The subject of giving to charity is always an interesting one. Why do people choose to give to charity and how do they choose one charity to focus on?
The latest post in our inspiring series of donor testimonials is from Sam Butler, who is Director of Fundraising for his chosen charity, Tibet Relief Fund.
What charity do you support, Sam?
I support the Tibet Relief Fund. I first heard about them at a wedding during a best man’s speech in the late 90’s, and now find myself working here.
Initially, I helped through directly supporting my friend whenever he organised an event in support of them, but now find myself working here, and directly responsible for raising funds for them!
In 2017 I had my first trip out to India, where over 120,000 Tibetans now live in exile. There is a huge amount of poverty, especially in the Northern scattered Tibetan settlements, where the first generation of Tibetans to flee Tibet have lived in harder to reach locations. Many who are now in their late 60’s and 70’s and crossed the Himalayas as children in 1959, find working hard and have little to no access to medicine and healthcare.
Tibetan culture is so rich, and although most people will have heard of the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan Buddhism, it is the day to day living that many face that I feel is a story no longer told. The awareness levels of what the everyday Tibetan is experiencing has not been told loudly enough, China’s influence within the media and over the West’s economy, means that the narrative of China’s occupation, and the impact it has had on Tibetan’s lives, has diminished. So Tibet Relief Fund has to speak more loudly for our beneficiaries and cut through all the noise with a level of authenticity that grabs supporters attention. It is hard to do, but the team here is so dedicated we are able to punch above our weight!
And why do you give to charity?
I have always been inspired to support the underdog, and I really do believe that to be without a home nation, in exile, without access to education, and jobs, (which due to policies in place, is the case in Nepal for most Tibetans), is not giving you much of a chance in life.
I have worked with or for over 60 charities in my time as a fundraiser. Most when I worked for an agency that facilitated fundraising for our clients, but there is a unique set of challenges to overcome at Tibet Relief Fund that I find incredibly captivating.
The first is Tibet itself. There is a slightly romanticised version of what being Tibetan means. We have mystified this culture with folklore and Tibetan Buddhism. Having to cut through that and educate people on the truth and reality of what most Tibetans face day-to-day I find an enjoyable challenge.
On my first visit, I was at the Noenga school for disabled children, close to Rajpur in North India. The school’s teachers are amazing, and their dedication to the children and their wellbeing shone through. The school needs funds for repairs and resources to maintain and upkeep the grounds, yet the spirit of the children shone through. This is a photo of me with some of them that I love so much. A universal sign for everyone!
What benefits have you seen from working with your chosen charity?
Delivering the benefits are so instantaneous in some aspects of our work, whilst others are long-term, and command more focus, energy and planning to deliver.
A good example of an instant impact would be the communal area that we developed for a home for the elders in Dekyling with sofas and some carpets and softer furnishings. The impact that this had for the elders that live there was incredible. It brought the community together and helped to reduce the level of loneliness and isolation that many of them had felt in the past.
An example of a project that required longer-term support, is the rebuilding of a Tibetan community called Bakhang in Nepal. In 2015 the village was reduced to rubble in the earthquake. The community is so remote, it has taken since then to complete the rebuilding of the school and the homes of those most at-risk. Tibet Relief Fund has worked closely with Build Up Nepal to teach and train the locals in building skills, utilising local earth and rock to make earth bricks, and using reinforced steel in the foundations to improve the earthquake resistance of the new homes.
In these two examples, and so many in between, I am in awe of the individuals that become leaders within these communities, and drive the change forward. More often than not, they are incredibly strong-willed women, with young children and an infectious personality, that cajole and rally their peers to join in.
It is hard to do, but the team here is so dedicated we are able to punch above our weight! Our latest online awareness campaign gives people that require more insight a real understanding of our work, directly from some of our Tibetan beneficiaries.