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Thoughts from category: the innocent foundation

madgascar 3: the preview (not really)

I have recently come back from an incredible couple of weeks in Madagascar. It's a land full of contrasts with unique wildlife and beautiful landscape, but it's also home to some of the poorest people in the world.

During my time there I visited Project Lanirano run by Azafady on behalf of the Innocent Foundation. Azafady are a small NGO based in the south east of Madagascar and they do some fantastic work to alleviate poverty in the area and create more sustainable livelihoods for the local people.

Project Lanirano is an initiative that has two main aspects: an urban side, and a rural side. The urban element of the project assists women in making their small businesses more profitable, and the rural side teaches farmers new agricultural methods.

I think the best way to tell the story of my visit is to talk you through some good ol' pics:

Day 1

Here are some women receiving small business training. Many of the group were illiterate before they started so their progression has been immense.

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I met a number of women who had already benefited from the small grants for their business. They told me their stories and it was incredible to hear how such a small amount of money can have such an enormous impact on their lives. The lady on the right gave me a zebu statue as a gift, which I clearly seem happy about but not sure she was quite so pleased by the look on her face.

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This woman told me that because of the business grant she was now able to afford to feed her family 3 meals-a-day.

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I spent the afternoon looking at a flash spreadsheet that held some frightening data about the women's income & expenditure. The average member of the group is living on 4p per day.

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Day 2

This is me and Latena (Head of Sustainable Livelihoods for Azafady), just before we embarked on a bumpy mission out to the bush. Despite my smile I was feeling rather ill, having been up all night being sick. Not ideal.

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This didn't deter me from visiting the rural side of the project where I watched a lesson in how to compost.

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The locals have also started to grow their vegetable patch to get more variety in their diet.

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After chatting to some of the locals about the new methods, my illness had finally caught up with me and I needed to go back to the Jeep to crash out.

The work Azafady are doing is making a huge impact on people's lives in Madagascar. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see their efforts first-hand.

I recommend checking out their range of volunteering programs, including the community conservation I undertook prior to visiting the foundation project.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say a massive thanks to Samm & Latena and everyone at Azafady - you were amazing.

P.S I couldn't write a blog about Madagascar without including some pictures of Lemurs. So I bid you farewell with a few new friends of mine.

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And this happy chap.
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article in the guardian

Foundation logo

There was an article published in the Guardian today that we’re pretty disappointed with. We want to make a few things absolutely clear.

The innocent Foundation exists to fund rural development projects in some of the world’s poorest countries. Since it began in 2004 it has achieved an incredible amount, supporting 37 projects, committing almost £1.3m in funding, which in turn has allowed our charity partners to leverage a further £5.8m from other funding sources such as the EU. There are many things we’ve achieved over the years, but helping more than 340,000 people to live a better life, is probably the single thing we’re most proud of.

The Foundation is a professionally run charity that meets all the relevant legal requirements. The finances of the Foundation are managed conservatively, always maintaining sufficient funds to meet all our NGO funding commitments whilst making sure we have enough funds in reserve to mean the projects do not suffer if the business has lower or no profit years.

As we promise on our packaging, we donate 10% of our profits to charity (sometimes more than 10%). Like many businesses, the last few years have been tough but despite not making a profit in 2008 and 2009 we still donated a total of £273,000 to charity (most of which went to Age UK – a charity we’ve supported through the Big Knit).

It’s not likely we’re going to make a profit this year. We’re trying to grow our business, and we’re investing in this, but nevertheless we made a decision a few months ago to donate £250,000 to the innocent Foundation to make sure that it can continue to support new projects going forward.

The innocent Foundation is something that everyone who works for innocent is immensely proud of. We are committed to supporting the work it does and committed to running it professionally. To suggest otherwise, and infer that the Foundation is run half-heartedly or without proper care, is simply not true, or fair.

an inspiring visit to a foundation project

Pictures often speak better than words so here a a few highlights of Emilie's recent 2-day visit to innocent foundation project with Find Your Feet in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The first day started with a warm and colourful welcome.

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This involved flower necklaces and face painting to fit in (kind of).

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We then joined a proper mother's group and chatted about micro-loans.
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Balance sheet secrets were shared.
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Travelling to the second village involved a little adventure.

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But it was all worth it - I was told all about the vegetable programme that Find Your Feet is running with the innocent foundation. The aim is to help the farmers diversify their crops and it's cleraly working - I got given more vegetables than I could carry.

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And then the best bit: the village photo.

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We ended the first day around the vegetable tree of luck - a beautiful use of my gifts.

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On day 2, I thought I needed more than face paint to blend in, so Savitri helped me put on a sari -not an easy task.

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The sari didn't really want to stay on after a few dance moves but this provoked roaring laughter from the local children.
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We then visited one of Find Your Feet's water pumps in the middle of the fields. A great way for the villagers to grow vegetables all year round and not just in the rainsy season.

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We followed this by a weaving class and general chat about setting up a business.

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And last but not least - delicious Indian treats were passed round constantly. Here we have a mix of peas, biscuits, strange fruits and lumps of sugar (a rare delicacy)

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Lovely lemurs

Whilst 2011 may officially be the year of the rabbit, here at Fruit Towers it would seem that it's all about the lemurs.

Not content with giving them a starring role on our new OJ packaging, we're also really excited because the innocent foundation is working with Feedback Madagascar to fund a yam growing project.

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'Where's the link?' I hear you cry.

Turns out that the Madagascan rainforests where these yams grow are also home to the only bamboo lemurs you can find in the world. So not only will this foundation project be helping to ensure a regular food source for local people in the area, who previously struggled when their rice crops ran out, it'll also be making sure that the bamboo lemurs' habitat is conserved.

Check out BBC2's "Attenborough and the Giant Egg' on March 2nd at 8 o'clock to learn more about the incredible work that Feedback Madagascar are doing.

Remember where you heard it first. 2011 (unofficially), the year of the lemur.

a man and his goat

A couple of weeks ago Rozanne and I were in India for work, and we took the opportunity to visit one of the innocent foundation projects with our partner ADD. ADD supports organisations of disabled people to improve their livelihoods. In India, they are working primarily on improving agricultural skills and incomes.

The money provided from the innocent foundation is used to provide loans to disabled people and their families. The local Disabled People Organisation (DPO) consisting of members of the community determines who would benefit most from the loans, and supports the beneficiaries in their endeavours. The money is used for a wide variety of uses, such as buying animals, seeds or farming equipment.

We visited a number of DPO groups and beneficiaries of the loans during our visit.

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Please allow us to introduce one of the beneficiaries, Mr Siddagangaiah (on the left).

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He suffers from cerebral palsy and as such cannot do manual work. He used his loan to buy this rather fetching looking goat (on the left of Mr Siddagangaiah).

The idea is that the goat will have kids (that's what you call a baby goat) which can be sold for meat if they are boys.. (sorry guys) or for breeding if they are lucky enough to be a girl.

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Mr Siddagangaiah already has 2 kids, and he hopes to slowly build a small herd. The money raised from the goats contributes to his family income, and importantly provides him with increased social standing in his community.

Other beneficiaries are using their loans to buy silk worms, grow flowers, and grow vegetables such as potatoes and beans.

Mr Ranganatha from ADD India was lucky enough to be given some fresh beans to take home for dinner.

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It was fantastic to meet some of the people who are benefitting from these small loans, and to hear about the difference it makes in their lives. We thank them and ADD for making us so welcome and sharing their time with us.

We wish them well for lots of goat babies, and a bumper bean crop.