Last weekend, the Children on the Edge team were in Telford to join the jungle-themed Christmas (yes, you read that right) conference for The Body Shop At Home™, along with 1200 of their consultants!
These wonderful women, and a few wonderful men, are some of our biggest fundraisers and have raised a whopping £1.3 million for Children on the Edge over the past 22 years.
Children on the Edge have a very close relationship and deep-rooted history with The Body Shop®️, who make a huge contribution to our work.
The weekend conference is a chance for The Body Shop At Home™ consultants to get together, learn about new products and get ideas for building and growing their business, as well as finding out more about our work. They heard from our Head of UK, Ben Wilkes about how their efforts directly support our work in Uganda and also found out about how they can continue to support Children on the Edge with fundraising ideas.
The Body Shop At Home™ consultants are divided into 10 different regions of the UK and each do their own fundraising. Enthusiastic Regional Managers and Children on the Edge Champions in each area do a fantastic job of encouraging their team members to support our work. The conference at the weekend gave us a chance to celebrate their successful fundraising so far this year, see just how much each team had raised and find out who was on track to meet their fundraising targets.
Staff members Eloise, Amy and Ben were raising funds for Children on the Edge on the day too, all going towards The Body Shop At Home™ regional team totals. They did this by selling raffle tickets; wrapping paper; colourful new t-shirts and our favourite Montezuma’s chocolate - which proved very popular!
In just one day, the generous delegates helped us raise an amazing £6,670. This joins the £39,732 already raised by The Body Shop At Home™ this year.
We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at The Body Shop At Home™ for their amazing fundraising efforts and continued support.
If you’d like to support our work by making a donation, you can do that here.
PS. If you like the look of our beautiful new wrapping paper - themed as ‘A Season of Hope’ - we’re delighted to say that it will be available to buy soon. If you’re interested in stocking this in your shop or business, or would like to find out how you can help fundraise for Children on the Edge by selling it in your community, please get in touch with Amy Rook our Fundraising and Communications Officer – email@example.com | 01243 538530.
Recent monsoon floods in India's Ganges river have created unprecedented water levels at four locations in northern India causing damage, destruction and loss of life.
Bihar state, where we support education projects for Dalit children, is one of the worst flood-hit states in India with at least 150 deaths and nearly half a million people evacuated. The highest water level record was in Patna, the state capital of Bihar where flood waters reached 50.52m.
Sister Veena Jacob who leads Navjeevan Education and Social Welfare Society, one of our partner organisations in Bihar, describes the situation.
“The most affected areas are six Panchayathsin Manner Block, Kitha Chwarthar Madhay and Haldi Chapara which consist of 12 villages and are completely under water. There are 50,000 people affected by this flood very badly. Many people are staying back in the villages to safeguard their belongings. They are staying on the house tops. They are drinking the flood water, [there is] no fire wood to boil the water.
Only a few are reaching out to them with relief because they are cut off from the main land. The relief camp is kept without basic facilities of food and clean drinking water. It is very heart breaking to see children crying for food to their mothers. Mothers have nothing to provide for the children.”
Children on the Edge has made an immediate response to the crisis by sending payment for rice, dahl, beaten rice, sugar, candles and matches for 400 families in the immediate area.
The flood situation remains very serious and it is expected their water levels may rise again. Hundreds of thousands of people are not being reached by government help. There is huge gap in food supplies, sanitary kits, clean drinking water, medicine and temporary shelters.
We are making an emergency appeal to support the people of Bihar at this time.
Sister Veena has asked “On the behalf of the flood victims in Bihar I make an urgent appeal to people of good will to generously contribute to this humanitarian call and express our solidarity and support in time of need. Your contribution will make a difference in the life these needy people”
To donate simply visit our JustGiving Bihar Flood Appeal page.
This afternoon Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK is organising a demonstration in front of the Burmese Embassy in London as part of a global day of action, organised by the US based Burma Task Force.
Demonstrations are also being held in Chicago, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Stockholm. Rohingya organisations in more than 10 European countries are supporting the day of action, along with other organisations including Burma Campaign UK and Burmese Muslim Association UK.
