Letter: Anger not charity begins at home

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BARBARA GUNNELL is right to highlight the wearying sense of helplessness which many people feel when faced with another catastrophe wrought by the elements or venomous humanity ('When giving just isn't enough', 13 September). Charities which insist on placing us in a passive role make a serious mistake.

However, Gunnell sets up a false dichotomy and makes matters bleaker than they are. Many crises in the developing world have their roots here in the West: in international trade traps, in crippling debt repayment schedules, in the armaments industries.

Feeling strongly about Somalia, we can do more than give money or head out to emergency zones. We can work vigorously in this country to address - and stave off - the queue of future catastrophes waiting to happen.

Most major charities actively organise campaigns to change public perceptions and government policy. If these voices are not loud enough yet, if they often seem to be pushing at a closed door, then they need more voices, greater participation. This is our responsibility. It is time to channel compassion into rational anger at home.

Mike Penn

London SE24

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