In the early days of the relief effort it became apparent that those affected by the catastrophe were slipping into a false sense of security whereby the expectations of the aid organizations charity seemed to be endless and life style of dependency could be a viable option.
This situation was of great concern to Impaktaid for fear of a knowingly proud people could turn into a nation of beggars. The volunteers involved understood that assistance was needed in order to help those who lost their livelihoods but were perplexed with how to inspire their self-worth and give value to the charitable goings on. The problem as we saw it was that far too many organizations and individuals, were with good intentions, randomly handing out anything from lunch packets to carpentry tools to cookers to fishing nets to boats and motors and of course cash all along Galle Road. It seemed those receiving these benefits were becoming reliant on this type of charity and in many cases individuals would collect items from one group in the morning, sell it to a pawnshop in the evening and queue up for another hand out the following day.
Impaktaid was saddled with a number of issues. How could we help without lending to what we saw as a begging trend, how could we instill a sense of self worth, how could we eliminate the profiteers and cheats and finally how could we confirm and demonstrate to our donors that we were spending their monies wisely?
After much deliberation and discussions, a solution was found. Why not have the individuals sign a contract whereby the individual agrees to repay the cost of goods he or she received at a rate that they themselves determine. For instance a fisherman who requires LKR 20,000.00 worth of fishing nets may ask to repay at a rate of LKR 1,000.00 per month or a grocer who needs LKR 50,000,00 worth of items to restock his store may want to make payments of LKR 2,000.00 per month. The repayment rate was left up to the recipient alone. NOTE: Impaktaid had no intention of collecting payments as these items being dispersed were purchased with donor funding and donating was the intent. Cash was never dispersed as the items were purchased by the volunteers and handed over after the signing. Once the program wrapped up in a particular area, the recipients were gathered together and jointly informed that payment was not required and the contracts were destroyed.
The scheme was a great success, those who queued to sign up were beaming with pride and only happy to prove that they were honest and worthy. The profiteers stayed away for fear of signing a document that may hold them liable and the donors were assured that their donations were being handled legitimately by being copied with contracts and before and after photographs.
Hundreds of families benefited from this program and we are grateful to Foster Friess of Friends of Foster and Fred Newman of the Brighton Hove Soiree Rotary Club who believed in the program and donated generously. We later partnered with Revive, a USAID funded organization which lent credibility to program.
Impaktaid is proud to have initiated this program.