On Sunday 9th April 2017 Kelly, Sarah, Paul, and Andrew all ran 26.2 miles to raise money for Children on the Edge at the Brighton Marathon.
On one of the hottest days of the year so far, our four amazing runners absolutely excelled themselves and took on a challenge to remember in the sunny seaside city of Brighton.
For Kelly, Sarah and Paul, it was their first ever marathon, and all three completed it in hugely respectable times. And even more respectable were their fundraising totals. At the latest count, Kelly has raised £1414, Paul on £1200 and Sarah at £1181 – an absolutely incredible total between them.
Andrew, a veteran runner, who volunteers with our Chichester Half Marathon team took on the marathon, despite just recovering from an injury; all to raise funds for our work with vulnerable children overseas. In just a few weeks, he raised a great £435, also an amazing effort.
Raising £4320 in between them; this sum will help us to do so much to help vulnerable children overseas. For example, £4320 is enough to cover the costs of running one of our tent schools for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon for 100 children, for 43 days.
Paul said that the best thing about the challenge was knowing he was helping to change the lives of individuals he’ll never meet on the other side of globe. After completing the Birmingham Half Marathon in November last year, he wanted to take on a new challenge now he had some time to commit to the tough training regime required for a marathon. A personal trainer by trade and as well as a talented martial arts competitor, he found that training with his clients broke up the monotony of the long hours of training runs during the winter months. Paul’s not been put off doing another marathon either, he said “after my positive experience with the children on the Edge charity and the Brighton Marathon I am considering the Edinburgh Marathon 2017 at the end of May so watch this space!”
Sarah - the fastest of all our runners – said: “As awful as I felt during the run, I had access to doctors, I was able to get myself food and drink to recover, I got home to a warm bath and a bed to sleep in. When I think of those I set out to help, it makes my struggles on race day feel small but my sense of achievement feels great”. She said that starting the marathon knowing that she had hit her fundraising target was really motivating and along the appreciated the 'amazing' atmosphere and the level of support from the crowds. When asked what the hardest part of the challenge was; Sarah said it was all her training during the cold, dark months whilst juggling work and family life. Sarah even had to do a three hour training run in hurricane Doris!
Andrew told us that having secured a place at the Brighton Marathon last year, he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to raise funds for Children on the Edge. He’s volunteered for us for the past year, helping with the Chichester Half Marathon event. Despite being a veteran runner, he said that raising money to help the vulnerable children we work with gave him a focus and a reason to keep going during the marathon itself. What’s next for Andrew? He’s considering an ultra-marathon!
For Kelly, she wanted to take on the marathon to tick it off her bucket list. She also said that she wanted to run her first marathon for an organisation she knew and trusted, rather than just applying for another charity place. Knowing about our work - having volunteered on some of our projects in Romania and East Timor, and whilst working for us in Indonesia many years ago – meant that she has a real understanding of what Children on the Edge does. She said that the best thing about her challenge was that she raised a lot more money that she had hoped; which has a big impact for a small charity like us. The worst thing for Kelly, was the 21 degree heat on the day itself (it was a very hot April 9th for all the runners!).
We’re so proud and inspired by all our Brighton Marathon runners this year. They’ve done an incredible job of fundraising for Children on the Edge, as well as completing the marathon itself. Their efforts will make such a huge difference to our work.
Are you inspired to take on the Brighton Marathon in 2018? We have five charity places available, find out more and apply. Don't fancy a marathon? We'd love you to fundraise for Children on the Edge with your own challenge event. Find out more.
Since June 2011 the Burmese central government has been in open conflict with the Kachin Independence Army following a failure in peace talks to resolve their longstanding conflict. While this conflict dates back decades, the past six years have seen consistent fighting, displacing more than 120,000 people across Northern Burma.
In 2012 we heard first-hand accounts of those fleeing the conflict, who spoke of brutal violence, ongoing atrocities and severe violations of human rights including the wide-spread burning of villages, rape, maiming and executions.