Four months after coming to power, the NLD led government has still not lifted severe restrictions on humanitarian aid delivery in Rakhine State. Government restrictions on aid are causing death and suffering for Rohingya and Kaman people living in squalid camps after being forced from their homes in 2012. Ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Kaman and all people in the State suffer because of the restrictions.
Since increased violence and repression in 2012, Rohingya people have faced a worsening humanitarian situation. Restrictions on travel and lack of security have made growing and buying food much more difficult for Rohingya people. Restrictions on international humanitarian assistance to those in IDP Camps and the rest of Arakan State also make the humanitarian crisis much worse.
Since 2012, 140,000 internally displaced people have been trapped in camps which UN officials have described as having some of the worst conditions in the world. These restrictions and lack of security force Rohingya people to make long and sometimes dangerous journeys to find food. More than ten percent of the Rohingya population have fled Burma since 2012.
Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said "Our people are dying in the camps where they fled to four years ago after they fled mobs burning their homes and villages. They are dying in part because the new government has kept in place severe restrictions on delivery of aid. The NLD-led government should immediately lift all restrictions on international humanitarian aid in Arakan State, and ensure security for aid workers.”
Protestors are also calling on the international community, including the British government, to apply pressure on the NLD led government to lift restrictions on aid. You can add your voice by signing Burma Campaign's petition which calls on the NLD-led government to implement four steps to help end the repression against the Rohingya.
Children on the Edge have supported the plight of the Rohingya for over 5 years, and are currently providing education to refugee Rohingya children living in enclave communities in Bangladesh.
The Dalit people or ‘untouchables’ are India’s lowest caste. Despite being outlawed, the caste system still dictates the order of modern life for millions of people here. The Dalits are shunned by society and suffer from exclusion, discrimination and exploitation. The Musahar are the lowest strata of the Dalit caste.
Government primary schools in Dalit majority areas are scarce, and those that do exist are so poorly staffed and equipped that children rarely attend.
A parent’s perspective
On a recent visit to a Musahar village in Bihar State, one mother named Gita explained to us that, “My children are enrolled in a government school, but the teachers do not teach. They come and take the register in the morning and then leave”.
If they do manage to enrol in schools, Dalit children are frequently discriminated against, being made to sit at the back of the class and restricted from touching or interacting with children of other castes. As a result, those who do make it into school feel isolated and often drop out at an early age.
Gita goes on to say how, “There is lunch given at the school, but, because my children are from a lower caste, they must bring their own dishes and are served last. If the food runs out, lower caste children do not eat. I complained to the teacher about this once, and he threatened to have me beaten”.
Other parents reported that their children do not attend government school as it is too far away and barely functions. Kana, aged 12 explained, “I look after my siblings while my mother works in the fields. My father has died. I cook, clean and do housework. I would like to learn to read and write, and I did enrol at school. But the teachers do not teach at that school”.
A teacher’s perspective
Pramod is the only Musahar teacher on the project. In this culture it is very unusual that he managed to complete up to grade 10 in government school. “I was on the verge of moving to the city to pull rickshaws or find a factory job to support my parents” he explains, “then the opportunity came up for me to be trained to be a teacher in this programme, and I decided I wanted to stay and help other Musahar children become educated”.
Pramod says that most children from his community work in the fields with their parents as the government schools either don’t function or exclude Dalit children. Some children have little choice as the landlords demand both adults and children work for their keep. Rohit, age 13, reports, “The owner of the land we work demands that I collect grass for his cattle. This can take 3-4 hours a day. Right now I do not have time to go to a government school.”
Once inside one of the programme’s classrooms, Pramod describes how Dalit children face additional challenges; “Parents are very supportive of their children receiving education, but learning can be difficult for many of the children as they are often hungry. Many of them only eat once or twice a day and their minds are not accustomed to concentrating on things like school work. They have only known working in the fields”.
Health issues are the next biggest challenge facing Dalit children. Many of the children miss significant time at school because they are sick from poor drinking water or skin rashes. Pramod explains, “If it rains too much the surface water becomes mixed with the well water. The colour turns brown. But we have nothing else to drink. At this time, many of the children become sick”.
