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‘He did it out of love. And as a consequence of his selfless love, he was loved. It was all about love. Not a distant, duty-bound response to poverty, but the giving something of yourself, getting involved and allowing yourself to be affected.’

Hand in Hand is a UK charity, run by Grant Smith, working in Africa. It supports orphanages, a project for grandmothers and orphans, a vocational training centre and various other projects. He has written a memoir, The Accidental Social Entrepreneur, on his charity work and the life lessons he has gained from his experiences. Here he tells how how he first got involved with Hand in Hand.

 

Extract taken from The Accidental Social Entrepreneur
By Grant Smith
Published by Muddy Pearl

 

I have a friend called Pete. One evening, about thirty years ago, Pete rang me to say that he was going as part of a group on a ‘mercy mission’ to Romania: would I like to go?

My answer was,

No.

Why not? Pete asked.

I responded,

Everyone is going to Romania at the moment, I’m not jumping on the ‘bandwagon’.

Pete asked what else I was doing at that time to help people.

Nothing much, I replied.

Then why don’t you do something and come to Romania?

It seemed a fair enough argument, and so I went. Incidentally, I recall coming home from that visit in my socks, because Pete had given my trainers away.

I have another friend: Dave. Dave had visited an education project in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. Dave became inspired. Subsequently, Dave brought Pete to the project and Pete, too, became inspired. The two of them began to raise money for the project unofficially, through various fundraising events including a sponsored cycle across the UK. Then, 10 years after the ‘Romanian’ phone call, Pete rings me again,

Dave and I would like to register a charity. You know how charities work; we need to have 3 trustees; so will you join us so we can register Hand in Hand as an official charity?

At that time, I was a volunteer consultant for another charity called Tearfund (a charity whose Christian response to poverty I really believed in). My consultancy, however, specialized in the development of theological colleges in East Africa; for Pete and Dave to suggest that I knew how charities operate was a bit like saying that I understand how aeroplanes work simply because I had flown in one. Regardless of Pete’s logic, my answer was, again,

No.

After the Romanian experience, I probably should have known better. I am sure you can guess Pete’s next question:

Why not?

Because we already have some great charities that are doing a great job, like Tearfund, World Vision and Christian Aid etc. What is the point in reinventing the wheel? We should support these existing charities.

Not at all put off by my response and knowing how easily I change my mind, Pete then said,

Go there then.

Go where? I asked.

To Brazil. Go to Fortaleza and see the project, then make your decision.

Pete has a way with words, and this seemed like a fair challenge. So I went.

 

Because he cared

I met a man called Marcondes. Marcondes was a local, was well-educated and had the potential to be a wealthy man. But he had given his life to helping some 300 children who lived in a slum close to him. Within this slum he had created an oasis of security and support, giving poor children the opportunity to have a fair start in life.

I will never forget that trip and what I saw there, yet it’s difficult to put into words. Here was an educated man who could have been very wealthy, but had given his life to help 300 children from the favela. He said his ambition had always been to build a 50m swimming pool in the slum. I asked,

What for?

And he said,

Because a poor kid can swim just as fast as a rich kid, and I want to give them the opportunity.

Some people give to charity because it makes them feel better. It makes them feel better about injustice – it makes them feel like they are doing something, and perhaps that is what we were doing by sponsoring Muja. But some people do it because they genuinely care. . .

Marcondes did not need to run a children’s home for the benefit of his own income, he did not fight poverty because he was brought up in poverty, he did not offer a good education to children because he was uneducated; he did it because he cared. He did it out of love. And as a consequence of his selfless love, he was loved. It was all about love. Not a distant, duty-bound response to poverty, but the giving something of yourself, getting involved and allowing yourself to be affected. Marcondes was an inspiration for me. I returned home, and Hand in Hand was registered.

 

The Accidental Social Entrepreneur by Grant Smith is published by Muddy Pearl, priced £12.99

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