“I don’t remember what life was like before coming to the camp”, says Azima, “but my friends tell me we would play and go swimming”.
Azima is nine years old and lives in a Rohingya makeshift refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Burma border.
Her mother told us about when they fled Burma due to the persecution of the Rohingya, saying “After the riots and looting started we were scared. When the violence came to our village we fled with only what we could carry. We walked one day to the water. Then took a boat to Bangladesh. Then we walked one more day”.
Azima is one of six children, her father has been missing for over two years after leaving to find work on a fishing boat. Her mother weaves fishing nets to try and earn enough money to feed the children, but this is a constant struggle.
When we talked with the Rohingya community back in 2010, the only thing they requested was education for their children. The official United Nations Kutupalong camp provided such services, but the overspilled makeshift camp, a sprawling mass of mud, stick and plastic shelters, had nothing. Not only this, but authorities would not permit permanent structures or formal schools for unregistered refugees.
For a long time, thousands of children wandered the camps, unoccupied and vulnerable. We made education possible in what looked like an impossible environment, by supporting the refugee community to build low-profile schools for their children. These 45 classrooms were built onto existing dwellings and are now educating 2700 children in the makeshift camp. We trained over 40 Rohingya refugees as teachers using a curriculum especially designed for refugee children who have missed out on education.
Over the last six years, these 2,700 Rohingya refugee children have received an education, in a safe and nurturing environment. Not only are they following a government approved curriculum and sitting exams, but, after what they have been through, they are developing their confidence and self worth.
To reach the most children, one child from each household attends school, and then shares their learning with their siblings, parents and friends. Azima’s mother says “Azima is a very hard worker. That is why we chose her to go to school. She is smart and helpful. She spends many hours teaching her brothers and sisters to read and write. It is very important for the future of my family that my children know more than I do. I never learned to read. Without the schools my children could only weave nets like me. That is not a good life. I hope we can do better”.
Azima is doing well, flourishing at the camp school and would love to be a teacher herself one day. In fact a 97% pass rate has recently been recorded, and she and her friends have also learnt skills to communicate with army officers, read vital health leaflets, negotiate better prices at the market and understand about the world by reading newspapers they find in the camp.
“I don’t leave the camp because I am afraid of the police” says Azima, “but I love to go to the school. Without it I would have nowhere to go. It’s only hard sometimes when I am hungry, but I love to see my friends. My teachers are good people and they work hard every day. My favourite teacher is my English teacher as he likes to make jokes!”
A new wave of violence against the Rohingya in October 2016 resulted in an additional influx of around 70,000 refugees to Bangladesh. It drew the eye of the international community and softened the government's position on unregistered Rohingya. We are optimistic that our education programme will now be recognised by the authorities and facilitated by UNICEF.
With children like Azima in Kutupalong makeshift camp receiving the services they should, Children on the Edge can replicate the model to support new Rohingya arrivals, as yet unable to access services.
You can help us to help these new arrivals by supporting our ‘Back to School’ campaign.
Getting children Back to School
School’s out for summer, but you will have seen plenty of ‘Back to School’ supplies in the shops and online; as children get kitted out for their return in September.
But getting ‘Back to School’ for the children we work with around the world is a lot more complicated than just buying pens, uniforms and packed lunch boxes. These children face enormous barriers to getting an education, but through our projects, we make it possible for them to access learning again, in a safe place.
We provide education for thousands of children like Azima, living 'on the edge' in refugee camps, slum communities and in some of the most remote parts of the world. Could you make a donation today to help us support more children like Azima?
Just £10 can provide exercise books and text books for ten Rohingya refugee children for a year in one of our camp schools in Bangladesh
School’s out for summer. But you’ll no doubt be seeing lots of ‘Back to School’ branding in the shops and online; as many of you think about getting children kitted out for their return back to school in September.
