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Update from Kashmir

I have been updating my blog, www.diane-emerson.blogspot.com, but not this journal. I am again in Kashmir, this time for a year to help the Hope Disability Centre, www.hopecentre.webs.com. The large multinational NGO Handicap International has partnered with small family run Hope Centre, for a 12 month project. I returned to do what I could to make the project a success, because whales swimming with minnows have different perspectives on life. I have had experience with large multinational corporations and teams, and also the world of entrepreneurs, so when Handicap International broached the subject of this project with the Hope Centre in May of last year, I realized that God had placed me here for just this reason. I promised Handicap International that if they got the European Union funding for the project, that I would return to help with it. And they did.

What none of us except Handicap International realized, was that this project has caused significant financial hardship for the small organisation. No one outside understands that. How can that be? Well, Handicap International is not coming in as a donor. They are coming in as a partner. And as a partner, the Hope Centre needs to come up with their share of the expenses. When a minnow goes to lunch with a whale, and the whale suggest to split the bill, the minnow is at a distinct disadvantage. Compounding this problem, as might be expected, Hope Centre's past supporters have said, in effect, "I am glad Handicap International is there to support you now. We can support other projects." And have walked away. I have found myself as the sole financial supporter for keeping our end of the project going. I did not expect this. I too expected that there would be no need for me to donate above my volunteer expenses, which I know exceeds the actual costs, but I willingly pay.

I share this as a lesson for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. Be very careful before accepting what appears to be a huge boost to an organisation from a much larger entity. Pay very close attention to your part of the deal. Very close.

As a result of this, I have been on a crash course in grassroots fundraising. I have figured out how to add a donate button on our website (a very good thing!), I have raised money by talking to people along Dal Lake, I have submitted an application to the India NGO Awards, and we have a design for a donations box to be placed near the door of the centre. As time permits, I will do more. Sami and I will make a visit to the Kashmiri embroiderers with disabilities, and purchase items just from them, and showcase them on our website, so people around the world can buy lovely Kashmiri embroidered purses from the people who actually made them. We will both benefit.

More volunteers would be a blessing, too. As their volunteer fee of 30,000 rupees per month covers food, lodging, transport to and from the airport, and a bit extra for the running of the Centre. These are General operating funds, which we so desperately need.

If you have any ideas for me, or would be willing to help, please let me know. The organisation is worthy of our support, and the people it helps have no other options. Diane

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