AVIF is an innovative online charity, assisting with sustainable development via online & onsite volunteering in rural Kenya, East Africa. We work with partner communities in the Brazilian Amazon, Greenland and Tibet too. Being virtual means negligible administration costs for worldwide impact. We believe in efficiency, honesty and transparency. WE DON'T CHARGE FEES.

".. Kenya was my first step in changing my life this is why I cherish this experience so much, as it gave me self confidence and made me know I can do anything and go anywhere and make a difference" Ingie, 2011



Written by Alison on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 19:44. Posted in Blog

Many thanks to all our volunteers for a real budget-version “first” volunteer program.

This will be the first of our Newsletters. The main site remains with our Flash-based host, Moonfruit, so please visit for updates www.avif.org.uk though we are endeavouring to go purely HTML to allow us to cater for vital accessibility and alternative functionality needs i.e. visually impaired viewers, users of older internet browsers, etc.

I'm totally over whelmed by the positive things that have come out of this Summer, for a taster, Rebecca just uploaded 171 photos onto the Yahoo site, direct link from Photo Gallery on website. www.avif.org.uk - fantastic, especially Amos the security guard in a spiderman mask, and Pam's new shoes.

AVIF is now blogging to increase visibility of the main website, you can input comments @ www.avifvolunteers.blogspot.com

We have joined forces with www.Cashback-Rewards.Co.UK, an Organisational Member of the Institute of Fundraising, for another way to raise money. AVIF receives a share of the commission from retailers involved such as Tesco, AA and American Express plus up to 95% of the commission cashback on your shopping. Cashback-Rewards boast a shopping directory with 600+ high street brands including ASDA, RAC Amercian Express and Harrods.

Similar to our BT site www.buy.at/AVIFshopping

Cashback will pay us £10 for each "friend" we refer so please forward this. In addition the owners of Cashback are kindly developing an HTML website, available soon, no change to website address.

Running with London Marathon - with UK Charity Commission still far from reachable due to our "kitchen table charity" size, registering as a Marathon Charity will be impossible. We can still offer support to runners, though. We’ll keep you posted.

Volunteering Handbook - this is now available for viewing to all enrolled volunteers. We endeavour to Invest in our Volunteers, and will always respect your views.

eBay & PayPal project for international trading is changing course. After an indepth cost-analysis, we have found it would be far cheaper and therefore far more beneficial to the communities to set up AVIF's own webshop. All proceeds will go to the craftsmen and women though AVIF will start to trade in its own right to raise funds to cover essential costs of volunteer programs. We are under advice on setting up a trading subsidiary, and slowly disappearing under the paperwork !

Womens Support Groups with Rebecca Lolosoli / Madre. Another project to fundraise for. As yet we have been unable to gain a response from Madre but wish to continue this project for the sake of ladies like Emily and Grace at LDK’s School in Nakuru.

AVIF are now a Master Distributor for EasyKard, who provide us with ATM cards for each Kenyan liaison and community group selling goods online with us. VISA back the cards, charging a small fee to set up and maintain but offer the cheapest method of UK-Kenya fund transfer.

Next volunteer programme is scheduled for December / Jan 2007 and will include homestays, visit to host families rural villages, teaching and safari. We have a new host at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, mentoring street children originally rescued from Nairobi. Due to onset of examinations in late January this program will be more suited to corporate volunteers i.e. backed and funded by employers.

Re-registering with UK Charity Commission - after problems with KPDP in Nairobi we have almost completed paperwork and expect to hear from the Commission by the end of October. Once registration is obtained this will open the floodgates to major funding opportunities and growth of our little network.

Many thanks again to our 14 wonderful volunteers. I have not received much feedback (Matt, Becca and Bev excluded) and would appreciate stories, photographs from anyone involved.

Next Newsletter due October 2006.


Rocket Science

Written by Alison on Wednesday, 20 September 2006 10:32. Posted in Blog

AVIF Volunteers in Kenya

I know I'm lucky, my children are picked up at 845 and driven to school by the mother of the boy I bring home in the afternoons. It allows me to sit down at the laptop from 9am and begin the day trawling through emails, listening to conference calls, learning about new media and now updating blogs.

