Somebody pinch me! 10 years?! Time has certainly flown by! From humble beginnings a decade ago, through the generous support of our donors, the inspiring dedication of our staff and the bold vision of our board, Penny Appeal has become a household name and a global movement that has directly transformed more than 20 million lives.
Although we may have registered as a charity in 2009, the seeds for Penny Appeal were planted many years before that. When I was 8 years old my father unexpectedly passed away, leaving the entire responsibility of caring for our young family to my mother. Despite struggling for many years, my mum made sure our every need was attended to. We may not have had much materially, but our home was always overflowing with so much light and love, and this really became the inspiration for our programme of activities at Penny Appeal. We crafted appeals from the heart and built a humanitarian organisation that was doing more than just giving handouts – we gave people in need a hand up, restored their dignity and broke the vicious cycle of poverty.
Looking back over the years, we’ve come an incredibly long way and I wanted to take a trip down memory lane to share some of my fondest memories and achievements with you all.
Launching our UK Programmes Portfolio
Penny Appeal is a confidently Muslim-led, comfortably British, humanitarian charity. We began with an international focus, however in 2014 we launched our first suite of welfare projects here in the UK. Initially branded as “Love Thy Neighbour” and then later as “Penny Appeal at Home” we wanted to give a clear message to the faith-led charity sector that Britain is our home and we have a responsibility to serve vulnerable individuals and communities as best we can. Our award-winning work has made a real difference to so many lives here in the UK and has been regularly featured on national and international media – and even cited in Parliament!
Penny Appeal Twinning Programme
Building upon our work in the UK, we wanted to further cement our intention of serving those in need across the country – so we made an industry-first decision to launch a unique ‘twinning programme’. Since 2017, for every campaign and appeal we launch around the world, we now have a sister campaign here in the UK. OrphanKind, for example, is twinned with our domestic Fostering and Adoption work, Education First is twinned with our UK Educational Outfit, the Alif Institute – and so on and so forth. Comprehensively serving those right on our doorstep is not a marketing exercise for Penny Appeal, rather it’s putting our money where our mouth is and showing once again that charity really does begin at home.
They say every crisis is also an opportunity. Whether it’s natural disasters or man-made warfare, in the face of emergencies Penny Appeal has been leading the way in responding to the call, channelling the generosity, care and concern of our donors. In recent years we’ve established an industry-leading emergency response programme which coordinates with our global offices and leverages our relationships with various partners on the ground. It fills me with so much honour to know that within hours of a disaster striking almost anywhere in the world, we can respond and help address both short-term and emerging long-term needs of communities who are experiencing humanitarian crises.
Gambia Orphan Complex
The Gambia has become a home from home for everyone at Penny Appeal. We’ve piloted some of our best programmes in orphan care and water-poverty solutions and we have dozens of staff working on the ground, coordinating various projects across the country. With support from the Amir Khan Foundation, after years of blood, sweat and tears, we were honoured last year to officially open “The Medina” – our state-of-the-art Gambian ‘Orphan Village’.
Comprising 10 orphan homes, each home cares for 10 orphan children, giving us a maximum capacity of 100 vulnerable children at any given time. The eco-friendly secure complex has been built to the highest possible standards, with solar panels used to light the facility and power the heating and cooling systems. The Medina also contains a Masjid, herb garden, medical clinic, outdoor play yard and an administration block which now serves as a hub for Penny Appeal’s extensive West Africa development portfolio.
Recruiting global leaders to be ambassadors for our work is more than just winning a quick celebrity endorsement, rather it’s a testament that the exceptional humanitarian work underway at Penny Appeal is being recognised and supported at the highest levels. In the past few years we’ve created winning collaborations with Olympic boxer, Amir Khan, globally renowned singer-songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens, business tycoon James Caan CBE and most recently, the entrepreneurial genius behind PureGym, Peter Roberts. This is in addition to a number of collaborations with supporters from across the world from Baroness Warsi to the Mayor of London!
Team Orange – Answering the Call – Grenfell Tower Fire Crisis
In the summer of 2017 we saw one of the UK’s most heart-wrenching tragedies unravel on our television screens. While most of us were left paralysed in horror by what we were seeing, within an hour Penny Appeal’s Team Orange Responders were on the ground helping those in need. In the days, weeks and months that followed, Penny Appeal worked with local communities to empower those impacted and support those working on the ground. While the fire was a terrible indictment on so many who were charged with our well-being and welfare, it was also an inspirational moment to see so many communities band together and cooperate. Team Orange members were recognised by HM The Queen and the Mayor of London, but more importantly than that, we were honoured and thanked by the survivors and those who had lost loved ones in the tragic fire.
Thornes Park HQ aka ‘The Medina’
Perhaps the boldest move for Penny Appeal yet has been the acquisition of our new premises in Thornes Park, Wakefield. Formerly the site of my old school, Wakefield College, the new building has been named ‘The Medina’ and represents the sum total of our collective hopes and dreams for the charity. The new site will be a landmark for British Muslims and bring together the best of our thinking. Plans are shaping up beautifully and I can’t wait to reveal more of what we have in store!
‘Charity Chair of the Year’ 2018
Over the past decade Penny Appeal has racked up an impressive array of awards, achievements and accolades. From trending number one on Twitter for our winter campaign to being recognised for our ground-breaking fundraising efforts and programmes. However, one award in particular stands out on our trophy shelf, being awarded Charity Chair of the Year at the annual Third Sector ‘Excellence Awards’ which highlight the incredible contributions and achievements made by almost 200,000 charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations registered across the UK.
We’ve set out to disrupt the charity sector, and this award recognises our efforts thus far, as well as the incredible dedication of our staff and supporters. Fending off stiff competition from the biggest and best charities in the UK, the award is a testament to the remarkable achievements of our organisation!
Leading a Cultural Shift
As a charity we have pioneered fundraising and community events that have invested in and led a cultural shift in our primary donor community; British Muslims. For example, the first ever Muslim pantomime, which received extensive national media coverage. We’ve also organised charity-themed matchmaking events for Muslim singletons and raised millions of pounds in our annual Super Muslim Comedy Tour.
Around 50% of our staff at Penny Appeal are not Muslim, but the other 50% that are gives us the legitimacy to engage with some of the most dynamic and current conversations in the Muslim community. We do this from a place of genuine concern and care for all our communities.
Penny Appeal has always prided itself on being a youth-led and youth-filled charity. However, with our greying (and balding) heads, we thought it was long overdue to reinject some youthful optimism, energy and creativity into the charity, and hence we introduced our new #KidBoss CEO, Shakira Rahman.
Shakira has a real job that has a real impact, and she is already changing the way we do things at Penny Appeal. Her mission will be to raise awareness about the effect our world is having on our children, because whether it’s poverty, Islamophobia or domestic violence, children are often the worst affected.
Well, that’s our whistle-stop tour of the past 10 years!
I could honestly have listed a hundred more moments and achievements that we have accomplished in the past 10 years, from smashing Guinness World Records to expanding now into more than 50 countries worldwide! None of this would have been possible without the support of people like you, so I wanted to extend a sincere thank you to you all once again for being part of the journey and helping us in whatever way or form you can.
With a simple vision and sincere hopes, Penny Appeal has come a long way in our first decade, but the truth is, we’re just getting started! We have so much more in store for the coming years and decades and I for one can’t wait to get stuck in!