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?
‘School is like their second home’ - Syrian refugee teachers sustain safe spaces for children existing in chaos
The pupils, parents and staff at Shellingford CE Primary School in Oxfordshire have been raising money for our work with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon since September 2016 as part of a whole school year of fundraising. So far they have raised an enormous £4871.13!
We visited the school in September 2016 and spoke to the staff and students about our project in Lebanon, providing education for 500 Syrian refugee children through our tented schools in Bekaa Valley. We spoke to the young students about what it was like to be a refugee and tried to get them to think about what life might be like for a Syrian refugee family who had to flee their home because of the ongoing conflict. The children were asked to think about what items they might take to help ensure their survival; things like like blankets, passports, money, a torch, first aid kit and a mobile phone.
This visit from Children on the Edge in September kicked off Shellingfords' fundraising for the year ahead. But teacher, Alex Drew was behind all the schools' fundraising activities. His family foundation set up in memory of his father (the Simon Drew Foundation) kindly provide financial support for our work in Lebanon, and he was keen for the school to get behind Children on the Edge too. Alex has led the schools fundraising which included a 'Self-Portrait' project, 'The Ultimate Sport Challenge' and a community picnic.
For the first of their activities, the 'Shellingford Self-Portrait Project', the children drew pictures of themselves which parents were able to order as keychains, framed portraits of fridge magnets, with all proceeds coming to Children on the Edge.
In February, staff and pupils took part in a series of sponsored sports activities called 'The Ultimate Sports Challenge'. The activities were linked to what Syrian refugees might have experience on their journey from their war-torn homes to refugee camps in Lebanon. Every child and teacher was asked to raise money with a specially created sponsorship form.
Tuesday: The Run
The whole school, including all the adults tried to run as many laps as possible in the school grounds, with 15 laps equalling 1 mile. The whole school ran an incredible 328 miles which they worked out as being as far as Shellingford to Paris, or the same distance from Aleppo, Syria to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Thursday: The Hike
Pupils took part in a hike in the local area. On the day each pupil brought a backpack with essentials they might need on a long journey. The children had been learning about refugees and thinking about what families and children might need to take with them to survive if they had to leave their homes in hurry, not knowing if they would come back. Despite storm Doris stopping them walking through the woods, they were able to walk through a mile long field and the village.
Friday: The Scramble
On Friday, the school organised a challenging obstacle in the playing fields. The obstacles were designed to be similar to what a refugee child might have endured when travelling across an unknown landscape. There were water and mud features and everyone got really stuck in.
Sunday: The Climb
For staff and families who were able to, the school finished their 'Ultimate Sports Challenge' with a climb up nearby White Horse Hill. The climb was related to a refugee's journey to hopeful safety.
Together, the Sports Challenge and Self-Portrait project raised an incredible £2546.52!
The schools' summer fundraising activity involved a community picnic which took place on Friday 26th May. Local residents were invited to join staff and pupils on a gloriously sunny lunchtime. The picnic raised another £127 to add to their total.
The parents at Shellingford Primary School have also been doing an incredible job of raising money through the 'Friends of Shellingford Primary School'. Their Spring Ball on the 20th May raised an amazing £806.50.
We were particularly touched to hear about year 5 pupil, Samantha's fundraising efforts. She independently organised for her family to make donations for chores completed at home. She raised a very impressive £43.90 with her hard work.
The money raised by Shellingford Primary School will go such a long way to help support our work with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
Over the past 3 years Children on the Edge have been working in partnership with Lebanese NGO - Mercy Foundation within the refugee communities in the Bekaa Valley, providing quality, child friendly education for refugee children who are unable to access government or UN school provision.
These tent schools, in addition to a school based out of a Community Centre in Beirut, currently provide education for 500 children aged 6 -12. They are safe places with a trusted adult presence. Where other projects of this kind bring in teachers from the outside, this model raises up teachers from within the Syrian refugee community.
Could your school fundraise to support Children on the Edge? Find out more and Download our Schools Pack or contact Amy Rook, our Fundraising Officer: email@example.com
In Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, we work with local partners to provide education for around 500 Syrian refugee children. Most of these children are living in informal settlements on the border and are provided with child-friendly education in tent schools. We support the training of Syrian refugees as teachers, so the children can learn within their own culture and feel a sense of safety and familiarity.
One of the schools for refugees is based in a thriving Community Centre, run by our partners in Beirut. It caters for both Syrian and Iraqi refugees and not only provides education, but is a hub for the wider support of the refugee communities and the Lebanese poor.
Project leader Nuna Matar says “Life is difficult in the refugee settlements, but refugees in Beirut face huge difficulties too. There are people living on rooftops and in garages, they have no facilities, they can’t send their children to school and face a lot of discrimination”.
Over 100 children attend educational classes at the Centre, studying English, Arabic, maths, art and computers. It also provides psycho-social classes for around 300 children, vocational training and adult education. There are monthly clothes distributions and computer lessons for all ages to enable learning and contact with relatives back in Syria and Iraq.
