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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Looking for the New Winning Formula for Fundraising.

I was thinking to myself today as I considered the Queen’s coming Diamond Jubilee here in the UK, that out of the pomp and ceremony that we all see and experience, it is little known that as a result of the jubilee lots of small charitable organisations get to enjoy a pot of money that is set aside as a form of celebrating through giving.

It got me to thinking about the whole concept of giving. It is a conundrum that has been at the centre of much speculation by economists in recent years. What really drives us to give? Is it all about altruism and our desire to help others, or does it come out of our generosity and desire to feel good about ourselves? Or is there a social element to giving as Tim Harford would suggest on his blog looking at the impact of the recession on giving? He suggests that we give out of peer pressure, giving because we think that it’s what others expect of us.

While giving is at the very heart of charitable existence, you have to ask yourself the question “What is in it for me?” If we didn’t ask these questions, we wouldn’t be human. If you are giving for a feeling of satisfaction, then it is more probable that you will give again at some point in the future. If you are giving because you feel you are expected to, you may well be more begrudging to give again.

Sally Strove makes an interesting point on her blog when she says that all too often we lose sight of the delicate moral balance between giving and receiving. She uses the example of a business faced with the choice of tax benefits through its charitable contributions, and asks the question are we giving for all the wrong reasons? Has “What do I get out of it?”, become all too important to us as a precursor to our giving?

In her blog Sally pointed me in the direction of the Maimonides Ladder of Charity, a doctrine of giving penned by a 12th century Jewish scholar. This ladder sets out eight rungs of the ladder of giving, starting at the lowest rung and working its way up to the purest form of giving. The eight rungs are listed below.

  1. The Lowest – Giving begrudgingly and making the recipient feel disgraced or embarrassed.
  2. Giving cheerfully but giving too little.
  3. Giving cheerfully and adequately but only after being asked.
  4. Giving before being asked.
  5. Giving when you do not know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient knows your identity.
  6. Giving when you know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient does not know your identity.
  7. Giving when neither the donor nor the recipient is aware of the other’s identity.
  8.  The Highest – Giving money, a loan, your time or whatever else it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant.

Imagine a world where we all consciously reached at a minimum of rung four on the ladder, and strove to achieve rung eight more consistently. How much more would the charitable community be able to achieve if we prompted ourselves to give more frequently without being asked to give.

Many charities survive through a sustained giving program supported by people who agree to pay a certain amount each month in support of the objectives of the charity. But is this model sustainable moving into the 21st Century as we face more challenging times? Can we really rely on this system of constantly presenting our begging bowl, prompting people to donate?

The challenge I guess therefore lies in getting the donor community to think about giving more constructively. What does this mean for the charitable sector, and how do we work towards ensuring that we have a sustainable source of financial income through empowering the community that support us into thinking more about what we achieve together as a community through their charitable giving. Ultimately we should be considering what the overall impact of our efforts is achieving not only as a giver, but as an organisation.

When times are good and donations are high, it is easy to fall into the trap of simply getting the job done. Yet time and time again, we find ourselves coming back to the problem at hand. Take for example the efforts of Live Aid. In the 1980’s the world came to the aid of the Horn of Africa with the best of intentions. Yet in 2011 we are once again back to a situation of televised appeals to finance another food aid program to the Horn of Africa?

In Oman, a region considered to be Water Scarce the government has invested US$52 million into a project designed to tap ground reservoirs fed by a desalination facility in Barka to provide water to millions of residents in the Dakhliyah region. Through the creation of jobs and the long term supply of water Oman has undertaken to secure the future of a region of its nation desperately needing water to develop. Is this not the same situation that befalls the Horn of Africa? You have to wonder how after raising over £150 million pounds through the Live Aid program in 1985, a proportion of the money was not set aside to secure the water future of the African nations in the Horn of Africa. It was too easy to meet the need of the people at the time without seeking to reach the eighth rung of Maimonides’ ladder and empower the African people with the tool, skills and equipment to do it for themselves.

So this is the challenge. How do we as the 3rd Sector community seeking to serve the people our organisation helps, actively encourage more proactive giving. Personally I believe that it is key to our future to develop a personal relationship with our donors and work towards involving them in the work that we undertake as an organisation. The benefits from this approach are multiple, and bring us back to that original focus about feeling good about what we give.

