Meet The Charity Helping Us Bring Together The Underground Electronic Community For Refugee Aid
Since its launch on 4 December, the second annual The Cup of Hope mix, presented by Schirmchendrink and Volunteers fo Humanity, and featuring music from San Francisco’s Atish (who follows last year’s edition brought by YokoO), has brought the underground electronic music community together, pulling upwards of 2,000 Euro towards supplies and clothes for Europe’s on going refugee crisis.
With the campaign in its third week and the Holidays upon us, we thought it a good idea to go more in depth with the charity involved by speaking at length with its founder Marit Neukomm when we were in Switzerland last month. The intention with this new editorial series is to highlight specific grassroots charities around Europe actively working on issues affecting global responsibilities, paying specific attention to those individuals who take action upon themselves in lieu of social/political controversy, bureaucratic redtape, and the general influence of the larger, monopolising humanitarian organizations. As Marit describes, “Some of the big charities work very well with the small ones. Others though, tell us we are not needed and shat we should just leave”. With a focus on transparency and personal connection, Marit and Volunteers for Humanity truly bridge the gap between personal responsibility and effective action, yielding consistent results, as well as a clear vision for the future.
See also: Interview: Atish
“I was at home watching TV and saw so many bad images. I was thinking, what should I do? I am a mother, working part time. Then, the same week, I saw a friends Facebook post who was doing a call to action supporting two refugees. The idea was to collect two small boxes but ended up getting 15 tons of donations. I thought, that was the way I could help. So, I collected all the clothes from my kids, went to Zurich and saw a massive pile of donations. The group needed people to drive the supplies, as well as various other activities that were needed on site, so I told my partner I had to go. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was what I wanted to do,” Marit explains about her original intentions and inspiration behind the charity. “I packed my car full of clothes and medicine and went to Croatia and Hungary. What I saw was just so impressive but also a very bad situation. There were a thousand people coming in every day and I thought about how close they all were to us,” Marit continued. “When we got there, we immediately noticed how grateful people were. They would literally fall on their knees for a pair of shoes or a blanket,” she emphasises.
Volunteers for Humanity is a non profit organization constructed strictly on a volunteer basis. “None of us have a salary. It’s difficult but it helps our donors know exactly where their money is going,” Marit says of her team. The charity has operated for the past 3 years out of Aarau, Switzerland with the intention of supporting those stranded in the Greek refugee camps on its islands Lesbos and Samos, as well as in Calais, France and along to Austria-Hungary border. “Many of these camps are equipped for 2,000 people, but actually house over 5,000 with basically no supplies,” Marit describes of these European refugee camps. Her team of volunteers acquire donations for the purchase of food, supplies and hygiene articles and regularly organize events such as clothing collections, bakery sales and fundraisers throughout Switzerland. Over its recent projects, literal tons of supplies have been sent to Greece, Syria and France, and the group now has eyes on a mobile dental practice in Northern Greece. “We will stop collecting clothes and shoes soon. We get so many of these supplies that we don’t have any more place to put them. Also, clothes and shoes don’t save lives. So, we have contacted all these Swiss hospitals to donate their replaced medical equipment. We have trucks full of them so our aim is to build hospitals and dental practices,” Marit says on her ambitions for the future of Volunteers for Humanity. “If this medical facility goes well we will then look to build on in Jordan, which has taken over 4 million people””.
The group’s donors come in all shapes and sizes, from individuals to partner affiliations to large corporations. Though these large donations are appreciated it is the small numbers that create the life blood of Volunteers for Humanity, allowing for a consistent flow of supplies to where they are needed. As of May 2017, Volunteers for Humanity have also achieved tax exempt status from its municipality, which allows donations of 100 CHF+ to be deductible. “After the earthquake in Nepal, millions were donated but the money just ended up going to the government. When people found out about that they started looking deeper into these organizations. When people talked to me about donating they wanted to make sure that every cent went to the people and not for hotel room and flights,” Marit describes about the importance of charitable transparency. “In the volunteer community, of course there are a handful of bad people. We tend to call them baby grabbers, which means they run to a place, grab a baby and take a selfie, then leave. Sometimes, they will pocket some of the money too. We provide our donors pictures and full financial records. There are also receipts for everything,” she goes on about her own transparency procedure. “In Switzerland, it’s very easy to start an NGO. With that I was able to open a group bank account, which is more transparent. There is a great advantage registering as an NGO because people can write donations off their taxes, which they can only do if we have this status”.
The Cup of Hope is a simple yet effective process for any fan of humanitarianism and dance music. As so many, including Chapter 24 Records, Connaisseur Recordings, and others know from their initial donations, so scene tastemakers like 8day Montreal, Sweet Musique, Afterhour Sounds, Supermatic Sounds, and The Gardens of Babylon, who have all reposted the mix and supported the campaign, simply go to volunteersforhumanity/cupofhope and donate what you can. All donations receive the mix download, as well as tracklist provided especially from the artist.
“It is very difficult for people to live with this parallel world, especially when it’s a war. We try and explain to people to separate their lives into life A and a life B. This war is life B, so we want them to see life A as something separate but the means to help in life B. Sure there will be some frustrations, but you don’t need to let one affect the other,” Marit says in the difficulty of maintaining consistent donor engagement throughout a given calendar year. “We notice most donations come between May and December, but the crisis goes on year round”. With that in mind know that there is always room to donate, throughout the year, even when you may think that there may not be an impact, there will!
Aside from The Cup of Hope, Volunteer for Humanity’s current project is to meet a goal of donating 100 food packages to refugee families at a rate of 1 per month per family. By donating with the message “Food Package,” you will be a part of this integral aspect of the Volunteers for Humanity initiative.