How we are helping
Children on the Edge are currently working to bring together three small, active and engaged local partners to provide quality education for Dalit children aged 6-12. Community Learning Centres offer education up to grade 3, which enables children to achieve basic literacy and numeracy as well as provide them a stronger foothold when integrating into mainstream, government schools. The most important element is that the centres are places where the children feel safe and happy, without fear of intimidation, discrimination or abuse.
The Community Learning Centres also serve as hubs for civic activities in the Dalit communities. Each centre hosts a Women’s Self-Help Group which meets weekly to discuss issues facing the community and organise efforts to bring out about change. The centres also maintain a communal library which is open to all adults and children; the literature has a focus on promoting health, hygiene and human rights.
The Hindi name of the centres actually translates as “Education Change Centres”. Varsha Jawalgekar, director of the programme’s rural centres, explains, “The goal of the centres is not just to provide education to children, though that is important. These centres will also bring Dalit people together and change communities from the inside.”
Teachers are trained specifically to adapt to their resource-scare surroundings, using simple, available objects creatively and generously. Trees outside are not only used to provide shade for the classes on hot days, but instructors hang lesson cards from the branches to create numeracy and literacy games. Sticks and rocks are employed as tangible learning aids for maths lessons.
Turning the tide of a system which has discriminated against Dalit castes in Bihar for hundreds of years is not a quick process, yet our local partners have a track record of successfully bringing change to marginalised communities through educating residents and lobbying the government for the provision of rights and services.
Through our efforts Children on the Edge believes there is a real opportunity for this programme to change the lives of thousands of Dalits in Bihar.
Find out more about the project
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If you have been following our work in Uganda you will know that we have currently been focusing on expanding our Child Protection Team model into three new slum areas surrounding Jinja.
We piloted the use of a Community Child Protection Team (CPT) in Masese II slum (Soweto). When we first began working here, children were extremely vulnerable to neglect, abuse and even child sacrifice. Through building relationships with, and training volunteers in the community, piece by piece we were able to support them in the creation of a protective environment for their children.
Setting up the new teams
Motivated by the success of this pilot, we have expanded the work into three new slums surrounding Jinja - Loco, Masese I and Masese III. Our Children on the Edge Africa team have built relationships in each location and in partnership with the community have identified problem areas.
Babra is a social worker for COTE Africa, she describes how “ Our projects are completely owned by the community. They participate from the start. They identify the problems, they identify the solutions. They are a voice for the voiceless and a link between the community and the institutions that can help”.
To begin to address the issues identified in each area, the team facilitated a series of child protection workshops. After four months of workshops, each community elected a team of ten trusted volunteers to act as the eyes and ears of the children. They have begun training, been provided with simple resources and are already beginning to see transformation in the communities they serve.
First steps towards change
Last month our Communications Officer; Esther Smitheram, visited the newly formed teams to learn about the challenges they are facing and how they are finding solutions in many difficult situations where children are at risk.
In Masese I the team are beginning to put their training into practice. They have been encouraging children to attend school instead of loitering, advising a grandmother headed household on caring for an HIV positive child and supporting a bereaved father in caring for his children.
Sissy, the youngest member of CPT here, has already begun to make a difference. She tells how “There is a mother in the area who sells as a job, she leaves early and comes back late. She leaves her 2 year old in the care of an older sibling, but they just leave the small child on its own all day. Each day at dark the little one starts crying. I waited outside her home for the mother to return. I talked with her kindly about the importance of keeping the little one safe, now she makes sure he is never left alone”.
The Masese III CPT are faced with the challenge of sensitising a community with different cultural values. The largest tribe in this area is the Karamojong, a nomadic people group from northern Uganda. Their culture have a ‘hands off’ approach to childcare, and as soon as a child can walk they are left all day while the mothers work.
Godfrey Rucho is the chairperson of the CPT here, he says “They think nothing of this, as this is how they were treated when they were children, they have not gone to school, they don’t value education. Some parents don’t mind where their children spend the night, the children sleep outside, they don’t care if they are safe or not”.
