The scapegoat, the Bible tells us, is an animal sent into the desert to carry away sins. Similarly, in many cultures, being charitable is a way of unburdening the soul. It took our all-is-business society to turn charity and fundraising into an efficient, results-based action, replete with feel-good smileys and “like its”.
Destiny Stenbeck is on a mission: to change people’s attitude to fund-raising. She believes firmly that through personal involvement she can raise money and at the same time encourage people to challenge themselves and evolve in their own lives through the experience. Her epiphany came last year at the latest, on July 11 to be precise. Stenbeck left behind the comfort and security of her home overlooking Lake Geneva, to pit herself against the nearby Mont Blanc. Her readiness for the challenge coincided with her introduction to the idea of the Caux Forum for Human Security, which, she explained, “rang all the right bells”. By word of mouth, but mostly through social networking, Destiny attracted a huge number of sponsors from all over the world for her momentous climb, raising CHF 5,000 towards the third annual Caux Forum, which began the day after.
She describes the climb as like being on a fourteen-hour treadmill. “I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I lost both my big toenails!” Destiny laughs about it now. Faced at one point by an ice-wall, grappling with unfamiliar crampons and ice-picks (and ignoring comments by more experienced climbers that she was “too slow”), she finally overcame the wall, only to be faced with the final summit. However, she describes herself as feeling both “empowered and empowering” on reaching the top (4,810 m). Her other hope is to bring together communities through the charity drive she founded, the Caux Challenge. She sees Geneva as a “global village” with huge but unresolved potential for rich community life and cultural exchange.
Destiny Stenbeck has had other challenges in life, but they were not necessarily of her choice. The daughter of a South African mother and a Mexican/ Native-American father, she had to struggle to survive at birth having been born three months prematurely weighing 1.8 kilos, hence her name, Destiny. She also grew up in Capetown, just at the time when South Africa was shedding apartheid, which is quite possibly a reason for her special interest in human security issues. Attracted by the diversity and multi-culturalism of Geneva, she has now lived here for three years, and is intending to set herself up as a potter and glass artist. Definitely a change in this city that has devoted itself to the luxury industry, oil and hedge funds.
The generous web
Fund-raising has changed a great deal with the Internet and with the impact of contemporary business practices. For one, there is the aggregating power social networking. The other driving force is the existence of companies founded to collect donations and distribute them more efficiently and even make a profit on the side – even though the thought of profit is frowned upon by the charitable community. Stenbeck opted for Virgin Money Giving, a notfor- profit organisation. The company helps along with the management of the challenges. Once an idea has sprouted, the individual, school, organisation or club sets up a fund-raising blog, which has to be kept up to date (as part of “everyday online activities”), if people “like” the idea, they can sponsor it through the blog page. This is processed through Virgin Money Giving and goes directly to the chosen charity or cause. This throws a whole new light not only upon traditional ideas of fund-raising, but on the nature of those using the social networks. It has become both more personal and more public, allowing the fundraiser to raise money while at the same time gaining exposure, the oil in contemporary careering. Destiny Stenbeck is just one in many people setting up challenges to suit their lifestyles and to raise money for causes. Other challenge ideas are throwing neighbourhood barbeques – with the redolence of Tupperware parties –, swimming across lakes, putting money in swear-boxes, even “selling” one’s own hair or growing a beard centimetre by the centimetre. “I would like people to challenge themselves to be part of this evolving world,” she says. The networking gen is “liking” it, gone are the days of gloomy, heartwrenching ads and appeals, welcome to the brave new world of feeling great while giving.
Points of light
Progress, for what it is worth, always seems to swing back and forth between the activists and the philosophers. A little of both are needed to make sure that human advances are sustainable. That is the job of an annual forum.
Initiated and chaired by Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, son of a former agitator for Algerian independence, who has served as Special Advisor to the then UN Secretary Kofi Annan, the Caux Forum brings together diplomats, politicians, businessmen, academics and peace activists from the world over, to meet and share experiences, beliefs and plans, within an environment of safety and trust. The forum, which will be held this year from July 10 to 17 in the eponymous village on the shores of Lake Geneva, is dedicated to answering basic human needs – food, water, the safety of the environment, the protection of human rights and personal safety of those caught up in situations where their governments fail, or refuse, to protect them (as in the current situation in Libya). There is also emphasis on finding greater satisfaction than materialism in life, through changes in lifestyle and the establishment of trust and cooperation amongst people.
A wealth of expertise gathers at Caux to try at least to identify effective ways to advance human security. The main objectives, however, are the healing of memory, just governance, sustainable living, inclusive economics, and intercultural dialogue, with emphasis on the interconnection of all these issues. The forum costs over CHF 400,000 to run, modest compared to many such conferences. Much of the funding is raised by participants, and pays for the transport and accommodation of those who could not otherwise afford to be there.
Talk and walk
The Caux Forum has generated a number of initiatives. Reports have come back following the 2010 forum of communities divided by conflict being brought together (“An African Answer,” Assaad Chaftari, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru), confronting corruption (Mwalimu Musheshe, Saumura Tioulong), improving crops in Zimbabwe (Ian Robertson), and much more, all things “inspired by Caux”.
This year, a focal point will be the Open Day on July 15, where the theme will be “Restoring Earth’s Degraded Land”. Participants will discuss the problems of desertification and drought, and the inevitable conflict and misery arising from these. The aim is not only to halt this process, but to actually reverse it. The event will be introduced by Clare Short and Luc Gnacadja. Participants will actually meet a peasant farmer, Yacouba Savadogo, who has actively restored dry lands in Burkina Faso, changing the lives of thousands. They will hear from experts in land husbandry, such as Dr Chris Reij, how this can be achieved. Funds raised by Destiny Stenbeck and her “co-Caux challengers” provide much of the finance for the event, which, although maybe not finding all the answers, could be said to inspire those who wish to take action and fight for their beliefs. For more information visit: www.cauxforum.net/challenge
Article by Philippa Martin