“I don’t remember what life was like before coming to the camp”, says Azima, “but my friends tell me we would play and go swimming”.
Azima is nine years old and lives in a Rohingya makeshift refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Burma border.
Her mother told us about when they fled Burma due to the persecution of the Rohingya, saying “After the riots and looting started we were scared. When the violence came to our village we fled with only what we could carry. We walked one day to the water. Then took a boat to Bangladesh. Then we walked one more day”.
Azima is one of six children, her father has been missing for over two years after leaving to find work on a fishing boat. Her mother weaves fishing nets to try and earn enough money to feed the children, but this is a constant struggle.
When we talked with the Rohingya community back in 2010, the only thing they requested was education for their children. The official United Nations Kutupalong camp provided such services, but the overspilled makeshift camp, a sprawling mass of mud, stick and plastic shelters, had nothing. Not only this, but authorities would not permit permanent structures or formal schools for unregistered refugees.
For a long time, thousands of children wandered the camps, unoccupied and vulnerable. We made education possible in what looked like an impossible environment, by supporting the refugee community to build low-profile schools for their children. These 45 classrooms were built onto existing dwellings and are now educating 2700 children in the makeshift camp. We trained over 40 Rohingya refugees as teachers using a curriculum especially designed for refugee children who have missed out on education.
Over the last six years, these 2,700 Rohingya refugee children have received an education, in a safe and nurturing environment. Not only are they following a government approved curriculum and sitting exams, but, after what they have been through, they are developing their confidence and self worth.
To reach the most children, one child from each household attends school, and then shares their learning with their siblings, parents and friends. Azima’s mother says “Azima is a very hard worker. That is why we chose her to go to school. She is smart and helpful. She spends many hours teaching her brothers and sisters to read and write. It is very important for the future of my family that my children know more than I do. I never learned to read. Without the schools my children could only weave nets like me. That is not a good life. I hope we can do better”.
Azima is doing well, flourishing at the camp school and would love to be a teacher herself one day. In fact a 97% pass rate has recently been recorded, and she and her friends have also learnt skills to communicate with army officers, read vital health leaflets, negotiate better prices at the market and understand about the world by reading newspapers they find in the camp.
“I don’t leave the camp because I am afraid of the police” says Azima, “but I love to go to the school. Without it I would have nowhere to go. It’s only hard sometimes when I am hungry, but I love to see my friends. My teachers are good people and they work hard every day. My favourite teacher is my English teacher as he likes to make jokes!”
A new wave of violence against the Rohingya in October 2016 resulted in an additional influx of around 70,000 refugees to Bangladesh. It drew the eye of the international community and softened the government's position on unregistered Rohingya. We are optimistic that our education programme will now be recognised by the authorities and facilitated by UNICEF.
With children like Azima in Kutupalong makeshift camp receiving the services they should, Children on the Edge can replicate the model to support new Rohingya arrivals, as yet unable to access services.
You can help us to help these new arrivals by supporting our ‘Back to School’ campaign.
Getting children Back to School
School’s out for summer, but you will have seen plenty of ‘Back to School’ supplies in the shops and online; as children get kitted out for their return in September.
But getting ‘Back to School’ for the children we work with around the world is a lot more complicated than just buying pens, uniforms and packed lunch boxes. These children face enormous barriers to getting an education, but through our projects, we make it possible for them to access learning again, in a safe place.
We provide education for thousands of children like Azima, living 'on the edge' in refugee camps, slum communities and in some of the most remote parts of the world. Could you make a donation today to help us support more children like Azima?
Just £10 can provide exercise books and text books for ten Rohingya refugee children for a year in one of our camp schools in Bangladesh
School’s out for summer. But you’ll no doubt be seeing lots of ‘Back to School’ branding in the shops and online; as many of you think about getting children kitted out for their return back to school in September.
But getting ‘Back to School’ for the children we work with is a lot more complicated than just buying pens, uniforms and packed lunch boxes. These children face enormous barriers to getting an education, but we help to make it possible.
We need your support so we can keep getting some of the most vulnerable children around the world, back to school and it's why we've launched our Back to School campaign.
A small donation can not only fund things like pens, pencils, bags and uniforms, but can also rent classrooms, pay teachers and fund training. Make a donation here.
How can you help?
1. Buy for Two
If you are buying a new pencil case or school bag over the summer for a child, could you spare the cost of another and #BuyforTwo? We're encouraging parents, caregivers and children to donate the amount you spend on a new item for the school year to Children on the Edge, to help a vulnerable child get back to school.
£5 can provide a place in a tent school for one Syrian refugee child for a week in Lebanon. So the cost of a new pencil case and a few new pens can make a huge difference.
