Monday, 26 April 2010

Thanks from All the Fish

Well, it's not quite a hedge laying trophy. (Or even a little-known species of sea anemone named in my honour). But my thank you letter from the Marine Conservation Society is pretty sweet, with some personalisation, updates on their current projects and a copy of their latest magazine.

Pretty prompt too. And it gave me a good warm glow on my way to work this morning.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Surprised and Delighted. By Hedge Laying.

I got an email yesterday from Friends of the Lake District. It thanked me for the £250 I was able to give them earlier this month (see previous post).

It was a lovely email.

First, I must say that I tend to have quite a few conversations with the charities we work with about how they should surprise and delight their donors with their communications. Often, it's not the easiest thing to do. However, this email did that. Because the lovely people at Friends of the Lake District have asked me if I would like to have my (or my son's) name on a trophy they need to buy for an annual hedge laying competition.

It made me laugh to begin with. But then I began to think (and do a bit of research).

Hedge laying is important. According to the National Hedge Laying Society, "Hedgerows help to define the uniqueness of the British countryside and are an important wildlife habitat. They require sympathetic management if we are to preserve them for future generations."

The competition for which this trophy is being used for encourages lots of young farmers to get involved. So, in a way that wasn't obvious to me at first, my gift will be used in the way I intended - to help preserve the beauty of the Lake District now and for future generations.


Friday, 16 April 2010

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Richard Gave £1,000 to...

First Floor £250

A project run by West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. They work with young people aged 12 and above to help them develop new talents, interests and skills through visual and performing arts. A lot of the young people they work with are not in full time education anymore, or have learning or behavioral difficulties so First Floor offers them an alternative route to gain qualifications.

Amnesty International £250

The only charity I feel any real connection or affinity with. We're lucky in Britain that our human rights are rarely compromised – but not everyone is so fortunate. I'd like to think that if my human rights came under threat, Amnesty would be there to help protect them.

Mind £250 & The Samaritans £250

For no reason other than I really hate the idea of someone not wanting to be alive anymore. I can't imagine how low someone has to feel to even consider taking their own life, so hopefully I have selected charities who will be there for people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Rebecca Gave £1,000 to...

Motivation £480

This charity aims to give people who have mobility issues in low-income countries a better quality of life, so they can fully take part in society. All chairs are highly designed and, crucially, made from sustainable materials readily available in-country. It also campaigns for people’s rights, provides training for wheelchairs users and helps find them employment.

Why? Because my sister worked for them for 4 years and because no-one should be excluded from society.

It costs £120 to provide one wheelchair, so this restricted donation will provide four wheelchairs.

The Gorilla Organisation

Formerly the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, this charity protects gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Gabon and Cameroon. It works with local organisations to protect the gorillas, conserve their habitat and help communities develop alternative farming practices so they don’t encroach on land traditionally home to gorillas.

Why? Because 15 years ago I visited a family of 9 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains in southern Uganda. I was overwhelmed by how magnificent these creatures are and how humans have pushed them to the brink of extinction.

Kibera in Need (KIN) £240

This is a tiny organisation that works in Nairobi’s biggest slum – Kibera. The slum is home to 800,000 people, 60% of whom have HIV/AIDS and where 20% of children die before they’re 5. KIN works with a local partner to provide education and support to children through guardianships and provides loans for small businesses.

Why? Because I’ve passed this slum many times on trips to the city. Conditions are atrocious. If we can lift just one child out of this, then that’s something.

A year’s guardianship for one child costs £120, so this will help two children.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sinead Gave £1,000 to...

I never thought giving away £1,000 would be so hard!

It brings back memories of going clothes shopping with (much lesser sums of) birthday money as a teenager. I'd feel a huge pressure to spend it really well and not fritter it on something I'd go off in a week! But of course this is a much more serious business – so on to the task at hand.

I wanted to give all my money to one charity, but in the end I faced the fact that I'm far to indecisive. There are 3 beneficiaries.

The first gets the smallest amount – £150 and was a bit of a late entrant.

The charity is Smile Train and £150 pays for a poor child to have an operation to correct their cleft lip. In this country it's a disfigurement that can be fixed quickly after birth (and for free) on the NHS. In less fortunate parts of the world it means a child is outcast from society and is ridiculed – facing a bleak future. My money can't help save the many babies that get abandoned at birth because of this. But if it can help one child live a normal life and give their parents a gift they compare with winning the lottery then that's good enough for me.

The rest of the money will be split evenly between two charities that care for people who are terminally ill (£425 each). Visiting hospices for work has made me see time and time again how important it is to pull out all the stops to make the final stages of someones life the best they can be. At its most functional, this means without pain. But it's the emotional support and the fun and laughter charities like this can give that makes me feel humble.

