Something wonderful and surprising happened to me yesterday which I wanted to share with you.
It’s called Tabitha, and it’s based in Cambodia.
And yesterday, they sent me an email which included quite a few pictures. When I looked closer at the pictures, my eyes lit up a bit.
But in order for this to make any sense to you, I need to backtrack a bit.
You see, when my work started turning a profit in 2014 and I began reaping the benefits of working through the leaner startup periods, all of a sudden my lifestyle went from watching every penny to finally being able to save, go out when and where I wanted and not having to worry about money anymore.
Finally, life was good.
It was great for me, but I started asking myself whether I should be using my success to help other people.
The problem is though, I don’t have the highest regard for most of the large charities and development organisations, especially in the United Kingdom. Yes, in most cases their intentions are good, but they are usually so badly run and bureaucratic that only a fraction of the money they receive actually ends up benefitting the people who need it most. There’s also often not a desire to improve these problems, because often people who work there justify their horrendous lack of productivity or impact to themselves because they are “helping people by working at this charity”. Several of my close friends have worked in these organisations over the years and have shared horror stories with me.
Who can I support?
So I thought to myself, is there a group I know, who I am sure does good work and most importantly, who does work which I care about supporting.
This is where I thought back to the only charity I had ever really created a personal bond with, which was Tabitha back from my school days.
I grew up in Singapore, and our school supported Tabitha as a regional charity partner. When I was 16, back in the previous millenium, I went on a school development expedition to support them in Cambodia.
I spent a week there, helping build simple houses for families which could withstand flooding during the wet season. It’s an experience which changed my perspective on the world around me and which I will never forget.
In fact, the image at the top of this post is me helping to install a roof. And above is teenage Nick.
Note to everyone: I have to apologise for the unforgivable, terrible fashion choices on display here as a skinny 16 year old. You can’t see it in the top photo, but the hat I’m wearing had a mini solar panel on the top and a fan blowing onto my face. What was I thinking???
Tabitha was originally set up to help the people of Cambodia rebuild their lives after the genocide of the 1970s Khmer Rouge. This especially affected women, who often suffered incredible psychological trauma and were going through life in a state of continuous shock.
Fortunately, over the last two decades those memories have moved farther away, and the country is taking strides to develop itself.
Nowadays, the main development focus of Tabitha is in schools, small-scale savings programmes, cottage industry, house building and a women’s hospital.
But its most pressing issue is one you wouldn’t expect for a country in South-East Asia: severe drought and access to water.
The country is currently experiencing a country-wide drought which is the worst in decades. And even when the rains do come, the water it brings isn’t good enough for the people which need it.
The average distance to walk for safedrinking / cooking water in teh country is 3 kilometers. This means that several members of the family are required to wake at 4 in the morning, walk to the water source and then wait their turn for water – usually 3 to 4 hours. This precludes a number of children from attending school.
So Tabitha’s current focus is on drilling simple but effective wells for families and communities to reach groundwater, which can not only be used for domestic needs but also irrigate their small farm patches. Families with wells or ponds grow “6-week’ vegetables, including “morning glory”, peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. throughout the dry season as well as summer rice. Animal husbandry, the raising of pig, chickens, ducks are an integral part of income generation from wells. Their productive growth seasons expand from 6 months to an average of 11 months per year thereby tripling a family’s consumable income as well as providing food security.
How I chose to help
When I decided that I wanted to continue supporting Tabitha from my current work, I wanted to find a way where they would share in the my success.
So I decided on a very simple formula. I informed my accountant that I wanted to donate 5% of all my companies’ Gross Revenue to Tabitha. That includes all of my consulting work with clients, and all the revenue from IdeatoValue as well.
Last year, that came to just over £6,600, or approx $9,400. Now I know for many of you who have built up large established companies this might not seem that much, but it’s something I’m very proud of from my first three years in business. And my aim is to beat this figure every year by growing my company further.
I sent them a bank transfer every three months, based on what I had made in the previous quarter.
So, back to this email I got yesterday.
It was the UK head of the charity, informing me of the progress of the project. And when I looked at the photos, each of them showed the simple well, with my name next to (which I’ll be honest is the least important thing in the picture).
And then I saw that in each of the pictures, the ground around the well was bone-dry. Soon, these wells could transform this into a rice paddy or feeding ground for livestock, and help not only a single family but the whole local community.
That’s when I realised that for the first time, the work I was doing helping people develop their innovation and creativity capabilities here, was actually having a real impact in a country I care deeply about.
I know I wouldn’t get this feeling of impact if I had just donated the same money to a large, faceless charity.
And I aim to go back to Cambodia in the coming years and actually help them face-to-face soon as well.
So what about you?
So here is what I want you to think about. Whatever work you do as a career, you can use that to help other people you care about in whatever development project speaks to you.
Either you can donate your money or goods, so your success helps other people.
Or you can donate your time and skills, where you help people in a different way.
Whichever way you choose, you doing well in your business and personal life can help you do good for the rest of the world too.
Usually I end my articles asking people to sign up for my newsletter or try out my innovation & creativity programmes, but in this case I want to suggest you learn more about Tabitha by checking out their websites for their organisations in Cambodia and local offices in the UK, Singapore, Australia, Canada and the USA.
Do you support a charity or development group through your corporate work? How? Let me know in the comments.
Latest posts by Nick Skillicorn (see all)
- Flexing Your (Underused) Creative Muscle: my podcast interview with the Innovation Engine - November 27, 2017
- Why didn’t I think of that? A reusable, square wine barrel wins design award - November 20, 2017
- This emotional short animation shows how parents inadvertently stifle their children’s creativity - November 12, 2017
- Diminishing law of innovation returns and the problem with “better” - November 6, 2017