“Philanthropy should be about caring for all the points on this magnificent web and ensuring an open and easy flow of every currency that circulates between them – of rights, funds, ideas and opportunities – because they are shared. More and more we are seeing this as the work of GoPhil.”
– by Lydia Dean, GoPhil Co-Founder
Amrita is a 12-year-old former child laborer from a migrant family in India, considered by her own society to be beneath the level of an “untouchable,” but she successfully graduates from secondary school. A future bright with possibilities is laid out before her — an accomplishment that in her family and community, most of whom have never set foot in a classroom, is considered unimaginable. Amrita was offered this chance of a lifetime after a brave human rights activist marched into the brick kilns where Amrita and her family were trapped in a vicious cycle of modern day slavery and demanded that Amrita have access to her childhood, including her right to education.
This courageous warrior has put a near stop to the child labor market in the brick kilns across her region. This too, is an almost unimaginable success. How did she accomplish this?
Through a variety of seemingly unrelated support from various channels — from a traveler who met her and was so inspired that he sold all of his belongings and devoted his life to helping her, through donations made by local people and businesses who opened their eyes to what was happening in their backyards. She received help from a small foundation in the United States who spread the word and generated funds to help with the basic operating costs of her NGO and by securing donors to sponsor children she rescued. Within the foundation is a kind woman who offered to volunteer her free time sharing precious information: letters, photos and school reports between the sponsored children and their donors living thousands of miles apart.
Amrita is one of these children.
So what do all of these moving parts have to do with one another? Absolutely everything.
I believe this exemplifies how the whole idea of “giving” is so very complex, and why we at GoPhil are constantly saying that it is not merely about a one-way transaction. The story I describe above is but one of hundreds that we experience at GoPhil in any given year as we work in lock-step with thirty plus dedicated community-based programs driven by people who refuse to accept a lack of basic human rights in their villages and communities. The story reflects an interconnectedness that we might never completely comprehend. It convinces us that it is not about the actions of a single individual that changes the fate for the Amrita’s of the world, but the decisions and support of many who decided to make a move. We are quite certain that the positive shifts we see within the under-represented and marginalized places on our planet are the result of a confluence of people and organizations who have become alive and fully awakened to the world’s weaknesses.
There is always a great deal of focus in philanthropy on the end result – the deserving child from a disadvantaged background achieving her full potential. We should be careful though, in becoming too laser-focused on just one singular impact. There are many unexpected results along the way to make room for which we may not have been looking for at the outset – the serendipitous side of cause and effect. More importantly though, we risk missing the importance of making sure that everyone who was a part of the success unfolds and reaches their full potential as well. The wellness of one affects the whole, and vise versa – yours and mine included. Philanthropy should be about caring for all the points on this magnificent web and ensuring an open and easy flow of every currency that circulates between them – of rights, funds, ideas and opportunities – because they are shared. More and more we are seeing this as the work of GoPhil.
The end of the year always brings with it the task of writing the GoPhil Annual Report. While some organizations groan over this yearly project, we are learning to view it in another way. It is a chance to look back and be honest about what worked well and where we may have gotten stuck. It provides a unique vantage point to view the health of each piece of the philanthropic landscape – the programs we hold hands with, the people who travel with us, the changemakers on the frontline, those who donate so generously, and everyone who spends their days within the interior of GoPhil operations. Last but not least, we constantly consider the strength of our next generation whom we know are striving to rewrite the uglier parts of human history.
This year a big lightbulb went on for me. When I took a specific look at the various roadblocks we encountered throughout the year, I noticed something rather amazing. Normally in those moments of challenge, there was something that was lacking – funding, time or skills, either internally at GoPhil or within our network of partner NGOs. Incredibly, in almost each and every instance, someone stepped up to the plate to compensate, fill in the gaps, and keep the web intact.
When we experienced challenges internally with a volume of work that exceeded what a mostly volunteer team could manage, people stepped forth to share the load. The gracious loyalty of our Founder’s Circle – a group of dedicated donors committed to investing in our internal growth – provided funds to hire additional staff. Where one donor could no longer contribute to a program with critical needs, another stepped in. As we needed to cast a wider and broader net to help bring more voice to indigenous communities, ambassadors mobilized and held hub meetings in their homes and community centers. When there wasn’t enough money in the pot to provide several programs larger individual grants, groups of NGOs bonded together to share and collaborate on small seed grants. And the list goes on…
We will leave this here for the moment, recording all of these beautiful details, and at times the not-so-beautiful ones, for this year’s Annual Report coming soon.
For now – we all want to send the warmest wishes to all who have been a part of this amazing journey and we wish everyone the very best as we round out this year and ring in the next.
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