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From Bury to Zambia to see how Oxfam fights poverty
THE chief executive of Cowley-based charity Oxfam has experienced life outside the boardroom and on the frontline as part of a new BBC World programme.
Mark Goldring – who became chief executive officer of Oxfam in May 2013 – discovered the challenges of the organisation first-hand as part of a week-long trip that took him from Bury to Zambia.
Oxfam was originally founded in Oxford in 1942 as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief by a group of Quakers, social activists, and Oxford academics, but has grown to become a global operation.
Last year, it reached 94 countries, 13,500,000 people and has a budget of £400m.
It also has 22,000 volunteers who work for the organisation.
But in the wake of a global recession, the organisation is faced with one of the most challenging times in its history and last year it lost £18m as its revenue from its two main sources – shops and fundraising – were both down on previous years.
Mr Goldring said: “If we don’t raise money from the British public then we can’t do the work we need to do.
“If we don’t do things differently then we firstly won’t be getting more money in and secondly, we won’t be making the impact on poverty work which is most important.”
As part of his week on the frontline, Mr Goldring visited an Oxfam shop in Bury and then travelled to Africa to see some of work done by Oxfam in a country which has 64 per cent of its people living below the poverty line.
After his trip to Bury, Mr Goldring said one of Oxfam’s main challenges was to tackle uncertainty on what Oxfam stands for.
He said: “We need to get the volunteers understanding it so they can communicate it to the customers.”
Oxfam has been working in Zambia since the 1980s and Mr Goldring’s aim was to examine how the public’s donations are spent.
While in that country, he visited a heifer international programme, which provides dairy cows to the community, to help people overcome poverty and support a sustainable agricultural programme which for local farmers by teaching them skills.
Mr Goldring said one of the difficulties for the charity was deciding whether it carried on helping communities in the long-term or to help people who have not yet received any support.
In a similar way, he said the charity had to weigh up how involved it became in the politics of the countries it supported.
He added: “We need to do more than provide financial support so that education is provided and that teachers are paid by the Government and the Government fully support the schools.”
The programme will be screen ed for international audiences only on Saturday.