Rachel Butt is Director of Thare Machi Education, an organisation that makes basic life-saving information accessible to some of the world’s poorest people – especially women and children - in their own languages.
1. Your typical day
There is a lot of variety in my role, there is no typical day, but I would normally have conversations with existing partners about the use of our lessons in order to get feedback, viewing data, and personal stories that we can use to prepare reports for donors and supporters. I connect with new partners, to discuss with them how they could best use the lessons in the context of their existing projects, or investigate grants, trusts or other funding sources.
I develop the content for the website, social media or printed material, reviewing finances, or work on strategy. I try to make sure that every member of the team is happy about what they are doing, supporting where needed.
2. You’re responsible for…
Reporting to trustees, donors, partners and regulatory groups. Developing implementing and managing strategy and budgets, and ensuring that costs are kept within that budget. Growing the impact of the organisation, by making sure more and more people can see one of our lessons. And of course, ensuring that we have the resources to be sustainable.
3. How do you feel working in Tare Machi Education?
I feel very privileged.
I genuinely am doing what I always wanted to, which is making a difference to some of the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The first record I bought was “Do they know it’s Christmas” by Band Aid; the unfolding crisis in East Africa at that time made a very deep impression on me, and I decided then that the world was an unfair place and I wanted to do what I could to change that.
What TME does, in providing individuals and families with basic information that gives them better control over their health and lives, creates a springboard for entire communities towards sustainable development goals.
The counter to that, of course, is that I do feel frustrated that there is so much still to do, and that it is so hard to get funding to do it.
4. Your greatest achievement
I am super-proud of the funded project we ran in Rwanda, working through a local partner who had been commissioned by the Ministry of Health to train health workers across the country to use the TME lessons. The data they gathered suggests that over 1 million people (10% of the entire population of the country) were able to see one of the lessons, but all the credit needs to go to our local partner who was truly amazing and committed.
I was delighted on behalf of the whole team when we won the Not-for-profit excellence award at the Leamington Spa Business Awards in 2018 (one of our offices is based in the town). Having some local recognition gave us all a real boost. We operate on a fairly tight budget for raising our profile, so most people in Leamington have no idea that lessons made here have been used on every continent except Antarctica!
And on a purely personal level, as for any working parent, sometimes your greatest achievement is just making it to the end of half term. My family are very supportive – my children are really interested in the work, and in fact my daughter helped us make a connection with a new partner when she came home from school to tell me that they’d had someone from Sierra Leone visiting –“that’s where you do the Ebola lessons, mummy”. I’m really pleased that at an early age they too have a global view.
5. Your greatest challenge
Finding a sustainable business model for our charitable activities. It has always been a point of principle that the lessons should be free at point of delivery, so we try not to turn down any requests for them, but that means that we have to find the money to pay for production, postage and all our other overhead costs, from elsewhere, which is not easy.
We don’t have a direct presence in any of the countries where the lessons are used, but they are so cost-effective that if we can engage with a suitable partner, thousands of people can end up learning from them.
6. What have you learnt so far?
I learnt that it takes time.
Building relationships with partners, donors, whoever it may be, just takes time, and sometimes it comes to nothing. Discerning where there is the most potential for impact, and where you should invest time and energy, is a real challenge but I have learned that my instincts are often right and can be trusted.
I have also learnt that it is possible to find enjoyment in the things I used to find “essential but dull”, preparing reports for donors or submissions for Charity Commission has at times felt like a drain on time and resources, but actually it is a good opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved.
7. Your plan B…
Same as plan A – make a difference, if possible, wherever that might be.
8. Coffee or Tea?
Coffee (Fairtrade please), white, one sugar.
9. Your favourite quote…
“Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.” (From the U2 song “Crumbs from your table”)
The story behind the song apparently is that Bono was in America trying to raise funds for the fight against AIDS. Knowing that even he struggles to get money is actually quite comforting.
10. Your inspiration?
People – whether it is our hardworking partners, the beneficiaries who share their stories of how their lives have changed because of the lessons they have watched, the wonderful people I work with now and I worked with in the past, or family and friends, their encouragement is so much appreciated.
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