As we approach our first Christmas as a charity I am trying to make time to reflect on what has been an incredible first ten months.
We never anticipated trying to establish a new charity in the midst of a global pandemic, but neither did we anticipate the fact that we were walking into the most supportive and encouraging community of charity workers, CEO’s, fundraisers and many other experts - who have gone out of their way to give us advice, practical solutions and walk with us through this first phase of our journey.
Our Christmas appeal this year was entitled ‘Sharing LOVE this Christmas’. It was our opportunity to say thank you and give something back to so many people. In what is regarded as one of the key times of the year for charitable giving, we decided to stop asking. To change the focus. To live by our values and be counter cultural! This year has surpassed our expectations in so many ways. Not least in the way people have got behind us and supported our vision financially. Lots of people have given one-off or regular gifts, set up birthday fundraisers, supported our sponsored events, and set up their own fundraising activities. As we considered our christmas appeal, I felt we had asked for enough! I want to be known as charity by what we do and what we give, not by what we ask for and receive. So for the four charities we chose, by asking people to follow their social media pages, like their posts, and support their christmas appeals, we did so to tell them how much their support has meant and how grateful we are.
We have had some incredible small businesses get behind us, designing beautiful images to allow us to say thank you to donors, we have a range of christmas cards and our own blend of coffee. We also have some chocolate orange gnomes! All of these things bring in funds, but more importantly they help to raise our profile and share our message. I have loved this side of the charity. Working with talented people and businesses who are following their passion, just as we did.
I have made so many friends and connections in parts of the world that for one reason or another mean a lot to me, places I have never been to, but I believe as a charity, places we can do so much good. I’ve learnt a lot about the resilience of people, what separates and divides people but more importantly what brings people together. I had hoped to travel out to see some potential partners in April, travel restrictions meant that this couldn't happen. At the time, I saw this as a setback but we had made the decision early as a charity, that we would only travel if it would add value to what we were trying to do and so upon reflection it has taught us; there is always another way!
There have been doubts. Doubts in my ability (just by me I hope), in our operating model, in whether it will all work out - where will the money come from? Does anyone care about what we are trying to achieve? But here we are. My vision was to have three projects and partners in three countries by the end of the first year. We are currently working with one school in Lebanon, starting with a second school in Afghanistan next week and are talking to two further schools in Palestine and Iraq! Two months to go- no pressure!
Our model has evolved into one that allows us to use our skill set, our expertise and time as well as support sustainable projects financially. I very often have those pinch yourself moments - where I have the realisation - we’re doing it - we are actually doing it!’
I am passionate about education, our vision, and believe so strongly in what we are trying to do. But as things progress it’s becoming clear that who we are as a charity and what we can achieve can be so much more. Education is the key but hope and love are so much more. We can tell peoples’ stories, we can give individuals and communities a platform, a voice - we can tell people that we see them and we see their needs, we know their value and we can show them love and compassion - and in some cases be the first to do so! If you have supported us in any way you are making all that possible.
This year has been about laying foundations, starting strong - we wanted an infrastructure that would see us through the next few years, meaning we wouldn't have to be reactive as we grew. Thanks to our Trustees and volunteers we are in a great position - I am so excited by the plans we have, but more so for all the things we don’t know yet, for all that 2021 has in store. I am so grateful for all the support we have received so far, we wouldn’t be here without it!
Keep following us, keep supporting us and keep believing in our work.
I hope everyone reading this has the most amazing Christmas and New Year
Don’t forget to ‘Share the LOVE’
Love and best wishes,