ICRI Nepal Himalayas Trek

Sabrina Chin On What Inspired Her to Sign Up

Sabrina and son, Ezra

Sabrina and son, Ezra

Sabrina Chin, age 36, is preparing for the journey of a lifetime through one of the most majestic mountain ranges on Earth, the mighty Himalayas. During her trip, Sabrina will witness stunning views of the Annapurna Range, encounter Nepali locals while traveling though traditional Gurung villages, and experience the unique and awe-inspiring wonders of Kathmandu. 

This 11-day excursion, departing in February of 2016, is hosted by Berkeley-based nonprofit International Child Resource Institute (ICRI) and will raise funds to improve ICRI Nepal's early childhood education programs. Aside from 6 days trekking and 2 days sightseeing, Sabrina and her fellow travelers will spend a day visiting these programs and meeting with ICRI Nepal's dedicated staff.

Sabrina learned about the trek through her connection to ICRI’s early childhood program, Hearts Leap North, where her son attends school, “It wasn’t until I started receiving Gretchen’s e-mail updates about the funds raised for our sister schools in Africa that I started to learn about the impact ICRI was making around the world.”

Sabrina grew up in a culture and environment with values different from those of ICRI, but her experiences and upbringing are what informed her decision to place her son in a more progressive learning environment like Hearts Leap North.

Traveling to Nepal was always something Sabrina hoped of doing. However, as a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet, it wasn’t an option until now. She states, “When I first heard about the trek it immediately caught my attention. Plus it would benefit ICRI.” Now that her son is older and has become more independent, she feels it is the right time to do something to rebuild her life and a trek through the Himalayas could be the perfect place to start. The only obstacle is childcare, “I begged and pleaded with my sisters for months, and they finally agreed to watch my son while I’m gone for the trek.”

With the need to raise a minimum of $2,000 in charitable donations and $1,800 in trip fees, Sabrina will begin with collecting donations from family and friends.

If more fundraising is required Sabrina states, “…Then I might throw a soiree of some sort that would include a film screening or panel -- something on Nepal to bring more awareness to the issues there.”

For more information and to register for the trek visit: www.icrichild.org/nepal-trek/

To donate to Sabrina’s fund visit: www.crowdrise.com/icrihimalayastrekchallenge/fundraiser/sabrinachin

The Development Dilemma

Why making change for children and families is so difficult.

As the world now knows, a recent, joint investigation from NPR/Pro Publica revealed that the American Red Cross has been challenged to justify their spending in Haiti on disaster relief, following devastation caused by the earthquake that hit the country in 2010. Minnesota congressman Rick Nolan is calling for a Congressional Hearing on how the money has been spent.

The confidence of the general public in the honesty and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations delivering disaster relief has been shaken. People are saying, ‘If we can’t trust the American Red Cross, who can we trust’?  The American Red Cross (like other major non profits, such as Oxfam, UNICEF, Save the Children and others) are considered some of the longest established and most trustworthy non-profit ‘brand identities’ in the world, and, in this respect, are advocates for the effectiveness for all non-profit disaster relief giving. The recent findings could potentially stop thousands, if not millions of people from donating money toward disaster relief. This is why a discussion must be entered regarding how and why people should continue to give to non-profits. It is also necessary to discuss how people can identify organizations that can deliver good development and fully document the work accomplished.

It is understandable that people would choose to donate to a large, well-known and trusted organization such as the Red Cross, but what does the Red Cross Experience tell us? The first thing we have learned is that that the Red Cross’s work in Haiti is not an example of good development. In the life and death situations affecting thousands or even millions of people that we see after earthquakes and tsunamis, the need for relief is so great and the challenges to deliver it often so complicated, that a step by step approach to delivering aid must be followed through a well organized and proven local infrastructure. The Red Cross found themselves with a huge amount of money, but disorganized local networks and no overall planning and management structure through which to spend the money effectively. Despite facing the music in this instance, the Red Cross are surely not alone in being a large, well known and trusted, outside organization trying to bring relief and development, but lacking in deeper long term connections with those who can truly deliver targeted relief efforts at the point of greatest need and transition into a plan for long term relief and rehabilitation of the country.

