The five things I wish I’d known when I founded a charity in the Middle East
Ummul Choudhury is the co-founder of international sports charity Capoeira4Refugees and of development tech start-up Frontline Aid.
ummul choudhury, development consultant, middle east specialist, sports charity consultant, charities consultant, start-up consultant, united nonsense book, Capoeira4Refugees, capoeira charity, Frontline Aid, NGO specialist
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Ummul applying for funding

The five things I wish I’d known when I founded a charity in the Middle East

I founded a charity in 2010. My aim at the time was to ‘give something back’. Here are the five things I wish I’d known when I founded a charity in the Middle East:

  1. I wish I’d know that ‘making a difference’ is not about the northern hemisphere simply handing over technologies or systems or ideas to those in the Southern hemisphere. To create ownership and localise how something works can take years. Handing over a system does not work. Think what India did with British colonial administration – it created a dysfunctional behemoth. Cultures marry – it isn’t ‘I give’ and ‘you take’.
  2. I wish I’d been a bit less enamoured by bright young volunteers with intense gazes who really want to make a difference. Practical skills, and the ability to comprehend local cultural mores is not necessarily a part of the bright young thing package.
  3. I wish I’d know that finance skills are integral to success. Yes. My claim to idiocy. I should have invested in some basic finance skills before I even wrote the business plan…
  4. I wish I’d known that I’d had more time than I knew what to do with. Running a start-up makes you busier than you can ever believe. Passion acts as a 24/7 driving force. I then became a mother. Becoming a mum made me realise what ‘busy’ really means.
  5. I wish I’d understood that burn out can happen and that its okay to stop now and again.

So, this blog is about how it didn’t matter that I didn’t know these things, because I still managed to make it work.

It’s also a little bit about the Middle East, a lot about how the NGO sector works (or doesn’t work), and reflections on how to get stuff done.

My perspectives are grounded in Bengali, Muslim working class London (I was in Islington before Islington became Islington!), a love of reading, being a working mother, the advice of good friends.

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