Green Life is a Burundian organization that was established in 1997 to look after children who had to escape from their homes or lost their families entirely. These children usually live in small tight-knit groups on the streets of the larger cities where they have to beg or commit petty theft to survive. These are experiences that no adult should ever have to make but for children they are even more traumatizing.
The NPO has built the Green Village, an area with a few buildings and farm land, as a place where these children can sleep, eat, and wash. Younger children are schooled by Green Life until they are ready to attend public schools and older children can learn the basics of several practical vocations in the village. All the while Green Life also works to reunite the children with their families where this is possible.
The Green Village was built in 2012 from Your Siblings funding. Last year, we launched a project to allow Green Life to extend the village in four key areas. Their proposal requested funds for the extension of their farming program, for an extension of their dairy production, for a water tank, and for electricity supply for two buildings. After several iterations and corrections, we started fund-raising for this project. You can find the list of needs for the project at the end of this post.
One of the key considerations already at the time of the founding of Your Siblings in 2010 was that we wanted to enforce a maximum of transparency by fund-raising only for projects that were defined in terms of very specific needs. We wanted to avoid what has been termed donor illusion where charities only give examples of the sorts of goods that a local organization could obtain for the donated amount but make it seem as if it were the donors’ choice which item (or even which type of intervention) they want to fund. Hence it has always been of great importance to us that our local partners put great effort into the accurate planning of their needs and realistic estimates of the risks involved in their cost projections. Once we launched a project, no further changes would be made to the needs.
What happened after the transfer of the donations for the first batch of needs for Green Life’s new project, however, is that they invested part of the money into needs of the second batch of the same project, one that had not yet been funded. Specifically, donations for the seeds and various agricultural supplies of the first batch were instead used to build the water tank of the third batch. They did not discuss this change with us but made no effort to disguise it either. Nonetheless, it took us several months until we noticed the irregularity. The cause was first, that we explained the founding principles behind Your Siblings to them in 2010, when our cooperation started, and three years later details of our agreement had faded from memory, and, second, that a dry period was about to begin, and without the tank for water supply, none of the plants whose seeds they were supposed to buy from the money could have survived.
It is partially our fault that we did not reiterate the maxims of our cooperation regularly during the conception and upon the funding of each project. Furthermore, we see the urgent need for the water tank: Putting the farming batch first and the water tank second was a planning error that we would normally have asked our donors to allow us and Green Life to correct. That we did not notice the irregularity for several months was owed only to the language barrier and the handwriting of merchants; Green Life never tried to veil these changes from us, and we published the receipts in question on our website as we received them.
We do not want to penalize Green Life for this mistake and trust that it will not happen again. Rather we asked them to compile a new set of needs. The first batch represents precisely how they spent the money we already transferred and the other batches are reorganized to represent the new needs now that they already have the water tank. You can compare the two configurations below. We will also update the project pages to reflect the change.
To avoid similar problems going forward, we will reiterate the terms of our cooperation at critical junctures, and make sure that our charity partners are not afraid to admit planning errors.
If you donated to a need of the first batch in 2013, then we hope that you can share our view that the water tank and the agricultural supplies are needs so intimately linked that neither can be viewed as substantially more important than the other. But if you have any concerns, please feel free to contact us, for example by email, and we will try to find a solution with you.
Comparison of Project Configurations
|Old Configuration||New Configuration|
|Land (1 ha)||1||€6,000||€6,000||Land (1 ha)||1||€5,844.14||€5,844|
|Selected potato seeds||2||€500||€1,000||Rebar 12 mm||65||€8.28||€538|
|Salary of an agronomist||1||€500||€500||Rebar 10 mm||35||€8.28||€290|
|Tomato and onions seeds||1||€200||€200||Tap||1||€7.31||€7|
|Contingency margin 1||€1,572||Sicalite||10||€4.87||€49|
|Dairy cow||2||€1,000||€2,000||Side formwork||1||€165.58||€166|
|Establishment of pasture||1||€3,000||€3,000||Salary||1||€97.40||€97|
|Construction of a stable||1||€1,000||€1,000||Salaries (tank)||10||€97.40||€974|
|Salary of a veterinarian||6||€200||€1,200||River rubble||15||€34.09||€511|
|Salary of a guard||6||€50||€300||Gravel||5||€34.09||€170|
|Contingency margin 2||€1,134||Special sand||5||€29.22||€146|
|Galvanized gutter||20||€20||€400||Contingency margin 1||€1|
|Galvanized pipe||1||€30||€30||Establishment of pasture||1||€3,000||€3,000|
|River rubble||8||€50||€400||Selected sweet potatoes seeds||1||€500||€500|
|Sand||4||€50||€200||Selected potatoes seeds||1||€500||€500|
|Rebar 12 mm||8||€20||€160||Pesticide||1||€200||€200|
|Rebar 10 mm||8||€15||€120||Salary of agronomist||1||€500||€500|
|Overflow pipe||1||€20||€20||Contingency margin 2||€737|
|Drain pipe||1||€20||€20||Dairy cow||2||€1,000||€2,000|
|Rebar 10 mm for the stairs||2||€15||€30||Sprayer||2||€100||€200|
|Water pump 3″ (6 HP)||1||€1,000||€1,000||Construction of a stable||1||€1,000||€1,000|
|Delivery hose 3″||20||€4||€80||Salary of a veterinarian||6||€200||€1,200|
|Suction hose 3″||3||€10||€30||Salary of a guard||6||€50||€300|
|Salaries||1||€1,500||€1,500||Contingency margin 3||€697|
|Contingency margin 3||€672|
|Water pump 3″ 6 HP||1||€1,000||€1,000|
|Solar panel 50 W||2||€175||€350||Delivery hose 3″||20||€4||€80|
|Solar battery 12 V, 50 Ah||2||€170||€340||Suction hose 3″||3||€10||€30|
|Controller 12 V, 5 A||2||€50||€100||Salaries||1||€1,500||€1,500|
|Solar light||10||€5||€50||Contingency margin 4||€336|
|Salaries||1||€1,200||€1,200||Solar panel 50 W||2||€175||€350|
|Contingency margin 4||€256||Solar battery 12 V, 50 A||2||€170||€340|
|Controller 12 V, 5 A||2||€50||€100|
|Contingency margin 5||€256|
The €1 contingency margin is the result of the rounding after the conversion from Burundian Francs to euro.
Below the totals.
|Batch||Old Configuration||New Configuration|