Monday, 5 July 2010


Running a charity is a bit like running into a burning building, seeing the devastation, the people who need help and realising your own weaknesses as an individual to help those people. The charity's power is in mobilising a whole group of people with various skills but a collective passion and directing them all towards enabling the most relevant help of people and situation.

I think this also throws some light on to the complexity of our charity, Chilli Children. Imagine that burning building is not in the UK, it's somewhere without TV cameras, without bloggers, without emergency medical facilities, and where the situation of thousands of disabled children has not arrived like the flash of fire but over such time as to make it seem a completely normal, unchangeable, sad state of life along with all the other normal, unchangeable, sad states of life that interweave with the normal, unchangeable joys which many are powerless to control apart from the prayers they send up hourly asking for enough but not too much rain and sun, for safety on the perilous roads, for enabling their children to do a full term at school, for keeping them alive through the next bout of malaria, for a good marriage, for enough digging work, and on and on.

I mention realising my own weaknesses as an individual and needing to mobilise others. However there is a lot of work I do need to do on my own. Every time I seem to sit down to tackle that work, like this morning, I just seem to come up to that wall of weakness and think things like "I'm not going to be able to get all this done", "should I be doing it this way?", "should I start with this email? or should I be following up that grant? or should I actually do some filing", "maybe if my office wasn't such a mess I would be much more effective but if I stop to do filing I'll be here all day and I only have today so I better just get on with the urgent and important things".

Anyway, oh the self flaggulation! I might not even post this it all just sounds so 'woe is me'. I'm fine. As a good Brit I'll just 'pull my socks up' and get on with it. Another cup of tea should do the trick. But I don't want to be typical Brit and ignore the problem, it's possible to be self-aware without being self-destructive. I think one aspect of breaking down this wall is sharing these feelings. Once they're out there and known, and it doesn't dissolve the state or end the universe, it's possible to gain perspective, move on.

I've been fortunate recently to have the opportunity to do some consultancy work for World Vision during their reorganisation around new strategic priorities. As well as my obviously dazzling (?!) strategy skills honed via Accenture and Chilli Children, the 'skill' to be able to give my time for free on short term basis was obviously a big draw. Nonetheless, they've not patronised me for having far less international development experience (and I'm not being modest here these people really really have seen and done a LOT in the field in emergency and long term situations). In fact they've let me in, given me a chance to listen, record and analyse their strategic intents. It's been fascinating.

I bring in this recent experience in order to, well in part, update you - I've not blogged since I was in Cafe Pap on my last day in Uganda in Feb. Where have I been for the last 5 months?! In brief, back with my sister finishing the Comic Relief proposal which was amazing but they didn't think so. I moved to Oxford, and the next day was back with my sister witnessing the beautiful birth of their wonderful 5th child. I've been job hunting and making friends and generally finding that there is a beautiful and peaceful place to live in England! Sorry East London, I'm only missing my friends (that includes ex-colleagues) and not much else!

I also mention this because through liftsharing between World Vision and Oxford, I have had the opportunity to share my charity woes with people who have experience of international development. I'm starting to see through their eyes how good Chilli Children is, how complex it is, how well we've done on the little we've had, how personal it is compared to larger charities and how enterprising I've become!

I feel opportunities rising in Oxford and this brings me squarely back to the first side of this writing. What I've been looking for is a mentor. Someone who could mentor me as a leader of a charity. What I've found is not just one person to mentor me but a whole city! (how dramatic...) I don't mean everyone from the bus driver to the vicar is telling me how to run my charity but I mean that there is an interest in many people in Oxford, however much field or fundraising experience they have had, in International Development/Peace/other Countries/ Charities/whatever you call 'it', the 'it' that I'm also passionate about. So I'm starting to share more, and listen more, whenever I can get to meet these people.

So what about the cunning plan. Last words go on this. I've been blessed by a multitude of circumstances to enable me to eek out my redundancy money all the way until now. Well up to about 2 weeks from now I think...! This has meant nearly a year and a half has been dedicated to Chilli Children with time inbetween to moving myself from place to place and a good lot of time with family and friends, especially being there for big life changes: deaths, births and now a string of marriages. It may not make economic sense to some people the way I've been living my life, but it's made life sense to me. I've not been able through some efforts, and not wanted to put more effort, into finding funding for myself to do Chilli Children full time.

My commitment to Chilli Children is unwavering but time dedicated to it will now reduce to weekends. I do of course have my next trip to the Children's Project planned... 2 weeks mid Sept with 6 others including 2 Trustees Sue and Susie. I can't wait!

For now Chilli Children will continue small although not unchanging. For me I'm about to discover a new job, potentially another new home but certainly at some point a new cunning plan.

If I haven't really shown it in these blog posts, I do want you to know that at this juncture in life I'm actually incredibly happy. Sometimes so much so that I feel drunk. I won't go into all the whys. If you knew me 10 years ago, you'll know what this means. Let me just use Florence's words and say "the dog days are over, the dog days are done, the horses are coming, so you better run."

If you have followed this blog thus far: Thank you. I hope it's been of interest. It's not a complete autobiography but hopefully an interesting opening of the curtains at the window of my mind and heart over the past year and a half.

I don't know if I'll continue this blog. I feel it may be time to stop.


your sister-in-birth said...

You are so awesome. What a lot you have seen, done, and achieved since you started this journey. A lot of times you have done it in true faith, when those around you could not see the path and, though you knew it was there, you couldn't show it to them. You have shown such dedication, devotion and spirit, proving that 'family' is a big concept that can span across continents. I am so proud to be your sister.

You are just at a juncture in your journey. You are following what is being given for you to do so I know it will turn out amazingly. Later in your life you will look back on this last 18 months as something very special that not many people get to do and you will be very grateful and pleased you took these steps of faith. And what fun you had doing it!

Well done! I know another 'cunning plan'-er would be very proud too x x x

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