Times are Tough for Charities, but Some are Still Flying High

Talk to anybody connected to Ireland's voluntary organisations and charities, and they will tell you that times are tough. There is no shortage of volunteers as unemployment increases, but donations are harder to come by. The amount given is falling at a time when the funds may be sorely needed.

'People are cutting back on donations across the board and corporate donors are watching theirs,'' says Eugene Bent, fund-raising executive with the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI). "On the other hand, people are willing to give their time and effort if they believe it is a good cause."

A recent report from National Irish Bank said Irish philanthropic organisations were suffering a double whammy during the recession. Many have lost money on investments and the report said the deteriorating economic conditions are likely to have an impact on donations.

With corporations on their uppers and possibly less willing to come forward as sponsors, charities will fall back on individuals to raise money. Take the story of Rita Corley as an example.

Rita has become a one-woman fundraising machine since she went blind after an accident in Dublin. She is not going to be deterred by the small matter of a major global recession. Any day now the 65-year-old grandmother is hoping to make her second parachute jump - and she will follow this daring sky dive with a charity walk in South Africa.

"The weather has been too bad to jump out of a plane recently, but I am determined to do it again. I was out practising for my Cape Town walk yesterday on a six-mile walk to Dalkey,'' says Rita. "It was fairly gruelling, but I have to make sure I am fit.''

Since she went blind, Rita has discovered an inner spirit of adventure that was not apparent when she had sight.

She has ridden in charity cycling events in California. She has gone mountain trekking in the wilds of Thailand, and canoed around lakes in Florida. To cap it all she even drove a racing car at speed around the circuit at Mondello Park.

"I never would have done most of these things when I had my sight,'' says the born-again daredevil fundraiser "That's the funny thing about it.''

Rita has devoted her energies to raising money for the NCBI and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. She is now concerned that it may be harder to raise cash in the near future. "In the recession it is more difficult asking people for money. Sometimes you just don't want to do it. I tend not to go door-to-door. Instead I organise my own events such as a cabaret night or a cheese-and-wine party."

For a big international event she can expect to raise up to €4,000. That is how much she collected on the Blazing Saddles cycle ride through California, where she rode a tandem.

Through thick and thin Rita will continue to act like someone half her age, raising thousands of euro in cash for charity along the way.

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