An Historic Event
In years to come, when we are older, we shall be able to tell our children and grandchildren that we were there.
Yes, we were there when thousands of Australians all tried to call at the one time. 7 p.m. Thursday, 11th October, 1990.
We were there when they continued to ring. All that night. And all the next day. Well into the evening. And then again on the weekend. On and on the response continued. They'll still be calling today and through this next week.
"It's worse than Ethiopia," said one radio interviewer to me.
Not worse maybe. Just as bad in some ways. But different. In Ethiopia people were (are) starving. Children cling to life for the lack of food. But they also cling to their mothers.
In Romania there is no loving person to cling to. Some are deprived of food. Worse still, they are all deprived of love.
What a privilege to be the channel for such a loving response from so many Australians.
Just about everyone in the building took a turn on the phones at some time over the past few days. I arrived at 8 o'clock on Thursday "to see how things were going". Before I could say "G'day", Barbara Vandenberg had me dialled in and talking.
"What are we calling this appeal?" I asked.
"Whatever you like!" came the response from my neighbour. Kevin Gray was in harness in the next booth.
My eyes filled with tears as I watched the Thursday program. The follow up was equally moving, but for different reasons. I felt proud and blessed to be part of an organisation that could actually do something in the face of such horrors.
Advertising and Truth
But for his sponsor, Gerard would be dead. I see this in the lift each day. It is the headline of one of our latest press ads.
It's important for you to know that all our advertising is true. We don't make stories up.
The story of Gerard was featured in the last TV special with Rowena Wallace. Because he, and other children in the project were sponsored, there is a World Vision worker who makes regular visits to the homes of families in the community. On one of those regular visits the worker found Gerard close to death. She was able to bring help and Gerard survived. It was Gerard's mother who commented that it was the sponsorship through World Vision that had saved his life.
For many people who see our advertising, truth is not enough.
Perhaps you have heard the comment that a particular advertisement misrepresents World Vision's work because it does not talk about community development, or transformation, or our commitment to public awareness and education, or a hundred other things that World Vision does.
Whoever says this does not understand how people see advertising. And especially how people look at World Vision's ads.
Almost nobody clips one of our coupons the first time they see it. To put it another way, nobody makes up their mind about World Vision from the information in a single advertisement.
Most people who send back the coupon actually have quite a lot of information about World Vision from dozens of sources.
Firstly, inquirers have seen quite a few ads. All these ads have different messages. Each ad contains one or two accurate statements about World Vision and the work we do. Most talk about the impact of sponsorship on a single child. Others describe the big problem - Every 2 seconds a child dies.
Secondly, everyone has seen information about World Vision on television. Many have seen one or more World Vision television specials. Everyone has seen stories about World Vision's work on television news or current affairs. World Vision's work has been independently featured on "4 Corners", "60 Minutes", "A Current Affair", "Hinch", "The Midday Show", and many others.
Thirdly, everyone has seen stories about World Vision in the newspapers.
Fourthly, most people know someone who is involved with World Vision. Perhaps one of the many people from all levels of Australian society who have seen World Vision's work for themselves.
"If I were to respond to this one advertisement about Gerard, I would think sponsorship was only helping him."
The words in the ad don't say this. But the real response to this sort of statement is that you would be pretty unusual to respond to this one advertisement about Gerard. Very few people do. Most people wait until they have quite a lot of information. Then they clip the coupon.
A recent piece of research confirms this.
Do people who inquire about sponsorship think all the money goes in buying things only for the child?
We asked people who had inquired about sponsorship if they agreed with the statement that sponsorship funds were used to help the community.
Only one in ten disagreed. A few weren't sure. Three-quarters of all inquirers understood well that their sponsorship would reach out to community needs.
Most people have a lot of information about World Vision when they read our ads.
They may still have a lot to learn, but almost nobody makes a decision about World Vision on the basis of one piece of information.
It is just common sense. Sponsoring a child is not an impulse buy like chocolate. Our supporters use their brains as well as their emotions.