As a new wave of violence against the Rohingya emerges, our work with refugees is more crucial than ever.
For over 5 years now Children on the Edge have been working with Rohingya refugee children in the makeshift camps of Bangladesh. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Rakhine State, Burma (Myanmar) who are widely considered the most persecuted group in the world.
Since their government passed the 1982 Citizenship Act, the Rohingya people have been denied access to citizenship and subjected to grave human rights abuses at the hands of the authorities and local population in Burma.
To escape this treatment, they make perilous journeys at sea or flee across the borders, often to countries that are already impoverished and over populated. Bangladesh is now hosting around 400,000 Rohingya people and despite the recent surge of violence in Burma, are currently turning them away.
In the last month there has been an additional surge of violence against the Rohingya in Burma, and a UN official has stated that the agenda fuelling it is ethnic cleansing. Some 30,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in the last month and an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch has shown that hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed. Claims of gang rape, torture and murder are adding to the crimes against humanity endured by this people group.
Conditions for those that have made it across the border are poor and children have no opportunity for education. Official refugee camps are at capacity, overspilling into illegal makeshift camps. Movement is restricted and refugees have no permission to work outside the camps. They are often subject to attacks and persecution from locals who resent the refugee community.
Children on the Edge work in the largest makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh providing low profile primary education for Rohingya children in the camp. We operate 45 classrooms within the camp, enabling 2,700 children to gain a full primary education. All children follow a government recognised curriculum and take exams, ensuring that their education is officially recognised in Bangladesh, despite their migrant status.
Without this provision there is a chance a whole generation of Rohingya will grow up unable to read or write, the latest wave of violence has tripled the amount of refugees coming into the areas we are working and the need is greater than ever. We are actively looking for support and funding for this vital work. Please get in touch if you think you can help with funding, or think about making a donation.
We started out our work in Uganda supporting a pilot Child Protection Team project in Masese II slum (known as Soweto). After 5 years the Masese II Child Protection Team (CPT) has genuinely transformed a community and is still going strong.
These ten volunteers have toppled illegal breweries and created alternative, positive livelihoods to get children to school, they have eradicated the occurrences of child sacrifice, they have instigated community action on sanitation and hygiene to create a clean and cared for area. They have also reduced domestic violence, substance misuse and child abuse.
The team are now independent, with only occasional input and encouragement needed from Children on the Edge staff. Not only this but they are sharing their experiences as we scale up this work into the wider district.
Babra, a social worker at Children on the Edge Africa says “I am proud of the CPT in Masese II, they do all the work with very little resources, they get on all by themselves, they refer cases and do follow ups themselves, they even do their own fundraising. They work so well even though they are not paid because it is from their hearts that they want to change the community. It’s like having a child and seeing them develop. I pray that the new communities will be the same. We can’t go in as Children on the Edge and change the whole community, but we can work with local people to change their own community”.
To help ensure that the new teams do just this, they meet regularly with the original team to learn from their experiences, share stories and develop ideas. Programme Director Edwin says “This helps them understand they are not alone in the fight against child abuse”.
In time, we are planning to scale up this tried and tested model across Uganda to help vulnerable communities create protective environments for their children. The team has been greatly effective in eradicating cases of child sacrifice, but sadly success in one community usually means the perpetrators move on to other vulnerable areas to prey on their children.
Identifying areas that are particularly vulnerable to child sacrifice, the team have written up the CPT model to enable new communities to benefit from 5 years of learning when forming their own CPTs.
Alongside the scaling up of the CPT model at grassroots level, there is need for effective national legislation where perpetrators are brought to justice. The two approaches work hand in hand. Children on the Edge are currently working with the Ugandan Children’s Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) to support the passing of a specific Bill addressing child sacrifice and current gaps in legislation.
With a change in the law and the corresponding scaling up of child protection at community level. It is hoped that this practice will be tackled head on and communities will be resourced to create safer environments for their children.
Help us expand our work in Uganda with a donation
Put the kettle on and read the full story of our Child Protection Team model
Sell our Season of Hope Christmas paper, or give to our Season of Hope appeal - all proceeds go to our work.
