Making donations count

By RASHVINJEET S. BEDI and JOSEPH LOH

Malaysians, by nature, have always been willing to donate to help victims of natural disasters. However, some have misgivings that the funds do not always reach the intended victims. Is this the case?

MALAYSIANS are a generous lot. In times of need, they will not hesitate to dig deep into their pockets and donate to people and communities around the world afflicted by natural disasters.

In 2005, for example, Mercy Malaysia, an organisation that focuses on health-related relief efforts, managed to collect about RM24mil for the Tsunami Relief Fund. In the same year, they managed to collect RM4mil for the Pakistan Relief Fund.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia has to date collected approximately RM2mil for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in Sichuan, China.

While Malaysians are willing to donate, many are sceptical that their donations actually reach the affected. One such person, G. Rajeswari, 26, says she thinks twice before donating money for such a cause.

I have heard stories of aid not actually reaching the people, especially for the tsunami cause. I would rather buy packets of noodles and hand them to the victims if I could do that, she says.

Doing good hands-on

Another sceptic, Philip See, echoes this view.

If I see a Myanmarese waiter here, I would give him an extra tip. That way, I know that I have helped at least one person whose family is in need, he says.
nstead of donating and not knowing where his money went, Soh Beng Beck decided to take his altruistic inclinations to another level.

A volunteer with Tzu Chi for two and a half years, he says: I joined (Tzu Chi) because of its humanitarianism. It teaches us that when we have gained so much in life, it is always good to give back.

He recalls that in the past he used to donate to calls for help, but he never knew if it actually reached the recipient.
Here, you find that everything is very straightforward, and if we want to help, we will always go directly to the affected party. There is no one in between.

Tan Chee Wei, a spokesperson for Tzu Chi, says that while natural disasters are devastating events, they provide everyone with the opportunity to give back and serve humanity.

He adds that each situation presents different challenges and obstacles and has to be approached differently. What remains constant is the immediate needs of the victims.

The first to go is always the medical team, followed by food relief, he says.
According to Liew Tong Ngan, chief executive officer of World Vision Malaysia, there are a few stages in any disaster relief work. The first would be survival and relief efforts followed by rehabilitation and community rebuilding. For long-term rebuilding of communities, an assessment has to be done to understand their needs. Aid, for example, could be in the form of rebuilding homes to helping victims find a source of income.

Liew says everything from start to end is handled by the organisation itself.

We handle the entire supply chain ourselves. Our staff from the local World Vision office are usually on the ground. If it is a country where there is no local World Vision office representation, we have a global response team that will respond and take care of distribution.

He adds that they have had a presence in Myanmar for the past 40 years and have developed a good understanding with the Government.

At the moment, World Vision has 600 staff in Myanmar who have so far delivered 120 metric tonnes of rice, 36,000 litres of water as well as medical assistance and miscellaneous relief items to nearly 130,000 people in Yangon and the delta region.

One of World Visions principles is to make sure the host country genuinely benefits. In general, monetary donations are preferred as this can be used to source items from the affected country to boost their economy.

In any case, the cost of transporting bottled water to Myanmar would be more than the actual bottled water, says Liew.

Similarly, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) does not go through third parties to render aid, says disaster management manager Nasir Khan Abdul Rahman.

We can guarantee donors that the people are receiving aid. We are always coordinating with our counterparts in Myanmar on what is needed. Whatever we get is given to the victims directly by our staff, says Nasir.
For victims in Myanmar, the MRCS has been sending items such as hygiene products, cooking kits, blankets and mosquito nets.

We send it bit by bit based on our assessment on what is needed, he says, adding that they use Mas Kargos services and get an exemption on terminal charges.

Nasir shares that 90-95% of donations reach the intended victims but not necessarily in monetary form.

We dont simply buy things. We look at the best price we can get.

The Tzu Chi foundation has chapters and branches in 45 counties and its method of giving aid is rather unique, says Tan. The foundation formally does international relief work by way of the Tzu Chi International Humanitarian Aid Association. Though formed as recently as 2003, the Malaysian branch first collected funds for the victims of the earthquake in Gujerat, India in 2001. We collected about US$1mil (RM3.2mil) then, he says.

He explains that in order to raise funds, it is of paramount importance to gain the trust of the people and the best way is to be seen doing aid work, and also how an organisation goes about it.

One of its main tenets of giving aid is that its volunteers personally distribute supplies to the victims most of the time from door-to-door and not through any third party.

In Tzu Chi we have this saying: ‘first to arrive and last to leave’. We are not just there to have a presence, we are really doing something important.

Tan says that due to its large network of international entrepreneurs, Tzu Chi is able to provide comprehensive care and aid entirely with its own resources, and even manufactures items like instant noodles and fabrics themselves. Interestingly, its fabrics are made from recycled PET plastic bottles and made into items like tents and blankets.

Mercys general manager Mona Hanim Sheikh Mahmud believes that people have the right to know where their hard-earned money is channelled.

It is valid on the part of donors to find out how NGOs (non-governmental organisations) spend their money, just as how we want to know how the government spends taxpayers money, she said. Over 75.5% of Mercys aid efforts go towards health-related programmes, 22.7% into education and the rest for others.

