Frankly, when it comes to run-away self-importance, questionable office politics, general backstabbing, random empire building and impressive inefficiency, non-government organizations (NGOs) often rival the most ineffective bureaucracies.
That said, the project of working with the people at the dump has no aspirations of expanding, setting up an office or doing any forward planning for grants. Rather we – that translates as whoever happens to be around that particular day – want to stay small and only work with people we know. Someone suggested I recruit volunteers to help out with organized programs. Given the choice between that and chewing on broken glass I would opt for the latter.
The administrative set-up for Down in the Dumps is slack. Nick is the official tu-tuk driver, Vichika is our person-on-the-ground and she gets five-percent for being our contact and distributor. Frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue about how to fairly divvy up 50 kgs of rice amongst the 35 households. My share is that I cover the costs of the tuk-tuk rides — $10 a visit – and the photographs. Other people involved include: Paul, who comes along to help and make the collages; Skip who offers ideas; and Todd, who is about to become our official photographer.
What does the Down in the Dumps do with the money we get? Although book-keeping doesn’t exist in my personal life, I am fastidious about accounting for every riel spent on the dump project.
When Bank Iris donated $400 we bought a 50 kg bag of rice and some fruit. The next time we showed up with some nutritious packages of seeds and nuts with packages that doubled as toys. We asked Vichika what she thought the people could use and she said “books.” Armed with the pictures of the kids, I marched into the bookshop and got an immediate 10 percent discount. With $261. left in the budget the request was for more rice, tins of fish and fruit for the kids. Tick. I divide the money into three runs – spreading it out over the next month or so – and we did the first one today and still have $171.
Then Dennis checked the shipping costs and found out it was cheaper – and easier – to send money than books. We tweaked the idea and he is now going to be a silent Santa. The kids at the dump don’t have any toys. There is one battered ball, but mostly they kick around an empty plastic water bottle. No dolls or trucks or skipping ropes. So his donation is going to make the 40 or so kids exceedingly happy.
What, exactly, can you do to help? Send $40 and we’ll take out a bag of rice with your name on it and send you the photo. Send $100 and specify that you want us to buy kids’ clothes. Done – complete with happy snaps. We don’t want massive donations that require tax receipts and accounting. Helping by dribs ad drabs is effective and doesn’t burden anyone with overwhelming responsibility. Nor does it create a dependency.
If you have $25,000 please send it to A New Day Cambodia. The people there run a low-overhead project, have the infrastructure in place and are doing great work. Check out A New Day Cambodia. Then continue on to the You Tube clip. If you want a personal account of what life is like at the dump, click on Chen Sokha.
Join us for the Down in the Dumps project. You contribution will be gratefully received and you’ll have a photo to remind you that you made a donation that counted.
Donations can be made through Paypal (email@example.com). Thank you.