The 29th November is #GivingTuesday - the day to do good stuff for charity, straight after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, this global campaign raised £6,000 a minute for UK charities and broke the world record for most amount of money donated online in 24 hours!
This Christmas, and on #GivingTuesday, Children on the Edge need your support for our Season of Hope appeal. Can you make donation and spread the word to help us bring hope to forgotten children this Christmas?
A Season of Hope
The traditional Christmas story is all about hope. Most of us will have seen the nativity or been in a nativity play as a child. Whether you were an angel with tinsel wrapped round your head, or a shepherd donning a tea towel, the message was the same: a tiny baby is born in a manger against the odds, bringing hope and joy to many people. So, for lots of people, Christmas really is a season of hope.
Children on the Edge exists to bring hope, life, colour and fun to some of the most forgotten children across the world today. This Christmas, and on #GivingTuesday we are inviting you to give hope to these children by supporting our Season of Hope appeal.
How we’re bringing hope to children in Uganda
We’re working across a number of small slum communities in Uganda, to help make them safer places for children. In Loco, a slum community housing some of the poorest families near Jinja, conditions are dire. There is a high level of alcohol abuse, which leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Theft is rampant and there are frequent instances of domestic violence. The nearby nursery school and primary school are both run down and expensive to attend, stopping the most vulnerable children from enrolling.
But thanks to Children on the Edge, things are changing, for the better. We have established Child Protection Teams in Loco, and three other slum areas in Uganda. These teams are working to empower each community to build a protective environment for their children.
They are building relationships with people in their own communities, identifying problem areas and creating a link between people living in the slums and local authorities and services. All of which is having a hugely positive impact and making Loco a safer place for children. Already each team member is full of stories about how they have used their training to intervene in situations of child neglect, abuse, domestic violence and crime.
In January 2016, when we visited Loco, before the Child Protection Team was set up, the people there said they had no hope. But just a few months later, Chizito, the Chairperson of the new Child Protection Team in Loco said:
"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 play scheme 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".
Five months on and the centre is built. Not only this, but a class of children from the most vulnerable households in Loco are well into their first term and making incredible progress.
On this years’ #GivingTuesday, we want to take the time to thank all of our supporters who donate to Children on the Edge throughout the year, whether that’s their money, time or ideas. As a small charity, we rely on the support of people like you, who help us continue our work to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Our chums over at Montezuma’s chocolates have just completed an amazing charity fundraising month, raising a whopping £2,137.98 for Children on the Edge.
Throughout October, staff at ‘Chocolate HQ’, as well as in their 6 stores completed a number of different fundraising challenges and activities.
In stores, over the course of a week, customers paid £1 to take part in challenges including: ‘Guess how many buttons in a jar’; ‘Design a chocolate bar’ plus quizzes and other chocolate themed games – all raising £686.29!
At ‘Chocolate HQ’ - the aptly named Montezuma’s Head Office - staff took part in a new challenge every week throughout October, including an ‘Auction of Promises’, where staff offered their skills to other colleagues, for a price. What a great idea! Someone offered their gift wrapping prowess – agreeing to wrap 10 Christmas presents for a colleague. Another agreed to bake a cake, clean a car, do someone’s ironing, along with an offering of a tarot card reading and hair braiding lesson!
Other activities including a chocolate themed staff sports day or ‘Chocolate Olympics’. Teams competed against each other in a (chocolate) egg and spoon race; throwing a bag of buttons as far as they can; a relay race with a chocolate bar as the baton; a ‘balance a chocolate bar on your head’ race and finally a ‘which team can scoff a packet of chocolate buttons the quickest’. For four-year-old Alex who joined in, this was his favourite event!
Don’t worry, staff have also been shedding those chocolate calories on a static bike in the office, The team at Chocolate HQ managed to cycle an impressive 862 miles over the course of the October. Which, according to Google Maps, is the distance between John O’Groats to Lands End, if you take the A9. Well done team! Even better is that, according to the staff, they even did this without much help from their cycling-mad bosses – Helen and Simon!
The total raised throughout the month by staff was £379.70, adding to the £686.29 raised by Montezuma’s stores, plus a generous matched donation by the owners of Montezuma’s themselves took the total to £2,137.98!
