Thursday, 28 July 2011

NOTW Charities - Shame on You!

When I first read the story yesterday that it had taken more than 50 telephone calls to find just three charities that would agree to be the beneficiary of a huge payment of cash stemming from the final edition of the News Of The World, I really didn't know what to think.

Read the full article here on Third Sector.

I was somewhat torn. And if you read the article all the way through to the end, you may possibly have seen my comment.

You know, I can understand (to a point) the moral sensitivities of the boards of some charities not wanting to be "tainted" with NOTW money. But I am sure the ultimate recipients - the people these noble agencies are representing - would have no such reservations. We can't even raise $500 dollars to help some kids in Peru, or money to put a new roof on a school we are associated with in Uganda, or a former journalist in Mogadishu who found himself being hunted because of his humanitarian work... they've probably never heard of NOTW. If they have any cash left, send it our way

But after sleeping on it, or rather lying in bed trying to sleep on it, I just found myself becoming increasingly agitated.

The article did not offer the names of the other 47 who turned down the generous offer, but doubtless many of you would be familiar with them. Perhaps just today you received a brochure through your letter box, or an email in your inbox, soliciting donations for their good and noble cause.

Or maybe it was an exquisitely designed full page advertisement in a national newspaper, or a slickly produced 30-second television slot timed to appear just after the nightly news had completed its coverage of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

You will have been told, no doubt, that your donation will bring light where there was darkness, offer education where there was only ignorance, bring water when there was only drought - and bring food where there was only famine.

Dead cattle, dying kids. Dust and filth. The sort of "flies in the eyes" images the larger agencies have traditionally used to tug at your heartstrings, and your pursestrings.

In most cases the video and photojournalists who work for these agencies get paid well, some of them quite handsomely. Out of your donation.

The images are then sent back to a prestigious address in the highest rent areas of London and other cities for processing, where some of the best digital editors and layout artists in the business will ensure they will be produced to a high glossy standard that you simply cannot ignore.

Again, out of your donations.

And all the time the money pours in.

Some of it goes to pay for many of the - hidden is too harsh a word - the understandable perks of being on the board of a prestigious aid or charitable agency. To be fair, having a couple of Lords or Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, Knights of the Realm on your board is an absolute necessity if you are going to reach and stay at the top of the donation food chain. So who can blame you if you spoil them, just a little, eh?

But time out. Let's stop here and make one thing absolutely clear. As someone who has been on the fringes of the aid sector for decades as a journalist, and more directly involved through our own small grassroots non-profit, I know that this goes on. To be frank, I think it is a little sleazy, but if it does do what these agencies claim - and each of those Dukes and Duchesses and minor royals are worth their weight in bringing in funds, then good luck, get on with it.

Can I seriously begrudge them their little "goodie" bags of minor treasures in exchange for the time they take out of their busy schedule to sit around a mahogany table to discuss what they can do for a bunch of skinny, half-naked people sitting hungry in their own shit around a burnt out campfire 3,000 miles away?

No, I cant.

In addition, as a non-profit that relies exclusively on volunteers working pro-bono, I actually have no issue whatsoever with professional people being paid a professional wage for doing a professional job. In fact I wholeheartedly support it. Unreservedly.

But what ticked me off about this story, was the almost blase way "these noble guardians of our donated pennies" put more stock into maintaining a fatuous moral stance against the NOTW than they did into considering the potential good that money could have done.

A popular response was, "Some members of our board were former servicemen". Good for you. Nothing quite like a spit and polish general to bring a little discipline to a meeting, eh? Well, ladies and gentlemen, so am I. An ex-serviceman. So were two of my brothers. My father. Uncountable Uncles. Some cousins and a few nephews. And many of the older ones fell in the service of their country.

Would they have condemned the NOTW for what they did? Of course. And in some very colorful language, you can be assured! But being blue-collar chaps way back to the time of the great depression, there are plenty of veterans in my extended family who have a slightly better appreciation about what being poor, hungry, homeless and hopeless is all about than perhaps many of the grand old board members do.

Don't for a second think that pride is the prerogative of the ruling classes, it isn't. But not wishing to be rude, the nobs do seem to have been standing at the back of the queue when the common sense sandwiches were handed out. And it is self evident they completely missed the "seconds" on pragmatic pudding.

So after you sent the upstart from the NOTW away with a flea in his ear, concluded your board meeting, picked up your "goodie" bags and headed off to your secluded mews cottages, or fashionable apartments, or homes in the country, morally uplifted by the stand you had made against that hateful little man Murdoch and his scurrilous tabloid - did you even once spare a thought for the child who might have been spared the prolonged and painful death from starvation - if you just had the moral fortitude to swallow your pompous pride and accept the money?

It really grieves me, but somehow I doubt you did.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Previously on 24… and lots more!

Going Dark
We're accumulating a mountain of information in respect to our 24 Hours Going Dark project.

In fact, the more we are learning - we are going down that well-worn path of realising how little we actually know about sustainability and our carbon impact.

