16 mothers in Loco slum, Uganda have been part of a new scheme to help them generate income to look after themselves and their children, and learn for the future.
Despite progress being made in Loco to improve the lives of vulnerable children, ‘child mothers’ (those under 18 years old) struggle with the responsibilities of being a parent whilst having to care for themselves. Programme Director of Children on the Edge Africa, Edwin Wanabe says “When they became pregnant, these girls were still children in their own right, they are consequently ill-prepared for a life of motherhood while they are still growing up”.
Children on the Edge Africa have started a pilot programme that trains these young mothers in hairdressing skills and financial management, whilst teaching on reproductive health and family planning. With these components, those involved are able to learn about finance and business, be encouraged in empowering themselves and other women and girls in the community, as well as becoming aware of preventative measures for unplanned pregnancies.
Edwin describes how, when these issues go unaddressed, …”there can be a cycle of poverty and problems that follow families from one generation to the next. A child of a child mother is therefore more likely to become a child mother as well, and experience issues similar to the ones their mothers had. Additionally, once a girl is a child mother, she is more likely to experience more unplanned pregnancies since many child mothers are not financially independent and rely on relationships for support”.
Of the 32 young mothers that were identified as needing support in Loco, only half of them can currently afford to attend the course, and those that do attend rely on others to help them pay the fee. With funding and a free venue enabling a low fee, it costs only 60 pence per training session, but the extent of poverty in the area still makes this a struggle for some. An entire six month course to train as a hairdresser and receive all the additional support and advice costs around £40.
Training sessions are held in our Early Childhood Development Centre and, in addition to the hairdressing programme, our Child Protection Teams (CPTs) in the community also support these mothers through their focus on preventing childhood abuse and neglect. The CPT also work in partnership with the local Village Health Team who monitor the overall health of the community.
The scheme serves as a source of restoring hope and dignity, especially where abuse has occurred. When interviewed, all of the participants said they enjoy the program and would like to work in a salon one day or manage a salon of their own.
Find out more about our work in Uganda, and if you would like to support it, simply click the donate button below.
20 children from Uganda Railways Primary School in Loco community have volunteered to be part of a Child Rights Club, to learn about their rights (as laid out in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child), how to promote them and how to advocate for both themselves and the other children in their area.
“They will be the eyes, ears and mouths of the voiceless children in their school and community” said COTE Africa social worker Nandawula Babra.
The Headteacher from the Primary School helped to form the group and also appointed a ‘patron’ from the teaching staff to guide and support them as they train and plan their activities.
The group, (consisting of 14 girls and 6 boys) had their first workshop last month, which was facilitated by Noah Namwano from Child Restoration Outreach in Jinja. The session covered a broad understanding of what a child rights are, what the Convention for the Rights of the Child is and what kind of activities the club will be involved with.
The children will be choosing these activities based on the four themes of survival, development, protection and participation. Through these activities they will be contributing to the reduction of violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking in the community.
The day after this workshop, another Child Rights Club session was held, together with teachers, to focus on child protection. The children were invited to discuss the issue of corporal punishment at school, giving examples of their experiences, feelings and opinions on how discipline could be improved.
The teachers were very responsive to these ideas, and the session went on to discuss child exploitation. Children were asked to identify perpetrators and came up with a full list of those they feel pose a danger. Facilitator Noah Namwano said “I am so pleased with the participation from the children. It just shows they have something to say, and they are just looking for the opportunity to express their concerns”.
They went on to look at different forms of exploitation and what can be done to stop it. Many of the children were surprised, as some realised through this discussion that are regularly subjected to exploitative activities in the areas. The Child Rights Club will be meeting again in the next few weeks to look at leadership and planning.
Watch this space to see their progress and find out more about our work in Uganda!
As we near the end of our first year of Loco’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre in Uganda, we’re delighted to hear that Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) who constructed the building to such a high standard last summer, has been awarded an Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.
