Mike Seawright joined Purposely Podcast to share his founder story with ReliefAid.
Mike Seawright started ReliefAid because he was frustrated by the inability of many aid organisations to get staff and resources into conflict zones quickly and effectively. A decade prior Mike had switched careers from corporate consultant to aid worker and following his first experience in Sudan he has specialised in working in conflict situations.
ReliefAid has gone on to become a respected international aid organisation that is saving lives and alleviating the suffering of people affected by conflict through independent and impartial humanitarian action. They work closely with other international aid partners including ShelterBox.
What is the mission and vision of ReliefAid, the charity you’re founder and CEO of?
‘I'd been working in war zones for a number of years, and I realised from first-hand experience that not enough aid was getting into places like Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, the key conflict hot spots of the world. It was a kind of ‘aha moment’ a realisation that I could help families that no one else could help. Six years later we've supported over 210k people in conflict zones.’
There are 80 million refugees worldwide and 50 million people displaced by conflict or war, can ReliefAid make enough of a difference?
‘The numbers are absolutely staggering and of course you can feel overwhelmed and that not enough can be done. One of the challenges we have when communicating with the New Zealand public and people around the world is stressing that while the numbers are big and the problem is huge, making a positive difference starts with helping one family. We can help people, who through no fault of their own, are forced from their homes by the effects of war and conflict.’
So ReliefAid provides independent and impartial humanitarian action, why is that so important?
‘In a war zone the political parties and warring parties could perceive you to be part of the conflict itself. I have worked in Foreign Affairs as a Diplomat and during that time I could see aid decisions being made based on political and military objectives. We took a lesson from that and when we founded ReliefAid we knew we did not want to be at the mercy of a country's foreign policy. To that end we have had to stay clear of Government money and remain independent and neutral. We don't take sides in the conflict and our focus is on accessing people who need how help and support and the assessments made on the basis of need and not on the basis of political objectives.’
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