Our Donor Funds: A Closer Look

The JFA are now busy providing rehabilitative packages to certain survivors of Assam’s October 2008 terror attacks. But how did they get here? What decisions were taken to arrive at the best possible ways to spend donor funds for their first project? Editors Nironkush Rick Das and Muinul Hussain take a closer look.

Orpington/London, Wed 25 Mar 2009.

Our online campaign for the 30th October Project raised GBP 4276.00, not counting an additional GBP 827.54 claimable from HM Revenue and Customs (for non-Brits, this is the UK’s taxation authority) as Gift Aid Plus supplement.

On a High Level, the spending of donor funds would be realised at the end of a series of steps:

  1. A Base Assessment, where an initial list of possible beneficiaries was to be created – it is always heart-breaking to leave out people but we we could not have helped all the sufferers whose numbers were in hundreds; instead we chose to focus on a handful of families who would feature among those needing our help the most; Mofid Rahman and Buljit Buragohain from the Friends of Assam and the Seven Sisters (FASS) – a US-based group – lent us a (strong) hand here; they worked alongside Sameer Dutta, our Project Co-ordinator in Assam, who was as deeply involved.

  2. A Detailed Assessment of the families selected in (1) – past Base Assessment, the Steering Committee deliberated to flesh out every relevant detail of the ten families short-listed by Sameer, Mofid and Buljit. This involved huge amounts of email traffic and teleconferencing time. The motive was really to ensure we were giving aid to those who need it the most and that we determined the right type and quantity of aid to disburse. This was when we also made a decision not to award cash sums directly to the selected beneficiaries. Sameer repeatedly interviewed the families to help churn out much needed information to helped shape our decisions. The interviews largely centred on benefits that could introduce means of sustenance to these families, for example one of the widows was interested in an embroidery course that could help her start making a living as a tailor, while another had dreams of expanding her humble grocery store that could use financing.

For the Base Assessments, the key criteria that drove the decision-making were – (1) the victim is deceased and was  sole or primary bread earner of the family; and (2) the victim is survived by three or more dependents including a spouse.

The roles of ACCB and Mind India

Jayanta Sarma is the founder of the Alliance for Community Capacity Building in North East India (ACCB), a UK charity that promotes community sustenance in India’s north-eastern region which includes Assam. Luckily for us, Jayanta also sits on the JFA Steering Committee. He facilitated the collection of funds through ACCB’s infrastructure and played a strong role in JFA’s online campaign for donations.

The other charity we must not forget to thank is Mind India, who offered to help disburse donor funds sent by ACCB on our behalf. Mind India is an India based charity who have an office in Guwahati, so served as a meet up point for JFA’s people in Guwahati, particularly Sameer. Lest it be forgotten later, we must also mention Mind India sponsored office space for Sameer for the time period of running this project.

The JFA are grateful to both charities for their resourceful partnership in the project.

And finally…

This is the bit we’re truly, truly proud to announce. The funds will be used to sponsor activities for this year and – subject to positive follow-ups – the next. As of this writing, the disbursement of funds to the beneficiaries has already started. The figures below are in Indian Rupees (INR), a rough conversion being GBP 1 = INR 72. Note that the conversion rate has varied between INR 67 – 76 to GBP 1 between Dec 2008 and Mar 2009.

A total of INR 268550 (about GBP 3730) will be disbursed in the next two years to benefit sixteen individuals from ten families. Of this, INR 214550 would be released this year, the rest would cover follow-ups in the next year. The remainder has been allocated for certain follow-up activities in the next three years.

We’re hesitant to share personal details of these families, but are happy to discuss one of the cases anonymously. If you have further questions, don’t hesitant to e-mail us – see the Contact Us page for a form.

Here’s one of the cases we approved. The deceased used to be an Auto Rickshaw driver and was the primary bread earner, now survived by a widow and three children. The widow runs a pan dukan (small shop selling groceries or bric-a-brac) which hardly covers their living costs, has rent to pay and the three children – ages 10 years, 7 years and 10 months – to look after. The family was awarded compensation by the government, but part of it came to be claimed by the widow’s relatives while much of the rest was stashed away in bank deposits entrusted to her first two children. This left the lady little money to cover daily expenses including pay a rent she could ill afford. The fact the lady is illiterate hardly helps the situation. JFA agreed to fund three years of educational and living costs for the children, to entrust a bank deposit to the youngest child and to sponsor their house rent for a year. This would ease the lady’s financial pressures so letting her focus on running her pan dukan (betel nut shop) as well as taking care of her children. A total of INR 52600 has been allocated to support this family.

This was just one among ten similar examples in this project. Needless to say, donor funds have been the sole medium by which we have been able to bring smiles to a few hapless victims’ faces. We hope more and more people are motivated by examples like the above to help groups like ours achieve more such goals.