Article written by FFWPU USA Communications Department
“All of our Unification missionaries during the 1970s saw we needed a humanitarian program, which is how the International Relief Friendship Foundation came about through True Parents,” recalls Mr. Edward Hartley, who has served as CEO of the IRFF UK chapter for nearly a decade.
“We were told by True Parents to go out and serve, as there is a lot of restoration from the past to make,” says Mr. Hartley. “It’s a pleasure for me to be part of this, and we’re looking to grow with more volunteers from the U.S. and Europe”
IRFF UK was established in the UK in 1980 to create opportunities for sustainable development, community welfare, and social progress in the areas of education, health, and economic sustainability. Mr. Hartley, who joined the non-profit in 2000 as its bookkeeper, then became a trustee, points out that while IRFF has a worldwide presence, each chapter helps its national community differently.
In the U.S. and elsewhere, the non-profit centres on relief work after natural disasters. In February, Unificationists banded together to aid tornado victims throughout Kentucky. But in the UK, the focus has long been cultivating prosperity in impoverished African communities.
“IRFF UK is a little different to the spiritual side of our movement,” says Mr. Hartley. “It’s really the third blessing in action — empowering people to stand on their own two feet and build their own more prosperous society.”
The Destiny Junior School in Uganda, which is sponsored by IRFF, touches Mr. Hartley personally as a parent and grandparent. “Looking at how the kids are doing, it feels like they are your own kids,” he says. “It’s very much a heart connection to reach out and empathise with other people’s situations.”
IRFF UK also operates a Mobile Medical Team which serves Ugandan villagers, and the Shine project in South Africa that teaches English to children. The WAIT Uganda program, which educates youth about abstinence, and a program providing female health and support are other key projects. Mr. Hartley says donations, and the Tricycle Charity Shop at the heart of the non-profit’s fundraising campaign, have enabled IRFF UK to directly support 9 projects in five African countries, as well as one in Sri Lanka. The charity also channels funds to other places like Senegal and Sierra Leone.
The UK chapter is now looking to expand with new positions and more volunteers from the U.S. and Europe. Even though the non-profit seeks practical solutions to poverty, suffering and disease, Mr. Hartley says it’s a huge undertaking for his close-knit team of seven. “We’re an intergenerational group, and we all have specific roles and feel passionately about why we’re doing this,” he says. “But we have the desire to do a lot more. That’s the heart of our team.”
Mr. Hartley says generating more donations through the IRFF UK website is another important area of focus. “Our projects in Gambia and Ghana will be needing more income very soon,” he says. “All of our other projects are either partially funded or using general funds from the charity shop. This is why we are searching for volunteers to strengthen our service to others.”
IRFF UK seeks to fill various roles — a volunteer coordinator, fundraisers, a social media and marketing assistant, researchers for markets and methods, a customer relations manager, and, eventually, a trainee country coordinator.
“We need people who can work with our team and bounce ideas off each other,” says Mr. Hartley. “The charity is about helping the public, but it’s also about continuity and management as we reach out to the diaspora of our African nations and explore what’s possible in doing this incredible service work.”
You can donate to IRFF UK here, and submit all work enquiries to email@example.com