(Photograph by Johnny Fenn http://johnnyfenn.co.uk)
This is a very valid question I was asked recently by someone considering their own project. I would say that this decision has been and still is the hardest part of the project.
When I started The Country That Shook I naively thought that this task would be incredibly straightforward because there are so many deserving and needy people in Nepal. Following this intention, I have been in talks directly with a few people in Nepal, who organise community based support and rebuilding projects, for many months. Unfortunately I have continually come up against the problem that they are unable to offer me proof of where the money will be spent. This is not surprising as it is not their culture to have contracts and documentation for everything like we do in the West, plus of course a country recovering from an earthquake is not a normal situation.
However, we have now raised over £7,000, and I have a responsibility to know where the money that so many people have kindly spent to support The Country That Shook is going. I don’t feel like I can hand money over without this knowledge or alternatively being in the country to oversee it, which is not a viable option for me.
Unfortunately this has lead to a couple of difficult situations where opportunities to support communities have not developed as I had hoped, and a lack of information and trust has meant that I had to back away. This has been distressing at times because I do truly believe that their intentions were good, it just felt like too much of a risk.
Therefore, I am going to go down a completely different route and donate the money through a charity. This is something that I was completely against when I started out as I thought that too much of the money donated would be lost in admin fees and then even more would be siphoned off by the Nepali government.
However, after contacting endless charities my opinion has been changed; it is true that only around 85% of the donation is spent on the school rebuild (or alternative project), but that other 15% is what provides all that is needed to coordinate something like this, the connection with the local people, the knowledge of where help is really needed and the ability to be in constant contact with the build as it progresses in a very remote area. These are all things that I don’t have and would be unable to do from the UK with a full time job.
All of the charities I’ve been talking to have been recommended to me by various reputable people in Nepal and the UK. The conversations have been invaluable in my steep learning curve about how charities function and what the best fit for us will be.
I will be updating you shortly on how and where the money will be spent and who I am partnering with…