But getting ‘Back to School’ for the children we work with is a lot more complicated than just buying pens, uniforms and packed lunch boxes. These children face enormous barriers to getting an education, but we help to make it possible.
We need your support so we can keep getting some of the most vulnerable children around the world, back to school and it's why we've launched our Back to School campaign.
A small donation can not only fund things like pens, pencils, bags and uniforms, but can also rent classrooms, pay teachers and fund training. Make a donation here.
How can you help?
1. Buy for Two
If you are buying a new pencil case or school bag over the summer for a child, could you spare the cost of another and #BuyforTwo? We're encouraging parents, caregivers and children to donate the amount you spend on a new item for the school year to Children on the Edge, to help a vulnerable child get back to school.
£5 can provide a place in a tent school for one Syrian refugee child for a week in Lebanon. So the cost of a new pencil case and a few new pens can make a huge difference.
Don't forget to take a picture of the item and let us how much you're donating by sharing it with us on social media with the hashtag #BuyforTwo. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
2. Buy through Give as You Live
If you are planning to buy 'Back to school' supplies online, sign up to Give as You Live to raise money for us for free! By shopping at a selected retailers using online, we get a small donation, without costing you a penny. Every penny counts, so even spending £5 online at Amazon, Tesco or WH Smith can make a difference. Especially if we all do it.
For example, just £1 can provide four days of education for a child at our Early Childhood Development Centre in Loco, Uganda.
3. Make a Regular Donation
A regular donation to Children on the Edge can help to fund our work to get children back to school throughout the whole year. This means you'll be directly supporting a vulnerable child to get a high quality education, in a safe, child friendly environment.
For example £10 can provide books and pencils to help educate three children for a whole school year at one of our schools in Bangladesh, India or Lebanon. So throughout the year, a monthly donation of £3 can go a very long way.
How we help
Your support can help us get more children Back to School this year and continue to deliver the best quality education for children in some of the most vulnerable circumstances. Can you make a donation today?
We're delighted that Ham Manor Golf Club in Angmering is hosting a golf day for Children on the Edge on Thursday 7th September. Tee-off is from 10am.
There is still space to join in for a day of golf in the beautiful Sussex surroundings of Ham Manor, and raise funds for a brilliant cause.
Simon Davies, the organiser says:
"Ham is one of the premier courses in Sussex and the day promises to be great fun with the chance to play some quality golf in a relaxed but competitive format and of course to raise a lot of money.
There will be a range of prizes and even a chance to buy free shots or mulligans to help boost both your score and the funds raised.
There are still some places available at £60 per head to include the golf, plus coffee on arrival and lunch"
If you're interested in buying a ticket, or would like more information please contact Simon Davies on email@example.com.
On Sunday 30th July, our sterling team of #RideforRefugees riders took part in the famous Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 as part of Team Children on the Edge, raising nearly £8000 for our work with refugee children around the world.
The event celebrates the legacy for cycling created by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and starts in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It follows a 100-mile route on closed roads through the capital and into Surrey’s stunning countryside. With leg-testing climbs and a route made famous by the world’s best cyclists at the London 2012 Olympics, it's a truly spectacular event with an epic finish on The Mall in central London.
Our five riders were husband and wife team Chris and Deborah Taylor, partners Marc Grierson and Leanne Chester, and our fastest rider - Pietro Rocco (who was too quick for our team photo above!). For all team members, it was their first ever Ride London, who were excited, but also a little apprehensive before the big day. Our Fundraising Officer, Amy went up to the finish line in Green Park to meet our amazing team of fundraisers as they completed this huge challenge.
Pietro completed the 100 mile route in an impressive 6 hours 37 minutes and was the first of our riders over the line. Pietro also raised an incredible £1645 for us via his Virgin Money page. Next to arrive was Leanne, who'd had an unfortunate accident at 30 miles in and was unable to finish the event. She was incredibly upset not to have been able to complete the route, but is determined to come back next year to finish what she started. She arrived back to the finish line to cheer on her partner, Marc. Both Marc and Leanne, together with their eldest son Jacob raised £1428 for Children on the Edge - an amazing achievement.
