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Giving back to their roots

Community foundations encourage giving for local causes, but donors don’t need to live where they give. There is a growing trend in far-flung philanthropy benefiting North East England at the Foundation.   

This year, Dubai-based David Sadler helped to set up the John & Barbara Sadler and Jeanette Henderson Fund with his brother Richard, and Richard’s wife Elizabeth. It recognises their parents and David’s late wife. “I lived and worked in Durham for over twenty years before moving away, and I met my late wife Jeanette there; Richard and Elizabeth have lived in Northumberland for over three decades,” David explains. “So, whilst we are all originally from different parts of the UK, when Richard suggested that we might jointly establish a fund with the Community Foundation to carry on the memory of our parents and of Jeanette, I was immediately on board. The North East means a lot to me, and I have deep memories of a region going through tumultuous social and economic change in the 1980s and 1990s. These changes have had lasting consequences, but I believe the region’s spirit endures. We are all attracted to the ethos of the Foundation and to its work at a grass roots level, and I hope our Fund makes a contribution, however modest, to the important task of re-building community cohesion.”   

The Sadlers’ example builds on others whose giving reflects their strong ties to the region. Irene Dorner worked internationally with HSBC before returning to live in London. Alongside her husband Jack, she set up a fund at the Foundation focusing on education and support, especially for girls and young women, and on financial literacy. “I was born in Middlesbrough and brought up in Whitley Bay,” Irene says. “I was fortunate to have a loving, supportive family and a good state education and I have been far more financially successful than ever I imagined or intended. My roots are part of who I am. I believe in paying back and reinvesting my success, and that everyone should have the opportunity to realise their full potential. We want to support local projects which make a difference and, without the Foundation, would not know where to invest.”   

Renowned Sydney-based artist Edwin Easydorchik was born and brought up in Northumberland. He moved to Australia over 30 years ago after he was awarded the Sir James Knott Travelling Scholarship from the Royal College of Art. “My scholarship proved to be pivotal moment in my career,” Edwin explains. “I was 22, had never been abroad and my grand tour of Italy had a massive effect on my life and my art. It opened my eyes. It was important to me to give something back to young artists from North East England that are just starting out, so I set up the Edwin John Easydorchik Travelling Scholarship to give them the same experience and opportunities I’d had.”   

Derek Smail, now based near Nelson, New Zealand, created the Smail Family Fund with his father over 25 years ago. It supports organisations in Berwick and surrounding area including the Berwick Film Festival and The Maltings. “Although I moved to New Zealand some 7 years ago, I still maintain close links to and affection for Northumberland, with the Smail Family Fund enabling a number of local organisations to receive annual or one-off grants,” Derek says. “The Community Foundation is particularly helpful and, in addition to my local knowledge, provides me with suitable recommendations.”    

Elizabeth Sutherland Riney set up the Ivy and Gilbert Purvis Fund to honour her parents who were from South Shields but emigrated to the United States. Elizabeth tied those roots with her passion for the environment through the Fund. Its income is pooled with others into the Foundation’s Local Environmental Action Fund. “As someone active in the environmental movement in the States, I was thrilled to see that there was already an environmental focus at the Foundation,” Liz explains. “My goal is to help protect the environment and thereby improve healthy living conditions for the people of South Tyneside.”   

People’s ties to North East England stretch far and wide according to Sandra King, the Foundation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer. “While some of our donors have moved away, their hearts are still here, and they’re passionate about giving back to the place they came from. It’s just as easy now for us to meet on Zoom with someone in New York as a one in New Hartley, and that means we can offer the same personal engagement no matter where a donor may live.”  

If you want to give back to your roots visit our page about setting up a fund