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Photo: Mike Lusmore/Duckrabbit/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Aid: honestly, there's a lot more to it than stats

13 June 2016
Author: Ben Jackson

If you've been reading certain doom-filled parts of the media over the last couple of weeks you may think that the debate about aid centres on numbers.

Screaming headlines talk about millions, billions or strato-trillions of taxpayers money as blustering aid haters forget that the UK's commitment to the poorest only costs us 7p in every £10 of our national income. They forget that the world spends more on ice cream than on helping those in humanitarian need.

We reached out to our network of civil society organisations and asked them why the people that receive and manage think that UK taxpayers should be #ProudOfAid.

Bikash Ranjan Chakrobarty, farmer in Bangladesh

"Life is not so easy in my area. Flash floods mean that land remains under water for almost six to eight months every year. This combined with the fact that we can only harvest rice once a year means that food prices are always going up and down."

Islamic Relief Bangladesh, funded by UK aid, gave Bikash a hand up by giving him salt-resistant pumpkin seeds that survive the floods so he could get a harvest all year round. They also gave him training on how to mobilize local resources and support entrepreneurial initiatives.

 I feel happy when people come to me for advice. I can use my knowledge to help others.

"The pumpkins are a profitable enterprise and fuel the passion for cultivating the crop with farmers like me. People across my community come to ask me about pumpkins now."

Shila Dhakal, teacher in Nepal

The earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 destroyed many houses and schools. Children were traumatised and worried about going back into buildings. VSO, funded by UK aid, trained teachers in trauma counselling to help students overcome the trauma of the earthquake.

"We are lucky to be alive. But with the frequent aftershocks everyone is worried that the standing houses will also collapse. Many students fear that an earthquake will strike again when they’re in school.

VSO's trauma counselling training helped me bring students back to school. Many students were traumatised and as a teacher I visited them at home to encourage them to return. I gave them counselling and taught them what to do should another earthquake strike.

Many students fear that an earthquake will strike again when they’re in school. VSO’s trauma counselling training helped me bring students back to school.

Being a teacher in Nepal is about more than just teaching at school. Teachers in the village are viewed as authoritative figures and people depend on us in many ways, even in an emergency.

Now thanks to VSO's first aid training, I can provide basic treatment and prevent a situation from getting worse. I'll be sharing the skills and knowledge gained from VSO with my fellow teachers and other members of the community."

Dum Ream in Cambodia

Dum Ream in Cambodia

Age International, working through their partner HelpAge, organise older people's associations across the world. These associations are self-help groups of older people who often care for their grandchildren like Dum Ream from Cambodia does. The associations often provide small loans on extremely cheap interest rates to each other.

"Three of my grandchildren live with me. Their father passed away and their mother remarried, so I look after them now. It is very difficult for someone older like me to look after young kids, but they are my grandchildren, so I had to take this challenge on.

Through the older people's association, I got a loan of £35 for my business of making rice noodles. They only charge two per cent interest and I will pay it back as soon as I can. I sell them in front of my house as I no longer have the energy to carry them over long distances. I do this because I want my grandchildren to have an education. I would prefer to deprive myself so that my grandchildren can succeed. I will continue fighting for them until the day I die."

Visit our Aid hub and share your reasons for being #ProudOfAid.

About the author

Ben Jackson
United Purpose

Ben Jackson is global director of innovation and partnerships at United Purpose.