It’s been a busy few months but thankfully I haven’t had to do it alone. With initial encouragement from Julia in Germany and Vikas in India, I was able to put the first ideas to paper (or rather powerpoint). In the space of one long evening I completed the first draft of our vision. The ideas, however, had their origins and expansion much earlier; in the visits to India, in the meetings with people already working in the field and in the countless late nights and weekends spent reading books, watching films and researching online. The culmination of all this learning poured out of me in torrents at the first chance.
The work has two components. The legal and awareness aspect which is Germany based and the project management and execution which is India based.
In Germany, we started work in finding out how one actually registers an NGO. Julia saved me from this bureaucratic headache by researching and then starting to compile the paperwork. There are several parts to this. Firstly the creation of a charter (Satzung) which details the vision and scope of the work as well as adhering to all the legal responsibilities. This part needs to be approved by the Tax & Revenue Office (Finanzamt). With this you have to call a founding members meeting and protocol the current work and action items. The founding teams needs minimum 7 members with 3 members making up the Managing Board (Vorstand). We held our meeting this weekend and this week we will hopefully make it all official with a Notary.
The other major piece of work is our name and our online presence. Choosing a name is no longer a matter of simply finding the best and most creative fit but more of finding the best and most creative fit amongst those names which are still available, especially in terms of a domain. I posted on Facebook for some feedback, discussed with the team, checked the size and online clout of others NGOs with the same or a similar name and researched which domains were still available. The result was United for Hope which combines the concepts of cooperation, being united, being one and through this enabling an optimism for the future with hope.
The domain secured, we looked to find someone to design the logo and programme the website. I knew that I could write the content myself but I tend to be quite intense in my writing. It often lacks lightness and humour which is essential to reach a wider audience. So I was delighted when two professionals, DeAnn & Louise replied to my Facebook call for team members.
I asked a friend to design our logo but it didn’t work out and now we are banking on the talented Michele who will deliver it this week. Vikas found us the wonderfully helpful Manish in India to do the website programming and Vikas’ uncle Anil donated the website template. Also on board are Stella and Sonia. Stella is a medical student who leaves Munich today for Delhi to do an internship and Sonia is Vikas’ sister who is learning all she can about water, health and hygiene best practices. Daria is our filmmaker. A student at the prestigious Munich University for Film, she will accompany us to India in February to record the projects. Finally the generous Maria from Manila has offered to help with our finances which is a wonderful gift because exactly this area will wear me down.
Everyone is a volunteer. We have no budget for legal, finance, marketing, online or PR work. Everyone is offering their time and skills because they believe in the cause and because they want to give back to the world. This is a beautiful thing but it’s also a frustrating thing because we all have jobs, responsibilities and other priorities. We are doing the best we can to do a job that sometimes we are only partially skilled for and in a timeframe that fits around the rest of our lives.
I have learned a great deal in the last months Not only around domains, websites, the German legal world, taxation and donation platforms but also around balancing patience with drive. Around frustrations with people and processes. Around knowing when to hang on and when to let go. It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost every free minute I have (and beyond) is being invested in this task and although there are days when I want to run away screaming, there are enough days where I feel the confidence of purpose and meaning to keep chiselling at it, step by step.
The planning of the projects in Tirmasahun has also brought me out of my comfort zone. From the initial discussions with the village around their challenges to the finding of partners, nothing is straightforward. Because I don’t speak Hindi (yet) and because most of them don’t speak English (yet), I am forced to communicate via Vikas and much is or can be lost in translation. I am also subject to his schedule and a 4.5hr time difference. After several months of research, mails and negotiating, we are very close to naming our partner and agreeing on the details. In the meantime, I know more about toilets, water, waste, energy and rural development than I ever thought possible.
I am also happier than I have ever been. Even in the frustrating moments, the loss of the sense of purpose and joy is only short-lived. I feel a peace and a contentment although my days are long and full of responsibility. As February approaches, I know that I will be tested to the very edge of my capabilities and endurance. But I am not afraid. I searched for more than 40 years to get to this point and now that it is here, it’s beautiful.
United for Hope, Tara