I agree totally with Sally when she says that the “Pay it Forward” concept of giving is a powerful tool in the quiver of the third sector. Working within the private sector to establish a corporate giving culture within the work place is a logical and effective way of securing a financial income. Gaining accreditation from a corporate body can often open the door to hundreds of employees who get the opportunity to collectively give as part of a program of giving designed to stimulate and encourage team spirit within the organisation, any donations being put forward by the staff being met pound for pound by the firm itself. This becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved. The charity gets a steady stream of income, the staff feel good about their contribution, and build a spirit of unity within their workplace, and the organisation get tax relief from their “Pay it Forward” contributions to the charity.

Another profound idea is to involve those people who donate to your cause more creatively. Everyone loves to have something to do for their community, society or to help something that they feel passionately about. People want to feel accepted and part of their community. Dale Carnegie hit the nail on the head in his book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ We love to feel important, and understanding that in giving people are looking to feel good about themselves, expanding on that concept by inviting a donor to become more involved with your organisation will open the door to a whole new world of opportunity for your organisation.

Not everybody will agree to this, and careful management of the program is well worth preparing before launching your campaign, but it is the ability to think outside the box and will excite and encourage people to buy into your vision and support your cause more enthusiastically.

I encourage you to read the blogs linked within this post and take time to reflect for a moment about the importance of understanding giving completely before committing yourself or your organisation to a designated fundraising strategy. Bear in mind that in these difficult times, money is something that no one really wants to part with, but while we are all counting the pennies, feeling good about ourselves, and a desire to want to help others is an essential part of our humanity. Managing this desire effectively is important to us as a society, but more significantly to our survival as a 3rd Sector community.

Additional recommended reading: f you question motivations for giving, whether those motivations belong to you or someone else, you are not alone. For a look into the process that led Hubber RTalloni to a personal philosophy of and commitment to giving, read The Definition of Charitable Work.

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.

Give your Community a Social Smile

Our world has become a place where far too much emphasis is placed on being self sufficient. We put too much time into striving to survive. Selfishness is the order of the day, and sad as it is to admit, we have become a society caught up in our own importance at the detriment to our communities and society at large.

A lot of hard work and time is given by members of our society to make charity a working part of our lives, collecting on behalf of hugely valuable organisations or community groups that have a significant impact throughout the world, but this kind of giving is made far too easy for us as individuals. Yes we dig into our pocket and give, but it is left to others to make the difference, and while we can draw satisfaction from feeling involved, we sadly lack the reward of experiencing the change our donation makes at the end of the line.

Don’t get me wrong, I do honestly believe that charitable giving has an important place in our modern world, however what I am trying to suggest is that we as a society should challenge ourselves more.

There is more to be done than simply digging into our pocket and producing small change, or setting up a direct debit or standing order for a monthly contribution to some foundation or charitable organisation.

Let me ask you to think back to when you did something special for a perfect stranger in your community? When was the last time that you made an effort to make someone you didn’t know feel good about themselves or make their day extra special?

I am certain that for the majority of us we can all attest to being guilty of failing this test. I know that far too often I am caught up in a world of personal complexities, the demanding world of surviving in difficult financial times and far too busy to stop and wonder how I could make someone’s day a great day. Does this make me selfish? No I don’t believe that just one action alone makes me fundamentally flawed by selfishness, however I do think that it points to the fact that I could do more.

More importantly I believe that it points to the fact that we could all do more. If you are reading this and thinking, well yes, if I am totally honest with myself, I know that I could also do more, then allow me to challenge you this Christmas to commit yourself to making it an extra special Christmas for one person that you know will benefit from just a little bit of love.

It is not a big thing to show someone else some appreciation this year. It’s a special time of the year anyway, and it’s called the season of giving for a reason, so let’s make an effort to share with someone different this year, and spread the feeling of goodwill beyond our comfort zone.

Communities are made stronger by the simple actions of people within them. We become better people by reaching out and helping people not as fortunate as ourselves. Let’s be honest, we all know of someone that would benefit from our help. Even if you don’t it is not massively difficult to find someone within our communities that would benefit from a little bit of extra love and consideration. I guess the most important consideration in this appeal is that personal feeling of satisfaction. Your personal sacrifice in time, expense and effort produces the most rewarding feeling when you see the look of amazement and happiness on the face or in the eyes of the individual you touch with your love. Nothing can replace that warm glow of unity that you feel in your soul.