This morning I decided that www.avif.org.uk would remain our static portal for volunteers and visitors who want to know more about what we do and why and how. Its a hosted, but almost hidden, website so of course we need this blog to get the word out but also because AVIF itself is far from static.

So many new things happen every day. My children ask me what I did at each school pick up and I'm normally too busy mulling over the issues that arose in the past hour, to even answer (guilt at being bad parent kicks in at this point).

In my head AVIF progresses, I see it happening, growing, branching out, but then the costs add up and progress is shelved as we have no money. END

This blog is going to help the growth of AVIF, and show just how innovative it is, faced with battle after battle. My Mantra has always been "Have my cake and eat it too", I just share it with a lot more people now.
If you can't beat them, go around them, adapt, but keep your goal in sight. Determination / stubbornness call it what you will, it demands progress.

eBay and PayPal
Events yesterday totally re-wrote my plans.
The 7 community craft groups that have been formed in Kenya since this Summers volunteer program, are slowly sending over details of the beautiful products they make, so we can sell them on their behalf via eBay's 200 million global users. Unfortunately the whole system was shut down yesterday by a Mr W from somewhere in West Yorkshire. I don't know this man, have never met him and hopefully never will, but he bought a £5 graphical calculator from me over a month ago via eBay and is claiming I sold it faulty. Following protocol, PayPal has suspended both my personal and the charity accounts, meaning we cannot post a single Kenyan craft item in auction until Mr W gets his retribution, or his £5. Of course the calculator was in perfect working order, having been used on many occasions in the physics lab at Leeds University. Unfortunately its my word against his and the 1000+ Kenyans involved in this "Trade Not Aid" project are again being held to ransom.

I'll pay the man his £5 but not before he's realised the consequences of his pitiful actions. In the meantime, the real issue, eBay and Paypal's hold on our progress, has been solved. AVIF will now open its own webshop, provided by Shopcreator Ltd of Leeds Tel: 0845 12 11 400 www.shopcreator.com an e-business & portal solutions company. It seems ideal, especially when we worked out that even with charitable rates eBay would take 35% more of the Kenyan craftspeople's profits than ShopCreator. That figure, scarily, does not include Paypal's cut, although we'll still ride piggy back on them to allow buyers to pay by credit / debit or through PayPal !

The next issue is attaining the heady heights of Charity Commission registered status, apparently opening the floodgates to thousands of pounds of monetary benefits. As Founder Trustee of AVIF I am proud of my inherent lack of respect for bureaucracy. I have been battling for registered charity status since March 2006 and have had constant knock-backs. Some of the incidents are entirely comical, including adopting a Constitution where our Aims and Objectives were actually written by the Charity Commission ! Of course they have a slight inkling of what we do, they know that my mother is also a trustee, which apparently is "terribly suspicious" she was delighted to hear. It is also a major issue that if my Mother and myself fall out, who will be the 2nd signatory on the cheques, or if one of us are away who will sign, since Sharon lives in Nairobi ?
Does the CC have a point, I guess so, except that all our banking will be done entirely online.

More recently we have been asked to produce a written pledge for £1000 because we cannot apply for registered charity status unless we have a mimimum £1000 in our bank account. Unfortunately we cannot legitimately accept that pledge until we have registered charity status. Catch 22. Of course that pledge could be from anyone, Mr W of West Yorkshire even. What counts, apparently, is that we've satisfied the minimum requirements of the Charity Commission .. (note - must add that to our Aims and Objectives).
I quote "I note that the Chair (a title given to me by the CC) is to receive an income from the organisation. Please could you provide the minutes at which this was agreed, along with details of how much she will be paid. As any related trustees have to leave the room when a decison is made in which they have a vested interest, the meeting would have been inquorate. How was the decision made that a job existed and that she was the best person to do the job?"

I'd switched off mentally after reading the word "minutes" (a procedure 100 years overdue for binning), and after looking up the word "inquorate" I realised something.
Registering with the Charity Commission is not "innovative", nor is it compulsory.

We have over 200 photographs on our Yahoo hosted photo page for people to see exactly what we do. We are real people, helping real people, with real compassion. The fact we won't be a registered charity will not affect the children in Kenya, although it may affect the adults that believe God will appear with computers and electricity one day.
I hate labels but we are a true kitchen table charity, with one aim, to help. That leaves our options open to help in any way we can. We won't be able to apply for grants but we won't be bogged down with the paperwork and expense to do so either.