This will go such a long way to help fund our work to support some of the worlds most vulnerable children - thank you Montezuma's!
The main element of the work we support in Uganda is through the establishment and development of Child Protection Teams (CPT). These groups of 10 trained volunteers from five different slum communities surrounding Jinja, work to mobilise local people to care for their children more effectively and receive support and advice on parenting, health, nutrition and preventing abuse.
One of the functions of the teams is to connect the community with the services that can help them. Having a strong connection with the police and training from them about the law gives weight to the advice and guidance provided by team members.
Babra from Children on the Edge Africa explains “We had a case of a man who beat his wife every day, the children would be hurt too. Two of our team members visited him, he was very hostile. After having some discussion with him he changed. We were not going to arrest or quarrel or make orders, but talk in peace until he understood why we were there. We then told him the laws. He didn’t know it was crime. We told him he would be arrested and he stopped.”
The teams work closely with police officers and local government to make sure issues are addressed and cases handled quickly and fairly.
Salaad from Loco CPT says “If people had problems they used to go to the local councillor and nothing would happen, or he might try and bribe them. Now they come to us, we speak on their behalf and their issues are dealt with straight away. Any violation of children’s rights and they know they can get action to challenge it”.
This diplomacy and advocacy works both ways. Teams advocate on behalf of the communities they work with, not only with regard to individual cases, but to build trust and understanding between local people and authorities.
Babra describes how perspectives have changed; “The police in Masese II used to be dismissive if people reported cases. They didn’t feel it was their concern, they just thought they were a bunch of drunks and not worth the trouble. Now they take the community seriously”.
The police have tried to engage Loco community many times before with no success. This is mainly due to the fact that people have been disillusioned through their experience of bribery, corruption and a perception that the police are against them.
The CPT set up a meeting with the community and the police and, because they are well trusted, many people from the local area came along. Seven police officers were there and the questions went on until after dark. There were so many questions that they set up a second gathering, attended by over 130 people.
They discussed how bribery is not allowed, and should be reported. They were encouraged not to run away from a police patrol and reassured they are there to keep safety and order, not to beat people. It was made clear that any officer who does this should be reported and action will be taken.
Through their ongoing and visible partnership with the police, as well as the facilitation of these meetings, the Loco CPT are building more effective services and a renewed trust between the community and the police. This is all contributing to the development of a safer environment for local children.
Read about the work we do in Uganda building a protective environment for children.
Could you help contribute to this work by selling our ‘Season of Hope’ wrapping paper?
Want to take on a challenge to support these children? Find out more.
For a quick donation simply text EDGE16 and your amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.
One year ago we updated you about the progress of the child councils in our Community Schools for working children in Bangladesh. Child councils are an opportunity for children to express their views and those of their classmates. There are six child councils currently running for the 18 different classrooms. Each council has 10 members and meets twice a month, once with their teacher and once with Mamun Rashid who is a project officer on the ground.
These councils are a space where children can give their opinions and suggestions about how the programme is being run, talk about issues that are affecting them, learn about their rights and communicate them to their friends and families.
This time last year, the councils had been running for about 10 months and the children were just starting to speak about some of the changes they would like to see. They were beginning to get to know their classmates in order to find out their feelings on different subjects. At this point they were still very shy and quite hesitant to express their views.
Recently we have visited the project again, and spent the morning with one of the councils. They have now been fully participating for two years and over this time the children have grown tenfold in their confidence. They have also developed a thorough awareness of what a child is, what their rights are and can easily list them off to whoever will listen!
Asked about the benefits of child councils, Mamun said “The time spent in the council is good for the children because they now know about child marriage, child trafficking and child abuse. Without the child councils they wouldn’t know this information. At the beginning they didn't know who was a child or what that meant. Now they understand that it is important and they should be protected. They know that the law protects them”.
Awareness of trafficking and abduction is developed in different ways, sometimes with role play, testing them with offers of sweets and chocolate to which the children reply a resounding ‘NO!’. A big part of their role on the council is to then take this information and communicate it to their classmates and friends. One council member called Saliha said “Whatever we learn from child councils we can express to our neighbours, they thank us and so it is good for me.”
