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Guest blog by John Bird. Co-Founder of The Big Issue magazine.

Anyone who has seen the power of volunterism must welcome the advent of
SEWA DAY. A day when you are asked to volunteer for the betterment of
others, without reward, anonymously and without praise.

I have over many years seen the profound affects that being a volunteer can
bring in the lives of people. It reminds you of our humanity, and how only
by banding together into joint actions can we bring goodness and justice
into the world.

Doug, a homeless man lost in defeat and self pity, in drunk and personality
problems was lifted high when we got him to volunteer. But once he saw the
magic of the ability to help others on his own life he was transformed. We
did not have to cajole him into helping ever again; he was ahead of us.

SEWA DAY, which, acts internationally, needs to be supported for its
devotion to delivering to those who volunteer and those whom are helped.
This is “a hand up and not a handout”, the mantra that is behind The Big
Issue. It is a way of helping us all engage at many levels in what needs to
be done in society.

I started The Big Issue in order to bring people in need in contact with
people who have the means to help. Every person who buys the Big Issue is
in some ways a volunteer to the cause of social justice and social
opportunity. I started The Big Issue to bring people together who seldom
met, and out of this our great international project grew.

Ours is a partnership between the homeless, the public, the voluntary
section, business and government. We unify and we make things happen. That
is why when we were offered the chance of working with SEWA DAY we jumped
at the chance to make some contribution.

Thousands of people will be rallying to SEWA DAY and I recommend that we
all join in. Let us make the care and help and encouragement and support of
others, our big and mighty call. Especially, at a time, when people are
looking for guidance and leadership. Let us help those who cannot help
themselves so that one-day they can not only help themselves, but can also
grow to help others.

Let the poorest and the most comfortable among us make the big difference
that only the care of others make sense of our lives. Let us be bullish in
this market place of purpose.

I salute and warmly welcome the efforts of SEWA DAY to get us all off of
our collective butts and into action on 7th October.

Blog by Arup Gangaly

Sewa Day 2012: Up to £11m economic benefits to Britain

It is upon any organisation to continually question its relevance, its rationale for its convictions and the value it delivers economic or otherwise. this is as important for a social action enterprise like sewa day as it is for a profit making, commercial endeavour.

Since the last independent Impact Report on our activities was published around two years ago, Sewa Day’s volunteering force has grown from 15,000 in 2011 into 50,000 in 2012. We also extended our global reach by being present in over 20 countries. This has meant that measuring our impact has become more important than ever and not surprisingly (with our growth) has become a more complex task, calling for more sophistication in the tools that we use.

The three core tenets remain the same: alleviating hardship, improving the environment, bringing a little joy where none exists. We want people to donate their time, not their money. We’ve always highlighted community cohesion and inter-social strata bridge building as a fourth, implicit agenda item for Sewa Day. Fostering better ties between people from different community groups can only be a good thing (and as this EPG report shows, adds economic value too).

Thank you to Pratik Dattani and the team at Economic Policy Group for compiling this insightful report. Gauging social impact is difficult and complex. There are many amorphous, intangibles involved. As I’ve said previously, if we were a commercial endeavour, you’d apply discounted cash flow or enterprise value modelling techniques and produce a number “x”. How do you measure the impact of a project like Sewa Day on society or even on an individual? Moreover, there are no globally recognised standards in measuring social impact. However, it’s an evolving discipline and impact reporting in this space has evolved with it.

For example, in preparing this report, great effort has been made to incorporate the recommendations and findings from the 2011 Impact Report. EPG wanted to ensure the results of this study are as robust as possible e.g. we have several thousand data points this time compared to the several dozen last time around.

We also opened up our organisation, without reservation, to our evaluators to produce an independent, warts an’all look at Sewa Day. The results continue to affirm our belief that Sewa Day adds a huge amount of value to society.

EPG’s analysis shows that Sewa Day 2012 generated an SROI (Social Return on Investment) of £2.60 for every £1 invested. Further extrapolations in EPG’s report show that Sewa Day 2012 potentially generated up to £11.7m of value. I’d certainly be more than happy with a 260% return from my personal investment portfolio, any day.

