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OpinionColumnistsChristopher Leelum

Don't laugh at the online Greek Bailout Fund

A protester wearing a Greek national flag stands

A protester wearing a Greek national flag stands in front of riot policemen guarding the Greek Parliament in Athens. (Feb. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Thom Feeney, a 29-year-old from England, has had enough talk of Grexits, bailouts and euros, so he's doing what any normal person would -- collecting 1.6 billion euros to help out Greece.

Not by himself, though.

The London resident and shoe shop worker recently created a crowdfunding project on the website Indiegogo called "Greek Bailout Fund."

The project's page reads, "If we all just chip in a few euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy."

This definitely isn't easy and probably won't work. But it has a chance to make a very important statement about the peer-to-peer online economy: Instead of throwing tax money at our governments and accepting where that leads, we should band together to make direct donations to those in need.

Unless you're Greek or pay close attention to international finances, the Greek situation might be a little cloudy in the details. The sum of 1.6 billion euros ($1.79 billion) is the payment Greece needed to make to the International Monetary Fund by midnight Tuesday, June 30.

Greece's Finance Minister said early Tuesday that that deadline wouldn't be met. That's why Feeney came to the rescue.

As of late afternoon New York time Tuesday, Feeney's Greek Bailout Fund had collected more than 400,000 euros from over 16,000 donors. If donors could raise the total by July 7, the money would still go to Greece, even though the IMF deadline passed. On the website, Feeney stresses that this is not a media ploy, and that he is genuinely frustrated with politicians "flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not."

The campaign even offers perks for donors. For example, if you donate 25 euros, you can receive a bottle of Greek wine if the goal is reached. All donors receive their money back otherwise.

Unfortunately, this mark probably won't be met. Even if it were, it would hardly help Greece as much as Feeney intends, as the country still owes more than 200 billion euros in bailout funds. But even if Feeney doesn't want to make a statement, his project still can.

Sites like Indiegogo allow a more personal, direct connection between people from all over the world. This emerging global economic attitude can cut out the middleman and get money into the right hands directly from the people who want to donate. Even if the project collects only one more euro, we need more people like Feeney to start funds for the extremely poor or malnourished of the world.

The Greek economic situation is a dire one, but as Feeney demonstrates, this strategy can be a new opportunity for helping the world become a better place with convenience, choice and compassion.

Christopher Leelum, a student at Stony Brook University, is an intern at Newsday Opinion.