Don't forget to take a picture of the item and let us how much you're donating by sharing it with us on social media with the hashtag #BuyforTwo. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
2. Buy through Give as You Live
If you are planning to buy 'Back to school' supplies online, sign up to Give as You Live to raise money for us for free! By shopping at a selected retailers using online, we get a small donation, without costing you a penny. Every penny counts, so even spending £5 online at Amazon, Tesco or WH Smith can make a difference. Especially if we all do it.
For example, just £1 can provide four days of education for a child at our Early Childhood Development Centre in Loco, Uganda.
3. Make a Regular Donation
A regular donation to Children on the Edge can help to fund our work to get children back to school throughout the whole year. This means you'll be directly supporting a vulnerable child to get a high quality education, in a safe, child friendly environment.
For example £10 can provide books and pencils to help educate three children for a whole school year at one of our schools in Bangladesh, India or Lebanon. So throughout the year, a monthly donation of £3 can go a very long way.
How we help
Your support can help us get more children Back to School this year and continue to deliver the best quality education for children in some of the most vulnerable circumstances. Can you make a donation today?
We're delighted that Ham Manor Golf Club in Angmering is hosting a golf day for Children on the Edge on Thursday 7th September. Tee-off is from 10am.
There is still space to join in for a day of golf in the beautiful Sussex surroundings of Ham Manor, and raise funds for a brilliant cause.
Simon Davies, the organiser says:
"Ham is one of the premier courses in Sussex and the day promises to be great fun with the chance to play some quality golf in a relaxed but competitive format and of course to raise a lot of money.
There will be a range of prizes and even a chance to buy free shots or mulligans to help boost both your score and the funds raised.
There are still some places available at £60 per head to include the golf, plus coffee on arrival and lunch"
If you're interested in buying a ticket, or would like more information please contact Simon Davies on firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday 30th July, our sterling team of #RideforRefugees riders took part in the famous Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 as part of Team Children on the Edge, raising nearly £8000 for our work with refugee children around the world.
The event celebrates the legacy for cycling created by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and starts in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It follows a 100-mile route on closed roads through the capital and into Surrey’s stunning countryside. With leg-testing climbs and a route made famous by the world’s best cyclists at the London 2012 Olympics, it's a truly spectacular event with an epic finish on The Mall in central London.
Our five riders were husband and wife team Chris and Deborah Taylor, partners Marc Grierson and Leanne Chester, and our fastest rider - Pietro Rocco (who was too quick for our team photo above!). For all team members, it was their first ever Ride London, who were excited, but also a little apprehensive before the big day. Our Fundraising Officer, Amy went up to the finish line in Green Park to meet our amazing team of fundraisers as they completed this huge challenge.
Pietro completed the 100 mile route in an impressive 6 hours 37 minutes and was the first of our riders over the line. Pietro also raised an incredible £1645 for us via his Virgin Money page. Next to arrive was Leanne, who'd had an unfortunate accident at 30 miles in and was unable to finish the event. She was incredibly upset not to have been able to complete the route, but is determined to come back next year to finish what she started. She arrived back to the finish line to cheer on her partner, Marc. Both Marc and Leanne, together with their eldest son Jacob raised £1428 for Children on the Edge - an amazing achievement.
Deborah arrived soon after in a hugely impressive 7 hours 13 minutes, with Marc following shortly after in 8 hours 16 minutes. Our final rider, Chris, arrived back in 8 hours 24 minutes to join his super speedy wife, Deborah! Chris and Deborah managed to raise a whopping £4866 for Children on the Edge.
All the team finished with smiles on their faces, having enjoyed a brilliant, but challenging day on their bikes.
Could you take on the Ride London challenge on Sunday 29th July 2018? We have charity places available, find out more and apply.
On July 16th, Christine Smith, who works for The Body Shop At Home took part in the Windmill Half Marathon in Lytham for Children on the Edge.
Christine raised £100 - all helping to support our work with vulnerable children around the world. £100 is enough to cover the costs of educating 100 Syrian refugee children at one of our tented schools in Lebanon for a day.
It was Christine's first ever half marathon, she said "it's safe to say that training didn't go to plan so I kind of 'winged it' on the day but absolutely loved it, mentally (although I'm not sure my body felt the same way as I crossed he finishing line!)".
She explains why she chose to fundraise for Children on the Edge:
"As a Consultant with The Body Shop at Home, Children on the Edge is a charity close to my heart and I follow their activities closely. I like to do something additional to the general fundraising I do at Body Shop parties each year. My children have done things like carol singing around our estate and 'Iron Kids' and last year I did the Yorkshire 3 Peaks".
Christine started running in January last year but got out of the habit during the summer holidays, so she was determined that this year she would do more than a 10k. Inspired by an unplanned 10 mile run, she signed up to the Windmill Half Marathon that night. She said: "I knew that doing it for charity would keep me motivated when training".
