In early 2016 Touchstone signed up to a three year partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is an international charity which stands together with the poorest and most vulnerable and with them build, toward a world where everyone has a decent place to call home and the opportunity for a life built on hope and potential, self-reliance and dignity.
We chose Habitat because we shared their visions and ethos and because the partnership gives our people the opportunity to engage directly in charitable work.
Touchstone’s commitment is to fund the building of 24 houses and latrines for vulnerable children and orphans in Malawi over the next 3 years. As part of this, a team of around 12 people from Touchstone will each year travel to Malawi, with travel costs mainly funded by personally, to build two houses and gain valuable experience around housing building and what life is like in a very different part of the world.
The first visit has just ended and the team has returned from what all agreed was a life changing experience. We were working in Chimimbo in Salima district. We completed two house during our visit, one for Estina and the 4 children she cares for and 1 for Regina who is disabled and looks after 3 children. The families for whom we built houses were chosen in conjunction with the local community and the village chiefs.
The houses were built from fired bricks laid in matope, which is a mud mortar which is pointed with sand and cement on the outside to protect it from damp in the rainy season. The floor is concrete with a damp proof membrane and doors and windows are designed to keep mosquitoes out as malaria is a huge problem in Malawi. When completed the houses are owned by the children give them long term security and a safe base from which to pursue an education and opportunity.
In addition to learning brick laying skills we learned a massive amount about ourselves and each other. And what amazed all of us was that the families and villagers we were working with and who have almost nothing shared what they had with us, they danced and sang for us, the children played with us. They shared their smiles and happiness with us and will be our friends for life
We gave a lot but we got a huge amount from our trip. One of the team summed it up for us all:
There were many highlights to the trip. However, what I took away most of all was what I think is most important in life. What I saw was not only the obvious poverty, but how happy, friendly, respectful and loving people can be even though they have very little. A simple wave or smile, to say hello, a visit to a school and a football brought so much joy to the people of our host country. This made me appreciate that a simple visit or call from a loved one can be worth a lot more than an expensive gift.
The Touchstone team were given the utmost love and respect from strangers who were not to benefit from our visit to Malawi. These selfless acts from the Malawian people will not be forgotten in a hurry.
It’s impossible for me to list every highlight of the trip, as there are genuinely too many to mention (besides the bugs that took a shining to my room); however, visiting the local school is definitely up there. Seeing 200 children in one class, who had nothing in the world but each other, and actually being happy to be there, will be a memory I’ll never forget. All huddled together on the floor of a small classroom, with no desks and quiet smiles on their faces, brought home the stark contrast of the education we receive back home, and what is needed to help improve theirs. The joy from the children that day, with us being there, was incredible.
Another highlight was arriving to the village on the morning of our final day, to find the roof being assembled to complete the structure of the house for Regina, the lady we were building for. We were slightly worried we would not see our build complete, however, seeing this lovely new home next to Regina’s old house, was emotional to say the least. Saying goodbye to Regina, with the biggest smile on her face, is also an image I will never forget. Definitely a realisation for me, of what we had truly achieved.
We are still raising money. The more we raise the more we can do. And we would love to build more than 24 houses. If you would like to donate or support us in any way please contact:
Rachel Simms; 07824 696 672 or Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
A poem we received from our friends in Malawi:
You were born with the Ability to Change Someone’s Life and you didn’t waste it
YOU CHANGED A LIFE
‘Eat, Sleep, Build’ that is one motto that links well with Habitat for Humanity,
But how can you jovially eat in a house that is leaking at a great gravity?
How can you sleep in a house with no proper windows?
How at all can you comfortably live in a house with weak or destroyed doors?
And so this leaves one super important facet of this three word motto,
Build, yes! That’s right build,
For if you build you bring about a shelter which august well with one of Abraham Maslow’s physiological need,
This word build is exactly what brought together Habitat for Humanity Malawi, Habitat for Humanity Great Britain and Touchstone to come to Salima,
It saw the need of Esinta Banda, Regina Mtambalika and their families,
And so has met the need in a way that leaves beautiful indelible memories for years,
Now if someone wants to give directions to Nakondwa, one would say ‘...then you will find these two beautiful houses’
Truly in some sort of new local mesmerizing Global Positioning System beyond the beauty of a garden of roses,
I pass by the two houses that you constructed I am met by the priceless smiles of Precious and Petra so young and free,
And it’s all because of the initiative of Touchstone, Habitat Great Britain and Habitat Malawi,
And I know, I really know that this mark made in the hearts of the two families will last a lifetime,
Protecting the families from many dangers and increasing their joyful laugh time
So Sam, Mahroof, Stacey, Manuela, John, Rae, Fenna, Brad, Dane, Lins, Symon and Mela, I want to tell you how grateful I am,
Thank you for building not only houses, but also memories, smiles and hope for a future that’s much brighter,
May this be imprinted in your hearts everywhere you go ‘I changed a life’ for you made the beneficiaries’ problems much lighter,
Never at one point just reminisce that you only built houses in that community,
Always find satisfaction in that you brought everlasting smiles and changed lives by your humanity.