When asked how their lives have changed since being on the child councils. Nayeem, aged 10 said “ Before we joined we didn't know about abuse, trafficking and child marriage. Now we can raise our voices, we can make requests and we can discuss our problems with the teachers and Mr Mamun and get some solutions. Also we are more important!”.
Members of the council take an active role in helping students who are struggling with their school work through an after-school tutoring club. Rehena, aged 11 says “I like being able to teach another student, like I am a teacher!”. If a student doesn’t arrive for lessons, they will find out if they are okay. The children also discuss any problems their friends might have, whether in school, their family or elsewhere. If anything arises from these conversations they bring it to the child council meeting to share. Depending on what the situation is, our local partners might refer the child for counselling, involve the teacher, local family planning agency or village development committee.
On a more practical level, the councils discuss how the schools are running and make suggestions or requests for various changes. This can be everyday things like school maintenance, repairs and furniture, or it can be finding solutions to challenges students face in the classroom.
So far they have procured benches instead of floor mats for classrooms, ceiling fans for hot days, increased the number of playtime facilities and equipment, ensured a supply of daily nutritious snacks, arranged a singing and drawing teacher, persuaded planners to build a new school with brick rather than bamboo and taken on the responsibility of developing outdoor garden areas!
From a more social level they have a strong influence in their classes, preventing their fellow students from being disturbed if another child is being distracting, or even making sure that their friends get home safely and are safe from bullying. They’ve also asked staff members to address some problems arising from having age differences within the same class.
Finally, the councils collect stories, art, and poems for the quarterly newsletter. The children help choose which pieces are most worthwhile for publication. This newsletter is proving to be very popular with all the students across the nine schools, and is also being shared with local agencies and government departments. There is more interest than available space for the publishing of poems, art, and articles written by the students. Saiful, aged 9 says “I like being able to collect the stories and poems from my friends, it gives me happiness.”
International Director, Rachel Bentley says “We have a strong focus on developing child participation in all the organisations we support. Giving children a voice is a central part of what we believe in as a child rights organisation and we’re delighted to see how this is progressing with the child councils in Bangladesh.”
Read about the work we do in Bangladesh providing education for working children
Could you help contribute to this work by selling our ‘Season of Hope’ wrapping paper?
Want to take on a challenge to support these children? Find out more.
For a quick donation simply text EDGE16 and your amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.
This Christmas, following the success of our 2015 ‘All Wrapped Up’ appeal, we’ve launched 'A Season of Hope' – our 2016 gift wrap appeal!
We’ve produced some beautiful ‘Season of Hope’ gift wrap, and all the profits go towards our projects on the ground, helping children in desperate circumstances.
We are inviting you to give hope to the children we work with by simply wrapping up your gifts and encouraging others to do the same.
In early September unprecedented water levels created destruction across Bihar State, India, with 213 people killed, 2190 villages underwater and thousands of people displaced to relief camps.
In this area we support a number of education projects for Dalit children and at the time we launched an appeal to help our local partners (Navjeevan Educational & Social Welfare Society) who were heavily involved in the relief effort.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors we were able to contribute to the work of Navjeevan who focussed on providing for immediate basic needs (i.e food and clothes) and worked to link affected families with government and non-government organisations for further help and support.
Not only this, but because our partners work in education, they engaged local school children in helping with the packing of relief materials ready for distribution and spent some time sensitising local young people about the suffering of the flood victims, motivating them to help. This had incredible results.
Sister Veena who leads Navjeevan said “Motivating the youth of the locality and inspiring them to actively participate in the relief work reduced the corruption at different levels, because they demanded that the government provided for those affected by the flood, and it reached people”.
The young people worked together to mobilise the politicians to contribute. They secured funds for food, and feed for animals owned by the families affected. To protect livelihoods, every family with animals was given one sack of food and medicine for the animals. The youth group also got permission to use government land to make temporary sheds for livestock.
After one protest at a government office they ensured 6000 rupees for each family affected in one block, then they went to a relief camp in the same area and asked the government to provide police protection for the people there. They also requested a free boat service for flood victims who were being exploited by those who owned private boats and were charging high fares for their use. As a result, there was both a government and a military boat service provided.
