Charity Begins at Home

dfid_logo_largeFor all the bad press and the flak that the British people get across the international spectrum, it was satisfying to see recently that the UK is the only one of the G8 Nations, and only one of 6 countries world wide that met their commitment to spend 0.7% of the Annual GDP on International Foreign Aid.

This afternoon as I was sitting watching TV, I was subjected to a barrage of Adverts appealing for charitable donations for everything from clean water charities, to ones that protect working donkeys around the globe. However, one of them stood out to me and got me thinking. It was a call for people to donate to pay for support to be provided to the refugees of the Syrian civil unrest.

Now I feel sorry for the innocent people caught up in the horror of war. It is never a pleasant reality to have to accept when we learn of the suffering, hardship and risk to hard working, normal citizens of any nation on earth. These are the facts of war, people are displaced, put in harms way, used as human shields. It is hard to deal with the images that are flashed across the screen, being used specifically to emote and provoke a response within you.

Having worked in the third sector, I know all too well how it is the powerful effect of seeing children suffering, or animals that are suffering in silence that bring the money rolling in through the door. What you don’t see luxury trimmings that senior management enjoy every day behind the scenes. The fat pay cheques, the nice cars, the expensive dinners, the plush offices, the flights, the hotels suites, oh the list goes on and on. But we all know and chose to forget that this is all a part of running an effective multi billion dollar charity. Hell the budget that these charities use on television advertising could probably educate a small army of third world children each year.

It was not this that got me itchy though. The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder, how it is that only six nations have met this commitment to foreign aid. Who are the biggest donors, who make sure they meet their promises, and what did the league of international aid donors look like?

Before we actually look at the top ten donors in the world, let’s just check who the top ten richest countries in the world are by GDP for 2013, courtesy of Forbes Magazine In order from the richest, the top ten are; Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore, Norway, Hong Kong SAR, Brunei, USA, UAE, Switzerland, Kuwait.

So then I took a look at the list of the top ten International Donations in the form of Aid. These are nations that have been donating a huge chunk of their wealth as successful hard working and profitable countries to those less fortunate. So who are the top ten this time? Well according to the United Nations this time, they are; Sweeden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Netherlands, UK, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, France.

Amazing. Not one of the Arab nations, places rolling in the wealth of oil profits, places that are so wealthy they can afford to build fancy palm shaped islands and state of the art cities, no expense spared. These are nations that don’t blink an eye at squandering billions of dollars building a ski dome in a desert, or buildings that defy the laws of nature.

Yet, despite all that wealth, NOT ONE of them are listed in the top ten countries that donate to the well being of others. Truth be told, the UN website provides information on the top 25 nations, and not a single one of them are from within the Middle East. Yet, here I am on a Wednesday evening, sat watching an advert on British Television appealing for UK Citizens to donate £2 a month to funding aid work in Syria.

The Western world have poured billions of dollars into international aid efforts in support of Arab nations all across the world. From Palestine to Pakistan, Syria to Libya, Turkey to Mongolia. These are the very nations that call for Western blood and despise our way of life, yet when the chips are down they are perfectly willing to allow the aid agencies to come running with their good will and generosity, no thanks needed.

It is pathetic. How a nationality of people, a whole section of our creed of mankind could be so small minded that when it comes to being able to reach out and alleviate the suffering of those less fortunate than themselves, that the Arab people collectively seem incapable of putting their money where it matters.

I accept that this is not the rule that applies to every person within the Arab community, and there are sections of the UK Arab fraternity that are as active in funding aid efforts to the Middle East as some Western Agencies. However I am disappointed that collectively as a people, with nations as rich and powerful as they are, they are not leading the way by example.

If the UK were to stop it’s international aid commitments this year, we would be out of debt in record time. We would have huge swathes of money available in our coffers to build new roads, create jobs, build infrastructure to support a real first world nation. Thing is, as a people, we actually do care about what happens in the world around us. Despite the fact that most people think that the Brits are a little pompous, maybe a bit full of themselves, probably aloof, the thing is they really do have a reason to be.

It does bug me, and seem rude, yes I accept that. But when you have a nation that actually steps up to the mark, takes its responsibilities seriously and gives a shit about others before themselves, then I am sorry, but next time you want to go burn a flag or spread some hate, look at home. You might find you get more achieved when you start to sort things out in your own back yard.

Charity really does begin at home. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The first world needs to wake up and realise that we need to get it right at home, here in our nations, where our people are suffering and struggling; before we go running off to fix the rest of the world. Nature is cruel, it is harsh and it is unpredictable. You can’t save them all. I cannot help but wonder if the Euro Zone and Northern American Alliance were to turn off the tap of International Aid tomorrow, how long it’d be before the world went into total melt down. Sad but true, half this world rely on the backhanders and funds that pour out of the coffers of a very few nations that help to prop up and sustain a world in need, while the rich and greedy, just get fatter and greedier.

