Changing lives by thinking small

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There are a vast number of small charities all over the world who do a wonderful job. You’ve probably never even heard of them. They don’t have swanky offices or air-conditioned Land Rovers or money to spend on expensive advertising. Every penny goes to people in need. But they struggle to survive because they simply can’t afford their own fund-raising operations.

I have spent many years working in third world countries – mostly in Africa – and have been hugely impressed by what they do. I have also noticed over the years that many people would like to help these “kitchen table” charities but they’re not sure how to go about it. When I wrote about this recently (click here to read the article published in the Daily Telegraph, or here to read the article published in the Daily Mail) I had letters from thousands of people offering help. That’s why I set up the Kitchen Table Charities Trust.

The money we raise is fed directly to the smallest charities. We choose those whose work we can assess and monitor. I have either seen them myself or know someone who has and can offer an independent assessment.

Many of them work with children – often orphans whose parents might have died from Aids and end up on the streets of big cities. Without help they might turn to crime or prostitution and face an early death from dreadful diseases. Another charity helps polio victims who are forced to beg for a living. They train them to make marvellous metal sculptures from old junk. Other charities make small loans to widows who use the money to set up little businesses. Another teaches skills such as carpentry to young boys. Another runs a cancer hospice. A small hospital restores the sight of people with cataracts.

The one thing they have in common is that whatever money they have is spent in the local area on the people most in need. That not only helps the most vulnerable but, in the longer term, helps the country to stand on its own feet. If a child is educated or taught a skill or has his or her sight restored, they can help others in return.

We at the KTCT think this is what matters. We are not interested in charity as a big business. We believe that charity is about individuals helping other individuals with the minimum of bureaucracy and needless expense. That is why we exist.

John Humphrys