Now the government appears determined to crush this last remaining pocket of wide-spread armed resistance in Burma and their tactics have been increasingly harsh. In October, with significant natural resources and political influence at stake, they began to use jets, helicopters and shelling to attack civilians in the camps where we work.
Zai Awng was one of the camps hit the hardest, with 3,000 displaced Kachin people living up in the mountains on the China border, taking refuge there since 2012. The October air attacks drove them out of the camp and over the border into China where they were badly beaten by authorities. Forced to turn back to Burma, they hid in the jungle until the troops withdrew. They returned to Zai Awng but in November the shelling resumed and they had no option but to flee again, hiding in a different part in China, then taking a different route back over the border.
Any people who attempted within that month to return to the old camp disappeared, so the 2,000 people that remained built a new camp, closer to Laiza, called Sha It Yang. The terrified community are hoping this location could be safer, but are traumatised by their experience and livng with the knowledge that if they are attacked again, there is nowhere to run to. The conditions here are appalling, with thousands of people living under tarpaulin and only one road in or out. Food supplies are scant and the water is unsanitary, especially after rain, which saturates the area causing many problems.
Three teachers from our Centre in the original camp have remained with the community and worked to re-build a safe space for children. They have set up two classes but there is need for another four. Children are in desperate need of support after what they have been through, with teachers reporting that the even Chinese New Year firecrackers heard across the border are now terrifying for them. One teacher said, “We are doing the best we can, but naturally the children are quieter, less active and less able to be engaged and creative. The wider community is so tired of the fighting, they just want to go home, and they don’t understand why the world isn’t paying attention”.
In the northern camps of Kachin state there is not a single other international organisation offering ongoing support to children. As the area remains an active war zone, access to the camps is difficult. Aid agencies sporadically operate in the central government controlled regions of Kachin State, but leave when the operating environment becomes too difficult.
We are appealing for financial support to both maintain and expand the work here, to meet the escalating need. Please share about this situation where you can, to direct attention to a beleaguered and terrified group of civilians, who are in need of critical help yet currently forgotten by the international community.
Children on the Edge generate hope, life, colour and fun in the lives of some of the most vulnerable children across the world. Hope is a fundamental part of this because it enables people to know that things can be different. In turn, this is a catalyst for action within the communities where we work.
Living on the edges of society, surviving life in refugee camps and slums, enduring persecution or isolation are all situations that can breed despair and inertia. Sometimes when people see no evidence that things can change, they stop wasting energy believing their situation can be different. Rebecca Solnit describes hope as an axe, rather than a lottery ticket, and says ‘To hope is to give yourself a future, and that commitment to the future makes the present uninhabitable’.
In his 1930s ‘Treatise on Hope’, Ernst Bloch says that hope requires people to ‘throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong’. To us, this speaks very strongly of the importance of hope in sparking community ownership, participation and action. Hope gets people on their feet and inspires them to become actively involved in creating change, instead of resigning themselves to the difficult circumstances they are living through.
We have seen this scenario many times in the situations we work, and it’s why generating hope is one of the core elements we focus on. We encourage it through our relational approach, and it is the key to community ownership in our projects. Here are two examples:
In Lebanon, when our partners started working with Syrian refugees in the informal settlements in Bekaa Valley, many people they met had given up.
Project Director Nuna Matar described how “Often groups of people would be sitting around doing very little, they didn’t see what they could do to change anything. Big organisations would come and count people rather than talk to them, leave resources that they didn’t need, like electric heaters when they have no electricity. Refugees want to be known as people, not numbers! This doesn’t build hope, they started to sit there powerlessly, wondering what would be dropped off next”.
When our partners started to talk to people about education for their children, some of the men said ‘Are you going to build us a school?’, so the team put the question back to them. ‘Are you going to build a school?’. After a long time of believing nothing could change, they had lost motivation, but the team here built relationships with them, encouraged them and worked alongside them.
