Development projects may also be ‘unconventional’
Which demands were made by Zorg van de Zaak Network in 2015 when you initiated the Foundation?
We had a ‘carte blanche’. It was special to receive that much trust. At the same time, it was a thrilling first year. We immediately knew that we wanted to be in contact with the target audiences of Zorg van de Zaak Network: with people in the Netherlands who want to participate in society. At the same time, we definitely wanted to make a difference in places which tend to be in need, in countries with a lot of poverty, and where you can make a big difference with only a little bit of support. Furthermore, we did not want to support individuals. And out projects should not be a drop in the ocean.
How could the Foundation make a difference compared to the work of ‘giants’ like Oxfam?
There are many small, innovative initiatives that do not qualify for financing of the mainstream development collaboration organisations. We wanted to focus mainly on those. Therefore, we chose to financially support ‘Earthrise Trust’ right at the beginning: a working community in South Africa which is aimed at the inhabitants becoming the owners of the land and building small businesses. This initiative was high risk and ‘unconventional’. We have achieved a lot in the last five years.
How did you reach your decisions for projects?
The mission of Zorg van de Zaak Network helped us choose our projects: ‘Usefully participating in society’. As a result, we tend to focus more on (young) adults than children, for instance. We arranged a number of projects. It consisted of innovative, experimental projects as well as projects which reaped rewards quickly.’ An example is ‘Life Goals’. This foundation is aimed at local sports programs which give people more confidence. In that regard, it is good to facilitate – for instance – the opportunity for 10 girls to play soccer.
Is it possible to tackle the source of poverty through development projects?
Yes. There are projects which focus on the source. An instance is the sanitary pads project of the ‘India Tea Association’. The spin-off is that the taboo around menstruation in India is addressed. And the big manufacturers of sanitary pads are shocked by the project. We should have this researched, but the local production causes the big producers to consider lowering their prices. Another example is White Mountain: here, a huge community that lives around the Kilimanjaro in Kenya has collectively developed the vision that there should once more be snow on the Kilimanjaro all the time for a healthy and sustainable living climate for the people there. The activities are very small steps to reach this goal, such as vegetable gardens and planting trees. The vision at large is that it is possible: snow on the Kilimanjaro once more gives everyone hope and motivation and definitely targets the source of poverty.
Can one measure the results of development collaboration?
You have to be able to justify what you want to spend money on. For instance, you can explain that a certain number of trees have been planted, or a certain number of people have been educated. The problem with development collaboration is that you will be asked what sort of jobs these people get as a result until their retirement, how this benefits society, or how these trees save the entire climate. This method of justifying is overdone and does not pay sufficient attention to the people doing all of it.