Khendor Kor, Clarks Shoes and the JA Clark Charitable Trust

Date: 12 Apr 2010


Caroline Pym, of the Clarks shoe family talks about their family, the JA Clark Charitable Trust and about how she came to be involved with Khendor Kor in Pakistan. Pym needs to find new donors to continue their work, now that the J A Clark Charitable Trust’s three year funding of the “KK” project is coming to an end.

Clarks Shoes is a Quaker family of which Caroline Pym, a family member, says they have a philosophy of living simply and only spending what they need with surplus money being put back into their business.

Quaker companies are not unusual and many have had phenomenal financial success. For instance in the British chocolate industry and banking with names like Cadbury, Rowntree’s, Fry and institutions like Barclays coming from a Quaker background. Quakers believed they should be honest and are known for their social activism having been instrumental, for example, in the campaign against the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of leading charities, including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Greenpeace were founded with participation from Quakers.

Clarks, who have shoes in the Museum of Childhood, started out in 1825 in Street in Somerset and to this day the area is still populated by the Clark family and there is now a Clarks Shopping Village on the original site. Started by two brothers, Cyrus and James Clark, Clarks has become a leading global brand for shoes and particularly children’s shoes. It is eighty one percent owned by the Clark family with the remaining nineteen percent held by employees and related institutions. It is thought to be the thirty fifth largest private company in the UK.

The JA Clark Charitable Trust was started in a small way in 1970 when Caroline Pym’s father, J A Clark put part of his shareholding into a Charitable Trust to be administered by the five children. “We administered the income initially,” says Pym, who is a shining beacon herself, travelling to precarious places like Rwanda. She says her ancestors originally built swimming pools and schools, when the J A Clark Charitable Trust began. She adds, “We have a large family with different branches and quite a number of different family charities. For instance, The Clarks Foundation which is separate and looks after employees.”

Pym’s youngest son is William Pym who is Chair of the trustees for the J A Clark Charitable Trust and who is an active supporter of the arts.

A vet by profession, Pym explains that her father and his two cousins built up Clarks after the second world war and became the three main shareholders. Before her father’s death in ’85 and after he had retired, he felt he wanted to be philanthropic and undertook local good works in Somerset. He was a County Councillor, Governor of a school and County High Sheriff. His philosophy was that the Clarks shoes shareholding should never sold but kept in the charitable trust which accountants were administering with ad hoc charitable funding, until four of his children, who included Pym, got involved. When this happened the four divided their efforts into categories and allocated one person to each. The headings consisted of the developing world, Oxfam, social change issues and the arts.

Pym with a growing interest in women’s charities, attended a meeting on assistance for women in Afghanistan, hosted by Joan Ruddock MP at Portcullis House, who in 1997 was appointed the first full-time Minister for Women. She decided to focus on empowering women in the developing world. Simon Gillett at The Department for International Development, recommended Khwendor Kor which means “sisters’ home” and works for women and children’s development from Peshawar, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. He facilitated a meeting with Maryam Bibi their founder and CEO, who was in the UK at the time. Shortly afterwards ¬£10,000 was donated by the JA Clark Charitable Trust to Khendor Kor and an invitation to visit Pakistan was extended.

The J A Clark Charitable Trust supported Khendor Kor in a small way for a couple of years but in 2003 they decided to reorganise their giving to focus on just a few core projects and Khendor Kor ended up being one of these. After discussing a new focus on either climate change, women, the arts and social issues, the Trustees overall consensus was to increase support for women’s groups. Pym was charged with finding three projects to support. She met Maggie Baxter at City Parochial Foundation, who was executive director of Womankind Worldwide and had worked at Comic Relief, and Baxter then worked as a consultant for the JA Clark Charitable Trust.
Professor Andrea Cornwall from Sussex University, Director of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme which is an international network of researchers on gender issues working in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, was also consulted . Pym comments “Cornwall is an academic doing research on gender equality in the developing world and gave us invaluable advice.”

This “gang of women” then produced a mission documents and sent this out asking for proposals from charities wanting funding. A hundred and twelve were received and Pym says it was an incredibly difficult task to bring them down to the final number of ten, rather than the target of three. “Projects were as simple as building sheds for women to hang fish to dry by the Congo river.” says Pym, highlighting the very real and desperate need there is for assistance across the world at a micro level.