This time last year, we'd just returned from our first ever playscheme in Loco slum, Uganda. We began working with this community in January 2016 and last years' playscheme was a way for us to introduce ourselves to the local community. We organised a week of activities with the COTE Africa team for local children, and we returned in May 2017 to do the same again.
Our staff and volunteers have just returned from this years' playscheme and were blown away by the transformation from last year. Sarah Collinson who ran the playscheme with the help of three The Body Shop at Home volunteers, said:
"This years playscheme showed us how much progress is happening week by week in Loco. The work of our Child Protection Teams, the new Early Childhood Development Centre offering education to the most vulnerable young children, and the work of all the COTE Africa staff has made such a huge difference compared to just a year ago. This was particularly clear in how quickly the children adapted to games and lessons; treated each other with kindness; and showed vital awareness about keeping safe and clean. This is a testament to all the training and support that is going on behind the scenes for the past year".
In January 2016, the people in Loco said they had no hope. Unemployment and income poverty had left households vulnerable and their children were 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”.
But ten local people were 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. 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. We also built a brand new Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) to offer early years education for some of the most vulnerable children in the community.
The Chairman of the CPT 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”.
The transformation in the community was obvious at this year's playscheme. For example, the children were much better behaved than last year, where we saw a lot of competition for toys and activities between the children. But this year, the older children were looking out for the younger children on the playscheme, ensuring they were safe and able to take part in the activities fairly.
Last year, serious health problems emerged in the community during the playscheme, and our team adapted the activities to include a full day’s training on health and hygiene with songs about hand washing and puppet shows on keeping clean and safe from illness. This year, it was clear that health and hygiene are now fully engrained with the children who understand why this is so important. The children are now quick to wash their hands before eating their daily porridge; running to the queue at the tap to wash meticulously with soap whilst singing "this is the way we wash our hands" song.
Other aspects of sanitation had also vastly improved this year. All the children understood the importance of using the bathroom facilities and made sure they washed their hands after going to the toilet. This is something that ECD Centre staff take very seriously, checking the children as they leave the toilet and sending them back to wash their hands if they aren't wet!
Sarah said: "The COTE Africa Team are running another playscheme in December, and I know they are going to see more signs of transformation with the children. Things change so quickly when the community work together and as our other work, like the education loans get more and more established, everyone is looking forward to see the difference made in Loco".
Read more about our work in Uganda
Read more about this years' playscheme
In May 2016, we organised our first ever playscheme in Loco; a community we had just begun to work with. The playscheme offered a week full of hope, life, colour and fun for the children of Loco and gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community, especially the children.
We've just returned from our second successful playscheme this year, where we saw such a dramatic transformation compared to just one year ago. The most obvious physical transformation was our brand new Early Childhood Development Centre, which opened last year, and provided the bright and colourful space we needed for morning lessons. But the difference in the children was huge.
Read more about the transformation of this local community, all made possible thanks to your support.
Hosted by Children on the Edge Africa, with volunteers from The Body Shop At Home™, this year's playscheme was attended by over 300 excited children. They enjoyed a week of fun activities, from storytelling, football, three-legged races, drawings, crafts, music and parachute games. The highlight of the week for most of the children is the bouncy castle which was set up on Friday morning.
Every day involved structured educational classes for younger and older children in our ECD Centre in the morning, with the afternoon set aside for fun and games. Each day had a different focus: Monday was literacy; Tuesday was numeracy; Wednesday was the environment; Thursday was storytelling and Friday, well Friday, was bouncy castle day, with music, dancing and face painting!
Led by the ECD teachers and COTE Africa staff; with support from The Body Shop At Home™ volunteers, the children were taught counting songs; read story books; learnt about their local environment; made musical instruments and learnt about personal safety by identifying 'safe' and 'unsafe' places or objects in their local area. The 'Hungry Caterpillar' proved a very popular story for the younger children, with the older children enjoying 'Handa's Surprise'.
