you think -- Is the Radi-Aid video offensive or on point?

 

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Olga Khazan · November 25, 2012