Sikat’s activities started with supporting a newly established local secondary school, the first in the community. From its initial 67 students, the attendance increased to over 300 pupils and in two years Sikat also managed to open the only public library in the region, to the delight of the adults as well as the children.
Since Sikat started assisting the Calingag Village, a lot has been achieved but more still needs to be done. For example, the school is functional but basic facilities, such as toilets, are still missing, the library building is an old rice warehouse not ideal to store books or particularly user friendly and small children have to accompany their parents to work because there is no childcare provided for the youngest children in the area. With no other organisation providing assistance in the community, our goals have become bolder and as a result, our funding needs have increased.
To be able to effectively respond to new identified needs we have to increase our revenue; hence we will bring our appeal to the attention of the Filipino Community based in the UK and abroad. We also want to approach parents, schools and philanthropic bodies that support educational work abroad. We aim to do this by using free channels such as social media or word of mouth to spread the news of our cause. We want to explore all means available to maximise our chance of donations in a consistent and reliable way.
The charity regularly liaises with the teaching staff and students of the school in order to identify their needs and respond where they can. Their requests have included, appeals for textbooks, stationery, various teaching and learning resources, computers and other items such as clothes, shoes, and food.
Even before SIKAT was officially registered, the trustees approached charity shops, libraries, businesses and various other organisations for assistance, for example Oxfam, Cancer Research, Books Abroad, Aberdeen, Scotland and some second hand bookstores. We collected as much of the requested items as we could, packing them into boxes and sending them off to the village.
A Board of five committed trustees govern the Charity and the founder manages it, with the assistance of three keen and dedicated volunteers. The nature of our work in London is concerned with the generation of income to continue the provision of services to the Philippines.
Up to now, the majority of funding has either come from the founder’s savings, been generated through fundraising events and activities, or been kindly donated from Trusts or private donors. No wages are paid and 99% of every penny raised is used on our projects. The remaining 1% is used only when necessary on things such as volunteers’ travel expenses, shipping boxes of donations or advertising.
In the UK the work is purely administrative. The contact with the beneficiaries is over the phone, by post or web-based. Our efforts are focused on promoting our cause in order to generate funds. We do this by appealing to donors and organising fundraising events. We also liaise with similar organisations, and attend training and networking events in order to improve our understanding of the optimum way to operate.
The people of Calingag are able to benefit from library services every day, with a regular attendance of 100 children per day.
Outcome: There is a free recreational and educational space for adults and children. The library is staffed by volunteers who were jobless before but now have a chance to gain experience.
Assisting the Extension of the Nabuslot Secondary School
As and when requested, we continue to collect teaching resources and related items for the students and the school. For that end we also engage with other organisations such as Books Abroad on behalf of the School.
Outcome: To date more than 15 shipments have been sent to the school and more than 30,000 textbooks and 5 computers have been donated to the school teachers and the library.
Child feeding day
During the yearly Filipino celebrations, SIKAT takes part in a local tradition of feeding poor children during the month of May. Each day a different person or business pays for the meals of all the disadvantaged children in the Village.
Outcome:To date over 300 meals have been given to children under this initiative.
Governance and Management
The Charity is governed by a Board of Trustees, which meets three to four times a year, unless there is a particular reason for a special meeting.
A mixed background at professional and personal levels brings together an interesting combination of knowledge and experiences to the SIKAT board. The Chair is a Filipino-British and possesses a good knowledge of the local needs in the country, as well as having contacts within the Filipino community in the UK.
There are currently no paid members of staff, although in the future this may have to be reconsidered. At present the chair is also responsible for the day-to-day operations of Sikat which includes:
- Determining which projects to pursue in the Philippines and what to discuss with the board.
- Recruiting volunteers and trustees.
Networking and seeking professional advice and help.
Collecting donated goods and shipments to the Philippines.
Further support is provided by dedicated volunteers who assist the board in achieving the organisation’s aims and goals.
The charity values the involvement of volunteers in its work, without whose contribution it would be greatly impaired.
Raouf Ajili – Social Networker
- Currently studying for a BA in Global Politics and International Relations.