Disaster relief brings all types of logistical challenges for people and organizations wishing to deliver aid and it is often reported that NGOs are ineffective as they pile into a country in chaos, ultimately serving the larger organizations – like the Red Cross – who have secured governmental support and prioritized resourcing. In many cases this system does not appear to be working.

Luckily, for those in need and for people who wish to donate to organizations that make a real difference in people’s lives, there is another way.  Who can people trust with their donations and how can they identify an organization capable of delivering good development?

Good Development IS happening around the world. After the April 25, 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, the International Child Resource Institute (ICRI), with a budget of no more than $39,000, reached 3,412 families in 96 communities in 7 districts, during the first month of intensive service.  This comprehensive service provision amounts to $11.43 per family. Aid was delivered in the establishment and operation of Temporary Child Protection Shelters, provision of meals, creation of child friendly learning zones (as schools were destroyed or unsafe), and the provision of first aid counseling, trauma counseling, human resource allocation and much more. 

What is it about ICRI that allowed them to be so effective?  ICRI Nepal is run by local people for local people.

  1. Following their mission and objectives, ICRI must be invited by local leaders engaged in the areas of need to develop and carry out local programs operated by local people.
  2. The agenda for all projects including disaster relief are established by the local organizations partnering in the work with the collaborating international NGO.
  3. ICRI never states that they know what is best for a local community or a national disaster relief effort. They learn from locals and plan with them for each program and service to be provided.
Children in our Temporary Child Protection Shelter IN Kathmandu make different sculptures during the day

Children in our Temporary Child Protection Shelter IN Kathmandu make different sculptures during the day

We're amazed to seen the creativity displayed by these children

We're amazed to seen the creativity displayed by these children

The International Child Resource Institute (est 1981) was invited into Nepal and requested by the Nepal Central Child Welfare Board and other agencies to establish ICRI Nepal as a local NGO in 2001. Local staff were hired and the Nation Center on Learning Resources (NCLR), the Network for Children Prisoners and Dependents, and the National Corporate Responsibility Network were set up under ICRI Nepal’s umbrella. A national Planning Blueprint was established with one and five year comprehensive plans and clear goals objectives and activities for each program to be enacted locally. ICRI worldwide acts as a capacity builder and trainer as requested by ICRI Nepal and other networked, local NGOs. When emergency situations arise a complete plan is already in place for ICRI Nepal to go into immediate action to conduct survival, disaster relief, education, health and long-term recovery objectives. Thus, ICRI’s success at delivering aid for a relatively small amount of money in a high impactful manner was enabled as the organization developed over time in collaboration with the local community, with local and national community leaders where local people lead and outside agencies listen and follow.   

ICRI’s work and the work of others in Nepal points to good development.  By understanding what good development requires, we can best identify those capable of delivering it. The secret to good development lies in the following:

  1. Think and act locally. No international relief or help agency should presuppose that their efforts will be successful unless they have cultivated long term, meaningful collaborations with local organizations who will work as leaders and mentors to the international agency.
  2. No outside agency should enter another country unless they have been invited in, not when the crisis arises, but many years or many months before, when a structure and plan for relief and rehabilitation has been developed. 
  3. Helping agencies should never expect to leave 40% or often more of the funds raised in their home countries in their own bank accounts as administrative overhead and indirect costs. Credibility is built on true dedication to maintaining the transparency of their own agency. So long as agencies are forced to support massive fundraising efforts and not report the true cost of those efforts, little or less meaningful and substantive change can take place.
  4. Bigger is often not better. While major change can be accomplished, plans must be “contoured” to fit vastly different cultural and economic conditions within the same country in need. Massive amounts of funds that must be distributed rapidly often lead to spending rushes where little impact is made and where the objective is to justify ‘the spend’ and does not promote the desired change/result. Large amounts of positive change making can take place by assuring local teamwork, local leadership and coordination of each activity toward the production of desired, impact producing outcomes.
  5. Success breeds success. ICRI’s success in Nepal took place as a result of a continuum of successful work from the 14 year partnership of ICRI Global and ICRI Nepal. ICRI Nepal’s Country Director Dhirendra Lamsal’s provides true local leadership, and his Nepali team have worked together to make meaningful change for many years. This model is working in several other countries, with empowered local leaders encouraged by inside and outside experts that they can call upon, day or night, to make substantive lasting change in many countries, for generations to come.
  6. Good development follows a Planning Blueprint. Organizations that offer effective relief will have used a Planning Blueprint or other planning tool to establish a local network. Local issues will have been narrowed and focused in common for all network stakeholders. Strong constituencies will have been built up around the issues and the NGO, local key gate keepers and local decision makers will all be speaking the same planning language.

