Hannah Fitt, one of the founding trustees of SAFE Foundation; has been running the international development charity since it was first formed, with the Foundation recently celebrating its ten-year anniversary. Increasing access to basic human rights such as education, safe water and healthcare, Hannah talks to Business News Wales about their story, working with women and their big plans for the next decade.
The origins of SAFE
Coming from a family with strong values, Hannah and her identical twin sister, Lucy, were volunteering from an early age. When Lucy returned from a project overseas, she told of the gaps in development and aid she had seen. From getting involved in further projects, this only became more apparent.
“We found that we were seeing more and more small marginalised groups not getting the support they need, not just with regards to poverty but many other issues. This is where we saw a gap that we could fill, developing a charity and support programmes here in Wales that could help smaller groups that charity was not filtering down to” says Hannah.
Becoming operational in 2007, SAFE Foundation has gone from strength to strength, with their volunteers working everywhere from Nepal and Uganda to Ghana and India. Sadly, Hannah’s twin and the charity’s founder, Lucy, lost her life in car accident whilst volunteering in Zambia. Since then Hannah has very much continued to steer the charity with the beneficiaries at the heart of everything they do.
What work do you do?
The work carried out by SAFE volunteers generally fall into three categories; health, education and skills. Talking on the diversity of the projects they develop.
“Health plays a huge part in what we do as services such as screening, medication, sexual health and nutritional support are highly in demand in developing countries. Educational support is also very important to us, building schools, resourcing education centres and working with teachers to deliver a rich, all-encompassing prospectus. Skills is arguably the third strand to our work, going to great lengths to help these marginalised communities become more self-sufficient”.
What challenges do you face as charity?
Just like any business, SAFE has inevitably come across its obstacles.
Highlighting these, Hannah says:
“In the UK, we fight with the media and we fight with ingrained attitudes. Though it can be difficult to challenge such stereotypes, we at SAFE have seen some positive changes over the past few years.”
“Back in 2011 we carried out some research into why people were so sceptical about giving to international charities. Time and time again we found that it was attitudes towards immigration and the multiple barriers that can influence. We try to overcome this through education, with our projects very much about teaching the UK about what is going on overseas”.
Working with Woman
Though they did not set out to work predominantly with women, the needs Hannah and her team defined overseas naturally led them that way.
“Gender equality underpins everything we do here at SAFE, and through our global education programmes, we can help make positive changes”.
Currently collaborating with Positive Women from Swansea, SAFE are training six female carpenters in Cardiff. Developing skills locally, the women are travelling to Swaziland in July to teach women in marginalised communities the skills they have been developing. Reinforcing the message of gender equality, the women are teaching 20 women in Swaziland how to make benches and other items for schools, just one example of the charity’s social enterprise work.
A later project will see the SAFE team head to Uganda, with the women of the area requesting various skills. The village that they worked with were travelling for miles and miles to obtain staple foods such as bread, with a standard size loaf costing families the equivalent of £5.
“identifying a huge need for change, we helped developed a bakery in the village, teaching the women of the area how to build clay ovens and run an ethical business. Always working with a local partner with such projects, our aim here was to teach new skills and help the local economy, while giving access to cheaper food”.
The future of SAFE
Having survived predominantly from donations over the past decade, SAFE are now looking to tap into the corporate sector, building out the charity to involve the businesses of Wales. Gaining support from local construction recruitment agency, Rhino Site Services, SAFE is actively building working relationships that are beneficial for the charity, businesses and international projects.
“As a public speaker, I enjoy sharing my experiences, helping business owners run ethically-minded, diverse companies. We are currently working on a corporate package whereby SAFE offers internal training and support”.
Excited to share these packages and sponsorship deals, Hannah leaves us with a lasting thought:
“It’s worth supporting the little guys”.