A lot of people have been asking me about Hike4Life since I participated in it last year, so I decided to write my response here…
Did I enjoy it? outstanding YES
Did I think it was worth it? again YES
Was it well organized? YES – especially the part by Country Side for the actual hiking part
Would I do it again? well that depends…
I had an incredible experience – I mean when else would I have had the chance to go to India to do something like this? and I met some incredible people – although a bit more could have been done to introduce the participants. But these personal benefits should not be the criteria by which to judge a program.
There are a couple of points that I didn’t quite understand and were never addressed:
price differences between countries
Last year, there was a different price depending upon the country you came from. For example in Canada, we had to raise $4000 for charity and then all expenses were on top (registration of $1200, flights and general expenses of approx $1300) for a total of $6500. While in the UK, they had to raise £2200 but that included their flight costs! plus their registration was only £350 and somehow able to provide charity receipts for the full amount including flight expenses. Regardless of that though £2500 equates to about $6000CDN. Participants are trying to raise about the same amount in absolute terms, but that doesn’t really makes sense considering the relative costs of living (earlier post of mine about this) – obviously $6000 is worth more to a Canadian donor than it is to a British donor, thus making it much harder to raise. E.g. when a donor in the UK spends £25 for an average restaurant dinner, while one in Canada spends $25 for an equivalent meal, it doesn’t make sense to not take that into account when setting sponsorship targets. £2500 is a joke to raise in the UK – at least make the target a bit difficult to attain at least. I think this year it is still a relative joke of only £3000 where in Canada it is $6000 (not sure what registration or expenses are). Targets need to reflect the purchasing power donors have in their respective countries.
An alternate way to create targets, would be to use precedents set by the UN for G8 nation contributions. The UN does not place absolute numbers on aide targets, but ties targets to national income – the current target is for 0.7% of national income but unfortunately, no G8 country is actually on track to hit that target right now. It would be absurd to change this number to an absolute number. In contrast, it is true that it would be equally absurd to use the national incomes for H4L targets, since participants don’t actually have access to all contributors to national incomes. However, it can be argued that in general each participant has access to an equivalent number of connections of family, acquaintances, and potential donors within the participant’s country, and thus the targets should to be tied to the total approximate incomes of those connections. Since incomes in the UK are higher in than those in Canada, it follows that targets for participants in the UK should be higher as well.
But perhaps what needs to be addressed first is the transparency – with the proliferation of charity walks, fundraisers, charity tie ins, marketing gimmicks surrounding causes (just look at the CIBC Run for a Cure and the abundance of ‘Think Pink’ marketing runs), individual donors are becoming increasingly cynical and sceptical. The inevitable outcome is that funds will be donated to the events that step up their game to ease donor concerns and clearly show how and where money is spent.
The Hike4Life clearly states that 100% of profits go to Focus International. I have a clear understanding of Focus International and the work they do. Detailed information can be found on their site at http://www.akdn.org/focus/index.html – I don’t think anyone can refute the incredibly positive impact that Focus is having.
However, Hike4Life is a separate program – what does 100% of profits mean? Last year, we were put up for two nights in the Taj Lands End Hotel in Bombay – pretty expensive I think… was that paid for from my registration? What other expenses were incurred? how much was spent on flights, etc? I have no idea where my registration monies went or if it was efficiently used. And I’ve sponsored participants in the UK, but I have no idea of much of that actually ends up going to Focus. I’m sure the info can be obtained if you ask and find the right people, but it shouldn’t be that difficult. It should be sent out to each donor and participant. Actually, aside from the charity receipt, nothing was actually sent out – not even marketing brochures.
So am I saying that the program should be stopped. Not in the least. As I said above, I had a great time and for such a young program (I think it is going into the 4th year now), it is pretty impressive. But there is always room for improvement. And the earlier the these are addressed, the longer and more successful the program would be. For example, should I participate again, I would find it much easier to raise funds from some of the people who sponsored me last year had some of the above been addressed. Regardless though, it is a good program. If you’re considering it, I say go for it – I’ll even sponsor you! Just promise that you’ll try to get more of the info above revealed 😉
It’s a very good program, but with some work and modifications, it could be a great one.
btw – there were some other unusual things – such as the open air prayers… singing hymns and chanting – I’m sure the cooks, guides, and villagers must have found it an interesting demonstration…