We asked Christine what was the best and hardest part of taking on the Windmill Half Marathon:
"The best part was without a doubt the sense of achievement and the camaraderie of the other runners - everyone really encouraged each other. The hardest was when my hip started complaining around the half way mark and the change in position to go downhill on the last stretch caused pain that quite literally took my breath away. It wouldn't put me off doing it again though!"
When asked what she'd say to someone else thinking about fundraising for Children on the Edge she said:
"Just do it. It doesn't have to be huge and every little helps".
Would you like to fundraise for Children on the Edge by taking on a personal challenge, like a walk, run or cycle? Find out more.
We're taking a look back to our history, and will be sharing memories from our early work in the 1990's and early 2000's as part of a #ThrowbackThursday series.
Rachel Bentley, our International Director describes a memory from 1999 that makes her smile:
Children on the Edge were part of the effort to help refugees from Kosovo residing in Albania during the Kosovan conflict. The people we were helping were spread out across difficult terrain, scattered across different temporary camps. It was summer and the temperature was in the high 30’s often reaching 40 degrees.
The issue all of the organisations were facing in the camps was sanitation. To prevent the spread of disease in such a setting, a solution needed to be found so that the refugees could wash themselves. They were living in remote locations with no water or facilities. Also, it was important to not spend a lot of money on building expensive infrastructure within these camps as it was likely in a few months the refugees would return home to Kosovo.
We came up with the idea of mobile shower and sanitation units. The company, Elliott helped us make these to specification, they were towed by land rovers and visited each camp every two days.
Money was not wasted on expensive infrastructure and these mobile units followed the people back to Kosovo where they were used in the village of Cabra that was completely destroyed during the war. They provided washing facilities for the community as they literally rebuilt their lives from scratch.
Our mobile shower units, providing hot showers (with on tap Body Shop shower gel!) became famous within the refugee population and many a tale was told of them long after the crisis.
It’s one of my favourite memories (and in 26 years I have a lot!) because it’s a great example of an innovative, bespoke solution to a specific problem, thinking outside of the box. As a smaller, more agile charity we were able to move fast and still rely on that skill in all of our projects today.
20 children from Uganda Railways Primary School in Loco community have volunteered to be part of a Child Rights Club, to learn about their rights (as laid out in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child), how to promote them and how to advocate for both themselves and the other children in their area.
“They will be the eyes, ears and mouths of the voiceless children in their school and community” said COTE Africa social worker Nandawula Babra.
The Headteacher from the Primary School helped to form the group and also appointed a ‘patron’ from the teaching staff to guide and support them as they train and plan their activities.
The group, (consisting of 14 girls and 6 boys) had their first workshop last month, which was facilitated by Noah Namwano from Child Restoration Outreach in Jinja. The session covered a broad understanding of what a child rights are, what the Convention for the Rights of the Child is and what kind of activities the club will be involved with.
The children will be choosing these activities based on the four themes of survival, development, protection and participation. Through these activities they will be contributing to the reduction of violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking in the community.
The day after this workshop, another Child Rights Club session was held, together with teachers, to focus on child protection. The children were invited to discuss the issue of corporal punishment at school, giving examples of their experiences, feelings and opinions on how discipline could be improved.
The teachers were very responsive to these ideas, and the session went on to discuss child exploitation. Children were asked to identify perpetrators and came up with a full list of those they feel pose a danger. Facilitator Noah Namwano said “I am so pleased with the participation from the children. It just shows they have something to say, and they are just looking for the opportunity to express their concerns”.
They went on to look at different forms of exploitation and what can be done to stop it. Many of the children were surprised, as some realised through this discussion that are regularly subjected to exploitative activities in the areas. The Child Rights Club will be meeting again in the next few weeks to look at leadership and planning.
Watch this space to see their progress and find out more about our work in Uganda!
17 year old Abby Brooks has spent a week in our Chichester office on work experience. She’s written a blog about her week with us...
I am a student at nearby, Bishop Luffa Sixth Form and I’m studying A Levels in geography, media and maths. Throughout the year in my human geography lessons I touched on topics such as border control issues and refugees which sparked a strong passion and interest within me, inspiring me to learn more. I have set myself a goal to study International Development at University as I believe it will be the stepping stone in finding a career that combines my interest in Human Geography with my passion for charity.
When my school offered the opportunity of a week of work experience I began to research local international charities and was surprised when I came across Children on the Edge right on my doorstep. As most international charities are located in London, I was delighted when they allowed me to join them in the office for a week, as I knew it was an exciting and rare opportunity to find out how a charity is run and gain some vital experience.
I was warmly welcomed by the COTE team on Monday morning and given an interesting and insightful introduction of the charity’s history and current projects. I learnt about the different roles within the office and how each member of the team contributes to the smooth operation of the charity. This opened my eyes to the range of jobs available within a charity organisation, including roles that I had never heard of before such as Operations Manager - who makes sure all the work is kept legal.