Consequently the area has very high number of street children. The CPT has begun to work alongside these children and their parents. They have built relationships with key people in the tribe, one of whom has become a member of the CPT. They have already been successful in supporting many children to be reunited with their parents and return home.
Godfrey describes how “It used to be if you tried to talk to a parent they said ‘If you’re so concerned then take them’, but we are hoping that with the help of the Karomojong chairperson and a team member who is Karomojong, we can start to talk to more parents about taking care of the children.”
Loco community is one of the poorest areas around Jinja. The new team here talk about many organisations coming in and promising them the world, only to leave a year later with conditions returning to what they were. Edwin Wannabe, Programmes Director at COTE Africa says “We make it very clear from the start that it is the community themselves that can make a change. We promise very little, our role is to serve them. We then explain that we are just an organisation and they know the community more than we do.”
It is this ownership that creates sustainability. In Loco it took time for the community to believe things could be different, but as they identified their own issues and were resourced and trained to deal with them they begin to see things change.
Talking to the CPT in Loco, Esther describes how “Already each team member is full of stories about how they have used their training to intervene in situations of of child neglect, abuse, domestic violence and crime. They are beginning to form an effective link between the community and the police force, protecting vulnerable people from corruption and ensuring cases are dealt with quickly. Loco is already a safer place for children”.
Chizito, the chairperson of the CPT in Loco says 'The 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’.
Watch this space for regular updates about the new teams and their work. As a result of the success of our pilot and the effectiveness of the current work, we will be writing up the Child Protection Teams as a model. The aim is to roll out this work across some of the most vulnerable communities throughout Uganda, especially those with higher reported levels of child sacrifice.
We are recruiting a full time position at our Chichester office.
Are you someone with fantastic energy, ideas and a pro-active way of working that can help support our fantastic fundraisers and help us maximise income from challenge events, community fundraising and our regular donors.
If so, you might be the right person to be our Fundraising and Communications Officer and help bring change to vulnerable children across the globe.
We are a small but very relational team so the right candidate wont be fazed by pitching in across our fundraising and communications team; picking up the phone to supporters , helping craft compelling communication that inspires our fundraisers and generous donors, but equally wont mind posting out collecting tins and t-shirts.
This is a great time to join Children on the Edge, our projects are bringing significant change to some incredibly needy situations and we are looking for the right person to be part of this.
If you are interested or know someone who might be, please download our job pack to find out more.
Closing date for applications is 1pm Thursday 4th August 2016.
The Dalit people or ‘untouchables’ are India’s lowest caste. They are shunned by society and suffer from exclusion, discrimination and exploitation.
Children on the Edge are currently working here to bring together three small, active and engaged local partners in India's poorest state (Bihar), to provide quality education for Dalit children and enable them to access mainstream, government middle schools.
John Littleton, our Asia Regional Manager recently visited the programmes and spent some time in the Vaishali district of Bihar, where our partners Parivartan Kendra have opened Centres in ten rural Dalit communities offering education to 280 children.
Of the twenty-one strata of Dalit castes, the Musahar are the lowest. While all ten of the participating communities in Vaishali district are from the Dalit or ‘untouchable’ classes of society, four of the communities are Musahar villages.
John describes how “the term literally translates as ‘rat eaters’, a practice which both ostracises the Musahar from other Dalit castes and reflects their desperate struggle for daily survival. Musahars almost universally have no access to land ownership, schooling, or meaningful work.”
We talked with some of the women from one of the Musahar Community Action Groups about their situation. What emerged was the level of abuse and the lack of power they struggle with in their daily lives. Aside from raising unclean animals such as pigs and brewing home-made alcohol, most Musahars in Vaishali are trapped in bonded labour.
One lady, Kumari said “Because we have no land we have no power, the drinking water is often dirty which makes our children sick. I work for the landowner for for 60INR (75p) a day but sometimes he gives us nothing. I have to work for him or my family will have no place to live.”
