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Dismont urges charities to rebuild

Charities need to strengthen their infrastructure and find new sources of revenue to survive, a former charity leader said.

Martha Dismont, the former executive director of the Family Centre, said the economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted problems at many charities.

She added: “It's similar to the quote Bob Richards, the former finance minister, used to use — when the tide goes out, you can see who's swimming naked.

“The same impact that businesses are seeing from Covid, charities are also seeing.”

Ms Dismont said that the island — including charities and businesses — needed to diversify their revenue streams to be more sustainable.

She said: “If your funding is coming from local business and events, you are sunk right now.

“If you haven't put in place the ability to put forward a proposal to a business like PartnerRe or XL, then you have become dependant.”

Ms Dismont admitted: “I wish the country was more self-sufficient. We became dependant on external resources and it's about to sink us.”

She added: “If we had more money in the pockets of locals, they would go to restaurants. It doesn't mean all of your profits need to come from local, but you would have a buffer. We went without it, and now here we sit.

“Charities have the same responsibility to become self sustainable and they are learning it.”

She said that the island's social services sector did not get the recognition or the funding that it deserved, but that many charities needed to change the way they were run to survive.

Ms Dismont said: “The culture in Bermuda tends to be more casual and informal, but in order to be successful you have to be more formal in your infrastructure.

“You can be informal in how you work with people and bring them in, but your infrastructure needs to be formal because there are not enough dollars out there at the moment and you can see that from the agencies falling by the wayside.”

She added that some people had told her the island had too many charities, the reality was that the need for assistance in Bermuda is huge.

Ms Dismont said: “We could have four Family Centres and it still would not be enough to address the trauma.

“For the number of families at risk, we truly need a number of organisations so we can have a proper and successful response.”

She added that the Family Centre had long “linked arms” with other charities to create a safety net for people who needed it.

Ms Dismont said as the charity evolved, it helped to bring other helping agencies together through the Inter-Agency Committee for Children and Families and achieve on-island accreditation for the sector.

She explained the Family Centre was able to secure accreditation from the Council of Accreditation in New York, but the American group highlighted that on-island accreditation should be available.

Ms Dismont said: “Because of the work it took for us to go overseas to get accredited, we talked to the Council about if they would be willing to set up a body here and they did, in partnership with Bermuda.”

She said her background in social work in the US had shown her the importance of best practice in charity work.

Ms Dismont added she was tasked asked to help people with mental disabilities who were released from the Willowbrook State School in New York — an institution on Staten Island shut down in 1987 because of its grim conditions.

She said that — in line with a decree on a good standard care in the community that followed the closure — she visited group homes to make sure the conditions were up to scratch.

Ms Dismont added: “It wasn't that I went out with a hammer and told people they need to do things a specific way. My approach was to teach them how to develop their programmes to meet their needs.

“It was an engagement thing, and I have found the same approach to be very useful here.”

Martha Dismont, former executive director of the Family Centre (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published July 14, 2020 at 2:24 pm (Updated July 14, 2020 at 2:24 pm)

Dismont urges charities to rebuild

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