So take a moment of reflection if you have read this, and promise yourself to touch another this year. Let us all learn through our commitment to put a smile on someone’s face this Christmas that communities grow into better places through our actions, and people become better people when we share and reach out to each other. Giving is so much more than just your small change, and when a whole society begin to make small contributions to our community, it is then that we see the Big Society take hold, snow ball and become a thriving, healthy, social network of people making the difference for each other.

Overland Africa 2010

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A while ago we started a group. A group that had a great idea, but was formed of people who were willing to do lots of talking and very put very little action behind their words. Such is the way of the 21 century world. It’s easier to change the world around a table today than to actually get out there and do it. However I tend to be the kind of person that believes if I’m going to be talking about it, then I better be ready to be doing it, and so was born Kumusha/eKhaya the Foundation. From humble beginnings three people have tirelessly put their efforts into making things slowly come together. I say slowly as each of us has our own pressing commitments that from time to time slow us down, and mean we have to throw our attention elsewhere.

Charity begins at home. I am a firm believer of this, and it is important that each of us are realistic about what we can achieve, what we can give and what we promise to provide. It is perfectly acceptable in this day and age to be honest enough to say I come first. Hell if you don’t put yourself first, please don’t think anyone else will. It is a mean old world out there and each to their own in a way. That is not to say that as a community we don’t gel, reach out and help each other, lend a hand when support is needed, and make things happen together. But I honestly believe that you can’t help someone if you need help yourself. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything.

As anyone who really knows me, I can hatch a business idea in seconds, think it through in a couple of days and be ready to launch in a couple of weeks. I don’t know what it is, call it a gift. Every day I sit with free time, yet another business idea is in the pipeline, lol, if only I could win the Lottery, it’d be Richard Branson stand aside please as I come charging through on my bucking bronco. Erm… ok maybe not, I’m not a massive horse fan, and would probably fall off before I got past Sir Richard. However a number of these ideas can most certainly be put towards charitable gains, and this is my intention as things pan out over the next few months. While I am very committed to my own project, a new business venture, there are viable opportunities to make a great impact through exciting and vibrant events that inspire people all over the world to get involved, brings the Zimbabwean situation to the fore front, and gets money into the places it is most needed.

So let me give you Overland Africa 2010. It’s not an original idea by any means. I am not sure it’s ever been used to raise money for Zimbabwe though. Two teams in Landrover Discovery 110’s set out from Cairo in Nov 2010 with the aim to be in Cape Town Christmas Day 2010. That’s the aim. The ambition is to raise as much money as is humanly possible between now and then to put into a Charity Drive to raise money for Zimbabwean Orphanages. It’s a well known fact that 2.1 million Zimbabwean Children desperately need someone’s help. They are not like adults in that they can’t fend for themselves, can’t work in industry, are vulnerable, exposed and without support. We know of so many organisations that are trying to help Zimbabwean Children with little or no help from outside, and in an newly launched fundraising initiative, we have asked every person that supports Kumusha/eKhaya to work with us through a pledge system.

It’s really quite a novel way of fundraising and each of us are able to do our bit to making a difference. This initiative aims to raise a million dollars over the next 24 months which will then be budgeted and placed with various organisations in Zimbabwe that specifically provide shelter, safety, education, food and health care for the children most in need. Organisations will be monitored, and be given strict measures set through a dialogue and agreement that will ensure that our efforts and donations get the maximum effect on the ground in Zimbabwe.

Overland Africa 2010 is my effort for this initiative. Working with a ground team of 12 and a backroom staff of many more, we aim to put two Landrovers on the ground in 2010 and complete our course in a maximum of six weeks. It is a trip of 6,650 miles passing through 11 countries along the way. That means each vehicle has to do a little under 200 miles each day depending on conditions, the state of the vehicles, the team and our equipment. We have to work out if we know of Zimbo’s staying in each country we aim to pass through who may be able to hold stock for us or help us along the way. It would also be nice to have teams of Zimbo’s fundraising in each country so that we can visit and thank them for their efforts personally along the way.

