Name: Mike Mansfield
Occupation: Plan Ireland Sponsor Relationships Manager
Newsworthiness: Mike has called on the public to continue supporting the famine-starved people of Somalia.
While the famine still rages in the Horn of Africa, the disaster is regularly bumped from the headlines here by stories that probably don’t warrant as much space. Ballinasloe man Mike Mansfield of child sponsorship charity Plan Ireland says the crisis in Somalia in particular deserves our focus as millions of people are in danger of dying.
Plan Ireland’s East Africa appeal kicked off about six weeks ago and Mike says the charity is very well placed to help on the ground in Africa, as they are already established in all the countries surrounding Somalia.
“If you look at Ethiopia, we are based in four large areas, Kenya we are based in eight. When people say we are on the ground and responding, we actually are and have been on the ground for 30 or 40 years… we’re not just there to assist, we are actually key to making decisions about what to do,” he says.
Mike says Plan’s main concern is to feed all those who are starving after the large-scale famine in the area.
“Hopefully there will be a decent harvest in November and then we can start looking at long term solutions, but until then it is very much response. Last year Plan responded to 17 emergencies across 14 countries,” he says.
Mike is a former Garbally College student who admits he “wasn’t sure what I wanted to do” when it came time for university. He studied history and French in Trinity College, Dublin and worked for the Irish Independent after college. He then worked in PR until 2000 when he move into telecommunications and joined Plan Ireland in 2008 after working with Eircom for most of the decade. At that point he says he “had enough of the corporate thing” and had an interest in charity work, having volunteered on a number of different projects prior to joining Plan.
Originally set up in 2003 as a satellite office of Plan UK, the Irish wing went out on its own in 2007, offering Mike the chance to join the team.
“It was a nice opportunity and it’s great, I’m really enjoying it,” says Mike.
The main way Plan Ireland makes money is through child sponsorship. Approximately 8,500 people throughout Ireland and around 740 people in Galway sponsor a child in one of the 50 countries across the developing world where the group is based.
At a cost of €22 per month, the public’s donations go into direct action and Mike doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to sponsoring children with Plan Ireland.
“I sponsor a little guy in Cameroon. For my €22 a month, which goes directly to projects in his community, I get information on my child, I can write to him, he writes to me, we exchange photographs and he is kind of like my little representative for my donation to that community,” he says.
Mike says that, in comparison to other charities based in similar parts of the world, the money donated to Plan Ireland can be directly traced to where it is helping.
“If you want to know how your money is being spent, write to your child and ask them. It is different and seems to be coming more popular, which is nice,” he says.
Plan Ireland is under the umbrella of Plan International, one of the oldest and largest children’s’ charities working today. They were founded in 1937 and work in 65 countries worldwide in 50 of the poorest nations on the planet. This includes Central and South America, West Africa, East Africa and South East Asia.
Mike’s work is focused on finding sponsors and he works to retain links with existing sponsors, so that the charity can do as much work as possible with the poorest of the poor. He says one of the most important things he does is help to promote Plan and raise the profile of the charity here in Ireland.