Tag Archives: Marina Sturdza

My experience with charity events

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I was once at a meeting with a royalty whose lifestyle is charity-driven. Appart from curiosity about her past linked to a communist era, the audience got interested in her charity endeavours. A friend of mine asked her about how she approaches, organises and delivers charity events. She offered the following very common-sense advice: watch your expenses to avoid spending more than collecting; communicate well the reason the event is organized for; follow-up and openly report after the event to build trust.

During holidays, with the generosity spirit in the air, we might have seen charity events popping up on our facebook pages, through email advertisements or friends’ invitations. I’ve made it a tradition, over the last three years to organise something in support of the cause I adhere to. The first time, I organised a group of friends of mine to craft Christmas decorations that were sold at a fair. Together with other nine groups we collected funds enough to support daily needs of 10 child-single mother couples for a year. The next year I organised at my place a 5 o’clock tea to spread the word about the cause of single mothers and collect funds. After the event, my guests made donations to the cause. It was an undisclosed amount. I wanted to preserve the intimacy of the moment, especially for those disappointed by charities in the past, an important sensitivity to bear in mind. This year I joined with friends of mine a charity event for about one hundred people gathered to craft hand made toys to be sold at a fair to support a shelter for orphan single mothers. A friend of mine, to whom I am profoundly grateful for  accompanying me at this event, called it ” finally, a fakes-free event, with humanity, from people to people”. This year I also joined staff of an international organisation at a Christmas charity baazar with home made goodies, sold for about one thousand euro contributing to about 150000 euro collected in total at the bazaar .

That dear friend of mine gave a perfect definition to a charity event that stays faithful to its objective. So here are couple of lessons I’ve collected on my charity events organization and participation journey.
These events are about people you want to support. An individual, a group, a community. Those organising and taking part in the event are mere means to an end. Lavish charity dinners or galas are not my thing for this reason mainly.
I have also learned that those with means might not necessarily be willing to be such means to an end. They might want to steal the spot light and let you down at the last moment after offers generously made but not honoured. Their might be  reasons for that I am not here to judge. It’s important to remember that the cause you support dearly might be instill the same enthusiasm in others. And it’s ok. We all support some causes, in a way or other.Untitled

I also got to learn that often the simpler the person, the modestier his/her lifestyle, the more likely they are to respond to a call for contribution. It might be as simple as making a phone call that paper is accumulating in the office for recycling knowing that these will allow napkins and toilet paper to be bought for those who cannot afford even these “benefits of civilization”. Or taking part in crafting Christmas decorations to be sold for a good cause.

Empowered, powerful, powerless

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Empowerment – a trendy word, isn’t it? What’s actually behind it in everyday life?  Back in 1985 James C. Scott, professor at Yale University pointed out ‘power inevitably generates resistance, accommodation and strategic compliance as regular components of the politics of everyday life’.  What is essential to me is what you do with power. I came to learn about it the hard away. And I am grateful for that.

I was looking for a babysitter for my baby upon her first anniversary. Had a long list and a short list of candidates, interviewed several. At the back of my mind there was a name – a lady I knew since I was 5 years old. She used to be a caregiver in a kinder garden, two kids of her own, lived with an abusive and violent husband. She left their home once but returned upon his persistence only to live worse beatings. I followed her news only through common acquaintances.

I gave her a call. A shadow of the lively person I remembered from my childhood came to see me. We had tee in a coffee house and talked. I asked her whether she is ready to go back to work with kids (she had other jobs in the meantime). She told me she has to consult with her husband. Fine, if you have to, was my answer. She gave me a call the next day to confirm that she is coming as of next week. I took time off to let her and my baby adjust to each other, meaning I was constantly around for 3 months. I offered to pay her twice the market price for her services, in the name of ‘the best for my kid’ and out of pity for her situation. She could have rented a flat and started divorce procedures. Her two daughters , adults now, have left the house as teenagers and now even live abroad, as far as possible from the horror they lived in. One of them is disabled for life as a result of that life.

This empowerment mission of mine ended badly. I have not imagined the extent of harm her soul and mind have undergone.

My baby, who never cried during her first year of life, started shouting and biting. We also became very tense in her presence. She was constantly challenging me as a mother and wife – on the account I was still a ‘five year old girl’ she knew from past. Deceiving is how she avoided and prevented violence in her house so she started applying this tactics with us. Needless to mention the impact this had on my kid.  She wanted us to accommodate to and comply with her strategies… I was extremely furious at first, then I realized that she cannot be saved if she does not want to. If I think she lives in hell and she thinks she lives in heaven, I cannot change that. It’s a choice she made. I am powerless if she is powerless.

In was on the forth day after I restarted work that I ended our experience paying her in full and compensating for early dismissal. The bright thing about this experience is that now five women in need found employment with me. And they are happy about it. They change their lives and the lives of their kids. I am happy to have them around me and my kid. Each of them teaches me every day about loyalty, generosity, kindness. That unfortunate experience has not stopped me from sharing and empowering. The only constant I am looking for is awareness of power they have and willingness to do good, to themselves and others.

In December 2009, Marina Sturdza was attacked in Bucharest by two kids, 9 and 10 years old, when she was returning from a charity event where she managed to raise 100, 000 Euro for children in need. In her post-attack interview, she said she was not at all discouraged by the acts of the two street kids. On the contrary, she said, it shows how much still remains to be done. Clear cut lesson learned, Princess!