Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some perspectives from an ex-NGO employee

I was very taken aback to read that one of the reasons apparently that led to concerns leading to the takeover of the AWARE Exco was because of the screening of a movie, Spider Lilies. I haven't seen the film, and when I did a bit more reading up, it turned out that it was a charity gala.

Now in a charity gala, this is usually what happens. Someone approaches you (a group, the film company, etc) and suggests that they raise funds for you by screening a movie. They'll choose the movie, and put the tickets up for sale. Then the profits go to the charity. This seems to be the case for AWARE.

Having a charity gala held FOR you, and 'sponsoring' something are two entirely different things obviously. In one, you are the beneficiary. In the other, you are the active party.

It's the same as someone having a dinner for you (as a volunteer did for CWS), or even someone selling bookmarks or t-shirts and sending you the donations. It does not mean you vetted, supported or even knew what the contents were.

I bring this up because CWS had a charity gala held for us too - and the films were supposed to be about a romance between two women (I have to admit I didn't actually watch the movies). Most charities don't have the option of vetting or choosing films unless you are a huge charity - neither of which AWARE or CWS are.

Most charities are also just grateful if someone raises funds because that's how we keep charities afloat.

I would not even bring this up if the CWS Committee that was around then hadn't changed hands because goodness knows, CWS might be then accused of deviating from their original agenda leading to problems for the new committee. However with an almost completely new committee, I'm pretty sure they're safe :)

Incidentally, when I was in University, we held a charity gala then too and the movie happened to be about a hostage taker. I can assure you my classmates and I had no desire to promote hostage taking nor did we harbour a pro-hostage taker agenda.

Also one other issue I was surprised that was being raised was the fact that the AWARE AGMs are not well attended. From what I've heard and seen, MOST charity NGOs are not well attended. Try getting people to attend - people are often so busy and have so many other things to do. The issue isn't necessarily that people aren't happy with the existing comm - sometimes it's the exact opposite. People are happy with the state of affairs and see no reason to then attend.

Incidentally I was also on a panel with Alex Au about animal welfare and civil society. As far as I can recall, that is the single time I met him and he seemed like a perfectly nice man. Civil society in Singapore is still small enough that most active volunteers either are acquainted with each other or know someone who is. We also get invited to a lot of the same civil society events to speak on panels and the like.

One other thing I have to mention about AWARE - when the SARS crisis happened, some AWARE members came forward to offer us their moral support. They felt that active volunteers involved in civil society should help each other out. If you'd like find out what you can do, go to We Are Aware.


Anonymous said...

Beware...if you watch this video clip that touches on..tsk will turn lesbians! Now if lesbians watch this clip...hmmm...double whammy...they might just turn straights..and hence $$ on signing up for gay-to-straight conversion course at COOS.

Dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dawn said...

Bea Arthur just passed away as I am sure you know - I used to watch this when I was younger.

I don't think it's even a gay versus Christian debate as some people are portraying it to be. What does worry me is the takeover over of an NGO. I don't doubt it was done legally but I don't like the way it was done.

jules said...

Agreed, Dawn. All other issues aside, i just didn't like the way it was done too. They could have adopted a more peaceful way of resolving the differences and not make themselves and AWARE look like a joke now...

Anonymous said...

If a member has not served/be a member for x no of mths/yrs, then he/she shd not stand for key committee positions.
If a person(s) is/are not familiar with the an organisation, do they understand the vision/aims of the organisation?
When entirely new people take over, they may implement changes that do not reflect what the organisation used to stand for.
Besides, there are valuable contacts that cannot be passed over instantly, it takes trust build over time.

Dawn said...

I agree Anonymous - it's not just experience and contacts, but more to be sure that there is a shared common vision.

Li Tin said...

Yup, it's not easy getting funding so we are glad to be able to get any funds at all.

Our AGM these 2 years usually have around max 20+ people attending so if one day, out of the blue, 100 people turns up, we've got to be careful!

Dawn said...

Yes - and I think it's the same for any other society/charity too.