I loved The Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014 (NOT the Rich List): The full list of people who make life better for others. The list seems to be a great reaction against the annual rich lists which are published at this time of year. The list celebrates those who instead of focussing on themselves give back and help others:
This Norwegian ad placed a little boy without a coat at an Oslo bus stop to see what folks would do. When asked, he tells them that his coat was stolen on a school trip. At the end of the video, the purpose is made clear when viewers are told that children in Syria are cold; you can send them a coat. Redditor trondskij provided an English transcript.
Markel UK, the specialist charity insurer and Small Charities Coalition, the support organisation for small charities, have come together to launch the Britain’s Best Volunteer award, to reward those who volunteer their time to help small, and often local, charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.
The UK public will be given the opportunity to nominate a volunteer they know who they think best deserves the award. Nominations will be judged against a range of criteria including how long they have volunteered for; if they have overcome personal challenges; how their work has inspired others; and the impact their work has had on their charity.
The winner of the award will receive £1,250 for the charity or charities of their choice and a personal prize of a holiday voucher worth £1,000, while runners up will receive £250 for a charity of their choice and a personal prize of an iPad mini.
Members of the public will be able to make their nominations online, until 21st February.
Following the nomination stage, a judging panel of Alex Swallow, CEO of Small Charities Coalition, Michael Scott Investing in Volunteers (IiV) Manager – England and Andy Partington, Director of Markel UK, will select a shortlist of finalists. Members of the public will then be able to vote online for their favourite finalist from March 3 to March 21.
Nominees must be over 18 and must be volunteers for a charity or community group with an income of less than £1m. Volunteers may hold any position within the organisation providing they are unpaid.
Two months into an uprising that has claimed at least two lives and brought thousands to the streets, Ukraine’s political crisis still seems far from any resolution. President Yanukovych has refused to declare a state of emergency, though by all accounts the protests are escalating.
Amidst burned buses, tear gas and barricades, however, there is another sight that stands out on the frontline: The strong numbers of Orthodox priests who have turned out, not to protest, but rather to pray.
Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protests, but even that didn’t keep the priests from showing up with their robes and crosses and holy books.
As one priest said about the proposed ban, “It is illegal. It is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray.”
Check out these incredible photos:
A Christian church in the Central African Republic is currently providing shelter to a group of 700 Muslims, who are attempting to flee the vengeful “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) Christian militia.
For months, violence between Christians and Muslims has ravaged the country, leaving more than 1 million displaced from their homes. Following a series of atrocities committed by the Muslim Seleka rebel group targeting Christian communities, Christian “anti-balaka” militias have undertaken retribution attacks against Muslims in the country.
The pastor of the church in the city of Boali, which is currently being guarded by about 70 French troops, however, wants an end to the violence. He told France 24 news,
“I am not going to let anyone hurt the people inside my church, it doesn’t matter whether they are Christians or Muslims,”
and encouraged his congregation to greet their Muslim neighbors with a “kiss of peace.”
Church and local officials are working on an evacuation plan for the Muslim families taking shelter at the church.
You could read that headline every day for the rest of your life, and it’d probably never fully sink in.
Here are some truly staggering numbers from Oxfam, who released a study on the world’s income disparity that is absolutely eye-popping. Just a run down of the bullet points is incredible:
- Nearly 50 percent of the world’s wealth is owned by one percent of the world’s population.
- The richest one percent of people in the world are worth about $110 trillion—65 times the sum total of wealth owned by the world’s poorest fifty percent.
- 7 in 10 people live in countries where income equality has decreased over the past thirty years.
- The total wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 billion equals the wealth of the richest 85 individuals.
Whilst unemployment is going down, I was horrified to read how food banks are now having to give out “kettle boxes” to clients who can’t afford to use their cooker:
Food banks have started to issue specially prepared “kettle boxes” to clients who cannot afford to switch on their cooker to boil pasta or rice, in the latest sign of the cost of living crisis facing Britain’s poorest.
The kettle boxes developed by volunteers from the Trussell Trust charity contain products that can be prepared by adding boiling water, such as instant soup, Pot Noodles, instant mash and just-add-water porridge, as well as staples such as crackers, cereal and tinned food.
For even more destitute clients, a “cold box” food parcel has been created, containing three days’ worth of mainly tinned groceries that can be prepared without the need for heating or hot water.
The boxes, which the trust accepts do not meet the nutritional standards of its regular food parcels, were developed in response to clients who had refused to take basic items such as rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes and baked beans because they had too little credit in the electricity meter to cook them, or had been cut off by their gas supplier.
The trust’s quarterly figures show 355,000 people received food parcels last year between April and the end of September – more than the total fed throughout 2012-13.