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Children of Uganda – African Success Story

I love taking time to write about African success stories. The things that are happening in the continent of my birth, the things that remind me that you can achieve anything you like, even in the face of great adversity.

Today I am going to write about an organisation based in Uganda. Uganda is a relatively small country in the heart of central Africa, one that caught the headlines for the notorious actions of its leader Idi Amin Dada in the 1970’s. Having spent much of the 70’s and 80’s caught in the grip of civil war, Uganda was highlighted in the media for its scant regard for Human Rights. During this time it is believed that upwards of half a million people were killed in state sponsored violence.

In 1986 president Yoweri Museveni took control of the embattled nation and turned the fortunes of the country around, introducing economic and democratic reforms, and taking control of the army and police, his government are credited for substantially improving the prospects of life in Uganda.

However as is the case with African nations, the stability has not won complete peace, and rebel movements still cause significant unrest in the rural north of the country. The cult like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been described by some as one of the most effective guerrilla armies in Africa and is attributed to the displacement of over 1.5 million people in Uganda and the neighbouring countries.

This constant state of flux between war and peace has meant that the relative stability for Uganda has not always meant that its people can enjoy the benefits of economic growth and prosperity. In 2000 Uganda was recognised by the Paris Club as one of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and was granted debt relief. In 2008 Uganda recorded a 7% growth figure despite the financial insecurities facing the global markets.

Despite this progress, we are well aware that economic growth does not equate to poverty elimination. According to the World Bank 31% of the 32 million people that live in Uganda live in poverty. However consideration should be given to the fact that since 1992 when the figure was at 56% of the population showing a concerted effort by the government to reach the Millennium Development Goal of eradicate extreme poverty.

In the centre of this success is the fact that Uganda is regarded as something of a prodigy in terms of its response to AIDS in any African country. Since the 1980’s when more than 30% of the population were infected with HIV, Unicef put the current HIV prevalence rate (age 15-19) at 6.5% of the population. The nation still deals with a significantly high number of people living with HIV, but through its openness and a concerted effort at addressing the causes of AIDS among its people, the control of its spread is remarkable success that health authorities in Uganda can be proud of.

The AIDS epidemic may be under management in Uganda, but it has created a new epidemic for Uganda. Uganda has the largest orphan population per capita of any country of the world as a result of the number of deaths from AIDS. In Uganda today, more than 200 people a day die as a result of AIDS, devastating the 25-40 year old segment of the population, leaving behind more than 2.4 million orphans in the country. 63% of this number are living without any natural parents living, and this is where organisations like Children of Uganda step in.

Established from a desire to see the children of Uganda receive an education and become healthy, productive members of the community, Children of Uganda was born in 1995, and since then has achieve remarkable things while working among vulnerable and precious members of Ugandan society.

Twenty two key staff have immunised more than 13.5 million children. Twice yearly the team reach out to more than 4 million children to accelerate Vitamin A Supplementation and catch up immunisations and de-worming programs. 3.7 million girls have benefited from the Girls Education Movement launched in 18 districts across Uganda. Over half a million mothers have been assisted at 91 different sites for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmissions of AIDS. Over 9000 excluded or disadvantaged children have been reached though 250 non-formal/complementary learning centres. A volunteer program with over 2,300 community health workers reach over 300,000 children in conflict areas with first line treatment.

The list of achievements just goes on and on. From the provision of fresh running water through pump schemes in areas of displacement, to Early Childhood Development sites. From the provision of therapeutic milk and high energy biscuits to severely malnourished children to providing shelter for over 30,000 child night commuters. No matter where it is the Children of Uganda team have made massive strides to touch the lives of children with literally nowhere left to turn.

This remarkable organisation has changed the life of many African children in Uganda. I encourage you to visit their website and see for yourself the impact that they have in reading some of the success stories on the site. One that touches my heart is that of a young boy called Ronald. At 17, he has watched both his mother and father die as a result of AIDS, and now struggles with HIV himself. Having to face the reality that like his mother and father he would himself die, Ronald was taken in at Kiwanga Home in 2002, a Children of Uganda orphanage.

He has a heart warming story of a life transformed. Coming through the tragedy of being alone in the world, the bullying that children with HIV suffer at the hands of other children and the lack of education, Ronald met with his sponsor in 2003, who is himself HIV positive who has survived through the use of ARVS drugs which Ronald now has access to through the kindness of this sponsor.

Through a support network, and a sponsorship program Ronald now has a shot at life. In his story he tell us about the challenges he faces in life, how has come through remarkable difficulties, overcome unreal loss, and still is wonderful young man. A true son of Africa, he shows all of us that when a community are given a chance, a little help and support, and the tools, it can transform itself into a vibrant society.

Uganda is a success story in Africa. It’s not perfect, and faces some tough challenges and much the same difficulties as so many other African nations, but I believe that we can accept that no place on earth is perfect. Crime, corruption, war, famine and strife are part of our way of life, even in the 1st World. It is just warming to see that despite all the odds, there are African countries that are making progress and changing the lives of their people.