The fathers became instrumental in the construction of schools, and later on even the building of a new refugee camp. The women are fully involved in the education programme, many being trained as teachers and instigating their own literacy classes. The children have been engaged in designing the camp, they especially liked helping out with building the play area! We are now supporting the education of 500 Syrian refugee children, whose aspirations are rising, as are those of their community.
One year ago in Uganda, when we visited Loco slum the people there said they had no hope. Unemployment and income poverty here has left households vulnerable and their children are prone to exploitation, malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse. The Chairman of our Child Protection Team (CPT) in Loco, said “People here have had many organisations come and start things and then go, promise things and then disappoint, they didn’t believe things could change”.
Using the CPT model means that work here is totally owned by the community. Babra is a social worker for COTE Africa, she describes how “ The community participate from the start. They identify the problems, they identify the solutions”.
Ten local people are trained up to work in their area as part of the CPT, to educate people about child protection and support them to create a protective environment. These people are volunteers, and all the work they do is out of dedication to their community. As the people they work with start to see that things can change, it encourages them to take more action.
A year on we have the full participation of local people, not only the CPT volunteers but also parents getting involved with education, mothers creating new businesses to pay for their children to go to school and local services engaging with the Loco community to create a better environment for children.
The Chairman now describes how “People see workshops, they see a team that deals with their problems, they see a drop in domestic violence and crime, they see their children on a playscheme and a new Early Childhood Development Centre being built, and it gives them hope. These things have never happened in Loco. Hope is knowing things can change”.
These are just two examples of how hope brings action in our work, but if you visited any one of our projects you would see the same values. Thank you for your support in generating hope and bringing change in the lives of children living on the edge.
Read our earlier blog: 'What do we mean when we talk about hope?'
When we say we bring hope, life, colour and fun to the lives of vulnerable children, it’s 'hope' that kicks off the list, and with good reason. Hope is the cornerstone of what we believe is vital for children living in desperate situations, because it’s all about change.
Hope could be seen as a fluffy, sentimental term; something to inspire a kind of 'sunshiny' feeling about helping children, but we think it’s the opposite.
Children that live in the situations where we are working don’t need something fluffy, they need something revolutionary. These are children facing war, persecution, poverty and injustice and in the current political climate, the need is not abating. Nationalism is on the rise, compassion is fatigued and barriers are growing.
In her book, ‘Hope in the Darkness’, Rebecca Solnit says that ‘Hope is an act of defiance… the alternative is surrender, which abandons not only the future, but the soul’. At present, our work with children living on the edges of their societies is more vital than ever, and it works in defiance of the status quo that marginalises children on the basis of their race, caste, class or ethnic minority.
In October an 65, 000 Rohingya refugees fled horrific human rights abuses in Myanmar, joining the masses of refugees already in Bangladesh, who have been fleeing government persecution for over a decade. It’s here we are providing education for 2,700 Rohingya children in a makeshift refugee camp.
Late last year, an 8 year old Dalit girl in Bihar State, India was beaten by a group of men when she dared to say that she could be a magistrate or the chief of police one day. It’s here that we are supporting education and non-violent activism to tackle ingrained caste discrimination and help ‘untouchable’ children realise their rights.
Currently, the practice of child sacrifice in Uganda is still going unreported and there are gaps in legislation enabling perpetrators to go free. It is here that we are working with a Ugandan child rights group, and the government to address the problem, whilst expanding our child protection teams in communities.
Hope is an act of defiance which often begins in the margins of society. Going forward we will highlight how it motivates action and inspires both rapid transformation and long term evolution.
Read our latest blog: 'How hope is a catalyst for action and ownership'
In the kind of work we do - supporting children in the some of the most vulnerable situations across the world - there are many benefits to being a small organisation. Here, we talk about five reasons why small is beautiful…
1. We can work under the radar
Being small has enabled us to access situations that larger organisations cannot, due to their size and the corresponding limitations and bureaucracy. For example, for the last five years we have been the only organisation providing education in safe spaces to Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar in the largest makeshift camp in Bangladesh and we attribute this in part, to our compact size.