The majority of residents in this village are engaged in some form of bonded labor – a practice which allows landlords from higher castes to exploit Musahar families whom they allow to squat on their lands in exchange for free or cheap labour. While formally outlawed in India, this is a practice which dates backs many centuries in Bihar.
John also spoke with a lady called Shela at a Musahar village meeting, she works in the fields for about 50 pence per day, she is not allowed to stop for food during the day. “I live on the government land by the canal. The officials often tell us that they will force us to move. When it rains the canal floods and water runs through our home”.
The aim of the work here is to not just introduce basic education to children in these communities, but also to inform the community about their rights and give them the tools they need to practice self-determination and create better lives.
In their monthly meetings, Shela and Kumari, together with the rest of the Community Action Group report potential threats, raise awareness of human rights and communicate information about the services available. They are currently planning a series of Child Rights Focus Days and working on the issues highlighted of untouchability and child marriage.
The group also discuss child safety issues and create guidelines for preventing exploitation, abuse and abduction. They work with children and community members to identify and respond to dangerous situations, leading to a safer community.
Find out more about the project
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World Refugee Week (20th - 26th June) commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. In support, we are launching a ‘Run for Refugees’ challenge to fundraise for the many refugee children we work with.
Each year Children on the Edge organises the Chichester Half Marathon together with Everyone Active. In 2016 we are looking for 100 'Team Children on the Edge' runners to raise £100 for refugee children.
Our work includes the provision of protection, education and support in trauma recovery for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh and internally displaced children in in Kachin State, Burma.
Always on the move - Aya’s story
Aya is a 12 year old Syrian refugee who, together with her parents and four siblings, were forced to flee to Lebanon. The whole family lived in a tiny tarpaulin construction in a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley. Having lost everything her parents would go out each day to find work and leave Aya to care for the other children.
After talking with teachers from the tent schools we support, her mother decided that Aya could start attending. At first she was shy, but slowly became incredibly motivated. One teacher said “We often see her studying Arabic or maths or practicing her English outside of class, even over holidays. She quickly caught up with the rest of her peers and is a bright, perceptive, caring student.”
Soon after this, the military arrived and ordered the evacuation of the entire camp. They had nowhere to go. The team running the schools decided to build their own camp, where families could be safe. Aya’s father ended up helping to look for land to rent and sharing ideas about how the camp could be a safe and peaceful place. He volunteered to help a team of builders take down the current school and reconstruct it at the new site.
Aya and her family have since moved into the new camp and have opened a small grocery shop from their tent. The children are now all in the new school and their parents are instrumental in the functioning of the camp. Project leader Nuna Matar says “They look like new people”.
£97 can help run a tent school in Lebanon for one day, helping 100 Syrian refugee children come to school. So with a small amount of fundraising from you, we can make a big difference.
Whether you're running the Chichester Half Marathon course, the Ten Miler or Team Relay, you can be part of Team Children on the Edge and raise funds for refugee children.
Starting on Monday 20th June (World Refugee Day) until the end of July we are running a special discount code to get £10 off your entry fee when you commit to raising £100. Simply register for the race, enter the code RunforRefugees10.
Sign up for the Chichester half
Find out more about our work.
Described by the United Nations as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”, the Rohingya people have faced generations of persecution and neglect. Not recognised as full citizens by the Burmese government, they are unable to move freely, marry or even vote in elections.
Faced with continued persecution within their own country, an estimated 500,000 Rohingya have uprooted their lives in search of recognition of their basic human rights. While some of these people are desperate enough to attempt the dangerous journey to Southeast Asia by boat, most seek refuge and a new life in Bangladesh.
Approximately 95,000 of them are living in refugee camps here, but the Rohingya have been rejected by the national government, so the UN was forced to stop registering official refugees in 2005. This led to the creation of sprawling unofficial camps along the border region without adequate access to food rations, health care or education. They suffer sanctioned harassment and periodic mass expulsions by authorities.
Faced with continual persecution, lack of resources, and the threat of deportation, many Rohingya have moved away from the heavily-monitored border area to enclave communities further inland. While the communities do not receive any formal recognition or support from the government, they are usually allowed to exist relatively undisturbed by the local communities who enjoy the benefits of the cheap labour they offer.
