Most charities would agree that their work is not just about providing aid and support, but is about making lasting changes. In terms of leaving a legacy on the world, there are few more prominent charities than Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) member Islamic Relief. Their tagline “saving lives since 1984” says it all. But they would be the first to admit, their work is as much about changing lives as it is saving them.
The key phrase is ‘sustainable development’ and what Islamic Relief aim to do in the 40 countries they currently work in worldwide, is to not just provide emergency relief but to instil long term changes that can help an area or community, or an entire country with poverty, economic stability and environmental issues. Essentially, they are helping to build an infrastructure that will enable an area to eventually stand on its own two feet.
It is fair to say, in that respect, Islamic Relief has come a long way since receiving its first donation back in 1984, when the nine-year-old nephew of founder Hany El Banna donated 20 pence. Within a year they had an office in Birmingham and had raised over £100,000 to help tackle African famine. Now they have more than 100 offices all over the world and a presence in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They have also partnered with respected organisations such as the Red Cross and have received official support from HRH the Prince of Wales.
This has resulted in changing the lives of an estimated 117million people over the last 35 years, but the work of Islamic Relief is not just confined to international territories, they remain a UK-registered charity and still carry out critical work on their home shores.
In the UK, Islamic Relief have partnered with a number of community-based organisations as well as national charities, and in an increasingly challenging climate have stayed faithful to key aims:
Engage and support UK emergency response initiatives
Promote and facilitate the development of young people and their families
Combat challenges faced by women
This results in schemes to shape positive communities, build a resilience to poverty and support refugees. Sometimes it is hard for community groups to get things off the ground, and so the help of a globally-recognised charity can be invaluable in adding credibility to a scheme, as well as in providing funding and structural support. Likewise, Islamic Relief also gets support for its work in the UK from other charities such as Oxfam, British Red Cross, Fare Share and the Children’s Society.
Islamic Relief’s work in Malawi
Islamic Relief has had a presence in Malawi since 2006. This has involved food distribution, improving water supplies and sanitation and working on the irrigation facilities that are crucial to an economy largely driven by agriculture. Unfortunately, the floods and high winds of January 2015 wiped a lot of that good work out, and now a re-building scheme is well underway.
In the case of Islamic Relief, this is a very literal undertaking. The charity has committed to building 250 homes in the Blantyre and Chikwawa districts to re-house around 1250 people who have been living in ‘temporary’ camps for nearly four years. This is an appeal to raise £1.5million in total, but it will change the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
That might sound like a tall order, but when you have already changed the lives of 117million people, anything is achievable. From every £1 donated to Islamic Relief, 88p goes directly to helping people across the globe who are exposed to the most damaging impacts and conditions that life can throw at you. The remaining 12p goes towards raising funds, administration and other critical support.
So every penny counts, and when you have an organisation as proudly established and successful as Islamic Relief, you know that every penny will be well spent.
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