Harvey has been the Treasurer of Tŷ Cariad Africa since 2009. We interviewed Harvey recently about his involvement in the charity.
What does Tŷ Cariad Africa do?
Tŷ Cariad Africa is a UK charity that raises funds to support orphans and vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa. We are currently operating in Uganda, and the main project we support – and the reason the charity was set up – is Victory Child Care Project-Ty Cariad which is a children’s home. As well as providing residential care for the children who need it, they also provide temporary/emergency care for children who have been rescued or abandoned for various reasons. The social workers and Police trace parents and family members to assess whether children can be reunified, and further assessments are carried out to determine if support is required. As well as the home, we also look to support local community members with education and health support where possible.
Tŷ Cariad Africa also supports similar projects working with children in Uganda.
How did you hear about Ty Cariad Africa?
My wife’s acting head teacher and good friend had originally set the charity up, and had talked about what it was and what it did, but at the time, neither of us were interested to be honest.
What made you decide to visit?
Towards the end of 2008, the boat was being rocked. I was in a place that I thought I was going to be for the rest of my adult life, but all of a sudden, it was broadsided! I was questioning everything – why were things that were supposed to be so solid being moved? What was I going to do in the future? All of these questions – and more – led me to spend time in prayer, asking for answers and direction. It was during this time that I felt compelled to visit the project in Uganda – I felt that I had nothing to offer, but just had to get there.
What were your first impressions?
I visited in February 2009, and went as part of a team from South Wales that included Jan and Paul Thomas (Founders and Trustees), Paul Booth (who is now a Trustee) – a head teacher – and a number of his staff, all who were very organised, confident and full of life, and me – who was neither confident nor full of life.
My first impressions of Uganda were not great at all! We were met at the airport by some teachers from a school in Kampala where the UK teachers were going to be working, and they were not very organised. They all had great smiles, but the first issue was that there were not enough vehicles to transport us and our luggage to our destination, so taxis were booked! I then spent the next half an hour watching my bag which was tied on top of two other bags on top of a 4×4, with a totally overloaded roof rack. It gradually moved to such an angle that we had to stop and re-pack. There I was, standing on top of a 4×4 in a strange country with lots of Ugandans looking at me, trying to secure the luggage whilst dripping in sweat!!
My first impression of the children’s home was much better! We were greeted at the gate by children and staff singing and dancing – it was a lovely welcome!
What were you lasting impressions?
During my first trip, I felt very much like a spare part – all the teachers very full of enthusiasm and had a purpose. I took the team camera and took photos, but felt like a fly on the wall. When I came home however and my wife asked about my trip, apparently I didn’t stop for breath for an hour and a half, so something had happened!
How has your experience impacted your life?
What a change! In May 2009 I became Treasurer and Trustee for the charity and since then things have been fairly full on. Since 2009 I have visited Uganda twice a year most years, and have set up the website and various social media channels. In 2010 my wife and daughter came to Uganda with me, and they are now active supporters of the charity, and my wife is now also a Trustee. Conversation at home is never too far away from Uganda.
Since 2010, a lot of evenings and weekends have been spent involved with the back office operation of the charity. Having returned from Uganda in February 2015, I cut my working days to 4 so that I could spend every Friday working for the charity in an attempt to get more work done and to re-balance my evenings and weekends. This was a great help to the general running of the charity, and also helped develop relations between Tŷ Cariad Africa and all projects in Uganda that we support.
Since August this year (2016) – my last trip to Uganda – I was even more aware of the work that needs to be done so that we can continue to sustain the children’s home in Uganda. We also need to increase our effectiveness by working initially in the local community around the home providing support where it is needed thus preventing abandonment, and strengthening links with the community and partners who will be able to stand with us in delivering these programmes. I have continued to look for extra time to put towards all of this, but no matter how hard I have looked, I can still only find 7 days in every week – I’m sure that there were more people wanting less days in a week! This meant that there was only one solution, and having handed my notice in since the end of November I am now able to spend more time working for the charity, looking to increase regular giving, building a stronger online presence, working with Victory Child Care Project more to identify projects which need our help and then looking for funding so that we can make these projects a reality. These are exciting times!
You said that you have left your job to spend more time working for Tŷ Cariad Africa, what is your work background?
I have been working at the Driving Range car centre for the last 13 years both full time and part time, and have been responsible for the back office workings including accounts and VAT preparation, liaising with customers and service providers from many different walks of life, and much more. The role was varied and very enjoyable, and so I am used to dealing with many aspects of work – a jack of all trades and master some I hope!
What is your biggest challenge you face with more time being spent for Tŷ Cariad Africa?
I suppose one of the biggest unanswered questions I have is “what will it look like”? If I had left my job in the motor trade and was setting up a garage, I know what it should look like, what the processes are and what “success” looks like and when it should start to be successful. With the charity I have a lot to learn – for example, I know my way around a computer and am fairly good when it comes to technical stuff, but I am now having to learn about Google Adwords and social media campaigns and planning, such interesting stuff, but plenty of reading and learning is taking place!
What are your main goals for the next 12-15 months?
The main focus for all the Trustees over this period is to increase the amount of regular giving that we receive – this is key to maintaining and sustaining the projects that we support. Currently we receive just under 50% of our ongoing project costs through regular giving. We are aware that for us to increase our regular giving, we need to increase our supporters, and to do this we need to increase our audience. We will be looking at doing this through social media and most importantly, through face to face meetings and presentations, so if you are a member of a group or church or business and would like a presentation about who Tŷ Cariad Africa is and what it does, please get in touch.
There are also a number of community projects that have been identified around the children’s home in Uganda, and we are starting to look at how we can best meet these needs, whether we need to meet them ourselves or whether we can identify partners to work with, and looking at initial and ongoing costs for them. Once we have all the relevant information, we will then look at how we can fund them – grant applications, partner charities or individual sponsorship.
With this extra work in mind, what will success look like?
As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult as we are treading new ground, but I would like to see a definite increase in regular giving, a better structure for email and social media campaigning, with a greater audience – increase in Facebook likes, Twitter followers, website traffic etc.
On a lighter note to end, what is your favourite song?
With Uganda in mind, the children sing a song and I love it, not only because of the words used and the truth within the song, but also the way it is sung with Ugandan accents. The lyrics are:-
I have a very biggie God O
He is always by my side
A very biggie God O
By my side, by my side.
I will make sure I record them singing it next time I visit!
And finally, what is your favourite Ugandan photo?
Wow, that’s a tough one – there are so many! One of my favourites is one I took in 2013. Shadrac had been sitting on a toy dumper truck and was rocking back and fore. I managed to take the photo just after the dump truck had unexpectedly escaped from under him – what a smile!