Deborah arrived soon after in a hugely impressive 7 hours 13 minutes, with Marc following shortly after in 8 hours 16 minutes. Our final rider, Chris, arrived back in 8 hours 24 minutes to join his super speedy wife, Deborah! Chris and Deborah managed to raise a whopping £4866 for Children on the Edge.
All the team finished with smiles on their faces, having enjoyed a brilliant, but challenging day on their bikes.
Could you take on the Ride London challenge on Sunday 29th July 2018? We have charity places available, find out more and apply.
On July 16th, Christine Smith, who works for The Body Shop At Home took part in the Windmill Half Marathon in Lytham for Children on the Edge.
Christine raised £100 - all helping to support our work with vulnerable children around the world. £100 is enough to cover the costs of educating 100 Syrian refugee children at one of our tented schools in Lebanon for a day.
It was Christine's first ever half marathon, she said "it's safe to say that training didn't go to plan so I kind of 'winged it' on the day but absolutely loved it, mentally (although I'm not sure my body felt the same way as I crossed he finishing line!)".
She explains why she chose to fundraise for Children on the Edge:
"As a Consultant with The Body Shop at Home, Children on the Edge is a charity close to my heart and I follow their activities closely. I like to do something additional to the general fundraising I do at Body Shop parties each year. My children have done things like carol singing around our estate and 'Iron Kids' and last year I did the Yorkshire 3 Peaks".
Christine started running in January last year but got out of the habit during the summer holidays, so she was determined that this year she would do more than a 10k. Inspired by an unplanned 10 mile run, she signed up to the Windmill Half Marathon that night. She said: "I knew that doing it for charity would keep me motivated when training".
We asked Christine what was the best and hardest part of taking on the Windmill Half Marathon:
"The best part was without a doubt the sense of achievement and the camaraderie of the other runners - everyone really encouraged each other. The hardest was when my hip started complaining around the half way mark and the change in position to go downhill on the last stretch caused pain that quite literally took my breath away. It wouldn't put me off doing it again though!"
When asked what she'd say to someone else thinking about fundraising for Children on the Edge she said:
"Just do it. It doesn't have to be huge and every little helps".
Would you like to fundraise for Children on the Edge by taking on a personal challenge, like a walk, run or cycle? Find out more.
We're taking a look back to our history, and will be sharing memories from our early work in the 1990's and early 2000's as part of a #ThrowbackThursday series.
Rachel Bentley, our International Director describes a memory from 1999 that makes her smile:
Children on the Edge were part of the effort to help refugees from Kosovo residing in Albania during the Kosovan conflict. The people we were helping were spread out across difficult terrain, scattered across different temporary camps. It was summer and the temperature was in the high 30’s often reaching 40 degrees.
The issue all of the organisations were facing in the camps was sanitation. To prevent the spread of disease in such a setting, a solution needed to be found so that the refugees could wash themselves. They were living in remote locations with no water or facilities. Also, it was important to not spend a lot of money on building expensive infrastructure within these camps as it was likely in a few months the refugees would return home to Kosovo.
We came up with the idea of mobile shower and sanitation units. The company, Elliott helped us make these to specification, they were towed by land rovers and visited each camp every two days.
Money was not wasted on expensive infrastructure and these mobile units followed the people back to Kosovo where they were used in the village of Cabra that was completely destroyed during the war. They provided washing facilities for the community as they literally rebuilt their lives from scratch.
Our mobile shower units, providing hot showers (with on tap Body Shop shower gel!) became famous within the refugee population and many a tale was told of them long after the crisis.
It’s one of my favourite memories (and in 26 years I have a lot!) because it’s a great example of an innovative, bespoke solution to a specific problem, thinking outside of the box. As a smaller, more agile charity we were able to move fast and still rely on that skill in all of our projects today.