More than half its clients were referred as a result of benefit delays, sanctions or because of welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax, although ministers have insisted there is no causal link between welfare reform and charity food-aid growth.
This article on the 10 things Food Banks need but won’t ask for is a really helpful list of things to consider picking up and donating to your local food banks:
Think about it. People who rely on the food bank eat a lot of canned food, rice, oatmeal, white bread, etc. They love spices. Seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, oregano, basil and so on.
2. Feminine Products.
Can you imagine being worried about affording these? Pads, tampons, panty liners, etc. Recommended: Buy in bulk at Costco for donating.
People don’t need it, but think about being in their shoes and how nice it would be to be given a chocolate bar or brownie mix along with your essentials.
Grocery stores are great about donating surplus or unsold food, but they have no reason to donate toilet paper, tooth paste, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. Food stamps often don’t cover these.
5. Canned meats and jerky.
This isn’t true of all food banks, but some struggle to give users enough protein.
6. Crackers and tortillas.
They don’t spoil and everybody likes them.
7. Baby toiletries.
Diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby food, bottles, etc.
8. Soup packets.
Sometimes you look at rice, beans, instant potatoes, and cans of vegetable and think, “What do I make with this?” Hearty soup is a complete meal.
From a former homeless person: “Socks mean the world to you. They keep you warm, make you feel like you have something new, and just comfort you.”
10. Canned fruit other than pineapple.
Food banks get a lot of pineapple donated. Their clients love it when other kinds of fruit are available.
And remember! Food banks love cash donations because it allows them to buy whatever they need!
Jordon Cox, 16, scoured endless websites and magazines and gathered hundreds of coupons for dozens of products. After spending hours each day searching the internet for coupons, he managed to collect 470, which he took to his local supermarket, and filled three trolleys with food and household items. The bill came to £572.16, but once the coupons were factored in the bill was reduced to just 4p – a saving of 99.81 per cent. The teenager, of Brentwood in Essex, donated all his food to the charity Doorstep which gives food to disadvantaged families.
“I read an article that said a thousandth of the UK population are unable to eat this Christmas because they don’t have any money. I decided wanted to help as many people as I can, and to also show that it’s possible to shop very cheaply, if you know how. It’s not an exact science, so you can never really work out ahead of time how much the total is going to be. I was stunned when it came up as just 4p.”
He started his Christmas shopping project on December 1 and scoured hundreds of in-store magazines and websites for money off and cash back coupons. His shop, at Tesco Brent Cross, ended with an hour stop at the checkout to unload his items which included 200 packets of biscuits and 60 packs of butter.
“The lady at the checkout had worked at Tesco for 19 years, and she said she’d never seen anything like it before. I had a big crowd. I felt like a celebrity. My heart was pounding and the adrenaline was pumping when we got to the till. So much could have gone wrong. I could have left some coupons at home, or not read the terms and conditions properly. Some of them might have expired too.”
Vicky Fox, who works at Doorstep, said families who he had helped out were overwhelmed by the donation. She said:
“I’d call his gift a great and generous act of a young man and what he did made a real difference. He’s made a really difference to families who work with us to survive on extremely low incomes and do need the help. He made such a different to people living on the breadline.”
- 20 packs of frozen Yorkshire puddings
- 20 jam roly polys
- 80 packs of butter
- 23 packs of Quorn mince
- Four Gressingham poussin.
- 40 black puddings
- 200 packets of biscuits
- 23 blocks of hard cheese
- 20 pots of Yeo Valley organic yoghurt
- 19 bottles of fruit juice.
- 10 boxes of Paxo stuffing
- 40 bottles of Anchor whipped cream
- 15 bags of frozen Brussels sprouts
- 4 packs of After Eight mints
- 15 Covent Garden Soups.
- 10 bags of Florette Salad
- 36 packs of Cauldron tofu, vegetarian sausages and falafel
- Crumble mix
- Haribo sweets
Clothing giant H&M says it wants to set an example among retailers by committing to assuring that international garment and textile workers receive a living wage. H&M is pledging to pay a living wage to 850,000 textile workers after expressing frustration over a lack of action by governments to address working conditions in Asian factories in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster.
The world’s second-biggest clothing retailer said it would support factory owners at two factories in Bangladesh and one in Cambodia to adopt a fair living wage next year. The Swedish company, which has more than 200 stores in the UK, will then expand the programme to cover the 750 factories that supply its clothes by 2018.
“We believe that the wage development in production countries, which is often driven by governments, is taking too long. H&M wants to take further action and encourage the whole industry to follow.”
