We were fortunate enough to be able to retire about twenty years ago, from what seemed at that time to be busy working lives.
'That's it' we said, 'a bit of peace and quiet, a bit of travel, time to read the paper and do the odd crossword.' We did that for a week, then J decided to go and study for a degree. Three degrees (sounds like a Pop group) later she's still an avid student.
I was far too idle to go back to being a student so I became involved with 'voluntary' work. At first I helped out a bit locally, then, after a trip to The Gambia, my world changed. So, here I am, at three score years and seventeen, working eight-hour days for no pay and having a great, if exhausting, life. No sign of retiring yet ...
People have asked
'How can we be sure that any money we give goes to the people who really need it?' Well, if possible, travel to see what local conditions are like, get to know people, keep a check on progress (of the student, the patient, the school - whatever cause you gave the money/assistance to.
There's an old saying - fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault.
Give small at first, increase amounts later (if you can), ask for receipts, photographs, any evidence you can gather.
If you're approached by someone you don't know listen, but don't promise. Find out if any of your friends know the person/school/clinic. Don't accept offers to 'give to the orphans/old men/un-named school or clinic.
We're a small charity but over the years, we've been able to help hundreds of people. Things have gone wrong, we've been cheated by people we trusted, but such cases are exceptionally rare.
We don't preach a faith and we respect the beliefs of our friends. If we can help, we will. We won't promise help we can't sustain, and yes, it's hard to say 'no'.
Chatting to people at the airport and on the 'plane it's clear that many, many people are doing what we do. This lady may be helping to build a school, that man has sponsored a dozen school student, this person is bubbling with excitement because she's going to meet the child she's helping through nursery school - people are, I'm firmly convinced, good.
Enough ranting I've been putting off the paperwork for claiming Gift Aid on donations.
Must find out if we can claim on the value of reading glasses we took to the clinic last year ....