Jailfake: A Response

Forget JailFAKE, it’s all about FUNdraising, says MADDY LAWSON.

charity charity hitch Jailbreak jailfake RAG the tab

So apparently it’s not enough to raise money for charity – you have to be miserable when you do it. Coming from a family in which guilt is a hobby, this seems obvious. Charity should be like breakfast cereal; if you want to be good you have to eat the improving stuff, like muesli (no raisins, obv), which you’d better not enjoy or it doesn’t count. The fun cereal, the variety-pack kind, might taste like joy but will rot your teeth, and probably your soul. Unless you’re feeling put upon, you’re just not trying hard enough.

But I’m gradually realising, after a solid 16 years of belief that things can’t be good and fun at the same time (my first five were relatively guilt-free, revolving as they did around flowery leggings and the Tellytubbies), that maybe I was wrong.

Full disclosure: I’m a massive RAGgie. I’ve done Jailbreak, Blind Date and almost every other event going. I’m pretty much your definition of bias. But the reason RAG has become such a huge part of my life is that I genuinely believe in what it does.  Every year, RAG raises money for ten local, national and international charities through events like Lost, Formal Freedom, Jailbreak, Blind Date and heaps more. In 2011-12, our grand total was £180,000 – which is an awful lot of money.

Last year, Jailbreak alone raised £54,000. It’s true that during the hitch, some spend money raised within the 36 hours on flights. Here, our muesli-fans make the fair point that this money, if donated directly to charity, would be pretty hefty in itself, and would remove the arguably un-necessary, superfluously enjoyable trips abroad. But the thing is, if the money weren’t being spent on flights, it wouldn’t be going to charity. Big businesses give people money to fly somewhere dramatic because it’s good publicity. Giving two slightly grimy students in onesies money to pass straight on to their university fundraising group would hold no appeal. Charities might benefit only further down the line when sponsorship is collected (at least £250 per team), but money with a stepping-stone is still very real money, with very real effects for charities.

Why do people take part in events like Jailbreak? For lots of people, maybe it is more because they want a break from the Bubble than because they have charity in mind and at heart. But what’s so wrong with that? We spend so much time at Cambridge wanting to bang our heads against walls that any bit of joy going should be leapt at, not criticised. And when it’s raising money for charity that would otherwise be sitting in people’s pockets, that’s even better.

Having met representatives of the ten charities RAG is supporting this year, I know just how much good the money we raise does. From Food Cycle, which provides free meals for people living in food poverty every Saturday at St Paul’s Community Centre, to the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at Addenbrookes, money raised through trips to the other side of the world is making a real difference on our own doorstep. And without Cambridge students’ willingness to have some fun and grab that variety pack of Jailbreakfast cereal, RAG wouldn’t raise a penny.