Commonwealth Society in Beijing hosts charity gala to fund China’s needy
CSB President Madam Rosanna Brathwaite delivers the keynote speech for the gala. Photos: in courtesy of CSB
The 24th Charity Gala of the Commonwealth Society in Beijing (CSB) was held at the China World Hotel on May 6. Some 600 guests were present, including ambassadors from South Africa, Indonesia, Cuba, Guyana, Grenada, Barbados, Cyprus, etc., diplomats from Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries, entrepreneurs, sponsors and other dignitaries.
CSB’s Charity Gala is an annual fundraising event geared towards supporting local charities. Proceeds were raised through ticket sales, donations, raffles, silent auctions and other activities and will be distributed to eligible charity organizations identified by the All China Women’s Federation and Roundabout.
"We never do it alone, there are others answering the call to help, and we are pleased to partner with the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), Roundabout and the Association of Former Diplomats of China to support numerous charitable efforts in China," Rosanna Brathwaite, the president of the CSB and spouse of the Ambassador of Barbados to China, said in the keynote speech.
According to her, it is through the valuable partnerships, CSB has been able to “help women and children, promote education initiatives among the youth and continue to support persons who advocate for health and wellness in China.”
"The joint efforts of the ACWF and CSB not only improve the living conditions of women and children in poverty but also exemplify the profound friendship between the people of the Commonwealth and the Chinese," Lu Yamin, the deputy director general of the ACWF's Liaison Department, said during the gala.
The Commonwealth Society in Beijing was founded in 1993, by spouses of Commonwealth ambassadors in Beijing. Membership comprises female diplomats, spouses of diplomats and other (female) commonwealth nationals in China. Its main objectives are to raise funds in support of local charities, social and educational activities in China and to foster cultural exchanges between the peoples of China and the Commonwealth countries.
It is reported that CSB has donated over 3 million yuan (about US$430,000) to several under-privileged communities in China between 2012 and 2016. The Society serves to specifically assist children, women and the elderly.
CSB Vice President Shani Karunaratne, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Sri Lanka with CSB Social Secretary, Dahlia Ducreay and friends. 
Rosanna Brathwaite answered questions from through e-mail before the charity gala event. CSB has now over 20 years’ history, and has been functioning well in Beijing’s philanthropic field. As a non-profit organization based in Beijing formed by diplomats and spouses of diplomats, how do you regard your efforts in this foreign land? How is CSB different from other indigenous organizations?
Rosanna Brathwaite: Our efforts in China are fruitful as both local private sector organizations and embassies  have demonstrated their willingness to contribute towards the work that we are doing to help the less fortunate communities in China.
We are different because of our multi-cultural membership, representation from 53 Commonwealth States and therefore our international experience can make the difference. The CSB has been engaging in efforts to help the disadvantaged, women and children that are in need. How do you think the CSB or yourself could more effectively reach to the under-privileged groups and make connections with them? You know there seems to be setbacks for China’s philanthropic undertakings in recent years for that several years ago, a young girl whose name is Guo Meimei had brought shame on the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) and raised widespread mistrust among common Chinese people toward the cause. How do you see the challenge?
Rosanna Brathwaite: China being one of the most populous countries in the world, the best and more effective way to connect to the under-privileged people is to work with the local organizations that are already established here and have a track record.
I do not know of the Guo Meimei case, I will have to do some research. However, what I can say is that in every society, there are dishonest people who try to use the poor to fulfill their personal ambitions. In the case of the CSB, we are very mindful of such actions, this is why we work with non-profit organizations with a good track record, and we also carry out our own checks and balances. About CSB’s annual charitable gala, how does it work basically? I mean how do CSB raise the money and then find more eligible beneficiary organizations to give the money.
Rosanna Brathwaite: We raise funds by hosting our Annual Charity Gala which takes place between May and June. It is a big event that the local and international communities look forward to. Basically, the embassies and private sector donate items which we use for raffle and auction. Entrance ticket sales makes up the majority of our gala profit.
Once funds are raised, the CSB Executive Committee examines applications received through our local partners, after they would have done the necessary due diligence – in this case, the All China Women Federation and Roundabout, and in consultation with them, selects eligible recipients. Some charities do approach us directly and we would again consult with our local partners during the due diligence process. Before approving any project, CSB does its own fact-checking. Visits to the actual locations are conducted. Once all requirements are met, funds are released and a team from the CSB Executive Committee is assigned for routine follow-up visits. How long have you lived in China? And how do you feel about the country and your life here. What are the challenges and opportunities in your perspective to be an ambassador’s wife here and to be the president of a well-established non-profit organization here?
Rosanna Brathwaite: I have been living in China for the past 3 and a half years, I feel very comfortable living here. The people are friendly and the level of development is amazing. My husband and I have visited many cities and I am quite fascinated by the culture and infrastructure.
Challenges: Language – I wish that I was able to communicate more with the local people. Distance is another factor, too far away from home and as a result, I cannot visit my relatives as often as I would like to.
Opportunities: To learn another language and to meet people from around the world of different background and culture. An opportunity to give back to the less fortunate people in China. An opportunity to link China with the Caribbean in terms of history and culture.

CSB Secretary, Mercy Uzoma and guests during the 2017 Charity Gala
Dr. Hans Friederich (center), Director General of INBAR (International Network of Bamboo and Rattan), who is one of the major sponsors of the Gala and spouse enjoying the performances. 
Guests are treated to performances by renowned entertainers from the Americas & Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Pacific regions.
Members of CSB Executive Committee greet guests - in photo, CSB Secretary Mercy Uzoma (standing, right),  Assistant Secretary Mona El Sayed (seated, left) and Regional Representative for the Asia/Pacific Region, Deepti Pareek (seated, right)

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