We are still very much open to suggestions on things we should and should not be doing to make this as useful, educational - and fun - as possible.

Shirley will be off filming a documentary in China for about 5 or 6 weeks from the end of this month, so there is still plenty of time to get your ideas to us.

Possible Futures Film Contest
Two of our earlier videos have been entered into the Possible Futures Film Contest and we are hoping for a good result - especially since we plan to donate any prize to the non-profit featured. This will be especially useful for Hands Of Action Uganda, where a lack of funding recently saw them go several days on "short rations" because they did not have enough food for all of the youngsters in their care. But it would equally be valuable to HandsOn Hong Kong, allowing them to continue their magnificent work providing volunteers for the many underfunded grassroots non-profits here in the SAR.
While we'd dearly love to carry away a prize for the stated reason, please do take a look at some of the other productions, there are some really great videos competing.
The contest closes on July 19th, so there's still a few days for you to vote.
Here are the links:

The window of opportunity is closing fast to find the funds necessary to finance a production in Peru about the struggle of indigenous girls to train for a possibility of competing in the London Olympics. Click here for more details.
Journalist Tim Lindop has already done much of the groundwork, but needs about US$400 to $500 to compete the project. This really is a story worth sharing, and it has every element to make it work. Great story, amazing individuals, spectacular scenery - it works on every level. But unless we can raise the funds, it won't happen, which is a great pity.
We're now investigating "crowdfunding" and other methods of raising money so we will always have a sum available to finance projects like this.

18 Days in Tahrir
There's also only a few days left for an Egyptian-based non-profit to contact us regarding a genuine opportunity for sponsorship. A journalist-author colleague has offered to donate a percentage of his upcoming book to a grassroots organisation working with the families of the victims of the violence, or a group promoting women's rights. If you know of such a group, please do contact us asap!

Please do follow us on twitter to keep up to date with all the above, and lots more. We've been blessed to make contact with several groups doing valuable work in areas from combating child abuse to sustainability. Follow ours and their progress via @chrisgelken

Chris & Shirley

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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Olympic Dreams in Quechua - Filming Project in Peru

You may remember a few months ago we told you about a colleague filmmaker, Tim Lindop, who suggested an amazing project in Peru.

Indigenous girls from poor backgrounds training to compete in the London Olympics. Despite many obstacles; poverty, lack of modern training equipment etc, they are demonstrating they are likely to give anyone from the traditional sporting nations a real run for their money.

Amazing and dramatic location, a story of guts and determination - it really is a tale just begging to be told.

Tim has done most of the groundwork, contacted the folks necessary for permission to film and secured the cooperation of the training camp.

However, as always, it comes down to the money.

We can hire a "shooter" using his own equipment to do the filming under the direction of Tim, who will also conduct the interviews and do the necessary translations for an English speaking audience.

Editing, audio, subtitling and dubbing will be done by the Ridealist crew here in Hong Kong.

This is shoestring "guerrilla" filmmaking - to make it happen, we need between 400 to 500 dollars. And somewhat urgently.

For personal reasons Tim will be leaving Peru by the end of this month, so from today - we have about 20 days to get the cash to hire the cameraman and do the filming.

Your help is essential to make this happen.

Chris & Shirley

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Friday, 8 July 2011

18 Days in Tahrir Square

Ridealist has been approached by a reputable journalist and author who wishes to donate a percentage of the gross profits from an upcoming book to support a local non-profit organisation in Egypt, and possibly collaborate with them to publicize their work.

In particular he is interested in contacting NGOs and grassroots non-profits who are working with the families of people killed or injured during those unprecedented 18 days in Tahrir Square.

This includes local Egyptian civilians and, if possible, journalists.

He is also keen to make contact with other groups working in Egypt to further women's rights.

The window of opportunity to take up this unique offer is closing rapidly, so your speedy response would be appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you!

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A Possible Futures Film Competition

Would you like to see a small grassroots group in Uganda achieve their goal of providing care and education to children orphaned by AIDS, and of alleviating crushing poverty through self-managed and sustainable agriculture?

Of course you would! Who wouldn't?

How about supporting an organization in Hong Kong that works tirelessly to help the hundreds of small and underfunded NPOs and charities here to get enough volunteers to ensure their projects meet their goals? Absolutely. No question.

Well you can help. And it is easier than you think.

Vote for Ridealist in the 'A Possible Futures Film Competition.'

We have two short videos entered in two separate categories, and you can vote for both:

When you click on the links you will see a big red tab next to the video "Click here to vote for this film."

This is where you want to be! This is the tab you need to click.

It will open up a new window in your browser where it will ask you to register to vote.

You will need to input your name, email address and a few other details.

It is a fairly short process and will take you no time at all. You will then then receive an email from Possible Futures with a link to activate your voting account.

Go back to the film and click on the "vote" tab to vote for the film.

