The Next New Ice Bucket Challenge

#WakeUpCall calls on the world to hit the sack for Syria

Whether you think it’s genius or moronic, there’s a brand new instalment in this year’s series of hashtag campaigns for charity.

On Monday, journalist and UNICEF U.K. ambassador Jemima Khan urged her more than 755,000 Twitter followers to hit the sack for Syria. Her instructions: post a selfie the minute you wake up, donate to UNICEF’s Syria fund online or via text, then nominate three others to do the name. Thus, #WakeUpCall was born.

Hugh Grant and BBC TV star Jeremy Clarkson accepted the call with these cheeky pics.

No response yet from Lily Allen, but many other sleepy celebs are following suit –some perhaps requiring a little more beauty rest than others.

Khan was inspired to start the campaign after returning home from a recent trip to Jordan, where she met Syrian children and their families who fled the conflict in Syria. And UNICEF UK is thrilled. “We really hope the public gets behind the campaign,” said Joe English, a group spokesperson, in an email. “UNICEF will not rest until they reach every child in danger.”

With no end in sight for the conflict and an estimated 6.5 million Syrian children in need of humanitarian aid, the campaign is timely and crucial. Yet as with all of these campaigns, most recently #NoMakeupSelfie#BringBackOurGirls, and, lest we forget, #IceBucketChallenge, comes criticism and skepticism.

Rylan Higgins, an anthropology professor at St. Mary’s University, was wary of the ice bucket challenge in August and holds the same reservations toward #WakeUpCall. Higgins told Maclean’s that while he’s in favour of helping these children get that assistance, the campaign is still just another trend in lazy giving and it highlights much bigger problems with the charity industry.

“This system that privileges catchy marketing strategies is a problematic one,” he said. “It’s always the charity with the best marketing strategies that is successful. Not the ones who are necessarily doing the best job saving the world.”

He encourages would-be donors to get smarter. Take a step back and research the charity in question and the underlying issues. “Social media campaigns don’t tend to facilitate intelligent giving – they tend to do the opposite,” he said.

Higgins teaches a course that deals with UNICEF and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that underpins it. “It’s a convention meant to protect children that states that they should have certain rights, including the right to participate in decision-making,” he explained. “Yet no children participated in the creation of that document.” He argues the document is hypocritical and Western-centric.

“Are the people who are giving to #WakeUpCall aware of the good and bad things about UNICEF?”

But, for me, what’s most upsetting about this is the fact that some people actually wake up looking like this:

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