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Make a DifferenceHave you 'made a difference' while travelling, by fundraising or donating time and energy to a worthwhile cause such as wildlife conservation or tsunami reconstruction efforts? Tell us how you did it, what the experience was like, and how others can help. Are you a non-profit organisation or individual who knows of an opportunity for travellers to help out in a less developed country? Tell us about it and provide contact details here.
It seems there's a lot of people wanting to make a difference. Fantastic, I applaud all of you!
However, it makes me angry when I'm 'on the ground' in Asia, Africa etc that not much of the 'NGO' money gets through; there's too much being used in Europe by 'fat cats' slating it off to admin costs, wanting to make a trip etc not much gets through.
Even when it is in need it can go disastrously wrong! One case I can think of (many) is an Oxfam truck loaded with 10tonnes of rice for a village that needed it after a civil war. The truck was within 10km of the village and fell off the bridge, breaking the bridge & so cutting off the village from the outside world & further aid. It was eventually after 10months re-built by the villagers themselves who had suffered hunger & a lack of medical supplies; whilst the Oxfam truck & it's contents lay in the river below!
I've seen many orphanages. Many of the children aren't happy, unactive, not at school, not making progress, but yet they're supported by large western named organisations.
Personally I'm involved in an orphanage for war orphans (we like to call it a centre, take away the negativity both in French & English). They have a 'link' to Care Int'l but most of the work is done by people like myself that beg friends & family for material; they'd also like cash. I'm not in a position to give them cash, I know if they had it that it would be put to good use (building a new centre so they don't have to rent & be self-sustainable). I'm currently writing begging letters to various organisations to get help in buying a minibus for them to drive down or to have one donated.
My point being, those on here - instead of building websites for your trip & donating your hard raised cash to a big name, could you not find something/someone else that you feel confident in?
Maybe it's something the mods/founders of HUBB could set up - a thread of 'worthy' organisations to raise money for that get the cash/material directly! Certainly I know my 39 kids would appreciate it!
Kira - big names= big money- I understand what you are saying-
It was the reason that I personally delivered aid door to door between Kent (UK) and the two SOS Villages in Mopti and Sanankoroba in Mali.
I have learned that large charities want your money to deliver their plans in line with their strategies. Individual missions don't 'fit' their agendas.
You either give to them or do what I did and give life to these missions with contributions from others and self . It is a question of personal choice. Many people will not / cannot step out of their comfort/security zone so will donate to these large charities that do do some amazing work.
I take a great deal of joy from what I was told by the village 'Papa's'- that in the three years I delivered, not one child had died of malaria- Result!
There are 276 orphans living in 2 purpose built SOS villages where I delivered the loads by road.
The problem is always the same- these missions,without financial support, are not sustainable long -term by a single individual (unless your name is Mr Gates and the like!)
I have no web site but can be contacted - French is my first language.
Good on you Kira for doing what you are.
Can we persuade Grant et al to set up a sub thread on here. For those charities that we can be active with directly.
Even if HUBB'ers can't take things directly but can raise some cash via their website links.
My 'centre' is registered as a charity (via association) in France Enfance Meurtrie Sans FrontiÃ¨res , money could be raised by various websites by those travelling for a cause and funnelled to the charity that they see on here directly.
It is a minefield for those travelling to know who to donate money to; if they raise 1,000euros and donate it to a western 'X' organisation, how much can they guarantee goes to the actual recipients in need??? Not much! If it was on here, they'd get feedback!
Good idea if Grant gets on board - Hello Grant - are you reading this?
Kira- there will always be the cost element - fuel, tyres, sea crossings etc - the cargo must be proportional to the cost of transporting it there with all the risks that brings along.
Quick calculations show Abidjan to be some 700 miles south from Bamako and I know what it costs to get there and back having done it three times.
Still- with the right support - it is do-able
People don't make wars, polititians do.. unfortunately the G public will buy any kind of propaganda that the political machine supplies, look at the level of nationalism in the UK now. People always suffer..
At this point, after 8 years of working for various NGO's, it's difficult to figure out what is good and what is bad in this world, if an orphanage has unhappy, unsupported kids, surely, healthcare provision aside, we should do more to help these kids than a poorer well run orphanage. (I can never understand people wanting to help the brightest and best students, when surely the dumbest are the ones who need the help, Maybe I should start my own charity )
I think ultimately its best if you can avoid giving money if you can. Try to find out what the organisation, centre, or village needs and then work on helping them to get it, you might have to help with some cash at that point, but only after getting some commitment from the recipients. If you are there go to the market with the organisation staff, buy the stuff yourself, ok there is no guarantee that the NGO staffer won't go back to the stall to collect his commission when you are gone, but you did what you could.