2. We’re agile
Our size enables us to have the flexibility to meet needs in a targeted way, as they arise, quickly and in a relational manner. If our partners are faced with a sudden flood, increased air raids or arrests, then we can respond immediately, garnering support or adapting the programme accordingly to continue to meet the needs of the children we work with.
3. We’re streamlined
We don’t rely on large and costly international staff offices in the countries we work in. Instead, we focus on building strong relationships with our local partners who have a thorough understanding of the situation on the ground and a depth of relationship with their communities.
4. We’re focussed
Having a small number of projects means we can focus on delivering work of the highest quality. Larger organisations have a higher capacity, but deal very much in 'broad brush strokes', where as we have the ability to fine tune and ensure that each child is valued as an individual.
5. We keep you connected
Our small size means that our donors and supporters can have a greater connection and ownership with the work they are investing in. Your money doesn’t go into a huge machine, but to a small (but perfectly formed!) group of projects which you are updated on regularly, seeing tangibly and specifically the ongoing progress that you are making possible.
Read more about our work and how we help.
Two school students Ollie and Theo are taking part in an epic Kayak race this Easter to raise funds for Children on the Edge and Alzheimer's Research UK. They have raised over £600 for both charities so far and hope to raise much more.
You can sponsor Olly and Theo on their Virgin Money Giving page.
The race they are taking part in is the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race and takes place from the 14th - 17th April.
Ollie says: "The race is more of a marathon to be honest! We are taking part in the junior doubles class, we will be kayaking 125 miles over the space of around 3 and a half days".
This 200 km race will take place over 3 nights and 4 days. They will be kayaking down the Kennet and Avon Canal before joining the Thames. The boys will be kayaking for roughly 7 hours non-stop each day (although they hope to complete each day in less than 7 hours). They will cover around 35 miles each day, with the last day being 20 miles. They will start on Friday 14th April in Devizes and plan to finish underneath Westminster bridge on Easter Monday, 17th April.
Each night the boys we will be camping beside the river, having to set up their own camp and cook for themselves, ready to set off early the next morning.
Along the race, there are 77 'portages' which require competitors to get out of their kayaks or canoes and run with it on their shoulders. On one section, they will have to do this for over a mile!
Theo and Ollie both go to Eton College and they wanted to raise money for Children on the Edge and Alzheimer's Research UK. They thought that the race would be a great way to fundraise, as well as also challenge themselves and test their limits.
Ollie said: "We chose Children on the Edge because we believe that they actually make a clear difference and you know where your money is going. We both think it's a great cause. Theo's mum, Anna, has recently been out in Uganda with Children on the Edge, seeing how their projects operate, so we know exactly where our money goes and we've heard about how much it helps vulnerable children. Numerous members of my family have been afflicted with Alzheimer's in the past, so I thought that ARUK would also be a good charity to raise money for along with Children on the Edge".
All of us at Children on the Edge would like to say a huge thank you to Ollie and Theo for taking on such a big challenge to help fundraise for our work with vulnerable children around the world.
We wish them the best of luck for the race and will be cheering them on from Chichester!
Children on the Edge is based in Chichester. in West Sussex, and we are very lucky to have an incredible level of support from our local community, through individuals, schools, churches and businesses; who do so much to help us. Find out out how you can help too.
We really value our strong links with our local supporters and organisations (as well as our non-local supporters too, of course!). Unlike some larger charities, we can offer a unique and direct link between you and the projects we run with our partners around the world. For example, last September, Nuna Matar who leads our work in Lebanon visited Chichester from Beirut to update local supporters on how their support and fundraising efforts were providing education for hundreds of Syrian refugee children in the refugee camps in Bekaa Valley.
This week, our International Director, Rachel Bentley spoke at the city Cathedral’s AGM to give the people of Chichester an opportunity to find out more about our work and how they can play a bigger part in supporting our projects abroad.
Chichester Cathedral Spokeswoman, Ruth Poyner, said:
"We are delighted that Rachel Bentley is spoke about the work of Children on the Edge at our AGM this week. The charity works to support vulnerable children all across the world – and sometimes in less well-known areas. Their important work supports these unseen children who are often living in truly desperate circumstances. Children on the Edge is a local charity with a long reach – offering the people of Chichester a way to directly support these vulnerable children overseas."
