Happy Red Nose Day?

photo by Bryan Ledgard Flickr Creative Commons

If you’ve shopped at Walgreens recently, no doubt you’ve seen red clown noses for sale. They fight poverty or something, whatever that means.

“60 percent didn’t quite understand what we did,” says Janet Scardino, CEO of  Comic Relief USA  that partners with Walgreens to sell the noses.

Between the US and the UK, the campaign has raised more than $1.4 billion, which goes to organizations like Save the Children, Feeding America, and the Boys & Girls Club to help children in need.

NPR’s Goats & Soda reported on the campaign: “But how does buying a red foam nose at a drugstore for a buck help the cause? And does this charity with the silly name really do good work? We did some reporting, and here’s what we learned.”

You should read their full report, but here are a few things that jumped out to me:

Why Red Nose day and not Child Poverty Day?

It seems no one really knows, but I do. We don’t like to be reminded that we live in a world (and a country) where so many kids go hungry and die of preventable diseases. Red noses are happy! I’m not against using silly red noses to raise money to help kids, but I am against our trying to hide from the fact that we live in a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. Where half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day. Where 21% of American children live in poverty.


Victoria Beckham’s Boots

As part of the campaign, Victoria Beckham visited the slum of “Koro Kocho” in Nairobi. I’ve visited a several slums in Nairobi and I’ve never heard of such a place. There is a Korogocho. I have friends who live there. I’m sure that’s what Comic Relief meant. So if they are wrong, that’s lazy, but I won’t criticize them much because it took me about a week to pronounce Korogocho correctly. I will, however, criticize Victoria’s fashion choice: rubber boots. I can only imagine what my friend Rozy would have thought if she had seen a Spice Girl in shoes reserved for farmers and trash pickers. It was the most sensible shoe choice for sure, but perhaps not the most sensitive (“This place is so dirty I’m going to wear my rubber boots.”).


Despite my inner cynic, I think the red nose campaign is okay. It raises money for some good causes. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with cute marketing campaigns that raise money for such serious issues. I don’t blame the marketers. I blame us.

We like to give without much thought.  If we opened our wallets with the realities of the world on our minds that just might open our hearts. And the reality doesn’t make us laugh like red noses do, but makes us hurt…as it should…and move us to act in way that is more impactful than dropping a buck on something silly.

(photo by Bryan Ledgard Flickr Creative Commons)



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