It’s become Penny Appeal tradition to host a staff celebration dinner after Ramadan. We take stock of the year gone by over a hearty meal, share stories of inspiration and success and this year we launched the inaugural Penny Appeal Extra Mile awards for particularly dedicated staff and volunteers.
Below is the speech that I had prepared – I didn’t quite stick to script nonetheless I hope you enjoy these words I offered to the Penny Appeal family (that includes all of you now) last week!
“Small Change – Big Difference” this is one of the most commonly heard phrases in our organisation. Whether you’re in our call centre in Wakefield, watching the Big Charity Show on British Muslim TV, in our new offices in the US, Australia and South Africa or across any one of the 30+ countries we work in, time and time again you will hear “Small Change, Big Difference”
This is what Penny Appeal is all about and today I want to reflect with you a little on what that means: small change, big difference.
You see, when you think about all the crises and challenges that face the world, it’s easy to feel disheartened and even depressed. You may feel like you can’t make a difference. You’re just one person. What can you do? When you read the statistics; billions hungry, millions dying, thousands of diseases and on going wars, it just all seems impossible to overcome. What can we really do?
The truth is the work that needs to be done is not only impossible for us to achieve, but perhaps impossible for us to even conceive. We all dream about saving the world but the reality is we can’t even imagine the true scale of what needs to be done. Now, you can take that piece of information and you can feel sad and disempowered or you can do something amazing, you can choose to be liberated.
You see, you are not asked to save the world. You are not asked to end world hunger or stop every war from happening. No one is going to hold you to task for not saving every life that could have been saved – so you can relax. You’re free from that! You don’t have to fix everything because put simply, you can’t fix everything, no one can. That is the work of God. What we are asked to do is simple: do that which you can do, do it well and leave the rest in Allah’s Hands. This is the meaning of small change, big difference.
At Penny Appeal we seek to empower each and every one of us small changes in our lives and in doing so, create a big difference. If we all are able to do our little bit, it adds up to a big difference. We all can push ourselves to donate that little bit extra, spend that little bit more time working for the those who need our help, (especially you Bilal!) put in that little bit more effort. If we can push ourselves a little bit further, we can be the change that we want to see in the world.
As my business SingleMuslim.com was growing from strength to strength I decided to spend some holiday time visiting family in Pakistan. Having lost my father at a young age I wanted to visit the village where he was from and perhaps offer something back as a way of thanks to my ancestral home. It was there when I first met people living in genuine poverty. I thought about how much I had been blessed with at home and promised myself I would do something to help transform the lives of the people we saw. We met with families and heard their stories. We paid off debt for people who were struggling for decades, we built wells and fed scores of people from the village.
But the reality of it all only really hit me when I got home. I landed in Manchester airport and pulled up at the nearest petrol station before I drove back to Wakefield. The fuel gauge stopped at £90. Before my trip I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at the cost of filling up my car but I remembered my conversation with Ali. All the people you can see in the picture here, Ali looks after them on his school teacher salary of just £30 a month. What it cost to fill up my car could have supported Ali’s family for three whole months. The thought sent shivers down my spine. £30 is just about a meal for two for us here but for Ali that £30 is his monthly lifeline.
A week or so later I was recounting the story to one of my clients, Dave, I was a little embarrassed at first comparing my holiday in Pakistan to Dave’s family trip to Disneyland, but Dave was moved. So much so that he took out his cheque book and made the first donation I had ever received. I felt an immense sense of responsibility in that moment, I shared Ali’s story and here, someone in Britain who had never met him or even seen his picture gave some of his small change to help make a big difference in Ali’s life. This is how Penny Appeal was born.
I could never have imagined the incredible journey that that first donation would take us on. Transforming millions of lives, helping generations of people escape the vicious cycle of poverty, working in over 30 countries, hosted by prime ministers, recognised by presidents, winning countless awards, raising millions of pounds, employing hundreds of staff – all from a small change.
Many of you have not been able to see all the work we do with your own eyes but rest assured every mouse click, every letter typed and every phone call is helping to literally save lives around the world. On behalf of all our beneficiaries, just like Ali and his family, I want to thank you for from the bottom of my heart for all the incredible work you do.
What’s next for Penny Appeal? More than you or I could possibly imagine. Our mission continues to inspire people to make a small change in their lives, to pray a little more, to care a little more, to give a little more.
Penny Appeal is transforming your small change into a BIG difference.
As Chairman, I want to say thanks for being part of our journey and for your continued generous support. You are making a world of difference to millions out there and I couldn’t be more proud.
Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.