Throughout the rest of the day I generally helped with tasks in the office such as sorting through old video tapes of previous COTE projects footage and transferring them onto DVD disks for easier storage. I also explored the COTE website and created a document answering questions such as how easy it was to navigate and suggesting improvements.
Tuesday began with creating thank you letters to local shops and businesses who kindly donated prizes for COTE’s tombola at Priory Park Festival; I was able to not only write the letters but also hand deliver them which I enjoyed as I was representing the charity and got to personally thank the generous businesses in our community. Other tasks included documenting the COTE’s search results to give them an idea of how easy it is to find their website online, and to update the press page on their website by taking press clippings.
The highlight of the week was Wednesday, as I was given the opportunity to sit in a ‘COMMs’ meeting where the team updated one another and planned for upcoming events. A clip about one of COTE’s projects in India was shown and I learnt about the ‘Untouchable’ Dalit children. This really impacted me and made me fully realise the extent to which the help of this charity is desperately needed. I was then set an exciting challenge by my supervisor Amy, to create a presentation which could be used in encouraging other schools to fundraise for Children on the Edge.
I spent the rest of Wednesday and Thursday creating a power point presentation, following their brand image which I really enjoyed as I could express my passion for media and design, as well as broadening my own knowledge and understanding of the charity in the process.
On Friday, to conclude the week I was able to present my presentation to the team which was beneficial as it developed my presenting skills and confidence when speaking to an audience.
Overall my week with Children on the Edge has been impacting and inspiring, as I have expanded my knowledge of international issues through researching COTE’s projects in India, Bangladesh, Uganda, Burma and Lebanon.
Learning how an organisation can reach the children on the very edge of society and change their lives has further encouraged me to study international development at University and hopefully work for an international charity in the future.
Find out how you can volunteer with Children on the Edge
Recently our partners in India have organised a Summer Camp; a week full of games and activities for hundreds of Dalit children in Patna, who attend our Education Centres. As well as being a time for fun, the week was also designed to develop the skills and talents of the children and to build up their confidence and self esteem.
The Dalit people in India face ingrained caste discrimination, often excluding them from education and medical facilities. Despite the caste system being outlawed, it still causes severe persecution, restricting where Dalits can live and what jobs they can have.
The Centres we support provide education and have a strong focus on helping children understand their rights. The curriculum encourages them to realise these rights, and break out of the vicious cycle of discrimination and poverty.
Every child during Summer Camp was invited to participate in all the games and activities and each day, one of the youngest boys and girls from each Centre were selected to be the ‘Guest of Honour’. They were welcomed in the morning with the 'Summer Camp Cap' and were responsible for announcing the winners of each game.
Older children from each Centre were selected each day as leaders. Their role was to motivate the other children and inspire teamwork. Earning points for their Centre was a great motivating factor! All of the games and activities were chosen because they built group thinking and teamwork. The older children were also invited to give a small speech on the theme of working together.
Sister Veena who leads the Centres in Patna said “It was so interesting to see the coaching that the children gave to each other before starting each game. We wanted the whole week to be a joyful experience, but we also wanted to build confidence. We gave opportunities to as many children as possible. They will remember being a guest of honour or a leader in the class. This gives them dignity and improves their self esteem.”
Find out more about the work we support in India, and consider supporting the project by clicking on of the action buttons below.
Children on the Edge has enabled two internally displaced Kachin children to receive much needed cleft palate surgeries. The camps where the children live are completely cut off from the most basic services, so procedures of this kind are not available.
Children on the Edge supports 14 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres throughout 12 Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in the remote mountains of Kachin State, Burma. Where possible we also provide winter provisions for the children. We collaborated with Kachin Development Group (KDG) who we partner with to deliver the Centres, and Smile Train who provide cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in over 85 developing countries.
14 month old Le Thu Win was born in the IDP camp at Pajau. Her family have had to take shelter there since 2011, due to armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military. Le Thu Win is the third daughter of the family. Her eldest sister passed away soon after being born and now her elder sister is three years old and attending on of the ECD Centres we support.
Sadly when Le Thu Win was born, her father was not happy. With two elder girls, he was hoping for a boy, and after this point abandoned the family frequently, choosing to spend time with friends. She was born with a cleft palate which concerned her mother, especially as it created difficulty with breast feeding.
Le Thu Win and another young boy called Wai Myo Lin from a neighbouring camp were supported to take a 16 day round trip to Mandalar Hospital. Here, Smile Train provided treatment which went ahead smoothly and without complications. Longer term the surgery has proved very successful and since this point, both of them have been living happily with their families.
Bawk Hkun from the Kachin Development Group says “This is new experience for KDG. We consider this as a collaborative initiative between Children on the Edge, Smile Train and ourselves which proves as an example that the things we previously saw as impossible can be solved with collaboration and networking among agencies”.