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Red Nose Day: The goofy accessory that could actually help fight poverty

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Oxfam staffers in Boston celebrate in Red Nose Day. Photo: Sarah Livingston/Oxfam America

Wearing a red nose might seem silly, but it could have real benefits for children around the world.

By Karen Harrison, brand lead at Oxfam America.

Is sticking a goofy red nose on your face actually going to help people?  Wearing a red clown nose is something my six year old finds completely entertaining–but for grownups?

It feels like a wild stretch to imagine droves of people attaching these things to their faces in the name of fighting poverty. But right now that’s exactly what’s happening.

When the folks at Comic Relief approached Oxfam this past fall, asking if we would be interested in becoming a charity partner for the launch of Red Nose Day US, I had to seriously pause. The cause itself was a good one: helping children and young people in the US and across the world. But the idea—to use comedy to raise funds and awareness—was a bit different, to say the least.

Every day we at Oxfam are telling stories of men, women, and children struggling to make do with the meager deck of cards they’ve been dealt. Dire headlines and emergencies blanket the news, and as a development organization, we respond with humanitarian aid. This past year alone we’ve been tackling a food crisis in South Sudan, the refugee crisis in Syria, the Ebola epidemic, and now the earthquakes in Nepal. Record scratch… now it’s time for hilarity for charity! “Fun-raising” all in the name of a good cause. It felt a little strange.

But here we are six months later. At our kitchen table last night, I (in a red nose) found myself chuckling with my six year old (also in a red nose) as we made funny faces at each other. Those red noses—which you might have seen at your local drugstore–are nearly sold out. People—both stars and regular folks–are sharing selfies on Facebook, and all indications show that a really funny night of television entertainment is going happen this Thursday night…a charity benefit on live television hoping to inspire a national day of giving. It seems so ambitious. Will people actually tune in and watch? Will they phone in their donation? Will the show be any good? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that people love an escape from reality and some lightness to contrast the otherwise bleak imagery and news we see every day. If there is an opportunity for fun, and the fun is doing some good, then even better.


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