One of the questions we are often asked (particularly since starting the girls access to secondary education award scheme) is, “Why don’t we run a child sponsorship scheme?”
We are a small, but enthusiastic charity with no paid staff in the UK. Everything done in the UK is achieved through our generous and hard working volunteers. On the plus side, it means that at present, every pound donated to the charity goes straight to Ethiopia to support projects there and pay salaries of Ethiopian nationals who deliver the projects.
However, this means that we just don’t have the resources to run an effective child sponsorship scheme.
Where you can make a significant impact is by making an ‘unrestricted’ regular donation to us.
We believe that all our projects are interdependent. Building wells, equipping health clinics, ensuring children get an opportunity to have a primary and secondary education need to be planned carefully. Focusing too much money in one area may not be as effective as spreading funding across a more diverse range of projects.
For example, establishing convenient access to drinking water is the first priority when starting to work with a local community as significant time is spent fetching and carrying water by the women and children. It would be very difficult to encourage children to attend school if they have to spend hours carrying water for drinking, cooking and washing both before and after school! Similarly, improving facilities and training at rural health clinics goes hand in hand with making sure that people have clean, safe drinking water. We are also finding that some projects overlap the broad categories of water, health and education. Delivering WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) training educates local communities on the importance of having clean drinking water and the importance of sanitation and hygiene to prevent the spread of disease. Having separate boys and girls toilet blocks removes any embarrassment the girls may feel at having to share facilities or worse, having to find a suitably secluded tree and removes a negative factor that could discourage the girls from attending school.
We might encourage more donations by allowing people to choose whether their donation went to a fridge or to sponsor a child. However, under UK law and charity commission rules that we abide under, that money would have to be ‘earmarked’ and spent on that specific item, even if we already had enough money to buy all the solar fridges we needed for that year or if we just didn’t have the capacity to expand the girls education scheme that year. While we gratefully accept donations that are earmarked for broad categories like ‘well drilling / digging’, ‘health’ and ‘education’, we don’t have the capacity to manage donations for specific pieces of equipment or to sponsor particular children.
As a small charity, the best thing a donor can do for us is to make a regular ‘unrestricted’ donation which allows us to decide where that money will be best spent. Regular donations are important to us as they help us to plan ahead, particularly when it comes to hiring staff in Ethiopia and covering administration charges such as transportation, office rent and audit charges. We appreciate all the money that has been given to specific projects, however the amount of work that the team in Ethiopia can deliver is limited by the size of the team and the money required to support their activities. We don’t want to commit to lots of projects and then find that we don’t have the resources or the people in Ethiopia to be able to deliver our promises.
Needless to say, our projects managers in the UK and Ethiopia work very hard to ensure the money we are entrusted with is spent to the best effect in Ethiopia. Our goal is not to impose solutions onto the people we are trying to help, but to listen and support them as they aspire to improve their lives. Coming to back to the girls access to secondary education scheme, this is an example of a project that has developed out of close collaboration with the people of Addis Alem. Much of the responsibility in administering this scheme falls upon members of the local community and who are continuing to suggest how the scheme can be improved and expanded. All this means extra work for our project managers, but by working closely with the people we are trying to serve, it means that our projects are more likely to succeed and to be sustainable.
Ultimately, we hope that there will come a time when these communities won’t need our help anymore, but until then it’s amazing to think that donors who live 6,000 miles away, many of whom haven’t even set foot in Ethiopia, are playing their part in bringing that time closer.