Sister Veena says “Children and youth, if motivated will act promptly and generously. Everyone has something to give. We encouraged children at one of our Centres to give what they could for the flood victims.… Almost all the children contributed biscuits, rice, potato, dal, etc. One child who is very poor and only has three shirts, brought his best shirt to give to the children affected by the flood. It was very moving and challenging”.
Children on the Edge is a child rights based organisation and we work to encourage child participation in all our work. This is a great example of what children can achieve when they are given the resources and the opportunity to make a difference.
The doors of Loco Early Childhood Development Centre opened on the 26th September and just over a month later, the children here have already come on in leaps and bounds.
Edwin Wanabe, Programme Director at COTE Africa says ‘The children are very willing to learn and so friendly to the staff. They are interacting well during playing and enjoying themselves. At first they were upset to be left by their parents in the morning, but now they wake up their parents early in the morning to make sure they arrive on time to school!”
These children are from an extremely vulnerable community, they are very young and have never been to school before. This presented some challenges in the first few weeks for the teachers. Naturally at this stage, the children behaved fairly chaotically and found it hard to concentrate.
The main way the staff have tackled this is by singing songs, as they really help to motivate and focus the children in a fun way. Whether these are songs that are saying ‘well done’ to a classmate for writing a word for the first time, or songs that help in quieting down the class before a meal time, there is a rhyme for most things and the children love them.
The language differences have also been a barrier, so in the first few weeks the teachers used a lot of gestures and soon communication began to flow. The teachers have also been helping the children to improve table manners and teaching them how to use the toilets in a hygienic way.
Doreen, the headteacher at the Centre says ’At first the children would be destructive with the pencils and books, they didn’t really know what to do with them or how to behave, but the teachers helped them to understand, and kept an eye on everyone while teaching, now they look after the materials’
What difference a month makes
In this short time the children have developed a real sense of belonging and are looking after their school books and equipment very responsibly for such a young age. They have become comfortable with sharing these things as well. They have also been learning about reporting whenever they feel unsafe, either at school or within their community. They have learned to ask for things politely and have developed their numbers, reading, writing and singing a great amount.
Edwin describes how “We can tell the children are greatly enjoying lessons because we often hear them imitating the teachers and telling their parents how much the teachers care about them. They are always reciting the rhymes at home, practicing their reading sounds and reporting what they ate at breaktime. We hope this brings a smile to your face!”
The police have cited the eastern region of Uganda as having the highest incidence of child sacrifice cases; with police chief Moses Binonga blaming the high infiltration of unregistered healers. With little protection or justice from the authorities, communities like Masese II were seemingly powerless.
Our pilot Child Protection Team (CPT) was created at the height of a local killing spate in July 2012. Through workshops they raised awareness on the issue of child sacrifice, tackling the beliefs, mindsets and behaviour that sustain the practice. They created productive livelihoods to ensure parents could afford to send their children to school and keep them safe throughout the day.
What they also needed was to create a strong safety net within the community, and ensure people had easy access to the police. To resource them in doing this they identified some simple, low cost items:
Attackers started to realise they would easily get caught if they tried anything in that area. All of these measures resulted in the complete eradication of incidents in Masese II in the last 3 years.
Francis from the Masese II CPT says “We used loudspeakers to warn if there was a stranger in the area being suspicious and bikes to go straight to the police. With child sacrifice, there used to be an abduction every month, now children can walk about safely.”
Clearly Wellington boots are not the standalone hero of the picture. It took a detailed and thorough strategy to create the impact the team had in eradicating the number of abductions. What the boots represent however is how, with the backing of the community, huge transformation can be made with simple, low-cost resources.
The team requested loudspeakers rather than phones and bicycles rather than jeeps. Not only do these simple measures work, but they can be replicated across wider areas at low cost.
Since beginning work in the wider district, every CPT has been resourced with the same items. This sustainable model gives a great return on investment, which is why Children on the Edge are looking to scale up across the country in many needy communities that are vulnerable to child sacrifice.
More recently each CPT has been provided with a small hut to use as a base in each community. This means local people have a central place to go to if they need to find a team member at any time, and the team has a place to store records and resources.