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!