Rohiakar, a Rohingya mother we spoke to last week said “We were living in a border town in Rakhine State in Burma. The military took our house as a station so that they could watch who was coming in and out of the border, they would just sit there and drink. We left our home and crossed to Bangladesh and went to our cousins, but then the government destroyed the village. We tried other places but the Bangladesh people hated us and made our lives miserable, so we ended up at the enclave. There is no hate for us there so we can make a bit of a life”:
In coordination with local partners, Children on the Edge have conducted baseline surveys in two such Rohingya enclave communities and received approval from the local government to establish four classrooms for refugee children.
Each classroom can accommodate 60 students per day. Priority is being given to children from single-income homes, those with disabilities, and those from the most resource-poor households. The schools will be starting this week.
The vast majority of the 240 children enrolled have never received any type of prior education. The schools provide children with instruction in science, maths, hygiene, and reading/writing in Bangla and English.
To make a contribution to this work, please visit our donate page.
Today is the World Day Against Child Labour. Launched in 2002 by The International Labour Organization (ILO) this is a day to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.
Children on the Edge combat child labour through the development of community led child protection, the provision of quality education and, when the need arises we facilitate more targeted work.
Although prohibited by the Labour Act (2006), there are nearly 3.2 million working children aged between 5-17 throughout Bangladesh, many in hazardous conditions. Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 garment factory workers and injured some 2,500 more, there has been an increased focus on the ills of child labour and working conditions in the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector. What is less focussed on is working children in areas like Cox’s Bazar.
Children here work in the fish markets, or along the coast line selling shell bracelets and catching prawns. Some act as tour guides or sell water. These children have no funding or time to attend school, and little chance to enjoy the opportunities that should be inherent in childhood.
Many of the schools for working children we support in Bangladesh can be found at the centre of crowded, labyrinthine slums in Cox’s Bazar. The narrow alleys are jammed with tin roofed huts, lines of drying fish, and swarms of mosquitos hover over the puddles left from the last downpour. The people here live on borrowed land, having lost their own homes through the frequent cyclones and floods that occur in this part of the country.
The nine schools are modest buildings, bursting with life and colour. Drawings and paintings are strewn over the walls, with creations of all sorts hanging from the ceilings. These children are from some of the poorest families in the world, and have to spend much of their time earning an income for their parents, or even looking after the entire household. Their time here though, is sacrosanct. It’s a time where they can just be children, they can create, learn, play and express themselves, free from the burden of adult responsibilities.
On one of our visits we met Kaamil, who loves to sing. He’s exceptionally talented, with a mesmerising voice and a big smile. He is 10 years old and the teacher tells us that later he will have to sing on the beach to make money.
“I like to sing, but not to have to go to the beach and sing for money. I wish I did not have to work at all. If I could change anything about my life it would be this.”
Kaamil lives in a slum called Kutadiapora. His mother has died and his father left them and does not send any money to help him and his sister. His sister is older, so he lives with her and his brother in law, who earns a little money driving a tuk tuk.
We ask Kaamil to describe his an average day, he said “I wake up at 6.00 in the morning, I live in a hut made of tin and fence and there are two rooms. There are four of us here including my cousin. I do like it here because there are trees and I like to sit in them, but the rain causes trouble, the sea rises and floods the slum, it comes into our home.
I get to school at 9.00am which I love! My favourite things to do are singing, drawing pictures and playing. After school I have some lunch, and then I go and sing for tourists at the beach. I make 200-300 TK from doing this. The school has even helped with this though, when I earn money on the beach now I can count it. People in our area do not like children who don’t learn, but they respect me now. When I finish the work at the beach I go home and I study and do my homework!”.
The flexible community school model meets the educational needs children like Kaamil close to where they live and work, whilst working closely with their families to foster greater understanding of the importance of education. Alongside crucial literacy and numeracy education emphasis is placed upon creative expression and play, with daily time assigned for art, dance or group play.
Staff also work alongside children’s families, encouraging long term commitment to and support for their children’s education and consequently a reduction in child labour and child marriage.
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