As well as fundraising, there is the logistics, passport controls, vehicle and equipment preparation, and so many other little odds and sods to complicate things. However I really believe that this is an opportunity for us to put Kumusha/eKhaya on the map and really make a big impact in bringing attention to our cause. We have contacted a television channel and are talking with them about recording the event for publishing when we return, and would also like to try get the help of the international press along the way. It’d be pretty amazing to meet up with BBC or CNN reports as we trek through the savannah and talk with them about our experience. Corporate sponsorship is a massive part of the exercise, as well as drumming up as much support for us as possible in Zimbabwe itself.

So yeah, if your reading this thinking wow, I could really help these guys out, then please get in touch with me. I’d welcome your support. Be it a simple fundraising cake sale, a well wisher web designer who wouldn’t mind building our website for us, someone who might be able to help us get visa’s in a particular country, or it could even be as simple as thinking to yourself, I know a couple of people who should be reading this blog, then please, shout the word. Spread it far and wide. Most of all remember that any effort, big or small we appreciate them all, no matter from whom, from where, or what ever your able to do to help. Without you we wouldn’t achive this goal. We are on a run now and the ball is starting to roll. Thanks for taking the time to read, sharing your ideas, and lending a hand if you are able.

Rob. 🙂
r.strobel@zimcentre.org

Stone by Precious Stone – Laying a foundation for Zimbabwe

One of the fundamental concerns about working towards the rebuilding of the troubled infrastructure of Zimbabwe, is how to ensure that the money raised is utilised to its full potential. With stories of corruption frequently told, and experience still fresh in my mind, I am often challenged by the consideration of why I should be involved in working to raise money towards assisting Zimbabwean people, when chances are that the money we raise could potentially not even reach the people we aim to assist.

So what is it that spurs me on. Well for a start as I see it, poverty is a result of man’s greed. It is not the fault of the average man on the street in Zimbabwe that they are in a place of heartache and hardship. The average man is hard working, family orientated and driven by a desire to survive. It is this drive that is the miracle of Zimbabwe. Theorists and educated men alike are baffled that despite its spiral into hyper inflation, Zimbabwe still lives and breathes. It is not dead and buried. While yes, I am well aware that there are men who are driven by hatred and would live to see all that they despise killed and wasted, I know that they are in a small minority. I also realise that there is a complex mix of cultural and ethnic differences at play in Zimbabwe, not just across the black/white divide, but even among African tribes.

The fact that poor governance has led Zimbabwe astray is not the fault of the people. The government have used every excuse in the book to hide behind, and convince the general public that it is not to blame for the problems that the country faces. While it is a well known fact that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy of the African countries that surround it, it is also a fact that the government has very successfully managed a propaganda campaign that has convinced many people that it has been acting in their best interests while raping the very coffers that the Zimbabwean people believed would help them survive when the going got tough. But Zimbabwean’s are not completely fooled, and have begun to see through the mantra of lies, greed and gluttony, of the ruling party in Zimbabwe. They see governors making land grabs, driving fancy state of the art cars, and wearing the best clothes while they struggle to find bread on the shelves, or wait hours in the line at bus stops. Yes it is a chosen few that carry the bulk of the responsibility of blame for the destruction of an entire nation.

And as one leader steps aside and another steps into the lime light, it would begin to become apparent that while he once championed the cause of his people, he is now rapidly lining his pockets as quickly as he can before he is either sidelined or marginalised as his supporters loose heart and turn back to concentrating on survival and day to day chores. But it is easy to focus one’s attention on the corruption of the bureaucracy and forget the plight of the people. It is common place on the African continent for people to lose sight of the facts of life for the working class, while focusing on the blunders of those at whom we can point a finger. It is also a fact that the world have tired of hearing that yet another African leader has been caught at it. It is no longer surprising to hear that a nation is in peril of termination at the hands of a dictator. From Idi Amin in the 1970’s one African leader after another has left the telling trail of greed, corruption and mal-governance as they have feathered their nest. It is not uncommon to hear appeal after appeal for help for Africa. Be it clean water, to education for its children, Africa is always extending its hand with nothing but a begging bowl seeking for international support to survive.