Thus all change making is truly local and the work of international NGO’s is to support, at times empower and most often follow the lead of well trained highly experienced local staff who can much better accomplish the necessary change at all levels. Good development is actually easier to deliver than bad development when an organization is set up along the lines of the principles outlined above.

For organizations that have local offices in disaster zones, the work will never be over. ICRI can and will work with any committed and dedicated local organization, worldwide as long as we have a proven local structure to deliver coordinated and effective development.  

Thus, to answer the question ‘If we can’t trust the Red Cross, who can we trust?’, the answer is simple.  We must only donate to and only trust the organizations that are well established in the countries that need relief, have a strong local leadership and a history of delivering effective change on the ground. While the American Red Cross certainly does a great deal of good work around the world, good development is best delivered by those already living in the country and by those who have followed a step by step plan to establish a local network. It is for this reason that the general public need not despair with non-profits or stop donating. They simply need to change their culture of giving, and look deeper into which organizations can deliver effective and long lasting relief. 

ICRI would like to open a forum for further discussion on this issue and start a change in the culture of giving, so that money donated reaches those who truly need it, every dollar of the funds donated is accounted for and the true impact of the aid provided is measured and documented.

To become engaged in this dialogue please leave a comment below or email us at info@icrichild.org.

Staff Spotlight: Emma Claudeanos

Check out the next installment of our ICRI Staff Spotlight! If you missed the last one highlighting our COO Ellie Mashhour you can find it here

Name: Emma Claudeanos
Job Title:  Administrative Coordinator 

Q1. Tell us about your role at ICRI.

As the Administrative Coordinator, I like to think my main priorities are to ensure that ICRI is running smoothly and to make sure that everyone in the office has what they need to be happy and productive at work. This includes working with the team to set and achieve weekly, monthly, and annual goals, providing organizational and administrative support to ICRI Executives, working directly with our teams in Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nepal to ensure programmatic success, and every now and then going back to my roots as a preschool teacher if I'm needed at one of our local schools (just one of the many perks of the job!).   

Q2: Can you briefly describe your typical working day?

I arrive at ICRI's office in the Berkeley Marina at 9:00am. I start my day checking e-mails while drinking my morning smoothie and waiting for the rest of the team to filter in. Depending on the day, I might have a staff meeting, a committee meeting, or a check-in with ICRI Executive Director, Ken Jaffe. I then spend a good chunk of the day working through my task list independently or completing a project in collaboration with Ken or COO, Ellie Mashhour. After a cup of tea and some lunch, I love taking a walk in the beautiful marina - especially enjoyable on a sunny day. I finish by wrapping up any projects and responding to any final e-mails before ending my day at 5:00.   

Q3: Why did you choose to work for ICRI?

I started working with school-age children while I was in college and always felt a special connection with the youngest ones. I learned of Hearts Leap, one of ICRI's local preschools, and Ellie offered me a position working as a teacher and helping in the office there. I stayed at Hearts Leap for two years before being offered the Administrative Coordinator position here at headquarters. ICRI's mission is one that speaks to me on every level, and I can't imagine an organization with a more noble or worthy cause. My goal is to dedicate my energy to helping children in need access resources that support their well-being, and my position at ICRI allows me to do that. I am so grateful to be working here.   

Q4: Tell us about something about ICRI you are particularly excited about at the moment.

