Excitement and doubt on Teleton

For the last 2 days in Chile, there was a huge mobilization in media, money, people and emotion.

This movement was centered around a 27-hour-long charity TV show called “Theater Teletón” on which Chile took an initiative position 36 years ago, followed by other countries in Latin America. There are also similar campaigns in Europe, Asia (including Japan).

Here is how Teletón Chile works: it tries to raise money every year (except presidential election year) during those 2 days of the show in order to construct or maintain “Teletón”, the centers of rehabilitation for the People with Disabilities(PwD). This TV show tells us many heartwarming stories of PwD in order to reach the targeting amount of donation (around 50 million dollars), and in most cases, it achieves the goal.

First of all, I have to admit this show really functions in a way that makes us want to donate. But at the same time, I cast doubt on whether this is a sustainable approach to promote social inclusion, which Teletón says is its main goal.

Well, Teletón has a lot of sponsorship including TV advertisement, supports from famous people (artists, sport players and even the government), and many events on that.
I actually joined a 10K running race and everyone was excited about free T-shirt, live event and so on.

Like anything else, there are cons and pros, which are as follows:

【3 strong points】
(1). Visualization
PwD are one of the most marginalized population, and this campaign is a good opportunity to shed light on the issue.

(2). Uniting nation as one
Since most of main TV channels get as one big show, many people watch this and, a lot of of organizations and individuals stand up as one to donate for the goal.

(3). Sophisticated tactics
As mentioned above, in most cases for the last 36 years, the campaign has achieved its goal, due to its sophisticated techniques of showing the heartwarming stories, using famous artists and running interesting events.

【3 shortcomings】
(1). Separation:
From an inclusion perspective, what’s important is accepting the fact that everyone is different and we support each other, not categorizing “we” and “they”. The TV show, which tells many tear-coming stories (many of them are tragic ones) tend to promote this unconscious separation between “us (normal)” and “them (poor PwD)”.
Also, the show tends to focus on children with disabilities partly because it would catch more attention, which kind of segregate adults with disabilities.

(2). Feeling of obligation
Since most people can see Teletón everywhere at a national level (either on TV or at events), we might feel bad if we don’t donate. And all those emotional histories on the show make us want to give a favor for them.
Besides, although donation is not a matter of how much money you donate, the show explicitly prioritize big donors to reach the goal.

(3). Not sustainable
It seems to me that the show only focuses on the goal as if it was nothing but an annual festival (these 2 days are the only time we see subtitle and/or sign language all day long on TV). Once the show finishes, everything seems to come back to the “normal”, which is why the whole society is still not ready yet to include PwD on a daily basis, which I think might be even strengthened by (1).

In fact, I came across an interesting article which addresses that UN committee of the rights of PwD criticizes Teletón by saying that supporting Teletón means to celebrate the discrimination and segregation of PwD in Chile, because Teletón rehabilitation centers care only 0,8% of PwD in Chile, and at a national level, 0,5% companies try to hire PwD. That is, many big donors (companies) don’t have inclusion policy, and only a handful of PwD is under the care of Teletón.

In conclusion, this Teletón movement has a great potential and good intention of united people for inclusion, but it might be focusing too much on the pity toward PwD and reaching the short term goal. Instead, I think it should come up with more sustainable, long term goal and approach by optimizing the resource and the network that Teletón has established for the past 36 years.


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