VOLUNTEERS and supporters in Chard help make a difference to people who desperately need it in 45 countries around the world.
Global charity ActionAid, whose latest project involves helping survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, would not receive the support it does without the efforts of staff and volunteers at the town’s administrative and support centre on Chard Business Park.
Yet many people in the area are unaware of the invaluable work which takes place there.
Even Glyn Duke, head of supporter care, admits she didn’t know much about the charity when she began working there and believes ActionAid’s profile is relatively small – not just in Chard, but across the whole country.
She said: “I joined in 1990 thinking I would only be here for a short time, but every time I thought about leaving, more challenges came along.
“My job has always been interesting and the value of what we do – being able to change lives in 45 countries around the world – has kept me here.”
The charity’s ethos is to give sustainable aid, focusing on helping people to help themselves long-term, rather than to simply give them money.
Key issues include ensuring children’s right to go to school, access to clean water and health care.
Glyn said: “We work with and alongside communities; we rarely provide handouts.
“We don’t send people out to countries – we employ nationals there to enable them to recognise and then exercise their rights.
“We will always talk to a community about what they feel their issues are before we start helping them. They need to want to work with us.”
Although Glyn and her colleagues work in Chard and rarely have the chance to visit projects abroad, they have close connections to people in the communities helped by ActionAid.
She added: “We are always getting feedback about the difference our work has made – we get updates on how a community has advanced, which is very encouraging.
“We have quite close liaisons with the countries where we work – some people here speak to them more than they speak to other people in the UK.
“It’s very rewarding because, although we are working in the UK, we have exposure to what is happening around the world, even though we aren’t visiting all the time.
“I was lucky enough to visit Bangladesh in the late 1990s – it was life-changing and really gave me perspective. I had never been exposed to something like that before.”
A lot of the charity’s work is carried out through child sponsorship – where a regular donation provides a child in need with clean water, education and medicine within a safer community.
There are also a plethora of fund-raising events held every year to raise money for ActionAid.
Glyn said: “We are the first port of call for any prospective or existing supporters.
“We deal with queries, get them on board, provide information about campaigning, and support them with fund-raising.
“Our supporters are amazingly generous, and we couldn’t do it all without our 14 volunteers who live in and around Chard.
“If we didn’t have them we would have to pay someone to do that – their support is incredibly valuable. They are all amazing people.
“People can raise money in lots of different ways – through runs, coffee mornings, someone even did a boxing event recently. The sky’s the limit.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with ActionAid can pop into the Chard office at Chataway House in Leach Road, visit www.actionaid.org.uk or call 01460-238000.