REANNE MACKENZIE questions the motives of those who take part in Jailbreak.

Cambridge Cambridge University charity Jailbreak RAG reanne mackenzie

They say that there is no such thing as a selfless charitable act, but Jailbreak is a particularly selfish charity event.

I cannot get my head around the concept of begging for money from strangers, only to put it towards travelling to some exotic location – all justified under the name of ‘charity’. We’ve all seen them in their colourful clothes, rushing around and urging the general public to be kind and spend some change for what they present as ‘a really good cause.’ Is it though? This money isn’t going to the needy or the homeless or the sick. I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor donators, who have been duped by very persuasive students under the pretence of a ‘good cause’.

There is something genuinely morally suspect about the concept of collecting donations which will then be spent not on good works, but on getting as far away from Parker’s Piece as possible. The charitable aspect of Jailbreak is subsidiary to the sheer fun and excitement of it; people participate for a weekend away from the Bubble, rather than with any real meaningful sense of wanting to be charitable.

This system of roundabout charity also leads to a myriad of problems. Let’s do some maths. If a team flies thousands of miles to Australia or Hong Kong, that’s easily £1,000 for flights. On top of that, there are hotels to pay for, sight seeing to fund, eating, drinking etc. This same team may have only collected a small amount of sponsorship at home – a cheeky £30 from mum and dad, say. The winners of this scenario are not the charities, but the ‘Jailbreakers’, who enjoy an awesome weekend away, spent lots of other people’s money, and raise £30 for charity.

Of course, it’s fantastic that any amount of money can be raised for worthwhile causes – £30 is still £30. But I question whether the end justifies the means; surely £30, if not more, could be raised in a more sustainable way – without the need to spend thousands on return flights across the globe. This is an extreme scenario, but it’s perfectly plausible.

A bunch of charlatans?

Furthermore, some teams may have obtained ‘sponsorship per mile,’ which is obviously a great incentive to get as far as possible. But for those teams lucky enough to fly to faraway lands, the sponsorship per mile is quickly going to become too ridiculous to remain realistic: even the most generous of parents probably won’t stick to the ‘one pound per mile’ promise, once we’re talking about thousands of miles. There is thus little incentive to sponsor on a ‘per mile’ basis, meaning that participating times are far less likely to raise significant sums of money for charity.

Finally, I question why we sponsor Jailbreakers to have fun. Jailbreak is not by any means the only charity event to do this; I have similar qualms with the January ‘dryathalon’, advertised by Cancer Research. Why should I sponsor someone to do something that only benefits them? A sponsorship event should certainly involve a degree of trial, hard work or pain; the London Marathon is a great example of this.

Sure, Jailbreak is a lot of fun, and I am jealous of friends who made it to exotic locations – it sure beats a weekend in the library. As a meaningful charity event, however, it’s rather suspect. The emphasis is on fun and on keeping tabs on the teams. If charity were the real aim of the game, participating teams would spend their weekend not racing across the globe, but volunteering at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or hospice.

Check out Maddy Lawson’s response to this article HERE.