- Good experience with the Internet, modern technologies and Social Networking.
Raouf is from Austria, he joined SIKAT because he found it to be a genuine organisation with a noble cause. He was looking to volunteer and felt that his skills and time would be very well spent trying to advance SIKAT’s cause.
Lucia Gil - Administration and Project Management
- Similar to Raouf, she is currently studying for a BA in Global Politics and International Relations.
- She has 12 years sound experience of Administration and Customer support services.
- She has 8 years with Not for Profit and Charitable organisations, particularly with organising meetings and events, financial management and networking.
Lucia is determined to make a positive difference in people’s life. When she learned about SIKAT’s work she was very keen to come on board to help create a better future for Filipino youngsters and their communities.
Cristina Manlises – Editorial, Marketing and Administration
- Holds a BA in Media Arts
- Experienced in writing articles and marketing materials
- Great proof reading and editing skills.
- Provides administration support which includes drafting and filing official documents.
Cristina has been working for the Charity since she was 16 years old. She regularly proof reads the charity’s materials, and has assisted with the HMRC paperwork. She has been a great support for the Charity.
Library - Refurbishment and maintenance
The old rice warehouse is not weather proof and thus the books are at risk of being damaged. Also the users have to negotiate the space amid sacks of rice and there is a lack of shelving and furniture. Also, because there is no air conditioning, they are often subjected to extreme heat in the summer,
Basic mending work has been done but it needs a professional hand. We want to make the most of the existing structure and plan to fashion a study area and create a charity shop with very affordable prices that will generate some income for the library maintenance.
We have started to fundraise for this purpose, and so far have successfully secured £4,385 from the £7,000 budgeted at the time. As the quote on which we have our initial cost was given a few years ago, we have recently approached a few other builders and architects for a more up to date quote.
In the pipeline
There are other projects the Board would like to sponsor to increase the level of assistance:
Vocational Training: Sikat has been in talks with a local training organisation, Mesafed, which provides certified training in organic farming, regarding a possible partnership. This training would provide the equivalent of an NVQ to students who cannot afford to go to university, whilst at same time educating farmers about sustainability.
Sponsoring a child’s education: We want to set up a sponsorship scheme to pay for a child’s basic needs (food, clothes, school resources) in order to alleviate the costs for the family and ensure that the child is able to complete school.
Early Learning Centres: There are no places for pre-school children to spent time. In most cases they end up going to work in the fields with their parents.
LONG TERM PROJECTS
We aim to improve the conditions of the secondary school by as adding Science and IT labs, a Canteen, a Gymnasium and, most importantly, toilets. In the future we expect to be able to commission a purpose built school building. Initial enquires have already been made and a draft plan and quotes have been provided. As with the library, the initial quote was a few years and an updated one will be requested.
The costs identified with the projects have already been noted. We intend to secure this funding primarily through applications to trusts and foundations and by using our assets and private donations as a lever in order to bring in external funding.
The organisation’s revenue expenditure has remained fairly fixed through the years, though in the future it might be necessary to appoint a paid member of staff to ensure a consistent and long-term view of fundraising.
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
The first step the charity took, before it was even registered, was the collection of text books, stationery, second hand books, clothes, shoes and games that were collected from depots, storages and warehouses and sent to the Philippines. At this time, most of the expenditure was for petrol, packaging and shipping.
The book collection was so effective that it allowed the creation of the first and only public library in Calingag in 2008, holding around 15000 books.
In London, extra income was generated by one or two fundraising events during the year, each raising between £600 and £1800. Some were more successful than others but all were a good eye opener for the team, helping us to understand what worked best and how to make the most out of the chances to fundraise and promote SIKAT. The charity is run from the founder’s living room, and she does not charge for overhead costs, such as space, electricity, telephone charges or stationery, ensuring that the majority of profits go straight to the beneficiaries.
The first three years were a success in achieving the initial proposed targets:
- To meet the Charity Commission’s requirements in order to establish the charity and start working.
- Supporting the students through school, responding to appeals for textbooks, stationery and teaching resources such as encyclopaedias, dictionaries or computers.