The week was a huge success. And for our The Body Shop At Home™ volunteers, Sophie, Hayley and Claire, the playscheme had a particularly powerful impact on them:
Sophie said "I want to say a massive thank you for allowing me to be part of a team who has made life changing experiences from day one not just for the children of Loco but also for myself. I was enabled to do activities I wouldn't normally do and really enjoyed myself, especially hearing the children laugh and seeing them smile. I never knew the full extent of what Children On The Edge do as we don't see behind the scenes but now I can explain to everyone I see with more passion in my heart to get the word out what you guys really do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart x".
Hayley said "What an experience being a volunteer for the 2017 playscheme! It pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to try things I wouldn't usually do. I've learnt so much in such a short space of time and have memories I will treasure for a lifetime. From the second we landed in Entebbe to the moment we stepped back into England I was enchanted by the people I've met, the places I've seen and the phenomenal work Children On The Edge continue to do. Thank you for a truly life changing experience!"
Claire said: "I've had such an amazing experience with a fantastic group of people. It was completely humbling and we met some wonderful people, both young and old, I didn't want to leave. Seeing what Children on the Edge has done for the communities in Uganda first hand has been a real eye opening experience, and makes you appreciate what you have at home a little more. From the results this fantastic charity have achieved so far, it definitely proves you get better results with honey than vinegar. I feel more informed about the work Children on the Edge do and more confident to advocate on their behalf now. Thank you for allowing me to share this amazing experience with you".
The Body Shop At Home™ volunteers who joined us this year are all consultants or Managers who fundraise tirelessly for Children on the Edge. Along with colleagues at The Body Shop™ and The Body Shop At Home™, they provide vital financial support for our work with vulnerable children, especially in Uganda.
Children on the Edge generate hope, life, colour and fun in the lives of some of the most vulnerable children across the world. Hope is a fundamental part of this because it enables people to know that things can be different. In turn, this is a catalyst for action within the communities where we work.
Living on the edges of society, surviving life in refugee camps and slums, enduring persecution or isolation are all situations that can breed despair and inertia. Sometimes when people see no evidence that things can change, they stop wasting energy believing their situation can be different. Rebecca Solnit describes hope as an axe, rather than a lottery ticket, and says ‘To hope is to give yourself a future, and that commitment to the future makes the present uninhabitable’.
In his 1930s ‘Treatise on Hope’, Ernst Bloch says that hope requires people to ‘throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong’. To us, this speaks very strongly of the importance of hope in sparking community ownership, participation and action. Hope gets people on their feet and inspires them to become actively involved in creating change, instead of resigning themselves to the difficult circumstances they are living through.
We have seen this scenario many times in the situations we work, and it’s why generating hope is one of the core elements we focus on. We encourage it through our relational approach, and it is the key to community ownership in our projects. Here are two examples:
In Lebanon, when our partners started working with Syrian refugees in the informal settlements in Bekaa Valley, many people they met had given up.
Project Director Nuna Matar described how “Often groups of people would be sitting around doing very little, they didn’t see what they could do to change anything. Big organisations would come and count people rather than talk to them, leave resources that they didn’t need, like electric heaters when they have no electricity. Refugees want to be known as people, not numbers! This doesn’t build hope, they started to sit there powerlessly, wondering what would be dropped off next”.
When our partners started to talk to people about education for their children, some of the men said ‘Are you going to build us a school?’, so the team put the question back to them. ‘Are you going to build a school?’. After a long time of believing nothing could change, they had lost motivation, but the team here built relationships with them, encouraged them and worked alongside them.
The fathers became instrumental in the construction of schools, and later on even the building of a new refugee camp. The women are fully involved in the education programme, many being trained as teachers and instigating their own literacy classes. The children have been engaged in designing the camp, they especially liked helping out with building the play area! We are now supporting the education of 500 Syrian refugee children, whose aspirations are rising, as are those of their community.
One year ago in Uganda, when we visited Loco slum the people there said they had no hope. Unemployment and income poverty here has left households vulnerable and their children are prone to exploitation, malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse. The Chairman of our Child Protection Team (CPT) in Loco, said “People here have had many organisations come and start things and then go, promise things and then disappoint, they didn’t believe things could change”.