Very important note of caution!! Please don't be confused by the Facebook-style "like" button. In fact, the best thing to do is ignore it! While it is nice to get likes, a "like" is not the same as a vote, and it doesn't count toward our total of votes. The film with the most "votes" NOT the most "likes" will win the competition.

There are some stunningly well produced videos in the running, so getting a place in the awards will be tough.

But with your help, if Ridealist is lucky enough to finish with an award - the prize will be donated to the NPO featured in the film.

You can imagine how far 1,000 U.S. dollars might go toward buying some farming tools, or a couple of dozen goats etc for Hands of Action Uganda - or help HOHK maintain their extremely high standard and efficient service to the small but vitally essential grassroots NPOs serving Hong Kong's less fortunate.

In addition, an honourable mention in the awards could assist Ridealist in seeking sponsorship, enabling us to continue providing services to grassroots community groups on a completely pro-bono, volunteer basis.

Thanks for your support! Vote today!

Chris & Shirley

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Saturday, 2 July 2011

A double whammy…

Would you like to see a small grassroots group in Uganda achieve their goal of providing care and education to children orphaned by AIDS and of alleviating poverty through self-managed and sustainable agriculture? Of course! Who wouldn't?

How about an organization in Hong Kong that works tirelessly to ensure that the hundreds of small and underfunded NPOs and charities here always have enough volunteers to ensure their projects meet their goals? Absolutely. No question.

Well you can help. And it is easier than you think.

We have two short videos entered into the Possible Futures Film Competition -

If you can spare just a minute to "click here to vote for this film" and register as a voter, not only can you vote for the two above videos - but you can vote for any of the others too.. and there are some really well produced videos there! They all deserve a chance to win the prize. Show them your support - vote for them all! (If there is overwhelming support for all the videos, perhaps the sponsors will up the ante a bit next year regarding the value of the prizes!)

If Ridealist is fortunate enough to finish in the "prizes" - then any cash or goods will be donated to the NPO featured in the film.

You can imagine how far 1,000 U.S. dollars might go toward buying some farming tools, a couple of dozen more goats etc for the initiative in Uganda - or to help HOHK maintain their extremely high standard and efficient help to the small but essential grassroots NPOs serving Hong Kong's less fortunate.

And as award winners, Ridealist might be able to translate that honour into potential corporate sponsorship to keep our volunteer/pro-bono operation going.

That folks, is a double whammy. Vote today!

And if you are getting enthusiastic about some of the things you can do online, you might consider visiting - a group we have been supporting with a daily vote - takes just a second or two to sign up.

And there are other dozens of other worthy groups there too that you might consider supporting.

If we have whetted your appetite, head over to - very lively, friendly, and you can donate a tweet a day - fully automatic, you can actually be asleep when the donated tweet goes out to your followers in different time zones.

We also do the same to help children recover from trauma after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami @operationSAFE

There are so many more, and we're just getting started.

With the tools we now have at our disposal, it is so easy to make a daily contribution to a worthwhile cause. You can even do it while you are asleep!

We hope you've been inspired, even just a little bit!

Chris & Shirley

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Making a difference can be a just few mouse clicks away...

Searching for the power of 1!

Shirley and I decided to embrace social media because we believe there are an incalculable number of people out there who would like to make a contribution to creating a better society, but are often held back by some misguided notion that it will cost them money they really can't spare; make demands on time they really don't have; they have no special talents.

We can empathize with their situation. In fact, everyone in the Third Sector has probably felt something very similar at one time or another.

But what if there was a way everyone could contribute? In fact, make a dramatic contribution, with just a few seconds of your time, no cash outlay, and no need for an advanced degree in medicine, administration, or some environmental science?

For those of you on twitter - re-tweeting or sharing things that interest you, that move you, that capture your attention can have a remarkable impact.

Share these ideas or initiatives with your followers. One mouse click. And you have spread the word of a worthy cause. You have become a goodwill messenger. A goodwill ambassador if you like. You may never know, but one of your followers might also retweet - and the word spreads until ultimately it reaches someone who can make a direct impression, whether financially, technically, or politically.

And it was just your single mouse click that did it.

Even if you make a habit of just doing one a day, you can go to sleep at night wondering if your retweet is already changing a life in a positive way. Let your imagination fly. You did something that you can feel proud of.

In this wonderfully wired world of ours, your tweet or retweet is being read and shared again. You are a changemaker.

I can't think of a nicer way to fall asleep, can you?

Much the same applies to Facebook and LinkedIn.

A share on FB, or transfering the link of a great article on LinkedIn to your FB or twitter account - it all makes a difference.

Think about it for a few minutes.

You all have the means to be changemakers - each and everyone of you.

And it isn't all about doing good for others, the environment or animals.

It is about doing good for you too.

You will be amazed at how even doing the simplest thing, just one time a day, can help change your outlook on life.

And who knows, the person you ultimately help might be someone you know.

It might be you.

The power of millions is made up of individuals. The power of 1. YOU!

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