I am left as a child of Africa wondering why this is the case. Is it at all possible for an African leader to lead by example and bring his nation to bare fruits? Yes. A perfect example of leadership by example is a seldom talked about African country. It is not a well known fact that since its independence in 1966 Botswana has slowly built its GDP to being one of the strongest in Southern Africa. From being one of the most seriously impoverished countries in the 1960’s to becoming a vibrant market economy with a stable political infrastructure it is an example to other African nations of a country that came back from the brink. Ok yes it took 30 years of really hard work, but it proves to me that it is possible for an African nation to make it. If you find the right leader, establish a firm ethos of production and progress then anything is achievable.

Who would have thought 20 years ago that Ghana would become a leader in democratic stability and change. Yet at a time when the world economy is shrinking, Ghana’s economy is growing. Through a process of change and the determination of a group of African people who were fixated with the idea of working together to make Ghana work, a leadership has taken shape that is paving the way for other African nations to follow in its footsteps. It is an understanding that these things take time, and are not necessarily going to formulate in the time scale or through the channels that we wish that I have hope for Zimbabwe.

A very wise man from Zimbabwe Justice Zengeni once told me that without a credible challenge within a democratic frame work that there could never be progress. It is that constant shadow that an opposition party possess on the party in power that keeps a country moving forward. And therefore it is understanding the principle of democracy and the necessity of a multi party society that leads me to think that given the right type of environment, new growth is possible in any country, no matter how far gone it may seem.

So what are the first steps to success for the Zimbabwean community. Well first let me draw your attention to the Indian community. There are a number of things that we can learn by examining not only the nation of India, but the community of Indian people around the world. First let me ask you, have you ever seen an Indian abandoned and living in poverty in your community where you live? If you are reading this sat in your home in the UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia or China the answer will be no! Why? Simple. The Indian community support their own. They work together, live together, pray together and thrive together. How. The word together is the key. By learning to support each other no matter what the odds, the Indian community throughout the world have managed to make themselves successful in everything that they venture into. When something concerns the community they talk with one voice. When someone challenges an individual the whole community comes out to defend itself. It is that united front that makes the Indian community the successful structure it has become around the world.

A second lesson I think we should learn from the Indian nation is the ability to live side by side. Yes they argue, and may not see eye to eye. There have been times that the different faiths within India have seemed to be ruthless with each other, but over the years they have come to accept that in order to change their lifestyles, in order to raise themselves out of poverty they need to understand that they must work together. The Indian parliament is made up of many different creeds, cultures, classes and religions. Together they have begun to build one of the dominant market economies in the world. From one of the poorest countries in the world, to be a market leader is an achievement that cannot be ignored. I think it is a lesson that Africa should learn and learn fast. White, Black, Coloured, it doesn’t matter who you are, without unity there will never be peace or progress. Shona, Ndebele, or one of the many other tribal groups of Zimbabwe ought not to be a factor associated with who you are and your place in society. Progress comes from a commitment to work together to tackle the odds.

So let me come back to my original question. Why do I endeavour to work so hard to rebuilding Zimbabwe. Well I will answer that question for you now. Over time and in talking with a great many people who are scattered around the globe, I have come to realise that there are more than enough Zimbabweans living in Diaspora to change the future of Zimbabwe. However there is no co-ordination nor coherence in what we are saying nor what we are doing at this time. It takes effort and determination to bring people to the table and create a dialogue that allows free and fair representation of everyone. Not just the chosen few, but representation of everyone. It needs people to begin to speak with one voice and to accumulate their desire to see progress and bring about democracy. I have come to realise that standing on the side lines waiting for this to happen makes me as disabled and useless as those that sit back complaining about things. In order to see a change you need to be a part of it. It is the desire and drive of every individual seeking to make that change not only for my own life, but for the future of my nation that will inspire those next to me to get involved and take a stand. We all have a duty to each other to join forces, and to speak with one voice. Yes it may mean that while we meet at the table we will have to face some hard truths. Maybe we will have to admit that we are sorry for the mistakes of the past, and work together to heal the wounds that the past created, but let me be so bold as to say that alone we cannot achieve this. It is time that we all woke up to the fact that we need each other as much as the next man.