Look at supporting orphanages with things like school books, items for personal hygene, clothing, things that you know will benefit the children immediately and directly. Avoid shipping things from other countries, over long distances, import charges and costs have often meant donations get destroyed. Somebody sent us 200 t-shirts, they cost $2 each here, import duty on the shipment was $600...
Orphanages are big business these days, certainly here thet are. I do not believe that the number of children without families who can support them has grown so much in the past 10 years, but that poor families are putting their children into orphanages because their financial load is reduced by doing so and the material quality of life is percieved to be better than at home.
Its sad but ALL charities and causes are businesses, big and small alike, and need to have cash to sustain themselves. Add to this situation that in poor countries corruption is endemic and most western people have bigger hearts than brains, leads to the sad situation that you mention. Arguably bigger charities are probably more transparent and account for money better than local Ngo's that have little accountability/ transparency. Britain is one of the few countries in the world with decent legislation that helps cut down misappropriation. Uncommitted funds like public donations are the holy grail for charities, they can spend them on what ever they like, many large donors have clear guidelines as to what they will fund and what they won't, this leaves organisations with large funding gaps in budgets, which means your money is unlikely to get spent directly on a project.
In big and small charities there is always exploitation of those who are in need to get money out of people. Look at all the charities who put pictures of cute kids with sad eyes on their websites.
Countries like Cambodia and much of Africa, have become "beggar nations" (quote from King Sihanook in 2002), people get so that they feel that they are better off getting aid than doing something themselves, people want to help the poor, but should try to focus on helping the poor to help themselves.
In developing countries local staff running causes might seem like good people and probably are, but they need to make aliving too. People might not always see the work they do in the same light that we do in the west. In Cambodia, Cambodians like to work for NGO's because pay and conditions are much better than working anywhere else, not because they particularly want to help others. The concept of volunteering doesn't exist, nobody will work for free. We even have to reward people to attend health and hygiene training in villages or they just won't come, even though their families will benefit.
One of my big hobby horses is that people make careers out of development, I have met ICRC staff with paid for houses back in UK and half a million pounds in their pension funds after 20 years service. Shocking really. Others argue if you want good people you need to pay good salaries. There are famillies here who have 2-3 kids at international school $12,000 a year per kid, all paid by the NGO, enough to keep half a dozen of schools funded for a year.
In Cambodia there has been approx 12 billion in aid money delivered since 1991, nearly all of it has left the country. Quality of life in most villages has not improved significantly, in contrast every 3rd car in Phnom Penh is a Lexus. I think, instead of aid programmes, if every man, woman and child in the country was given $1,000 cash instead, it would be a very different story. (probabbly would have had 1,000% inflation mind you)
Rant mode off
I think what ever you do, who ever you help, where ever it is, do it not out of guilt or that you get a good feeling afterwards, but that it really needs to be done and there is no other possible way to do it.
I am fundraising for Casa Alianza that works with street kids in Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua and I was pretty impressed with the work they are doing.
Also the staff brough their own lunches even though they had a food hall for the children, supplied their own toilet paper and didn't appear to have fat cat lives. All the staff seemed to be from Honduras and I know that at least one of them rode a little cc bike and I didn't see any big cars there.
Can't remember the documentary, but an African hospital needed money for ambulances to reach wide rural areas. Instead of spending the money on ambulances, they bought themselves a dozen or so luxury 4x4's and one ambulance. Funny how years later that still sticks in my mind - even more than 'Live Aid'. So, how about recording these practices from the inside as a 'volunteer'? Public anger forces governments to act - especially if there's a bandwagon to jump on.
On a personal note, I don't believe in any kind of organized charity for the worlds poor. We've had the power to fix these problems for decades, but haven't. Perhaps it's meant to be - or perhaps we're making it worse. Just my thoughts.
On apersonal note, I don't believe in any kind of organized charity for the worlds poor.We've had the power to fix these problems for decades, but haven't. Perhaps it's meant to be - or perhaps we're making it worse. Just my thoughts.
Gerry - There is little one individual can do in reality to 'right the wrongs' of corruption in this world-
BUT, strangely enough, one person has the power - Each of us can help others in our own respective way -If one person stands up and takes ownership of a project then one single person can make a difference - I know having done it-
I had to get organised from having the original idea right through to the personal delivery the other end- once by bike with a small load, the second and third time by 4x4 with over 800Kgs of new meds etc. without paying bribes and all pro bono.
Who is the 'we've' you mention?
