By Ruth Rogers
In the years before I started volunteering for Just Peoples I had often thought that I should be doing something to give back. Growing up I’d had access to free education, I was lucky enough to have parents that could (and would) fund me through university, I live in a country that provides free healthcare, I had a good job, and a warm home. In short, I was in a good position to be able to do something to help other people. Then came the ‘buts’. But I’m too busy… But I have to go away with work sometimes so can’t commit… But, when faced with all the inequalities and injustice in the world, I’m not sure where I’d start… And so I went on not really doing anything.
Then one day I was speaking to my good friend Karen and she asked me to sponsor her for a Spartan run she was doing for charity. Of course I said I would, and we got to chatting a bit more about it. I’d never heard of Just Peoples before, and wondered how she’d come to fundraise with them. It turns out she’d been having similar thoughts to me, and really wanted to do something about the issues around her. She lives in Singapore, and had met Christey - one of Just Peoples co-founders - through a friend. They talked about the problems of people trafficking in Singapore and Asia, and different organisations and projects set up to tackle it. One Just Peoples project in particular stood out for Karen - to fundraise for a school in Batam that helps families living in slums - and she thought “I could do that. No, I SHOULD do that”. And so she did. Through Just Peoples she had found a project that she was passionate about, and it inspired her into action. She told me how easy Just Peoples had made it for her as a fundraiser - they provided her with tips and promo materials, supported her along the way, and sent frequent messages of encouragement. Having this conversation with Karen inspired me to think more seriously about what I could do, although I was pretty certain that it wasn't running 13km in 40 degrees heat.
After donating to Karen's project, I decided to take a look around the Just Peoples website to find out more about them. From what Karen had said, they sounded like great people, with a really interesting mission, and she was right. I particularly remember a blog post about why Christey and Jo started Just Peoples in the first place. They had both spent time travelling in poorer regions of the world, and both had been struck by the fact that there were many people with the solutions to local problems, and how a little of their money went a very long way in these regions. I think the example in the blog was of a woman in India who needed an operation she would never be able to afford, and which cost less than the phone in Jo’s pocket. At this point I looked up at the new oven we’d just got to go in the new flat we’d just bought, and realised now really was the time to do something.
I got in touch with Just Peoples through their website, gave them a brief outline of my skillset, and told them I’d like to help if they could make use of me. Pretty soon I was having a chat with Christey over Skype, and ever since then I have been writing emails to supporters, writing articles, advising on communications and chairing meetings occasionally. Some of the work I've done has directly led to donations, and I like to think has helped spread knowledge of Just Peoples and their work. I've also sponsored projects and seen directly how far money can go with Just Peoples local heroes. There really is something quite special about opening your inbox to find an email with a personal message from the people who have benefited from a project you have made possible.
For me personally, Just Peoples has been great at removing the barriers that I had to taking charitable action. I was using the fact that I was very busy as an excuse, but actually, I’ve been able to scale the work I do for them to fit the time I’ve had available, and the more I do the more I realise it’s easier to fit in. The key for me has been to find a way of contributing that fits in both with my skillset and my other commitments.
From a wider, and much more significant perspective, Just Peoples is helping to break down the barriers between charitable fundraising / giving, and the people in need of funds. Global poverty is complex, more complex than I can begin to understand, but by taking a ‘one brick at a time’ approach, Just Peoples makes it seem less insurmountable, and helps to show that individuals can have a direct impact on people’s lives. Each of the micro-projects on the Just Peoples site will change someone’s life for the better, and each Just Peoples fundraiser can see exactly what impact they have had, and that's pretty powerful.
And it’s not just what they do that removes barriers, the way that Just Peoples is set up makes it so easy to fundraise, and also remove or lessen the reservations that people have about charitable giving. Their zero commission approach means fundraisers, sponsors and donors know exactly where their money is going - and (unless it's a direct donation to Just Peoples' running costs), that means they can see it all going towards the micro-projects that they are passionate about.