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Laura Barber on ELM Tree Foundation

Since we first announced plans to create the ELM Tree Foundation, quite a few people have asked me how I first got involved in charity and, also, to talk more about the Barber family’s philanthropic activities. Well, this might sound disappointing, but to be honest I never really considered what we do as “charity” and, when I hear the word “philanthropic”,  I think of someone really rich, like Bill Gates and we are definitely not rich.

But, of course, when Edward and I were children, we were part of whatever our mum and dad did and my first memory of that, even before I remember him dressing up as Santa Claus, was that we would buy tsinelas at the market in La Union and to take them to the school where my Auntie Estring was a teacher to give them to the kids who didn’t have any. And the next year when we came back, they would be barefoot again, so we bought some more. To me, that was not charity; that was just normal, because if you are more fortunate and you see someone who needs help, why would you not want to help?  So, it just became a standard happening every Christmas.  I had wonderful times there every year. And over the years I began to realize that what is normal to me is not normal to everyone in the world and I now see just how fortunate I am. That’s one of the reasons we used to collect toys throughout the year from friends who no longer wanted them. We would collect them and wrap them up as Christmas gifts, so our luggage was always really heavy when we left for Manila.

And at school in Germany there were always projects going on to help children in other countries. We used to sell cakes and do something called the "Burundi Run", where we asked parents and friends to sponsor us to run as many laps as we could around the school athletics track to raise money for a school in Africa. And when Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban and the surrounding area in 2013, we launched an appeal and raised 5000 Euros (roughly 300,000 php) in donations to make sure people there had access to clean water as quickly as possible. 

But of course, being part of the team that set up the ELM Tree Foundation and asking generous people to donate and trust us to do the right thing with their money is a big responsibility. I want to get involved as soon and as much as possible and I look forward to becoming an active trustee, because giving children an opportunity they would not have had without ELM is something I can get very excited about. I guess that is what I meant about it not feeling like charity because charity sounds like giving – but just “giving” doesn’t change anything. We need to find a way to make a long-term difference, not just a difference for a day. And to me the best way to do that is through education.

I will still be studying in England until I graduate in the summer of 2018, so until then I won’t be able to be very active, but I will just keep asking my Dad to update me regularly. And I know we have a really exciting project coming up already! And then of course, next year, after university, well who knows what exciting developments there might be then?

I think anyone who has siblings knows that, as much as you can love them, there can be other times too, but since Edward left home we have gotten closer in so many ways and the opportunity to be part of our own foundation together and even to be able to include Maymay too seems almost too good to be true.

Somebody asked me recently what sort of an impact my involvement alongside the two of them will have and what my expectations are for ELM in the next months and years. Well honestly, this is a big learning experience for me too and I will be able to answer that question a lot better a year from now. But as Maymay says “nothing is impossible” and in PBB House there is a quotation on the wall which reads “Always believe something amazing is about to happen”.  So, my vision and expectation for ELM is that we will change dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of children’s lives for the better, whether they need resources to attend school or to realize their potential when they get there or just need a safe environment in which to grow up.

This is just the start of the journey, but I would like to take this opportunity to say a really, really, really big THANK YOU to all the Flyers who have pledged their support for the ELM Tree Foundation since we first announced it. As in this whole journey since August 2016, which has been really hard on us all at times, when people believe in you, you can achieve remarkable things. Thank you for your incredible support, thank you for believing, thank you for trusting us – together we can make a difference in the world!!

I can’t wait to see all of you very, very soon.

Ingat, God bless.

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