Do Good Better
Operation Hope Foundation’s mission is to help the poor in developing countries by establishing long term operations in the countries we operate in. We have to invest in infrastructure and equipment as well as train a team of local staff to perform according to the standard operating systems that are established.
Perhaps an analogy would be like running a hotel. First the hotel would have to be built and as this is a large investment, it forces the owners to look at it as a long term investment. The second phase is to train a team of staff to run the hotel in an efficient and profitable manner. Finally the hotel has to serve the needs of the guests. In the case of OHF, the “guests” are the poor villagers, unemployed rural youths and children in need.
Continuing the hotel analogy, we don’t build a multimillion hotel and hand it over to a local operator with limited experience to operate. We either source for an experienced and reputable operator or run the hotel ourselves. The worse scenario is to assign the operations to someone who lacks the skill set and at the same time, we don’t have the control and reporting systems in place.
Often accountability is based on reports from the field. It is an honour system which assumes that the person writing the report is honest and that the facts presented are accurate. Such an honour system is extremely fragile and creates temptation for fraud by the staff. This is very widespread in a cash only society where cash is used for almost all payments.
In developed countries where little cash is used by businesses and consumers pay more with credit cards than cash, and credit terms are widely available, the possibility of fraud is reduced considerably. The buyer buys the goods but payment is direct from the company to the seller, bypassing the buyer. Had the buyer carry cash to make payments, fraud can occur very easily especially with handwritten receipts.
How do we help the poor? OHF projects are aimed at poverty alleviation is a significant manner. For example, our TJSSS training which is now extended to six and a half months, equipped the students with the skills for a white collar job. In countries where villagers and most rural schools don’t have electricity, it is nearly impossible to learn how to use a computer. While there are many computer schools in the large towns, there are none in the rural villages. Rural youths cannot compete on the same level with the city youths as they have never even switched on a computer in their life!
Conducting a training class is compounded by the fact that the rural youths may live several hours away from the training centre. This means we have to provide accommodation . As these are poor rural youths, they don’t have the money to buy their own food for six months! They don’t have the savings. OHF gives each student sufficient allowance to buy food and cook and also to return home occasionally.
Electricity is expensive and running 40 computers ten hours a day could end up in an electricity bill that cancome close to a thousand dollars a month! Obviously running such a TJSSS program is expensive on a per student basis and we need sponsors for our students.
To help a poor family, a decent house brings enormous benefits. With proper shelter, they don’t fall sick so often, thus saving on medical bills and as many villagers are self employed, they don’t have medical benefits and cannot earn money on the days that they are sick. The house provides better security than a shack which means the family can run small businesses from their house. Children are not mocked and snubbed by schoolmates because of their ramshackle house and have a proper place to do their home work. A mother remarked that her son sleeps well in the OHF house and wakes up fresh and ready for school. Building a house for a family is expensive but has long term benefits for the family.
Community Programs With High-Benefit-To-Cost Ratios
A lot can be done with donations as long as the donations are wisely used. Leakages are extensive and common, and fraud is extensive. For example, you can donate a well but how can you be sure that you are the only donor for that well? Perhaps there are ten donors for that single well. It is impossible for a donor to verify that he is the sole donor for that well.
It is not easy to help a community especially if they are in remote areas where monitoring and audit are hard to conduct. However, careful monitoring of benefit-to-cost ratios will help ensure that a large chunk of the donation reaches the beneficiaries.
However, audit and monitoring comes at a cost and it is this need to balance benefit and cost that is crucial. At times, this audit and monitoring using expat staff could come to as much as 80% of the cost! OHF runs like a SME (Small Medium Enterprise) which means it monitors its cost very much like a business and treats its beneficiaries like valued customers.