Mohd Shaharuddin Asmani, Mercy Malaysia’s head of finance, admits that scepticism is common, and people often ask if Mercy receives a portion of the donations.

An open book

On their part, Mercy has been publishing its annual report for transparency. For two consecutive years it has won the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Mesra award for NGO reporting which promotes financial transparency.

Shaharuddin says they constantly make known their financial statements and activities conducted on their website. The salaries of their staff are indicated as well for example, in 2006, its staff of 30 (excluding members of the executive council) cost the organisation RM877,106.

Mercys constitution caps operating costs at 30% of total donations received. However, in 2006, their operating and fund raising expenditure was only 13%, and they are still seeking sponsors to cut this down even further.

Mercy has been received the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) certification, which is a standard that provides a definition of accountability and quality in humanitarian aid programmes the first NGO in Asia and third in the world to receive this certification.

The auditors (appointed by HAP) went to Aceh to interview beneficiaries to ensure that the programme is suitable for them, says Mona.

For the United Sikhs, a volunteer-based organisation which conducted several missions to Banda Aceh during the tsunami of 2004, communications and transportation costs constitutes 10% to 20% of funds collected. For other things such as bottled water and food, they usually get sponsorships from companies.

We do draw on expertise from among us, but for certain tasks we have no choice (but to hire people). Everything else is on the volunteer’s own time, says Harbinder Singh, the project coordinator of United Sikhs Myanmar Disaster Relief in Malaysia.

For bigger organisations, a large portion of funds is channelled into maintaining their systems and operations, as they have to be in a constant state of preparedness.

They would have professionals to work and run systems. That would definitely take up more resources, says Harbinder.

Like other organisations, United Sikhs value the importance of accountability and transparency.

Our claims are backed up with receipts and people can access the report after the mission has been closed, says Harbinder.

Tan explains that the Tzu Chi foundation maintains an international disaster relief fund but says: Some will be concerned about whether the money they donate will be channelled to the victims, but money is not the main concern for the victims. Relief aid (such as medicine, food, clothing) is more useful to them. We are not giving money to the victims, but aid reaches them in many forms.

Duty of donors

Despite China being hit by many disasters this year, such as extreme snowstorms and earthquakes, Malaysians are still willing to donate. Fortunately, they are not suffering from compassion fatigue (situation where willingness to give is reduced due to re-occurring calls for donations) yet.

We are happy that Malaysians still want to do something, says Liew.

He believes that Malaysians are more trusting compared to their counterparts in the West who demand for reports or accounts.

It is the responsibility of the donor to ask and get the reports, says Liew. He adds that people should not be overly suspicious, yet there is nothing wrong in seeking accountability.

Fundraising and events senior officer G. Anuradha stresses that organisations such as Mercy need to maintain a cash reserve, as disasters can happen anytime and immediate funding is needed.

Most of the time we wait for a disaster to happen. We have to be proactive and prepare for the worst. It would be good to donate (to any NGO). A little donation can make a big difference, she says.

The Star

I wonder where do all the local donations goes to ? I mean the ones thru the newspapers, thru schools, thru big corporate co. ? maybe they should think of channelling these collected funds thru one of the above mentioned NGOs. I personally would think the the one to pick should be the ones whom are taking care of these victims well until they get their lives back. And the only NGO I know doing that is Tzu Chi foundation. Look at their past records at Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc.

Heads up people… but don’t let your wallet fall out !

This posting has been editted because of the poster’s disregard/violation to the agreed Terms & Conditions. Repeating offenders would be banned without further notice.

[quote=“Scarado”]How could i get easy money for myself?, I’m in serious debt =( ?
I really2 need money… To make it easy, i was cheated by someone and have to borrowed others’ money to solve it… I am really2 need money now… If there are my friends out there, could you please bank in to me? I’m only need a few money to eat… I’m using a bank account at MAYBANK. My account number is 156169096710. For those who can’t help me by bank in, please tell me how could i get money to live life as a normal person.[/quote]

:shock:

[quote=“Scarado”]How could i get easy money for myself?, I’m in serious debt =( ?
I really2 need money… To make it easy, i was cheated by someone and have to borrowed others’ money to solve it… I am really2 need money now… If there are my friends out there, could you please bank in to me? I’m only need a few money to eat… I’m using a bank account at MAYBANK. My account number is 156169096710. For those who can’t help me by bank in, please tell me how could i get money to live life as a normal person.[/quote]

huh?where do you live?go to college fajar by tomorrow,i belanja you a bowl of kolo mee… :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

scarado, just post your full name and ic here… if got photo better still… there are some naturally nice people here, i’m sure they will show you some kindness…

hehehe…if he is really poor,why he still got money to online?

you can find out his name easily anyway…

aiyo, this is the info age, he got frens who let him borrow their pc to online mah… can online no need to makan also can…

how hor? i’m not a whizz kid like you lah… not any more at least… :oops:

Found out liaw, I think he’s quite young…(Just a guess)
And he’s a Malay… Scarado, should you try to voice out
your concerns here I’m sure fellow forumates would not
hesitate to help offer any advice and guidance…

Anyhow good luck and all the best, do not give up…