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Five minutes with… Harmony House founder Lucy Bruce

Five minutes with… Harmony House founder Lucy Bruce

2016 is going to be a tough year for non-profit organisations, admits Bruce

Five minutes with… Harmony House founder Lucy Bruce

How was 2015 for Harmony House and what’s in store for 2016?

Harmony House is now seven years old and we opened our second shelter, which now allows us to provide free education, food, clothing and medical care for nearly 500 destitute children in India.

Our goal in 2016 is to enhance our facilities and improve our vocational programmes for older children, giving them essential skills to secure jobs. We are also working towards a more comprehensive medical programme for poor people, from regular eye-sight checks to general wellbeing. Our ambition is to continue serving these under-privileged children and hopefully also increase the number of children under our care.

Have the current slowing economic conditions impacted your operations?

Running an independent non-profit organisation like Harmony House is always riddled with complexities and challenges. We are always seeking support for funding as this is the lifeblood of our operations. The current economic conditions make it difficult for us to raise funds but we are also blessed to have friends and family who provide consistent and valuable support.

Our aim in 2016 is to seek the support of larger companies who would like to improve their CSR efforts. Every single dollar we raise is dedicated purely to the operation of the charity – there are no hidden administrative costs and we maintain audited books, which is very re-assuring for sponsors as it gives them transparency on how their support is benefiting the children.

Looking widely at non-profit organisations, will they face a tougher year in 2016?

Yes, I think 2016 is generally a tough year as people are becoming more cautious about their monetary reserves but it’s really important to not let this dampen the spirits as giving back and creating positive social impact is an even more important during adverse times. We have to be more creative in our approach and fund raising activities.

Focusing on the education sector – what are the main challenges it faces?

We have two children’s nurseries in Dubai, Home Grown Children’s Eco Nurseries. Each child in our nursery is paired with a child at Harmony House, so this automatically helps us manage some of our base costs. Our biggest challenge is the cost of real estate to run our nurseries and then there’s the issue of identifying good talent to support our unique philosophy. Small businesses always struggle with inflated operating costs and this will be the main challenge for most people in this industry.

How can new technology help?

Technology is embedded at every stage of our lives and we have integrated some intelligent solutions in our operations. We do however have a bigger focus on human engagement as that’s our biggest strength – we believe there is no substitute for deep and meaningful engagement with children on a one-to-one basis.

We run IT classes at Harmony House, so children can learn basic computer skills and also connect children via Skype or FaceTime with our children and teachers in Dubai.

Lastly, what are your plans ahead – both in India and Dubai? Do you aim to expand the number of schools?

We will be looking to open new nurseries as the business grows organically. We don’t want to be aggressive in our expansion strategy as we are very passionate about the quality of service we provide and we don’t want to become yet another education provider who treats this purely as a business.

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