Using the CPT model means that work here is totally owned by the community. Babra is a social worker for COTE Africa, she describes how “ The community participate from the start. They identify the problems, they identify the solutions”.
Ten local people are trained up to work in their area as part of the CPT, to educate people about child protection and support them to create a protective environment. These people are volunteers, and all the work they do is out of dedication to their community. As the people they work with start to see that things can change, it encourages them to take more action.
A year on we have the full participation of local people, not only the CPT volunteers but also parents getting involved with education, mothers creating new businesses to pay for their children to go to school and local services engaging with the Loco community to create a better environment for children.
The Chairman now describes how “People see workshops, they see a team that deals with their problems, they see a drop in domestic violence and crime, they see their children on a playscheme and a new Early Childhood Development Centre being built, and it gives them hope. These things have never happened in Loco. Hope is knowing things can change”.
These are just two examples of how hope brings action in our work, but if you visited any one of our projects you would see the same values. Thank you for your support in generating hope and bringing change in the lives of children living on the edge.
Read our earlier blog: 'What do we mean when we talk about hope?'
When we say we bring hope, life, colour and fun to the lives of vulnerable children, it’s 'hope' that kicks off the list, and with good reason. Hope is the cornerstone of what we believe is vital for children living in desperate situations, because it’s all about change.
Hope could be seen as a fluffy, sentimental term; something to inspire a kind of 'sunshiny' feeling about helping children, but we think it’s the opposite.
Children that live in the situations where we are working don’t need something fluffy, they need something revolutionary. These are children facing war, persecution, poverty and injustice and in the current political climate, the need is not abating. Nationalism is on the rise, compassion is fatigued and barriers are growing.
In her book, ‘Hope in the Darkness’, Rebecca Solnit says that ‘Hope is an act of defiance… the alternative is surrender, which abandons not only the future, but the soul’. At present, our work with children living on the edges of their societies is more vital than ever, and it works in defiance of the status quo that marginalises children on the basis of their race, caste, class or ethnic minority.
In October an 65, 000 Rohingya refugees fled horrific human rights abuses in Myanmar, joining the masses of refugees already in Bangladesh, who have been fleeing government persecution for over a decade. It’s here we are providing education for 2,700 Rohingya children in a makeshift refugee camp.
Late last year, an 8 year old Dalit girl in Bihar State, India was beaten by a group of men when she dared to say that she could be a magistrate or the chief of police one day. It’s here that we are supporting education and non-violent activism to tackle ingrained caste discrimination and help ‘untouchable’ children realise their rights.
Currently, the practice of child sacrifice in Uganda is still going unreported and there are gaps in legislation enabling perpetrators to go free. It is here that we are working with a Ugandan child rights group, and the government to address the problem, whilst expanding our child protection teams in communities.
Hope is an act of defiance which often begins in the margins of society. Going forward we will highlight how it motivates action and inspires both rapid transformation and long term evolution.
Read our latest blog: 'How hope is a catalyst for action and ownership'
On Saturday 4th March, one of our wonderful fundraisers from the Body Shop At Home, Sophie Fletcher organised a Charity Ball in Lincoln raising £2700 for Children on the Edge.
240 people turned up to Sophie’s Ball at Jocasta’s in Lincoln and enjoyed an evening of music, games and dancing; with a magician thrown in for good measure! Guests also heard from our Grants Officer, Sarah, who spoke about how their money makes such a big difference in Uganda; where we are working to bring hope, life, colour and fun to slum communities near Jinja.
Sophie was inspired to raise money for Children on the Edge after hearing about us as a consultant with the Body Shop At Home. She says from day one, she learned about the “amazing work of Children on the Edge” and how we help to support vulnerable children through our projects around the world.
As part of the Body Shop at Home, Sophie got stuck in with fundraising, not only on her own, but as part of her regional team. In 2015, she joined us on our annual Playscheme to Uganda; where she saw first hand how our work is helping to transform slum communities. It was this trip that inspired Sophie to organise the Lincoln Charity Ball.