Working conditions for textile workers in developing countries have risen up the international agenda following the Rana Plaza disaster this year when 1,129 were killed by the collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka in Bangladesh. H&M did not have clothes made at the site and was the first company to sign a safety agreement for Bangladeshi factories after the disaster.
H&M said that because conditions varied between countries and factories, it would support textile workers in negotiating a living wage – a salary that enables a decent standard of living – instead of imposing a figure. The company said it would use the Fair Wage Method, an established process for achieving a living wage. After identifying workers’ basic needs, a wage is agreed and is then reviewed regularly with better dialogue between workers and employers.
I loved the email article, The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector by Charles McLachlan in this week’s Cinnamon Network mailing:
As my career developed in commercial organisations, I believed I also had something to offer charities – the Third Sector. It seemed easy to get invited to join trustees, act as a treasurer or get more involved in operational activity. Here was a place that I felt I could contribute, if only they would adopt some of the commercial disciplines of project management, financial control and clear lines of authority that I knew so well, then we could really make a difference together!
My early attempts at introducing some of these commercial disciplines were welcomed in principle however, but resisted in practice. As my mentor used to say, “Charles, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do” and even more confusingly, “Charles, just because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do”. I felt I must be missing part of the picture.
Then it clicked. I had hardly imagined the challenge charity leaders face when:
- 90% of your customers don’t pay you for your services;
- 90% of your staff hours are provide by individuals who cannot be motivated by pay or financial reward;
- your investors often have stronger opinions about how you do things and what you do than the actual outcomes delivered;
- available resources may be allocated in response to perceptions (internal or external) rather than a business case;
- too often, absolute cost trumps value for money in spending decisions;
- individuals with power may have no responsibility, and those with responsibility have little power.
As I began to fully understand this, I developed a new respect for leaders of charities. I also realised how much of what those leaders achieve could be applied with enormous power into commercial organisations.
The Third sector is often incredibly entrepreneurial. With almost no resources, a community action group can initiate the transformation of an entire neighbourhood, for example. The Jubilee Debt Campaign released billions of dollars of Third World debt to education and health care.
Does the commercial sector have nothing to offer the Third sector? No, I still believe that many of the disciplines of the commercial sector are required. But it is easy to squeeze out the power of the relationships that are the Social Capital underpinning the Third sector if you just turn the organisation into a more efficient financial machine. And for all of us, where financial resources are increasingly constrained, we should look to Social Capital as the entrepreneurial resource for leaders who want to re-invigorate Britain in the 21st century.
Comic Relief has been forced to defend its investment policy after it emerged that millions of pounds donated to the charity went towards buying shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms.
Researchers claimed that they had found a number of ethically screened funds which outperformed Comic Relief’s portfolio for the past three years. Many well-known charities avoid investing in companies which may be in conflict with their stated humanitarian aims.
The investigation found that the charity invested £630,000 in shares in leading weapons manufacturer BAE Systems, despite repeatedly committing itself to helping ‘people affected by conflict’. The charity, which has raised nearly £1bn for worthwhile causes in the UK and abroad, also invested more than £300,000 in shares in the alcohol industry despite having a stated aim to reduce alcohol misuse and its spin-off effects. In 2009 £3m of Comic Relief money was invested in shares in tobacco companies despite the charity’s work to fight against tuberculosis – for which smoking is a contributory factor in many cases.
Comic Relief, which generates huge publicity for its activities with star-studded programmes on BBC1, said it had avoided a policy of ethical screening for its investments because it does not want to limit the amount of money it raises. Comic Relief today confirmed that it avoided filtering out investments in order to bring in more money, although it kept the situation under review.
In a statement, it said:
“To fulfil our legal obligation, Charity Commission guidelines are clear that charities are required to maximise returns on money in their care. For Comic Relief, because the range of issues we support is so broad, ethical screening would significantly limit our ability to invest as well as seriously increase financial risk.
“Therefore ethical screening would have left us unable to meet both our legal and moral obligation to maximise returns and look after the money in our care with an appropriate level of risk. Instead we put the money into large managed funds, like many other leading charities and pension funds. We do not invest directly in any individual company. We believe this approach has delivered the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people.
“This policy has achieved strong returns over the years, which have helped Comic Relief cover its running costs, without having to use any of the money donated directly by the public. This is a complex area, with many important considerations, and we keep it under constant review.”
According to the documentary, which will be shown on BBC1 tonight, the charity has also refused to reveal its current investments.
This just seems another example of poor ethical decisions. Similar to the story about the Church of England, investing money in large managed funds is a normal practice, but you need to still ensure the ethical priority is fulfilled. It seems deeply ironic that Comic Relief is investing in things that it stands completely against – something that Comic Relief’s finance managers will want to change as quickly as possible.