- does that include you may I ask? what have you personally done?
I am shocked Gerry and saddened at your statement when you say ' perhaps it is meant to be...'
Have you ever looked into the infected eyes of a child dying from malnutrition and malaria - all for the want of a few cheap vitamins, a bit of food and some cheap anti biotic eye drops like Brolene and a local anti malarial cure worth £7? and seeing her mum also in such poor health that her withered breasts could not feed her child who was no longer reacting to hordes of flies on her eyes and mouth? and I stop there-
Perhaps you should consider how lucky you are to have been born in a non third world country -
Were you not happy to find that dentist in Morocco when you needed to have work done on your teeth during your last trip?
Or to have the blessing to be able to have bought an Aquagear water filter to have clean water?
Or to have a working freezer even if it is full of 35mm film stuff?
And I can't help noticing your post about you looking for a £1000 grant (read free money) to finance your CELTA course... from which you will derive earnings...
I am confused Gerry - millions of less fortunate people don't have any of the above - so when you say ' perhaps it is meant to be...' from what appears to be your position of relative wealth, health and comfort.... it hurts.
I respect each and everyone's right to believe what they chose- but some remarks are perhaps best kept to one's self and not posted up.
On a personal note, I don't believe in any kind of organized charity for the worlds poor. We've had the power to fix these problems for decades, but haven't. Perhaps it's meant to be - or perhaps we're making it worse. Just my thoughts.
I found this statement extremely irritating....and I'm being uncharacteristically polite. I know of many, many charity organizations (NGO's) in the developing world and elsewhere which do good, worthwhile work. I also know of a great many which serve mainly to enrich a select few, or to perpetuate or exacerbate existing problems. Both are out there in profusion. Neither is difficult to find, if you're really looking.
I remember watching a report where registered charities, attending yet another disaster in Africa, were actually trying to undermine each other! They wanted to be on the front line where the cameras were! Now that's something to be shocked, saddened, confused and hurt about.
Perhaps part of the problem here is that "watching a report" is very different from going out and seeing for yourself....which in itself is very different from actually doing. I'm not denying the phenomenon of NGO's competing for media exposure--it's properly sickening, more so in person than on TV. But you're supposed to understand, being a sophisticated consumer of mass media, that you're being sold a narrow, incomplete view of things when you watch those programs. Don't mistake a TV special for "truth."
FWIW, I found the tone of your previous post rather self-righteous. This might be a valuable piece of feedback for you....or not, as you prefer.
Perhaps I read the post differently?
I thought the guy meant that we shouldn't need charities, and that governments should be stepping in instead. If that is what he meant then I have to agree.
Charities are fantastic, much good is done by organisations and individuals alike. Fact is charities save lives and help those unable to help themselves.
People like Sir Bob stood up and said 'No more' and did something about it.
But...there is a bigger issue, at least there is to me. We shouldn't need charities in the 21st century. Forget the recession, we in the west are wealthy people and we have easy lives. There are those elsewhere that suffer on a daily basis. I'm not a politician and probably don't know what I'm talking about, but I am sure that western governments have the power to stop this unfair balance. It sickens me when I hear of Super Bonuses and abused privileges.
We shouldn't have to support charities but today we must and we do. I'm going to a charity event tonight to support a charity close to my heart, MAG, that deals with all the unexploded ordinance that kills/maims innocent people. But I feel that this group should be funded by a government(s), not through charity fund raising. Someone is responsible for dropping it in the first place, after all.
Ok, I'm rambling. To sum up, I agree we need charities now but as a world there is enough to go round for everyone and it those we voted for that need to act, and fast.
I've been watching this thread for a while and, as I've got time, thought I'd add my two penny-worth.
I've worked for 'charities' for the last 15 years and spent about ten of that working overseas, much with many of the (British) household names, and most in war/conflict zones (I just looked on my CV and its 22 countries in all, including all the usual suspects, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, etc, etc).
I won't attempt to justify anything, or 'preach' hopefully, but these are just some random observatiosn regarding a few issues/topics which appeared on this thread (and some on others), from personal experience.......
Do NGOs waste money ? Yup sure do. Which ones ? The big ones (the household names) and the small ones (who invariably claim they dont have the overheads of the big ones). The big ones because they have got caught up in this 'advocacy' spiral where they are employing more and more people (including in the field, not just head offices) on what you could crudely call media and marketing (not just to the general public, but governments, UN, etc). The argument is of course if you can get one major policy changed or one resolution enacted in could effect millions not dozens, so it is worth the investment....but it isn't, because in all my time I'm aware of nothing of this nature which has fundamentally effected the nature or causes of poverty. However at field level you are increasingly just an 'information gatherer', spending more time with a camera and note pad than a warter pump or hyperdermic (hence their programmes are getting worse, not better).
