Who am I to choose a charity? Any charity is a good one with good intentions, so what makes this one different. I spent 3 months deciding. In India alone there are 2,000,000 NGOs, half of swhich exist on paper. How can I possibly commit myself to any of them?
During research in the field in India I repeatedly came across ActionAid's name before I came across it on paper. That's important. On this occasion what particularly struck me was their willingness to work with the government to provide education for all in the far NE of India. A remote area where I found few organisations committed. Most NGOs don't trust the government because of corruption, yet it is ultimately the Government's responsibility to provide education.
The more I've worked with ActionAid the more I've realised that they're the right people for the job they do. They have the respect of the donor community but more importantly I saw that they had the respect of the people they work for. ActionAid works with (not simply for) the poorest and neediest people over the long term so that ultimately such people can stand on their own two feet. For me that's the attitude that counts. ActionAid showed me how NGO work should be done and made me proud to dedicate this ride to raising money for an organisation that I believe in.
ActionAid is an international organisation with operations in over 45 countries around the world for almost forty years. Each program is unique to their country and each one is completely different. All the money raised from this ride will be sent directly to ActionAid programs in India, Pakistan and China, which crucially means that a local organization is using R4E donations to benefit local education in their country. Since June 2004, I have seen the work of both ActionAid Pakistan and ActionAid India at the national and community level.. I am still impressed. Below are links to ActionAid organisations in India, Pakistan and China and the work they do.
ActionAid has been working in India since 1972. This organisation works with the deprived and needy by commiting to them as a team. With over 300 partner organisations they are touching the lives of 5 million people across the sub-continent. ActionAid's operation is spread across 14 offices around the country. Each office handles local problems as well as the bigger national issues.
I encountered ActionAid for the first time in remote North East India whilst working in the field. They were working with the Assam state Government on ways to get every child in school; no matter what their background. That's the scale they work on. The organisation gives communities a voice to push for change. They give rights to people who never knew they had them; whether for an education or equality for women. All this in one of the most unequal and complicated countries in the world.
ActionAid's attitude inspired me and their work only proves it. See Website »
Pakistan has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. It may only be a small country but the diversity of it's people and geography is staggering - and so are it's problems. ActionAid Pakistan has four offices around the country dealing with issues such as Women's rights, labour issues, water management and educational needs.
Pakistan is a country where people's rights is a major issue and the Government needs pushing. In Pakistan ActionAids work is very much focused on forcing realities into the open and changing common attitudes and beliefs on mass. They run over 18 'Development Areas' and fund a number of organisations that work with minorities and needy to give them a better life (e.g. Godh). All this in a country where 'traditional' doesn't mean very far from the main road.
The 2005 Earthquake caused 1,500 dead in India and 74,000 in Pakistan. ActionAid's organisation skills in that disaster were well known as they provided order to the chaos of 'jumble sale giving.' They now have 4 offices embedded in the area and each is working flat out to keep people alive and the system working.
As in India, ActionAid is managing the Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF) in Pakistan. Education is a priority and one thing is certain. All donations received by ActionAid will be quickly given to those organisations that can give the best education to the people who really need it. See Website »
As china has slowly 'opened-up,' more NGOs have been able to start working here. It's a slow start. China could be another universe compared to the last two countries and ActionAid has had to adapt to a completely different civilisation, culture and attitudes. Since they began in 1999, their impact has vastly increased and now they are working hard to establish partnerships with another thirty organisations to give a voice to as many people as possible.
Their focus is on women's rights, rural farmers, migrant workers and China's 100 million plus minorities. Yet working in China is no easy task. It is China's philosophy that "the obligation of an individual is to society rather than the society to the individual." Local People believe that the Government is responsible for their welfare based on a thousand years of experience. Local Government believe that society counts and the individual doesn't. Changing these attitudes is one of ActionAid's biggest hurdles.
One of ActionAid China's best known projects are the Migrant worker centres in Beijing. The Chinese capital has over 3 million migrants working illegally. They have no offical status. You can imagine their treatment. The education of a child is his/her fundamental right, but no child of a migrant worker is officaly entitled one. See Website »
As one migrant mother puts it, "I want my child to go to University." If she goes she will be eligible for Beijing's hukou. Then people will respect her