From lunchtime circus school meals to emergency blankets
By John Norgrove
11 March 2012
Every week we go to Linda’s grave with some flowers. Linda is buried alongside the grave of my parents in a lovely graveyard overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland. Every week of 2011, I’ve looked up and seen my parent’s gravestone and been reminded that my mum died in 2008, my dad in 2009 and my daughter in 2010. I just wanted to get to the end of 2011 with the rest of my family intact; and we did. And I’m grateful.
One of the best things about running a small charity is that we can make quick decisions about what to fund and what to pass by. It’s great not being constrained by policies and bureaucracies and structure plans and mission statements and all that corporate stuff.
In January the Foundation funded lunchtime meals for Afghan kids attending an out of school hours circus school. They learn juggling (which Linda was quite good at incidentally), acrobatics, theatre and magic tricks. They undertake performances all over the country and even abroad in Italy, Denmark and Japan. Lunchtime meals provide much needed sustenance for poorer children in a country where malnutrition is much more prevalent than we think. But more than that, this school provides relief and some brightness in a world where optimism must appear misplaced at times and deserves supporting just for that. And it’s run by Afghans and one westerner.
December’s project was entirely different. We funded an emergency shipment to a state-run orphanage in the northeast of the country – mattresses, blankets, warm clothing, food to supplement their diet, firewood. It can be really cold in this area during the winter; well below freezing and some of the children didn’t have any shoes, let alone socks.
The problem is that the funds that the government allocates disappear into officials’ pockets all the way along the line and so there isn’t enough to feed the children at the sharp end. We understand that there was an orphanage visited a few years back where the daily food ration was six beans per child per day.
So we also funded travel costs for the government minister for orphanages to visit the northeast. This is something that hasn’t happened within the last five years to our partner NGO’s knowledge. This guy was an orphan himself and has done some good work over the past year improving management of the orphanages in Kabul. And he confronted the management at the institutions and organised independent reporting chains so that he can keep up to date with the situation at the orphanage. Without this, the mattresses would likely have been sold and the food taken home to feed employees’ families.
There was an article about this in the New York Times and the government has taken steps to improve matters, but there’s a long road to travel – we’re not in Purley here. Nor do we want the Afghans to change overmuch –but please, let’s have the orphans with shoes and socks and a mattress each to lie on and a blanket.
We made this happen with money from you. And it’s this that is the buzz.
And an update
Regular readers may recall my unashamed endorsement in May last year of Andrex Gorgeous Comfort Quilts when I espoused the benfits of choice: feeling smug saving the environment with the single sheet option or revelling in the occasional luxury of the total safety of a double.
I approached Andrex to see if they might contribute to the Foundation for this unashamed product placement. I received an email back from them which started, ‘Thank you for contacting Kimberly-Clark Corporation with your request for support. We appreciate the opportunity to respond and would like to tell you a little about our charitable activities.’
I think that you can guess where the email went after that. They clearly have rooms full of polyester clad premature … sorry; censored again. Surrounded by women here, full of concern for possible offence. Sometimes I think back with longing to all of the years I spent in rooms full of politically incorrect engineers.