We currently work with children in Uganda, India, Burma (Myanmar), Lebanon and Bangladesh. At the Cathedral, Rachel highlighted our project in Lebanon, where we have set up five tent schools, providing education in safe spaces for 500 Syrian refugee children living in the camps of Bekaa Valley. Our partners in Lebanon are currently also making trips across the border to deliver supplies; food, fuel and blankets to 160 displaced Syrian families in Damascus.
Our work in Lebanon, supporting Syrian refugees has generated an incredible level of support from Chichester Churches Together, and other local people. For example. enough money was raised last year in Chichester to fund an additional tent school in Lebanon, and a local group of families have also recently committed to raise £40 a month to support a Syrian family with food and fuel.
We're pleased that this project has resonated locally, and would love more people to support our work to help Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and displaced families within Syria.
As our Director, Rachel says:
"A lot of the media’s attention is on Syrian refugees in Europe, but the majority of those fleeing the conflict in Syria are residing on the borders in countries like Lebanon; where refugees make up a quarter of the population. It is here that Children on the Edge are focussing our efforts, providing education and trauma care for children who have known nothing but war their whole lives. Local people can help to directly support this project by making a donation to Children on the Edge.
Children on the Edge are proud to be able to represent Chichester in our work around the world, and welcome any support from local individuals, organisations and business.
Find out how you can support us, through volunteering, fundraising or via your school, church or workplace, or contact Amy Rook, our Fundraising Officer on 01243 538530.
“I was expected to be quiet, and told not to ask questions, but I questioned everything I saw that was wrong around me” - Ten question for Varsha Jawalgekar on how to #BeBoldForChange
Throughout March and inspired by International Women's Day, we have been celebrating how the women on our projects encourage us to #BeBoldForChange. We are privileged to be partnering with a number of truly inspirational women, who use boldness and strength to bring about change for the women and girls in their communities.
Varsha Jawalgekar is the leader of Parivartan Kendra (PK) who we partner with in Bihar State, India. Children on the Edge support them in their work to end discrimination against the Dalit people in Patna, through education and community action. We asked her 10 questions about how to #BeBoldForChange.
On Saturday 4th March, one of our wonderful fundraisers from the Body Shop At Home, Sophie Fletcher organised a Charity Ball in Lincoln raising £2700 for Children on the Edge.
240 people turned up to Sophie’s Ball at Jocasta’s in Lincoln and enjoyed an evening of music, games and dancing; with a magician thrown in for good measure! Guests also heard from our Grants Officer, Sarah, who spoke about how their money makes such a big difference in Uganda; where we are working to bring hope, life, colour and fun to slum communities near Jinja.
Sophie was inspired to raise money for Children on the Edge after hearing about us as a consultant with the Body Shop At Home. She says from day one, she learned about the “amazing work of Children on the Edge” and how we help to support vulnerable children through our projects around the world.
As part of the Body Shop at Home, Sophie got stuck in with fundraising, not only on her own, but as part of her regional team. In 2015, she joined us on our annual Playscheme to Uganda; where she saw first hand how our work is helping to transform slum communities. It was this trip that inspired Sophie to organise the Lincoln Charity Ball.
Sophie said: "I have supported Children on the Edge for around three years and last year won a place to volunteer on the play scheme in Uganda because of my previous fundraising and passion for the work the charity does. It was the most incredible experience of my life and really opened my eyes to the difference we can make to other people's lives. Having seen the work in Uganda, and the difference it makes, I was determined to up my fundraising to a new level, which is where the ball came into play!"
Response to the event was hugely positive with ticket sales excelling Sophie's expectations. Local companies including NS Plumbing, Streets Accounts, Dack Motor Group and Home Property Lawyers all came on board as sponsors.
The money raised from Sophie’s Charity Ball is enough to cover the costs of sending 20 children to school for a whole year at our Early Childhood Development Centre in Loco, Uganda.
