Asian Aid Organization (1966 - Present)
by Sonja Kama and Robyn Priestley, 20161
If there were a story of humble and unassuming beginnings, it is the story of Asian Aid. It all began with a woman name Maisie Fook, who in 1963 responded to an ad in a magazine inviting people to support children in South Korea. She soon became the sponsor, and three years later adopted mothers, of two delightful orphan children.
In 1966, after returning from Seoul in South Korea with her two adopted children, Maisie felt inspired to do more for the orphaned children she had met. With help from husband Dennis, and the Long and Hon families, Maisie registered Asian Aid to get the shipping concessions needed to send warm clothes, patchwork quits and rug to South Korea.
With a budget of just two thousand dollars, and no paid staff, Asian Aid was officially established. It was a pure act of faith. Very soon Asian Aid was sponsoring children in three different orphanages in South Korea, and the word about the work began to spread. In 1968, Helen Eager joined as a volunteer, and has been involved in Asian Aid's work ever since. The May 1975, Asian Aid had $4,098.02 AUD funds on hand, and was working in Korea and Vietnam.
When a need would arise, Maisie and her support staff were quick to respond. In 1977, after Maisie hearing of the enormous need in Bangladesh, Asian Aid began working with the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service to establish a food distribution center in refugee camps. In the years following, Asian Aid remained in Bangladesh where they helped save and establish schools and created sponsorships for children. In Asian Aid's second decade of existence, operations diversified and the agency took on even more schools in India and Bangladesh. They also began sponsoring Nepali children in Indian schools. During this time, two orphanages - Sunshine Orphanage (1979) and Elim Orphanage (1983) - began to be supported by Asian Aid, with plans to build more suitable accommodation for the children. Some of the sponsored children lived in situation of extreme poverty, relying on Asian Aid's support for many basic needs.
As Asian Aid continued to grow, it made an important decision in 1981, to join the Australian Council of Overseas Aid. This allowed the organisation to received some Government funding.
By 1985, it was reported that $589,683 had been sent to developing countries that year to support about 3,000 children. The Hunter Valley branch was responsible for 40 per cent of this total.
The following excerpt from the Newsletter Maisie wrote on 25th October 1984 illustrates the commitment of these women to furthering Asian Aid's work.
This newsletter is to be extra special. Helen Eager returned to Australia on October 2, after spending seven weeks visiting 60 schools. You will be torn by her diary notes, and when you read about the special needs she saw you will wish you were a millionaire....2
In 1986, Asian Aid turned 20 years old, and the seed of hope tht had been planted continued to blossom. By the Annual General Meeting in May 1986, the organization had seen a steady increase of income - reaching $598,166 AUD - as a result of frequent fundraisers, promotions and hard work. Supporter generosity was indeed required, as a report from Sunshine Orphanage in 1986 stated that, "At present the orphanage relies upon Asian Aid totally for its operating. The cost of this is approximately $3,000 AUD per month."
This decade for Asian Aid saw much progress and change. By 1987, Asian Aid had an inome of $601,659 AUD and was sponsoring 3,680 children from India, Bangladesh, Korea, Nepal, and Pakistan. However, despite the size and growth, the 1987 Annual Report stated: "...the difficulties and instability of having a large organisation entirely dependent on voluntary administration have become more and more evident."
Despite the challenges in sustaining Asian Aid's growth, Helen remained steadfast in her dedication to Asian Aid's work. Helen combined both branches of Asian Aid and kept it operating from the tent the family were living in while they built their home in Bellangry, New South Wales.
In 1989 when Maisie Fook retired from Asian Aid, the organisation had an annual income of $850,000 AUD given by 4,000 supporters. This same year, it was decided at the committee meeting to move the whole operation of Asian Aid Organisation to an office in Wauchope, and Kerryn Patrick, Asian Aid's first paid employee, would do the day to day administration work, guided by Helen Eager, who oversaw the whole of the operation, continuing on a volunteer basis.
On 26 May 1991, 25 years after its establishment, Asian Aid's donations exceeded a million dollars for the first time, and it was decided that some paid staff would be necessary in order to continue the work of Asian Aid. By 1995, Asian Aid was sponsoring 4,514 children and reached an income of $1,219,830.67 AUD.
Asian Aid turns 30. During this period, Asian Aid expanded its operations to include schools for children with vision and hearing impairments, leper colonies, and mobile health clinics for women in rural Nepal. It also established Zenith Academy in Nepal, and in 2002 became recognized as an independent ministry supportive of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By now, Asian Aid had witnessed many of the children who had been sponsored graduate and gain employment, and were delighted that some of the field workers in Bangladesh had been educated by Asian Aid and had returned to serve other children.
By 2003, Asian Aid was supporting 6,750 students, 1,600 Hungry Fund recipients and had treated 860 women in Nepal. In 2005, Asian Aid's total revenue was $2,681,130 AUD.
While it was a decade of significant change and progress, with Asian Aid also employing its first Chief Executive Officer Sharon Heise, it was also the decade where Asian Aid paid tribute to founder Maisie Fook, who passed away in 2002.
"Asian Aid turn 40", reported an Asian Aid newsletter in 2006. "That's 40 years of changing lives. From humble beginnings sponsoring just two children, today the Asian aid family around the world sponsors over 7,000 children in schools and plays and important role in providing clean water for villages, basic health care, vocation training and tertiary education for nurses and teachers."3
Between 2006 and 2015, Asian Aid continued going from strength to strength. Donations reached $4,000,000 AUD in 2012, and Asian Aid's work extended into Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand. With increased overseas partnerships, additional staff, a dedicated supporter base, and committed Board members, the quality and diversity of work within countries also expanded significantly during this time.
In this exciting chapter of Asian Aid's story, some highlights include engaging with anti human-trafficking work in Nepal and India, developing a Minimum Standards of Care Program and Child Policy, becoming accredited members of the Australian Council for International Development, expanding our community health and development programs, and re-branding Asian Aid to better reflect our mission and progress. By 2015, Asian Aid had partnered with 10 overseas organizations in six countries, to implement 14 projects and to impact over 44,300 people.
2016 and Beyond
This year (2016), as Asian Aid celebrates 50 years of giving and growing hope, it does so with humility and gratefulness for God's divine guidance. Remaining true to our values and mission, Asian Aid looks forward to partnering with you to continue creating stories of hope and transformation - and meeting some of the most pressing needs with which we are confronted.
Reproduced with permission from an article by Kama, Sonja, and Priestley, Robyn (2016) originally published in Asian Aid Newsletter: "Our Story: 1966-2016", in Sonja Kama (Editor), Asian Aid Response Newsletter, Winter, 2016.
Fook, Maisie (1984), Asian Aid Newsletter, 25 October 1984.
Kerryn Patrick, Asian Aid Newsletter, Summer Edition, 2006-2007.
Allaburton, Robert (1990), The Miracle Called Asian Aid: An Interview, in Adventist Professional, Australia, p. 26, 1990.
Wong, Jill (2006), The Asian Aid Miracle, in Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church Online Magazine, Sydney, Australia. Retrieved on 7/17/2013 from www.thornleighadventist.org.au/onlinemag/edition_44/asian_aid_miracle.htm .
Last updated 11/3/2016 by Bruce Lo