Having been graciously offered the training course for free, I hope to have the new webshop up and running soon. It isn't rocket science. I know because I've studied rocket science and the mechanics ARE difficult, albeit eased by a good graphical calculator, available on eBay very cheaply!

Corporate Social Responsibility

Written by Alison on Sunday, 17 September 2006 16:06. Posted in Blog

By working in partnership with AVIF you can improve the skills and competencies of your employees and increase your brand awareness whilst making a positive contribution to your CSR and good citizenship obligations by :
  1. Allowing staff to take extended leave and be a staff volunteer on one of our programmes
  2. Integrating a development programme - sustainable community and environmental projects plus an adventure phase - in your in-house school leaver or graduate training programmes
  3. Engaging AVIF to design and deliver bespoke leadership and/or team development programmes
  4. Supporting our fundraising activities
  5. Organising your own fundraising events on our behalf
  6. Matched Payroll Giving before December 2006 with Grant possibilities up to £500 (UK only) . Please go to Payroll Giving Link on the website www.avif.org.uk and download the full guide.
  7. Charity of the Year schemes - your company could adopt AVIF programmes for a year or more, and develop a targeted programme that involves staff, customers and suppliers
  8. Sponsoring specific elements of our work by providing funding, skills and/or materials
    For more information on why we need your support, please email us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Running a Marathon for AVIF

Written by Alison on Sunday, 17 September 2006 16:02. Posted in Blog

Some reasons to run for AVIF
Why run for charity?
Opting to run a race for a charity is a fantastically rewarding experience. Even with the weeks of gruelling training that lies ahead, you are guaranteed to get a lot more out of your training and race than you need to put in! Not only will the sense of achievement at training for and completing your race be amazing, but the fact that your efforts will help a worthy cause too is a truly rewarding feeling.

Here are our top reasons why you should run with AVIF.

Saves AVIF money
Charities with guaranteed places have costs associated with buying those places from the Marathon. If you are lucky enough to have secured your own place through the race’s ballot, opting to use your place to run for a charity means that the charity will not incur the costs of that place. What you raise will be largely profit, with only a certain number of things – for example the general admin costs – having to be covered by AVIF.

Provides you with a purpose for running
Running just for running’s sake may not be enough reason for some people to take on a race. You may look at the challenge and think, ‘What’s the purpose of actually doing it other than just getting to the finish line?’. But raising valuable funds can be your very reason for doing it – although you’ll definitely derive some self satisfaction from completing the race itself, too.
MotivationWhen the dark nights have set in and the prospect of training in the cold and wet doesn’t quite seem appealing, you might be tempted to give it a miss or even consider pulling out of your race. However, if AVIF is relying on you, you won’t want to let them down, so there will be an element of compulsion to make you continue with your training – which may even give you that extra push to complete the distance on the big day.

Personal charity goal
There may be a personal reason for you wanting to run for AVIF. Running for AVIF may help you feel like you’re doing your bit that is closest to your heart. You might even be able to encourage one of your friends to run for AVIF too.

Support network
AVIF offers tremendous support and back-up to ensure that you get to the start line in the first place. They provide great support pre-race so that you are well prepared for the big day.

Gift aid benefits (UK ONLY)
If you make the decision to help out AVIF by raising funds, UK taxpayers can also benefit us even further by registering for Gift Aid, allowing AVIF to receive an extra 28%, which can make a real difference.

Helps raise awareness of AVIF
High profile race events such as marathons are great opportunities for AVIF to raise awareness of their cause. During the course of your own fundraising you‘ll also be highlighting AVIF and its efforts to all of your friends, family and those kind individuals that back you.

Gets you fit
If you are just starting out in running, training for a race can be a huge challenge – particularly if it’s a longer race such as a marathon – but, provided you do it properly, you will be fitter than you’ve probably been in some time, if not in the whole of your life. So in some respects, by running for a charity, you get something back in return – a fitter, healthier and more active you. It’s a good reason as any to get off the couch once and for all!

by Simon Doyle
Fundraising Tips from RealBuzz.Com

Posted by Alison Lowndes
Founder Trustee
ABLe Volunteers International Fund
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