25 years ago, People in Need was established: Now, its work is changing

25 years ago, People in Need was established: Now, its work is changing

23. 6. 2017

Twenty-five years ago, a group of war journalists and volunteers came together and decided to provide help in crisis situations. This group of enthusiasts grew into an organization that has 1,800 employees working in 32 countries with a budget of 1.7 billion Czech crowns (64 million Euros). Today, it is focusing more on work in the Czech Republic, where hundreds of thousands of people have become heavily indebted. In the course of its existence, the organization has operated in 54 countries and helped more than 18 million people.

"It started with the basic human need to help,” says the organization’s director Šimon Pánek. “A group of friends convinced the Czech public that they could manage to provide aid and deliver food, medicine and clothes to Sarajevo, Chechnya and Afghanistan. We didn’t plan it; we simply answered the need, the challenge, and the call. A quarter of a century later, we are a dynamic, professional organization. Much has changed in 25 years, but the basic premise is still the same: It’s all about the real meaning of what we do and those whom we work for and we work with.”

People in Need still works in war zones and long-term crisis situations. Today, for example, it has a completely extraordinary status in Ukraine, where it provides help on both sides of the conflict. The same applies in Syria, where the British government has entrusted it to lead a consortium of humanitarian organizations and a project to the tune of 30 million pounds. In development aid provided in 20 countries, the focus today is primarily on transferring know-how and supporting the most vulnerable people, who are learning to face up to adverse natural and social conditions and developing their ability to help themselves.

The human rights division opened new missions in several Latin American countries and Vietnam, where it helps independent journalists, lawyers, and disadvantaged minorities, and also supports various civic and artistic initiatives. The rise of authoritarian tendencies in Russia and its propaganda in Ukraine and in the unrecognized breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester has led to a change of approach, whereby we now focus more on active young people, media and new technologies.  

In the Czech Republic, we work in areas where there is a lack of state support

In the Czech Republic, the organization works in more than half of the country’s primary and secondary schools in areas where state support is lacking. It provides teachers with materials for teaching modern history and explaining contemporary issues. At present, it is focusing on media literacy, which is proving to be a crucial prerequisite for understanding changes that are happening in the world and for preserving democracy.

Thousands of teachers, teaching assistants and students of pedagogical disciplines take People in Need courses every year. Three hundred volunteers provide tuition to children whose parents attained a low level of education and are unable to give their kids educational assistance by themselves. The organization operates preschool and low-threshold clubs, which help children compensate for social handicaps, thereby generally supporting more than 2,000 children in the poorest regions of the Czech Republic.

Hundreds of thousands of Czechs have fallen into debt

The organization’s workers are increasingly encountering the problem of over-indebtedness, a problem that is difficult to resolve and which is pushing a number of middle-class people into poverty. Besides providing debt-consultancy services, workers from People in Need are also striving to effect systemic change with respect to indebtedness and the debt-collection practices of lawyers. In this way, they have helped to reduce immoral lawyer’s fees for the collection of small debts, ban arbitration clauses, and severely restrict usurious loan providers. This has helped 830,000 people who are currently facing distraint proceedings.

More than 22,000 donors support the organization’s activities every month. Most of them contribute to the People in Need Club of Friends. Consequently, the organization sees celebrating 25 years of its existence as an opportunity to thank donors and to commend aiding and donating in and of itself, while also gaining new supporters. We owe great thanks to the Avast Foundation, which is one of the most important backers of People in Need and which is the main partner for events connected with the 25th anniversary.

25 years in numbers

  • 18,100,006 direct recipients of aid

  • 3,650 schools involved in One World in Schools

  • 1,285,114 tickets sold at the One World film festival

  • 9,909 biofuel buildings supported in poor countries

  • 394 schools built or restored around the world

  • 1,800 volunteers tutoring children in the Czech Republic

  • 30,767 teachers completed education courses in the Czech Republic

  • 1,547 sources of water built or restored

  • 2,084,951 trees planted

  • 1,400 attended preschool clubs in the Czech Republic

  • 54 countries around the world where we have provided aid

  • 9,597,931,000 Czech crowns used in projects since 1995

  • 469,340,000 Czech crowns distributed after floods in the Czech Republic

People in Need in one year

  • 1,030,000 ** monthly disbursements of food aid

  • 440,000 ** people whom we ensured have access to potable water

  • 6,250* needy people in the Czech Republic whom we have provided with non-financial support

  • 1,080* politically persecuted people whom we have helped

  • 49,000 ** people receiving shelter or material support

  • 49,000 ** students and teachers whose education we are supporting

  • 134* journalists whom we support in repressive countries

  • 9,100 ** people whom we’ve got involved in public works programmes

  • 38,000 ** grants that we allocated to support housing and livelihoods

  • 148,000 ** food vouchers are distributed by us each year

  • 38,000 ** people whom we help with psychosocial support in programmes for the protection of women

  • 597* projects that we administrate

  • 1,477,498* bookkeeping entries that we administer

  • 1,825 current employees

* According to the yearly summary for 2016

** Estimate as of May 2017 (this only concerns humanitarian aid)

Author: ČvT