I'm excited to see the progress our Nepali office has made in providing much needed support to the children and families affected by the devastating earthquakes there. The HQ team has been working hard as well to raise funds and awareness, and it makes me happy to know that our work is making a difference. I'm also excited at the prospect of the success of our Himalayas Trek fundraising event which would allow ICRI to accomplish critical rebuilding of homes and schools in the communities we serve in Nepal.

Q5: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I like spending time with my friends and family, going on adventures, reading novels, dancing, working out, and being outside. 

Q6: What makes you happy?

Kindness.

Q7: What makes you angry?

When people are not considerate of who and what is around them.

Q8: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a brain surgeon...I guess life doesn't always turn out the way you imagine. ;-)

Q9: Tell us your claim to fame?

I hope to achieve my claim to fame before I turn 35. ;-)

Q10: If you could invite five people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?

Can I choose six? My grandma Gloria, for her love. The 14th Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, for their wisdom. Harriet Tubman, for her fearlessness. Vladimir Nabokov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because they write the most beautiful prose I've ever read.

Berkeley Himalayan Fair

ICRI Staff member dan nelson (r) with Arlene bloom (L), Founder of the himalayan fair and leader of the first american team to climb annapurna in nepal.

ICRI Staff member dan nelson (r) with Arlene bloom (L), Founder of the himalayan fair and leader of the first american team to climb annapurna in nepal.

On the 16th and 17th of June ICRI attended the 32nd annual Himalayan Fair in Berkeley, California. The Himalayan Fair brought Himalayan music, arts, crafts and food to the Berkeley area while fundraising to provide those affected by the recent devastating earthquakes in Nepal. ICRI attended the fair to spread the word about our programs in Nepal, our upcoming Nepal fundraising trek, and our efforts to raise money for our Nepal Response Fund after the recent earthquakes in Nepal. With the help of the Himalayan Fair attendees we were able to raise $500 for our Nepal programs and Earthquake Response Fund! 

We're also happy to announce the winner of our raffle, Sally Cahill, who received an ICRI t-shirt, a bottle of Merlot, and a $60 gift card to PF Chang's China Bistro. Thanks to everyone who came out and we hope to see you next year.

ECE Innovation Blooms in New Zealand

From March 11-14, The World Forum on Early Care and Education, through the Global Collaborative on Design for Children and the Nature Action Collaborative for Children, held the 2015 World Forum on Design conference in Rotorua, New Zealand. The conference was the first of its kind to focus on the production of real design concepts for early childhood programs in Ghana, Cambodia, and Australia. The conference brought together leading architects, landscape architects, designers, and educators, to explore the new world of cutting edge design for young children while maintaining deep consciousness of the need for cultural awareness of the development of children’s spaces. While the conference also featured individual presentations from experts on topics such as the neuroscience of early childhood design (presented by Ken Jaffe), the integration of nature into all aspects of interior and exterior design for children (presented by leading nature educator Claire Warden), and many others, it focused on three days of intensive design work carried out by three groups assigned to the work in Ghana, Cambodia, and Australia. ICRI has never participated in a conference that has had such intense design planning and discussion, in certain cases from 8am to 7pm, that resulted in 15 sets of concrete conceptual plans that were taken back by Ghanaian, Cambodian, and Australian children’s leaders for use in their own countries. 

The conference, set in the spectacular Rotorua/Blue Lakes area of New Zealand, incorporated visits to stunning early childhood programs with wonderful integration of cutting edge design with the natural beauty of the local landscape. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the conference was the tenacious, demanding work carried out by each table, working to make an outstanding, cost-effective, and beautifully integrated design that would fit with the culture and conditions presented at the local level in three countries ready to use these designs to build change for children. 

One of the reasons that the New Zealand conference venue was chosen was the fact that the country of New Zealand is now considered by many to house the best designed early childhood programs in the world. New Zealand constantly integrates spectacular, innovative, building designs with natural surroundings indoors and outdoors. New Zealand appears to now have overtaken Sweden and Norway as the most innovative designer of children’s spaces in the world. We believe that all of us have so much to learn from the New Zealand experience of uniting children with beauty, functionality, and nature every day.