Noora fled her city in Iraq where her husband worked in a restaurant, when it was surrounded by ISIS. They first fled to the north of the country with their three children, witnessing people killed around them and enduring a four hour journey on foot. “Everyone was afraid”, says Noora, ”we left with nothing at all. The children still remember this day and have nightmares”. After a month or so they made the trip to Beirut to find safety.
“Life is very difficult in Beirut. I worry about my children as there are no doctors and medication is too expensive. My husband has found work in construction but not enough for the rent, which is for two small rooms. With my parents, there are now eight people in these rooms. I feel safer here but the children still play games about war and shooting, and we have no security for the future.”
Noora has registered for an English summer school at the Centre to give her more options in the years to come, and her children come along to the education classes. The Centre in Beirut is a lifeline for refugees like Noora. It is attended by around 800 people a day, with new registrations every week.
Find out more about the work we support in Lebanon and consider donating to the project with the button below.
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.
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?'
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.
"Every woman is an agent of change. We can design our world, so don’t be afraid to dream" - Ten questions for Nuna Matar on how to #BeBoldForChange
Each year on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day encourages us all to forge a better working and more gender inclusive world.
Children on the Edge works with local partners to restore the ingredients of a full childhood to some of the most vulnerable children worldwide. A big part of this is working towards equality in opportunities and an end to discrimination for the girls we work with.
The theme for the 2017 International Women's Day is #BeBoldForChange and we are privileged to be partnering with a number of truly inspirational women, who constantly use boldness and strength to bring about change for women and girls in their communities.
Nuna Matar is the Director of Triumphant Mercy , the Lebanese NGO we partner with to provide education for 500 Syrian refugee children in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. We interviewed Nuna about what inspires her to be bold in creating change, what changes are possible, and how she overcomes obstacles and barriers in her work.
The work we support for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon has a specific focus on ensuring children can learn in their own culture and dialect. Children in the tent schools, set up in Bekaa Valley refugee settlements, are taught in Syrian Arabic by Syrian teachers. This is key to help them recover from trauma and to help them to re engage with learning, making education materials familiar and easy to understand.
Learning in mother tongue language facilitates access to education, while promoting fairness for population groups that speak minority or indigenous languages, in particular girls and women. It also raises the quality of education and learning by focussing on understanding and creativity, rather than on rote and memorisation.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. For the children we working with, continuing to learn in their own dialect with a Syrian curriculum is crucial to retaining a sense of self, and a knowledge of their own identity and history. As time passes in the camps the children can easily become disconnected to their home.
Schools Co-ordinator Nadine Morcos says “The teachers here speak the same dialect of Arabic as their students (often they're from the same or the neighbouring camp as the children), they get their culture, so nothing gets by them. The teachers are motivated to learn, motivated to be useful, and motivated to be a changing force in their communities.”
All the Syrian refugees we speak to in the camps say that all they want is to go home and to help rebuild their country. They see their situation as temporary, so having their children learning in Syrian dialect is the most logical solution for them. They want to ensure that their children are educated for their own future and wellbeing, but also with the hope that in the future they are able to help Syria to get back on its feet.
Read more about our work in Lebanon.
Winter in Syria can be bitter, with extended periods of snow and temperatures below zero. Many families who have fled their homes because of the conflict, and those in villages affected by conflict are living without enough clothing, fuel or food to survive.
The partners we work with in Lebanon are currently making trips across the Syrian border to the Eastern suburbs of Damascus to provide food and fuel to 160 internally displaced families enduring freezing conditions. Our partners have found many more families in need - more that they can currently help - and they would like to do more.
If you'd like support this work, you can make a donation to help a Syrian family. We will make sure this money goes directly to help Syrian families survive the winter.
Nuna Matar who leads the project describes how ”Each person, each family is a living tragedy. Many have lost wives, husbands and children to torture, rape, and death”. The team there have identified a large number of unaccompanied street children who they would like to provide support for, if they can secure funding in the coming weeks.
Nuna goes on to say “We are seeing first hand the tragedy in the Damascus area where a main spring in the wadi Barada area that supplies water to the capital city was targeted by rebels and was damaged, leaving 4 million people in Damascus without water. On top of that Damascus is accusing rebels of polluting water supplies with diesel and water authority has cut supplies to Syrian capital”.
Recently a small group of friends who support Children on the Edge clubbed together to support a Syrian family by donating enough money to pay for fuel and heating each month.
They said “It’s just a simple way that we felt we could make a difference, without going through a lot of bureaucracy. We know our support is going direct to families that need it, through a small local organisation that is responding directly and quickly to the current need".
It costs just £40 to provide a Syrian family with enough food to survive, and fuel to keep warm, for a month.
If you feel you, or a group you are part of, would like to make a donation to help a Syrian family through the winter, then please make a one-off, or regular donation here.