The first is Rainbow Trust, a children's charity that provides support for terminally ill children & their families. They do this in many ways – in peoples own homes, at school and through their hospices. I did an appeal for them years ago and have had a soft spot for them ever since. Now I'm a mum it's even harder to imagine how I would deal with this fate. I want to make sure someone like me doesn't have to do it alone.

The second is a local hospice in Derry called the Foyle Hospice. They do amazing work – just like Marie Curie – but they get the money because I might one day rely on them to look after someone I love very much. And it feels good to give something back to the place I'm from.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Folake Gave £1,000 to...

Zimbabwe Association UK £500

I was moved by the plight of Stella Maravanyika – a human rights activist in Zimbabwe who was forced to flee her country. She came to this country as an asylum seeker and set up a drop in centre in Islington – initially to help women but then opened her doors to everyone. I really admire her as a person and the fact that she has gone on to help so many other asylum seekers get fair legal representation and the advice and support they need.

Stepping Stones Nigeria £500

Being of Nigerian descent, I wanted to give something back to country where my roots are. I saw a documentary about child witches a while ago and was really affected by it. I can't believe children are being maltreated and ostracized in this way – whilst their families and neighbours stand by.

The charity's main goals are to help give these children a second chance in life by putting them through school and giving them a safe home. They also advocate and campaign for the rights of children.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Hannah Gave £1,000 to...

CancerCare £333

Gives incredible support to cancer patients in the Lake District – and lots of TLC to their families too. A choice for my lovely mum, who can't thank them enough.

Marine Conservation Society £333

Protects the wildlife in our seas, fights water pollution and and clears the grot off our beaches. Because I do like to be beside the seaside.

Children & Young People's Protection and Development £333

Protects vulnerable Mongolian children from trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Their name's a mouthful, but their work's amazing. And my friend Emma's driving a dilapidated old ambulance all the way from London to Ulan Bator to be part of it.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Mark Gave £1,000 to...

After eliminating the charities I already give to and then the charities that we already raise a lot of money for, I settled on a list of organisations that I've never supported before but whose work I really respect.

The Shakespeare Hospice £500
They support people in and around Stratford upon Avon, where I grew I up and where my family all live. I also have a close friend who works there and I know that the money will be well spent.

Friends of the Lake District £250
All my favourite childhood memories come from family holidays in the Lake District. It's a place that my parents love, my brother and his family love and now my family loves.

MySociety £250
I wanted to support an organisation that I think are doing interesting and useful things with technology.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Louise Gave £1,000 to...

Safe Hands for mothers £500

In sub-Saharan Africa a woman has a 1 in 16 chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. If those odds applied to my friends and family, I would have lost some of them. And I probably wouldn't have made it through my twin pregnancy and birth. This charity is working hard to change those odds and I wanted to give some money to help them.

British Heart Foundation

My brother was born with a hole in the heart. Surgery developed with the help of research funded by BHF means that 33 years and 3 major operations later, his heart 'problem' rarely features in his life. My parents have always donated to BHF as a thank you and as a way of helping more people's loved ones live. I wanted to do the same.

The Stroke Association £250

When my father in-law had a stroke everyone was confused about what this meant and how we could help him. Whilst the hospital dealt with the medical treatment, the information The Stroke Association offered filled in the gaps with online information, book recommendations and other people's stories of their experiences. I wanted to give a donation to help them continue this work.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Enforced Giving

Before I start, I'd better warn you that this post is not going to sound very British. In fact, it's going to sound positively North American. Because I'm going to talk publicly about being successful in business and giving money to charity.


I'll get the first bit out of the way quickly. Our objectives for Open's first full financial year were simple. To survive and, hopefully, make a modest profit. Thankfully, we did both. Which meant that we were able to move on to one of the many promises we made to ourselves – that we'd give a big chunk of that money away at the end of the year.

True to form, we left the important matter of whom we should give to until the last minute. So we thought that the best thing to do would be to delegate the decision – the practical upshot of which was that every member of our team found themselves having to give £1,000 away within three days.

At the end of the process we met and everyone explained what they'd given and why. There were quite a few tears and Tim got the giggles so badly he had to hide under his jumper.

I'm going to post the details daily over the coming week or so. But before I do, it's worth noting that almost every decision was driven by a personal connection to the charity involved – yet very few gifts went to charities that people were already supporting. It seems that when we HAVE to give money away in a hurry, we look inside ourselves.

That's why next month, everyone has £100 to give to organisations that ask them...