Isolation, generosity, giving, and receiving

In an article for the Global Giving Matters newsletter, Kim Samuel explores overcoming isolation not only as a goal of philanthropy but also in the practice of philanthropy itself. She writes:

For me, isolation is the feeling of sitting alone at the bottom of the well. However, this feeling is not limited to those who are physically alone. Indeed, I have found it is often most acute when it is felt in the presence of others.

What’s more, I’ve noticed that isolation, or at least a feeling of bleak separation, can occur in the very act of philanthropy; that sometimes the manner in which the gift is made diminishes and isolates both the person who is seen as giving and the person who is seen as receiving. I worry about this and I know from talking with other members of the Global Philanthropists Circle that they worry about this, too.

I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately, about how my personal passion to tackle isolation – by identifying it, by measuring it, and especially by finding ways to address and eliminate it – plays a role in my philanthropic activities. I know this is what causes certain projects to resonate with me more than others. I suspect this is true because I’ve come to understand what a powerful factor isolation can be in snuffing out the prospects for individuals, groups, and communities to benefit from support efforts designed to improve their health and well-being.

This understanding is the thread that runs through the work that most engages me as a philanthropist.

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