You should also find solace in the fact that you offered to the less privileged a long lasting housing immunity,
Make sure that you keep in memory the Chichewa phrases that you learnt like Dzina lako ndani? (What’s your name?) Zikomo Kwambiri (Thank you very much), chonde (Please), Tionana Mawa (See you, tomorrow), Matope (Mortar) and Njerwa (Brick/s)
INDEED YOU CHANGED MANY A LIFE!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
Touchstone supports a wide range of charities and last year donated over £100,000 to charity. The charities supported are broadly those dealing with housing, young people and the environment.
Whilst continuing to maintain our level of financial contributions to charities we want to engage the business and our people more directly in helping others Touchstone has, therefore, partnered with Habitat for Humanity to support their orphan and vulnerable children programme in Malawi.
Mainly due the HIV and AIDS pandemic, Malawi has over 1 million orphans, representing around 17% of children. The goal of the programme is to improve the living conditions of orphans and reduce their vulnerability through the construction of decent, durable houses and the provision of complimentary interventions such as malaria prevention training, HIV prevention training and property rights training.
The partnership is a three year project which will involve Touchstone staff traveling to Malawi to build 6 houses each year for orphans. 11 staff will be leaving for Malawi this year on 4 June and will build 2 houses in the Salima District on the shores of Lake Malawi, about 2 hours’ drive from Lilongwe. They will experience first-hand the need these vulnerable children have for decent homes and will interact with the homeowners and the local community. Staff are contributing personally to the costs of the trip.
We recognise that unsanitary, temporary housing conditions such as mud floors, thatched roofs, poor ventilation and no windows characterises much of the housing in Malawi. Poor housing facilitates the spread of disease, particularly among children. When parents die the basic security and health afforded by a hole are lost leaving children vulnerable and with little hope. Touchstone staff have decided to roll their sleeves up and do something about this. We will let you know how successful we are.
Chief Executive, Tim Saunders, visited the National Memorial Arboretum on 7 April to represent Touchstone at the unveiling of the Donor Family Network’s new Gift of Life memorial.
The Donor Family Network exists to support greater awareness of the benefits of organ donation and provide the highest quality support for every donor family. Touchstone’s involvement with the Network dates back to 2010, when we sponsored the British Transplant Games in Bath.
The Gift of Life memorial was unveiled by HRH Duke of Gloucester. It features a butterfly to symbolise new life, with the forget-me-not showing donors will not be forgotten.
The Donor Family Network is aiming to raise awareness of the thousands of transplants needed. There are currently nearly 6,500 people waiting for a transplant in the UK and on average three people die every day because of the shortage of donor organs.
David Nix, the chairman of the Donor Family Network, said: “It has been one of the charity’s dreams to have a national memorial for everyone whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation. We hope that this is a place where donor families can proudly remember the amazing gift their loved one made as well as a place that people whose lives have been saved by donors can pay tribute to the stranger who helped them.”
The title of this year’s conference was “Housing the World”. It points to a much stronger focus on the residential market than used to be the case. Housing is now a top priority for many nations, not just the UK and the conference is now much more relevant to us than it was.
Chief Executive, Tim Saunders and Client Relations & Business Development Director, Jon Clark travelled to Cannes in March to represent Touchstone at the annual MIPIM conference. Over the past 27 years, MIPIM has become the leading worldwide property event gathering real estate professionals from all sectors. It aims to provide an international platform for industry leaders to connect, and do real face-to-face business.
Touchstone last attended the event in 2007, but with the banking crisis and global slowdown following hot on its heels the number of participants declined markedly and it’s taken a while for us to decide to re-engage. In part our decision to attend was due to the title of this year’s conference - “Housing the World”. It might sound like an ambitious target, but it does point to a much stronger focus on the residential market than used to be the case. Housing is now a top priority for many nations, not just the UK and the conference is now much more relevant to us than it was.
“We had a very successful week, making new contacts, explaining more about some of the innovative projects Touchstone are involved in and re-connecting with clients, advisers and competitors. We will definitely be back in 2017”. Jon Clark
No iPads, no iPhone or in fact no i-anything. Mobile and internet technology was in its infancy, only 7% of households lived in the private rented sector and property management was very, very traditional.
How things have changed!
Now nearly 20% of households live in the private rented sector and technology, data and information surround us all – this gives Touchstone the opportunity to make more informed decisions, serve customers better and move faster.
Fast-forward from 1991 and today Touchstone are in position to be at the cutting edge of a fast-moving private rented sector. Building on our reputation for delivering world-class basics, we’re now involved in a number of innovative projects and also continue to play a key role in sponsoring growing professionalism and integrity in the sector.
Touchstone’s future will be built on combining over 25 years of world class property management experience with investment in new technologies, a renewed focus on the customer and the latest in market intelligence and tenant insight.
We call it intelligent property management.
Welcome to our new brand – looking to the future, with a nod to the past. It has been created to highlight the value we bring to our clients and customers - making financial sense of property management.Touchstone brings together the landlord view with the tenant view then combines it with our market knowledge and experience - a total view that we call intelligent property management.