I also have begun to realise that without a united voice there is no platform for a strong leader to emerge. With over 4 million Zimbabweans living abroad, we are in a unique position of power. As we begin to engage in real progress, and gather in a united effort to change our place in history, we will naturally enable good, strong and honest leadership to come from within. By nature of the fact that this leadership have been involved in the process of dialogue and have listened to the voice of the people we will have the reward of leaders who know the people, work for the people and are true representatives of the people. Tomorrow’s politicians need to learn that we are the power of a nation and they are answerable to the people. There is more than enough of us to change the face of our future. From our place in Diaspora 4 million of us are a voice that if united cannot be ignored.

But to do this we need to start somewhere, and again there is no use sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to rise to the challenge. In calling for Zimbabweans to mobilise I am at the front line of seeking a new beginning for my nation and in seeking to bring people together I am helping to facilitate that united front. It seems to me to be pointless to talk endlessly about the past, and theorise in long winded speeches. I have taken more than enough time looking at things in this blog. Talk without action is lame and part of the problem that Zimbabweans face. If you really want to engage people then lead by example, be willing to hear their point of view, and be willing to take criticism. Then through that dialogue challenge people to take up the cause and in turn to energise those around them.

For Zimbabwe to come right, we admittedly have to challenge the existing governing structure. This is not going to happen overnight, but is a process that needs to be undertaken before we will have any real chance of making Zimbabwe safe for free and fair democracy to survive. Again the process of Rebuilding Zimbabwe will come about through time honoured commitment to making a change in Zimbabwe. Not only in politics, but the creation of an environment where creed, colour and ethnicity are not factors of consideration. Zimbabwe is a nation rich of natural resources, land and potential. We do not need to endlessly survive on first world hand outs. By being united and creating a vibrant market economy where investment is encouraged and safe, then growth will naturally follow suit. Imagine the feeling of pride and elation at being not only an independent republic in terms of politics, but an independent country in terms of financial stability, and being able to choose our own destiny and place in international matters. A Zimbabwe without debt and dependence on First World hand outs with conditions attached. Imagine if you will a Zimbabwe that others come to for guidance and assistance. We’ve been there before, there is absolutely no reason that without a untied approach and determination to succeed that we can’t be there again!

Great Zimbabwe is a national monument of Zimbabwe. The House of Stone was built thousands of years ago by the Matebele tribe who ruled the region at the time. They carefully chose rock that was strong and durable. They took their time to carefully place every stone in its place so that they fitted together perfectly. As a result the ruin has stood the test of time. The thatch may be gone, and the grass may now grow where great men once stood, but the wall still stands.

We are now like those builders. Faced with the unenviable task of finding the stones, then matching them to their place in that wall. Each one of the 4 million of us owe it to those who are left behind to struggle in Zimbabwe to take up the ropes and confront the task of building a great nation. And this is why I am involved. I don’t want to one day have the finger pointed at me and be told that I did nothing to help change the face of Africa, and help Rebuild Zimbabwe. So while there are concerns about making sure that any money raised right now is utilised correctly and gets to the people who really do need it in Zimbabwe, that is not an excuse that dissuades me from being involved in the calling to my friends and family, it’s time to join in the task of Rebuilding Zimbabwe.

After all it is not the people living in Poverty who created the problem. Do they deserve to remain in poverty with no voice, fearful of speaking out? No we owe it to them as we are able to help. They rely on us speak out for them. We are able, empowered by such wonderful tools as the internet, the media and freedom of speech. Zimbabweans struggling to survive at home in Zimbabwe are not going to be the ones that have the ability to call for those in power to be held accountable for their management of the economy and affairs of state. And we cannot just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that Zimbabwe will come right on its own. We must challenge the greed that brought us to this place. We must work tirelessly to bring about the hope of a new tomorrow for Zimbabwe, and while that work is being undertaken, people like me will continue in every way that I can to work to help even one Zimbabwean if I am able. It is my desire to help as many as I can, and I pray daily that the Lord will provide for those in need, and through us we are able to change the lives of the people left behind. So yeah, this is why I am involved, and I hope that in reading this I encourage you to take time to support us. I hope that by being humble and willing to dialogue with people and challenge them that we are able to come together and begin to build the foundations that will shape a strong, united and prosperous Zimbabwe.