Communicating with external organisations in order to provide further assistance and help either to SIKAT or the Calingag Nabuslot School.
Encouraged by the positive response from the Charity Commission and also prompted by changes in the Philippines, in 2011 the Trustees identified more ambitious goals to pursue. The developments in Calingag were as follows:
- 2008 - A donation of two classrooms to the Nabuslot School by a Congressman Umali.
- 2008 - SIKAT opened the first public library in Calingag, in an old rice warehouse.
- 2010 - Chinese chamber of commerce donated three more classrooms.
- 2011 - The Department of Education donated three classrooms.
- A possibility of a partnership with a local organisation to provide vocational training to graduates from the secondary school.
We also received feedback from the following:
- Students and School staff – They were very grateful for the additional classrooms, but still need basic facilities such as toilets, a canteen, a gymnasium, science and IT rooms
- Parents with younger children – They identified a lack of educational and recreational spaces for children under school age (which in the Philippines can any child under 7 years old).
- Library staff – They were worried that books might be lost due to exposure to the elements. They were also concerned about a lack of space since they are sharing with sacks of rice
All the above influenced the Board’s decision-making. In order to meet these and other needs the following objectives were identified as the main priorities:
- The need for a purpose built school building, instead of scattered classrooms.
- Pre-school centres for younger children to be developed.
- The refurbishment of the old rice warehouse/library.
These ambitious goals called for the writing of this document in order to organise and monitor the proposed plans as well as aiming for a clear appraisal of future projects and its outcomes.
Food for Thought
The first realisation was the need for significant external funding, therefore a fundraising strategy and marketing plans are now at the top of our to-do list. Despite the occasional fundraising events and a few regular though small donations it has proven difficult to secure more substantial donations.
Another point to consider is the limited number of volunteers and trustees recruited. Although there have always been committed volunteers, enticing additional ones or new trustees with the relevant skills needed has always been an issue. Recently there has been a slight change in this trend but more needs to be done.
Rising Above the Challenges
Government cuts in the UK and the present global economic insecurities have understandably hindered fundraising efforts. At Sikat we plan to overcome these constraints with a realistic but assertive fundraising strategy. We are aware of the fierce competition for grants and the decrease in available funds but we hope to be more meticulous in our appeals.
We also plan to explore other initiatives in order to generate in-house funds. For instance direct fundraising in stations, organising baking competitions or fun days that will hopefully help to increase our income and counter our reliance on external donors.
We believe that we are an appealing recipient for prospective funders and we hope to highlight our assets. For example, the fact that we own the land that the school is built on as well as the warehouse in which the library is built will have a positive impact on the budgets. Additionally, we hope to attract donors by showing our honest intentions to give as much of the money as possible to the beneficiaries by underlining the fact that where possible we receive discounts from shipping companies, we do not pay administration overhead costs and all work is carried out by volunteers who do not receive wages.
Another area we wish to explore is the large Filipino Community in the UK, which we aim to target in our future fundraising activities. Most Filipinos in this country already help their own family members in the Philippines and are therefore aware of the unfortunate conditions disadvantaged children live in.
When it comes to boosting the Charity’s profile, we have already started a promotional campaign using free resources such as social networks – Facebook, Twitter, blogs - as well as using links in the Filipino community, such as online message boards, blogs and the official Filipino Radio in the UK.
Since a new volunteer joined the Charity in October 2011, there has been a new impetus in the organisation. SIKAT’s web presence has been refreshed, it is more active and noticeable, we have had a meeting with the Filippines Embassy and Radio Pinoy, the UK Filipino Community official Radio, has interviewed the Chairwoman.
We have also been developing links with similar organisations, aiming to share knowledge andaccess resources such as free training or networking events. This has contributed to enriching our expertise with regards to business planning, fundraising, and accountancy to mention a few.
On a very positive note, for the past three years SIKAT’s volunteers have won places with Vodafone World of Difference Programme, which provides the volunteer with wages for two months full time or four months part time, therefore allowing them to spend more time working for the charity without financial difficulty.