How do you connect with people who are in genuine need?

20141127-GWT-8216-JOHNNY-FENN-1024x682(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.
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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…12493617_10156453753870526_4635670540354304582_o
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One Month

UPDATE-01

The Country That Shook products have been available to purchase for a month now!

Sales have been steadily coming in with great responses both from online customers and sales made in person in the UK. The books have been received very well – we have had so many kind comments about both the illustration style and the story itself.

We have sold well over 150 books so far! Added to the Kickstarter rewards, that total rises to almost 250.

And then, combined with the sales from the screen-printed T-shirt and the A2 Print the total money raised so far is over

2200-01

I don’t have exact figures because there are a good few people around the country who are selling copies on my behalf everyday. Every penny is being counted and added on!

This is incredible for the first month of sales, but we still have 1000 books to be enjoyed and to raise money for people who still have very very little in Nepal, struggling with their daily lives.
Plus there is this small thing called Christmas on the horizon – do you know anyone who might appreciate it as a present?

If you have any new or different ideas about how to share the project, please do! It really is incredible how people have connected with it and support it… it’s just a case of spreading the word now!

Where will the money go?

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‘ve been asked this very valid question a few times recently and now that the shop is open and the products are selling I feel that it’s something I can focus on.

Currently I am not working directly with any specific charity in Nepal. What I learnt while I was there is that an inexplicable amount of charity money is siphoned off by the government, so I am wary to just hand over vast sums to anybody via the internet.

My plan is to return to Nepal myself next year and distribute the money raised by buying things that people are in need of, or financially supporting projects.

In particular I’d like to focus on the huge mental health trauma that the earthquake has created. This article from back in May really highlights the huge problem. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/15/nepal-earthquake-mental-health-disaster

I am in a position now, with the project making money, where I can start to contact people and ask questions the gauge situations. That in itself is amazing! We have connections with people we met in Nepal at the time who can help us to understand where money would be best spent.

I will keep everyone updated as to what I find over the coming weeks.
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