Panorama ADRA Czech Republic celebrates its 20th anniversary
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency ADRA is marking its 20th birthday in the Czech Republic. The Czech branch, set up in 1992, now provides aid both at home and abroad as well as organizing awareness-raising programs among primary school children. Dagmar Goldmannova, head of the Department for International Projects and Development Education, visited Radio Prague’s studio this week to talk about the agency’s achievements and plans for the future.
“It started 20 years ago in 1992 with a very small team. At the outset it was linked to providing emergency aid to the former Yugoslavia, and involved lots of trucks making the journey from Czechoslovakia to the former Yugoslavia, and then step by step it grew bigger and I think one of the milestones was in 1997 with the big floods that hit Moravia. Back then ADRA coordinated the work of thousands of volunteers who helped with the clean-up work. So this was one milestone and then there were the 2002 floods. Probably the biggest growth of the international department came with the tsunami in South-East Asia in 2004. People were eager to help and contributed lots of money to emergency foreign aid, many through donor sms messages. ADRA distributed aid to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India, the international department grew rapidly and the focus gradually shifted from humanitarian aid to development projects.
So you now help both at home and abroad. Who do you help on those two fronts?
“ADRA is an international NGO that is present in 125 countries with around 6,000 staff members. There are two kinds of offices in ADRA – donor offices and implementing offices. Donor offices raise funds and then work with the implementing offices to realize the respective projects in the given countries. ADRA Czech Republic is not just a donor office but an implementing office as well. At the moment it has regional volunteer centres in 27 towns and cities in Bohemia and Moravia. They coordinate the work of volunteers who help people in distress.”
“It is mostly seniors, people in hospitals, chronically ill people, people in hospices, sick children – those are the people we help.”
With money or assistance?
“It is mostly volunteers helping people who have no close family or friends to assist them, people who need assistance in hospital or are house-bound. Our volunteers give them two or three hours of their time a week. It depends on their needs of course, but the visits take place on a regular basis.”
What about foreign aid?
“Well, as I said, ADRA is a network and we cooperate directly with ADRA offices around the world and sometimes we partner with other ADRA offices – ADRA Germany, ADRA Denmark, ADRA UK – in giving aid. “
What kind of aid do you provide specifically?
“There’s a vast variety of projects. It could be providing safe and clean water in Ethiopia, Somalia and so on, it could be helping people to learn something new in the area of agriculture. For instance one of our biggest projects is in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. There we have four big training farms that help local farmers to learn new techniques, learn to be more efficient. That will help them to become independent and self-sufficient in not just growing fruit and vegetables for themselves and their family but selling their produce to make money.”
Do you help young children get an education?
“We do that as well. For instance after the tsunami in 2004 ADRA reconstructed and built tens of schools in Indonesia. That is certainly one of our primary interests –helping children get an education which will, in turn, give them a better chance of getting good employment when they are grown up.”
Can donors target their help to a given child?
“Definitely, we have a programme that is called e-donation meaning that you can select a project that you want to support: it could be help directly dedicated to Haiti, or help directly dedicated to Georgia or Sri Lanka.”
But do they know what child they are helping? Is there feedback in the form of a letter or news about the child’s development?
“This is most evident in our project in Bangladesh. It was launched in 1999 to help underprivileged children in Bangladesh – the so called BangBaby project – where Czechs can help give underprivileged children an education. Donors in the Czech Republic select a child they want to help and they get direct feedback.”
ADRA is an Adventist development and relief agency. Does it influence your work in terms of where you are going to help or who you are going to help?
“Not really. No. I am not linked to the church in any way and neither are the people working in the international projects department. But in general I think that it is a good thing that there is this link between ADRA and the church because it creates synergies. “
Do you find that Czechs are open to charity?
“I think in general they are very open, you can see this especially after natural disasters both at home and abroad. They were generous after the floods here and after the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami in south-east Asia. People try to help as much as they can. Now –given the current economic crisis –we hear more and more that we should focus more on projects in the Czech Republic because increasingly there are people in trouble here as well. But I think it is good that we can help both at home and abroad.”
You now have a travelling exhibition of photographs. What is that in aid of?
“The exhibition covers the history of ADRA Czech Republic year by year. It shows the development of the Czech office and the projects that were implemented and supported by the ADRA office.”
“We would like to be able to help where help is needed. We would like to continue with the big projects that are up and running in Africa and Asia. We would like to be more active within the big European projects –projects that include partnerships – because the more partners you have the more funds you are able to raise and the more synergies you have from the help that you provide.”