After picking the ten charities, they did an evaluation of each and checked references. “We know organisations like Christian Aid ask for invoices from those they invest in” explains Pym “but we also understand that sometimes those in dire poverty don’t have any idea how to supply invoices, so we take a balanced view in our research.” Pym says they selected charities in countries where they had basic knowledge which for her included Afghanistan and Pakistan and consequently more involvement with Khendor Kor. Another family member, Tom Clark, who is also a trustee, sponsored three women’s projects one in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon and supported the JA Clark Charitable Trust working in Palestine too.

Pym spends her time dealing with administration on the charities she works with like Khendor Kor and travelling to difficult areas to research new ones. She is a trail blazer, wanting to go to new frontiers in Afghanistan and Baluchistan but so far is not being allowed to go because of the unrest and fears for her safety but she remains determined to get to them at some point. “I haven’t been to Darfur yet.” she says, and mentions a project called Akina Mama based in Uganda, which she visited for a week which offers UK leadership training to potential African women leaders.

As to how they deal with charities she says they insist on evaluation forms and receipts where possible from all their charities before giving out their annual payments. The family meets by Skype to decide on forward plans and there are four executive meetings, an AGM and reports to write up. “I’ve even taught myself to text in Pakistan!” says Pym, who shows me her ancient phone whilst laughing and saying “I should get a new one”.

Of her help with women, Pym says they like to look for locally managed projects led by women and they aim to help develop self confidence and to allow women to share problems. “We are also interested in teaching women literacy because we know for every year of secondary education a girl gets she will get pregnant later, have less children and is less likely to get HIV/AIDS.” Which is a sobering thought. Rape is also an issue Pym has reviewed. “We learned that post conflict in Rwanda that rape increased. Women need clinics to help them after the gender based violence which always occurs during conflict.” She says in the past they have also worked with Christian Aid, supporting Muslim women in camps Sudan. “Christian Aid is good at working with different Muslim partners.” she explains.

Pym doesn’t like to provide services that governments provide but instead believes in teaching locals how to lobby government to give simple basic assistance like water or to build hospitals.

Interest in Khendor Kor, the charity the JA Clark Charitable Trust are helping, who educate rural girls in Pakistan is something that dominates her time now, particularly as their three year financing programme for providing Women’s Learning Centres in the Tribal Areas with the charity is about to end. “Maryam Bibi is a very remarkable woman” says Pym “she comes from North Waziristan and is a practicing Muslim, so she has been able to gain the confidence of the men and village heads in the remote areas of north Pakistan and some of the Tribal Areas. With their support she can set up Community Organisations, to build girls schools, and encourage support for the women such as trained midwives, literacy and microfinance. She has been able to work with the Taliban in some of the areas they control, but KK has experienced a lot of opposition from others. Her non- political, holistic method of working, is not only recognised internationally but is of international importance for resisting the Taliban . Her model for assisting women in these patriarchal societies could be of use, I believe, in Afghanistan.”

Pym says their support for KK is not imposing western cultural values but giving women the self confidence and the tools to change their life conditions themselves. “We help with cultural issues.” says Pym. “It’s basic help we give for desperate things like pregnancy care and micro finance.

As The JA Clark Charitable Trust only commit to three years with each charity they work with, and their time with KK is now coming to an end, so its an important time to get a new benefactor lined up to take the organisation forward and to help them expand.” Pym adds “We have learnt a lot about helping deprived women and will be pleased to share information on all of our ten projects to anyone who contacts us.” .

Pym says the donors taking over for the next stage in Khendor Kor’s development will be looking at donations of approximately ¬£50,000 per annum to continue the work that has been started. Pym explains this need for funding is not connected in anyway with the JA Clark Charitable Trust, but is simply to help Khendor Kor continue their good works. This funding requirement has been analysed and considered by the JA Clark Charitable Trust, which provides a good and easy start to donors or philanthropists wishing to be involved in emerging markets but who don’t wish to undertake laborious due diligence before giving.

Caroline Pym
J A Clark Charitable Trust,
Reg. No 1010520
P O Box 1704, Glastonbury, Somerset BA16 0YB, UK

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