When asked what she’d say to someone else thinking about fundraising for Children on the Edge, Sophie said:
“DO IT! Just go for it, there are millions of ideas and things out there that can be used as fundraisers so find something you're good at or something you enjoy, and make it work for a good cause. Never be disheartened because any funds raised are more than COTE would have had if you didn't take on the challenge”.
If you'd like to organise a fundraising event for Children on the Edge, please contact Amy, our Fundraising Officer on 01243 538530.
Small groups of Dalit women are ensuring shelter, education and safety for their communities by raising their voices in Bihar State, India.
In and around Patna Children on the Edge support two small, dynamic organisations who are fighting against caste discrimination for the children in their communities. They do this through a combination of education and local action, with a major strand of this action being rooted in the creation of Women’s Groups.
In the rural villages surrounding Patna, our partner Parivartan Kendra (PK) support 10 community women’s groups. Their key strategy in bringing change in these communities is the strengthening and development of these groups, each of which has around 25 women who work closely with their area’s education centre in trying to help the community, including its children, realise their rights.
One of the key priorities of the women’s groups is ensuring that their children are given access to education so that they can break out of the poverty cycle and the trap of bonded labour. Their aim is to slowly create a groundswell of awareness regarding rights, which then leads to action and the realisation of those rights.
Varsha Jawalgekar is the leader of this organisation, she says ‘I believe the only way real change can be brought in Dalit communities is through collective action, through the gathering and the rising up of many’. The community have witnessed how an individual fighting alone for their rights, is not only timely and ineffective, but dangerous. Varsha herself has been jailed and beaten, but more disturbingly an 8 year old girl was was badly beaten by a landowner simply for telling him she was going to school. He mocked her with caste names and asked her if she would be a magistrate or police officer when she grew up. When she said ‘why not?’ he attacked her with an axe. She is still experiencing medical problems as a result, and her parents are fighting for her case in the courts.
Varsha believes that communities as a whole must be taught about their rights and supported to stand up together, safely and peacefully fighting for change. This is not just a theory; the women’s groups are already bringing change.
Under Indian law, Dalits living below the poverty line are just as entitled as the rest of the population to certain allowances for housing, food and free health care. In practice though, Dalits face corruption and discrimination regarding these entitlements. They also experience practical difficulties in applying for them as many are illiterate and lack the required identification papers.
One group in the Chakfeteh area has been running for eight years and is well established. They recently ensured that 19 households received housing entitlements (financial allowance for housing). They did this through training on their basic legal rights and entitlements and being supported to complete the paperwork.
Another example of change was brought by the women’s group is in Madhaul. Dalit children at the community school here were experiencing high levels of violence and discrimination. Being treated as ‘untouchable’ is outlawed, but teachers here were making them sit separately, physically abusing them and denying them access to lessons and school meals.
Varsha and the women’s group here conducted a peaceful protest in front of the school. As a result they were locked up in a classroom by the headmaster, who made threats about ‘boiling them alive’. Varsha called the police, who freed them and demanded the headmaster apologise. Although this seems like a a lenient consequence, it sent a strong message throughout the community about the practice of discrimination based upon caste. The women’s group have since reported positive changes in the school’s treatment of their children, as a direct result of their actions.
A few years ago in Patna, two Dalit children were kidnapped from a poor area with a high crime rate. Many Dalit children are abducted here with no reprisals due to local corruption, so Varsha and some of her colleagues sat in the middle of the road until a traffic jam built up in order to get a proper response from the authorities. When the police arrived they said that the children could be brought back to the women within the hour. This is not only clear evidence that the police are involved in trafficking, but that Varsha’s model of standing up collectively against discrimination, does yield results.
Change here is gradual and hard won. Through an outlawed yet active caste system, Dalit children here face severe discrimination, violence and poverty. They go un-noticed locally due to cultural norms and are overlooked internationally because of India’s relative wealth. Children on the Edge are committed to supporting our partners in bringing lasting change for these children and their communities.