Sophie said: "I have supported Children on the Edge for around three years and last year won a place to volunteer on the play scheme in Uganda because of my previous fundraising and passion for the work the charity does. It was the most incredible experience of my life and really opened my eyes to the difference we can make to other people's lives. Having seen the work in Uganda, and the difference it makes, I was determined to up my fundraising to a new level, which is where the ball came into play!"
Response to the event was hugely positive with ticket sales excelling Sophie's expectations. Local companies including NS Plumbing, Streets Accounts, Dack Motor Group and Home Property Lawyers all came on board as sponsors.
The money raised from Sophie’s Charity Ball is enough to cover the costs of sending 20 children to school for a whole year at our Early Childhood Development Centre in Loco, Uganda.
When asked what she’d say to someone else thinking about fundraising for Children on the Edge, Sophie said:
“DO IT! Just go for it, there are millions of ideas and things out there that can be used as fundraisers so find something you're good at or something you enjoy, and make it work for a good cause. Never be disheartened because any funds raised are more than COTE would have had if you didn't take on the challenge”.
If you'd like to organise a fundraising event for Children on the Edge, please contact Amy, our Fundraising Officer on 01243 538530.
Since the success of our pilot education loans in Masese II, the Child Protection Teams we support in Uganda have been introducing the scheme into three new areas; Loco, Masese I and Masese III.
Just £20 can provide a small business loan for a struggling household in Uganda.
In each area, the most needy households are identified and invited to attend a series of training workshops. These include savings workshops, small business training sessions and opportunities to form self help groups.
The saving workshops have been newly introduced as the new area’s needs are so great. The workshops introduce the benefits of saving and give hints and tips on how to put money aside, even through times of financial stress. Each person attending has a trial period of demonstrating they can save money and budget, before they are given their first loan.
Small business training workshops give prospective owners the chance to learn about the principles of a successful business and how to use their new income in the best way in order to grown their trade further.
The self help groups are facilitated to allow people to work together, support each other and develop funds to help in difficult times. They all contribute to a health fund which protects members in times of sickness, and also a social fund which supports members in other potential troubles (like the loss of a relative). Over time, members re-pay the money lent to them so the fund is available for the next person.
The new communities have 20 loans currently running in each area. Each loan is worth about £20, has sparked a new business and changed the lives of each household. Many and various businesses are blossoming throughout each community including mat making, silver fish selling, cooking, charcoal selling, fruit and vegetable stalls and hut renovation.
Babra is our social worker at Children on the Edge Africa, she says “These loans can give people a new start. One lady had been trapped in prostitution for a long time. I talked with her regularly for over a year about how the loan scheme could help her start an new life, but she was reluctant. She didn’t believe she could do it, but she was so unhappy. This year she started out on the scheme. Already she has a successful business selling ground nuts and plastering people’s homes! She is free and is now able to send her three children to school. When she sees me, she throws her arms around me with happiness.”
This number of loans given in Masese III will double soon as many of the Karamajong people that live here have a natural talent for business and are responding particularly well to the scheme. This is especially good news here, as the community had become reliant on a charitable organisation that gave food handouts, when the charity left, people here had no income or means of feeding their children. The education loans are now giving them sustainable means to earn, feed their children and send them to school. Masese II is still running the education loan scheme and currently have 46 households starting up businesses.
It costs just £20 to provide a small business loan for a struggling household. The slideshow below shows some of the different businesses these loans have made possible. If you would like to donate £20 to start a new business and enable children to go to school, just click the button below.
‘Women should defend themselves without fear, for they are the world’s backbone.’ - Ten questions for Winnie Biira 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.
Winnie Biira is the Finance, Human Resource and Policy Director at Children on the Edge Africa, in Jinja, Uganda. She ensures that organisation’s systems and resources are efficiently and effectively utilised to increase its capacity and meet its goals. She also inputs into the facilitation of our education loan scheme. We interviewed Winnie about what inspires her to be bold in creating change, what changes are possible, and how she overcomes obstacles and barriers in her work.
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