‘If it’s a choice between taking care of your own family or giving something to charity, then the choice is going to be obvious,’ says Geri Mitchell, a volunteer with Dubai-registered non-profit organisation All As One. Mitchell is referring to the economic crisis and its impact on charities. At a time when everyone’s belts are being buckled as tight as can be, donating to good causes is slipping down the list of priorities for many people. Only last week, a volunteer at Dubai’s City of Hope women and children’s shelter told Time Out that she had not received a donation since November. And for All As One, things are becoming very difficult indeed.
All As One is a non-governmental organisation that offers aid to the children of Sierra Leone. Its Dubai office is licensed through International Humanitarian City, but restrictions to this licence mean that only private donations can be given in Dubai. Elsewhere, the organisation’s ‘sponsor a child’ scheme helps raise the funds that are crucial to running All As One’s facilities in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Here, a children’s centre provides care for orphaned and abandoned children. There is also
a school, which educates children in their care and in the wider community, and a clinic supplying preventative intervention and medical treatment.
The cost of running these facilities is no small matter. ‘At the orphanage the care givers, the cleaners and the cooks, are all locally employed,’ explains Mitchell. ‘So we have ongoing expenses that our sponsors were covering, but now that sponsorship is depleting.’
There are no government-funded child welfare programmes in Sierra Leone. It is a particularly underprivileged country. War and the subsequent return of refugees have taken their toll on the economy and, alongside poverty, HIV and AIDS are prevalent. Children are orphaned or abandoned regularly – in one instance a young boy was dropped over the gates of All As One’s children’s centre, for a volunteer to later find him laying in the dirt.
All As One had recently bought a plot of land to create a self-contained centre with a school and medical facilities for the whole community. Those plans are now on the backburner. As donations drop, the organisation finds itself in the unenviable position of having to prioritise. ‘It may have to be a case of cutting back on the non-essentials,’ admits Mitchell. ‘The worst case is we won’t be able to take any more children in, we’ll have to prioritise the children that are already there. That’s the sad part.’
Financially, now is a difficult time for everybody. But for those who need money most, the effects could be particularly devastating. However, Mitchell is more than grateful to those people who continue to donate, despite the economic difficulties. ‘We appreciate everything we get,’ she says. ‘We’re thankful for what our sponsors give for as long as they can give it.
Sierra Leone: The facts
• Sierra Leone has the world’s worst infant mortality rate – one in four children die before reaching the age of five
• Sixty-four per cent of the population does not have access to medical care
• Sierra Leone is ranked last out of 177 countries evaluated by the UN, in an index comparing poverty, life expectancy, literacy and education
Find out more about All As One’s work by visiting www.aaodubai.org