Ultimately, the success of Sewa Day will be judged by the smiles we bring to people’s faces, the improvements to the environment that we bring about, the feelings of fulfilment that our volunteers obtain and generally by the promotion of peace in our society. If the underlying economics uphold our suppositions, then all the better.

Join us on October 6 this year. Be the change.

Arup Ganguly, Chairman
Sewa Day

- See more at: http://www.sewaday.org
Blog by Vikas Pota

To see a change...be the change

For those not living in London, allow me to explain what is a common experience on most days. To get into town, most people rely on public transport – tube, train, or bus. Every morning on the commute, or at lunchtime when we dash out to get a sandwich, or on our way home, there’s normally a person who is dressed in a red jacket, selling a magazine called the Big Issue.

Most of us living in this metropolis will know exactly what I mean. Big Issue sellers have become permanent fixtures in the city. We’ve come to expect them, which in-itself is a major achievement of this 21 year-old social enterprise.

The thing that most of us also know, at least on a subconscious level, is that the sellers are either homeless or unemployed people, which on a conscious level we really don’t want to accept as the world isn’t meant to be like this. It’s something we sweep under the carpet, despite having such a physical reminder in our faces on most days.

So for this reason, on the encouragement of some friends, I decided to take part in a project for Sewa Day to help these sellers gain some skills that we thought they could do with to find jobs. I went prepared with handouts, worksheets, and with fully charged laptop in hand only to find that I had made a monumental error.

My mistake was that I had assumed that this is what they wanted. I had come to believe that as a result of my professional experiences I would be able to give them interview tips, help write CVs, and explain to them how to manage their money more effectively.

What became crystal clear in the first five minutes of my volunteer experience, was that what they wanted was someone to talk to, someone they could have banter with, someone who would listen to their experience. What they didn’t want was someone who thought they could solve their problems.

Had I pulled out my laptop I would have failed to connect with those I was trying to help.

Thanks to Sewa Day, today, I was reminded that although we should all care about world peace and such high ideals, what matters equally is that we live in the present, we respect opinions and experiences, and that we listen to others.

If what we really seek is to change the world, then today I was reminded that the change starts with us.

Vikas Pota

Photo caption: (from Left to Right): The Varkey GEMS Foundation team leading from the front – Michelle Sherman, Vikas Pota, Elena Buchen

Should you wish to learn about The Big Issue, please visit www.bigissue.com

Just so you know, their business model is straightforward. Their vendors buy the magazine for £1.25 and sell it on the street for £2.50. On average, the vendors I spent time with sold anywhere between 10 – 25 copies on a daily basis. On these figures they would make £31.25 daily if they sold 25 copies.

Some interesting facts about homelessness:

In the Street To Home Bulletin 2012, information from CHAIN (Combined Homeless and Information Network) reported that:

5,678 people were seen rough sleeping in London in 2011/12 (a 43% increase from 2010/11) (but increased contact has been made because of projects such as No Second Night Out have started)

3,825 slept rough for the first time in London, of which 2,696 (70%) only spent one night on the street (helped by No Second Night Out project)

170 people (3%) were seen in all four quarters of the year – there is a small but persistent group of entrenched rough sleepers

Nearly half (2,554, 45%) of rough sleepers were seen in the borough of Westminster

Under half had a UK nationality (47%) – 28% were from Central and Eastern Europe, of which the top three were Polish (10%), Romania (6%) and Lithuania (3%) (this has been consistently proportioned in the last few years)

Just over one in ten, 658 people (12%), were female (consistent with previous years)

58% were in the 26-45 age group, 10% were over 55, 11% were young people under 25, and only 14 people were under 18 336 people (4%) had previously been in the UK armed forces (10% if include those from outside the UK), 34% had been in prison at some point, & 11% in care

1,658 people were helped into accommodation, and 1,081 returned to their home area (Outreach and No Second Night Out) Also, average life expectancy is 47yrs for rough sleepers (77yrs in general population).

Homelessness – A Silent Killer: crisis.org

- See more at: sewaday.org

Sewa Day nationally is on Sunday 4th October 2015. For more national event info visit: our national sewa day homepage
Sewa International Homepage:www.sewainternational.com
Website Maintained by Sam Bowers