The small ones waste money as there are hidden costs they hever talk about. They boast they dont spend money on airfares, etc...well they do, they just pay them out of their own pockets (so why not give this money to the 'work'). They also ponce off the bigger ones, borrowing cars, satelite phones,and office space, etc, which the big ones will rarely refuse but show up in THEIR accounts, not the small NGOs. They also claim they dont 'waste' money on admin. Well as Mr Geldof found out it's really easy to raise money, bloody hard to spend it (responsibly). You could push a million dollars out of the back of a moving C130 at 20,000 ft and the admin costs would zero. The benefit would also be pretty similar. But to spend money wisely some times takes a lot of time and energy. 'Admin' can be good if done well (have a look at ANY UN agency if you want leasons on how to do it badly). Also small NGOs have no economy of scale. If you're going to employ staff, etc, you have to do shed loads of work to justify it, and they rarely do. It goes back to the old 'Give a fishermen a fish..' argument. Many still give the fish (i.e they are caught up in the old fashioned idea of 'charity' - they give things) and while some do 'give fishermen fishing rods', they dont give enough to justify their overheads (incidentally, from bitter exerience, if you give a man a fishing rod, he'll often sell it, buy 20 Rothmans and a bottle of whisky and go home and beat his wife to sleep with the empty. Solutions look Soooooooo simple on paper and so rarely work in reality).
So who should you give money to ? Well I'd never give to the big household names, but neither to the small ones (I've worked for both). There are plenty of middle ranking ones which I think strike a good balance though. If you're British this means Action Aid, CAFOD, Chrisitan Aid, Practical Action, Water Aid, etc. Also if you're concerned about the whole issue of 'development' (and I am) don't give to it, just give to relief activities. In this though avoid the 'maga-campaigns' (Tsumani, Live Aid, Kosovo, etc) and specify the 'forgotten emergencies' (west africa, Sudan, etc). Also give to specialist emgernecy organisations, like MSF, ACF, Merlin, etc, not generalists.
Shouldn't governments do this stuff anyway ? NO, absolutely no way. Governments (universally, across the world) are crap at deliverying any sort of service, be this food in a refugee camp or water to a modern, wealthy city. If you're rich, you privatise, if your poor you rely on NGOs. In the case of the UK (thanks to Margaret Thatcher) the government has manged to get the best of both worlds by being rich but getting NGOs to run a lot of essential sevies anyway (nice trick if you can pull it off). Think Isle of Man air ambulance ? Life boats ? Homeless shelters ? etc, etc...
So what should you do when faced with poverty on your travels ? Well do what ever you think best. If you want to change the underlying causes of the suffering and poverty you see, give to the type of organisation I've mentioned (which are the sort I work for, and is the reason why I work for them). If you feel bad about the scabby little kid, with the manky eye begging by your bike, give to the kid (which is what I do personally). This has nothing to do with addressing the causes of poverty ('cos the kid will still be begging tomorrow), but it makes you sleep easier, and that's why I do it (what's 20 rupees ?). There's nothing wrong with that, it's a natural human emontion/impulse, but don't get the two confused and this is why you must be careful of small NGOs/Charities. Why are they running an orphanage ? Because there is a real problem of orphans, or because it makes them feel good to be helping orphans ? If the later wouldn't they be better off trying to get orphans in to the homes of their relatives (look at the recent Madonna issue !) and supporting the relatives ? Also ask 'where are they doing this ?', because this often answers the 'why ?' question. I've spent years in the cruddiest places in Africa and have rarely found small NGOs doing anything. Orphanage in rural Sudan, no way, orphanage in Nairobi, yup, you bettcha. I'm now in South Asia now and in Nepal I'm tripping over small 'NGO's' in Pokhara and Kathamndu (but again f**k all in the rural south, where the real poverty is).....
One last story. In Nepal I have been constantly told, when people find out I work here, and actually get paid quite well, "hey I'd love to work for an NGO, how do you get in to this kind of work". Well I tell them (long story I won't bore you with) and say you need to try to start as an unpiad volunteer, somewhere like south Sudan (where they can't recruit professional staff anymore) and then, after ten years hard work you might get the chance of somewhere like Nepal. As one they've all replied "oh no ......I'm not interested in working there, I want to work in Nepal", to which I've told them, well actually, you dont want to do the work I do then, you just want some one to pay for your holiday........
Well I said I wouldn't preach and........... er.....guess I did big time .
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