Submitted by Kevin Barber, Executive Director – Chairman of the BNI Foundation Worldwide
Like many of you, as the new year started, I followed with disbelief as wildfires devastated Australia. The fact that I have BNI colleagues in the affected region shouldn’t really make a difference, but somehow it brought the dramatic situation even closer to home. Wherever natural disasters occur in the world, we’re always asked the same question – “What is the BNI Foundation doing to help?” In situations like this, where people are desperately in need of help, what better place to start than by turning to the organization whose sole reason for existence is to help?
It would also be easy to assume that a foundation always has vast reserves in the bank and is just waiting to distribute them where they are needed. For us, that is (unfortunately) not the case, because the BNI Foundation is not an aid organization. For the international aid organizations, with their access to a very different level of logistical resources, it is different. However, the mission of the BNI Foundation is to support children and education. For this reason, we can only be involved in projects which themselves support this mission.
This is what I said to my colleague Frederick Marcoux, National Director, BNI Australia, who together with his team founded the BNI Foundation Australia in late 2019, when he asked for advice. But we still wanted to find a solution, because 1) BNI members turn to us when they want to help and 2) there is always a very important “time thereafter” – the time when the fires are no longer in the news every day, but when those affected are still trying to find their way back to their old lives. Within days, footage of the fires had largely disappeared from the headlines to be replaced by international political tensions, a volcano erupting, another royal drama or fears of a new pandemic. But it is precisely when the world has forgotten that those who have lost everything need us more than ever – and this is where our BNI network can truly make a difference.
So Team Australia has set up a GoFundMe page : BNI Cares – Australian Fires (https://www.gofundme.com/f/bnifoundationaustralia), so that anyone asking “how can I help?” can simply and quickly donate whatever they can afford – even the smallest amount helps! Together with BNI members, schools are being identified in the areas most affected and asked what they need most urgently. Only then is the money being spent to ensure the effect of the fires on the children and their education is reduced to a minimum. In most cases we will probably be helping with clean clothes, drinking water and school supplies.
To everyone who generously contributed – THANK YOU! This is just one of the ways we can all show that wherever we might be in the world, BNI Cares. At the time of writing, the GoFundMe page is still open, because children there will need our help for a long time, especially when nobody is talking about the fires anymore. If you require an official donation receipt under Australian law, please email in English to firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, the amount and the date of the donation.
While we hope that such natural disasters are rare, this is a great example of how your BNI Foundation will always work with National Directors of countries affected in the future, because BNI Cares.