We last reported about how children from the slums of Soweto, a community of displaced people on the outskirts of Jinja, Uganda now have their own safe place to go to, where they can play, learn and eat. Since then our Grants Officer, Ashley Kuchanny and our director, Rachel Bentley have both been out to the project to monitor the progress that the Centre is making possible for these children.
Even though it’s still early days they have both witnessed striking changes and encouraging evidence that the community is starting to turn around.
“As you walk around Soweto there is still black, toxic sludge from the breweries every 15-20 metres” says Ashley. “The smoke is acrid, the sludge pits have no fences and many children still scour the rubbish dump for slivers of charcoal, but the blackness of the area is starting to lift. There is less rubbish, it’s cleaner and the Centre is now a safe hub for the children of the community”.
It was found that as many as 40 children at the Centre (a third of those who attend), didn’t even know their own names. This is a result of many parents dying of AIDS in the area, leaving children in the care of elderly grandparents, some of whom are looking after up to 10 children at a time. Within the chaos of such a big family, without adequate care, a child’s identity can be lost. One of the first things we did at the centre was to find out the children’s names, and help them to learn them. It’s a small task, with huge implications for each child’s self worth and identity.
On her trip Ashley did a social mapping exercise with our local partners and beneficiaries, not using pens and paper but local materials like bottle tops, flowers and ash. Here they identified areas where they felt frightened and in danger, as well as areas they felt safe. Whilst our child centre was shown to be a place of safety, both the children and the parents identified the railway line as a prime site for abductions and abuse.
The study went on to reveal a number of film halls throughout the area where children are lured in and abused. Disturbingly one of these places was found to be directly opposite the child centre itself. By the time Rachel visited 2 months later, staff from the project had successfully got this film hall closed down.
Rachel’s visit last month also revealed some incredible progress for the children. “The children are looking well nourished and healthy, they are enjoying creative and colourful activities rather than learning by rote on benches” says Rachel. “Not only this, but the child protection committee have worked in safe principles for visitors and have fast become the ‘go-to’ group for child protection advice throughout Soweto”.
Watch this space for further encouraging stories from Soweto, find out more about our work here and consider donating to the project.
We reported a few weeks back on our research in Kachin State, Burma. The article highlighted the problems involved in getting aid to displaced communities along the China-Burma border, as conflict escalated between the Kachin people and the central government military.
John Littleton, our Asia Regional Manager has recently returned from this area where he spoke with representatives from the camps. He concluded that despite the fact the political situation in Kachin State is highly complex, that the humanitarian issue is simple. Sufficient aid is not getting through to those civillians who are caught up in the conflict and who need it most.
Since then we have received a list of essential supplies needed by the camps, acquired funding and found an aid route through. We will be providing warm clothes, strategic nutrition and toys for the displaced children in the camps.
Although play equipment may seem like a luxury item in these circumstances, it is essential for the emotional wellbeing of children caught up in conflict. Children in Kachin State have their identity entwined very closely with the war around them. They are constantly playing guns and bombs, not because of the influence of a television set, but from what they are actually seeing around them on a daily basis. Simple play equipment is essential for creating childhood games and imaginary realities that promote a healthy psychological wellbeing for a child living through conflict.
A second visit is planned later in the Spring to assess longer term needs.
Find out more about our work with refugees and internally displaced people from Burma, and consider donating to our work.
On Friday January 25th Michael Collins, the internationally acclaimed clarinettist, gave a towering performance of clarinet classics at Champs Hill, West Sussex on behalf of Children on the Edge. Mary and David Boweman, owners of Champs Hill, one of England’s most prestigious concert halls, said that it was the finest clarinet concert they had ever heard.
The British clarinettist Michael Collins is one of the most sought-after and successful wind players of his generation. The musician has displayed a dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship since his early triumph as a 16 year old, when he won the woodwind prize in the first BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.
Since then he has been a soloist for many orchestras including the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France and the Philadelphia, NHK Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, City of Birmingham Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony, and Philharmonia orchestras. In recent years he has won increasing regard as a conductor and in September 2010 assumed the post of Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia.
Accompanied by David Quigley, a remarkably talented pianist in his own right, Michael played pieces from Brahms (E Flat Sonata), Weber (Grand Duo Concertant), Saint-Saens, Poulenc, Messager (Solo de Concours) and Bizet /Milton (Fantasy). Page turner Josh Grubb, music scholar at Bedales, said he was in awe of their musicianship and donated his fee to Children on the Edge because he felt privileged to be part of such an amazing evening.
Michael Collins generously donated his fee, and the Bowermans not only opened up their wonderful facilities but sponsored all the champagne and drinks for guests at the event too. 100 guests were privileged to attend such a magnificent occasion, held in such beautiful surroundings, with canapés of the highest quality provided by Stuarts.
The concert raised over £5000 through the generosity of sponsors, guests and donors. These funds will make a tremendous difference in our work with forgotten children, living on the edges of society. We are incredibly grateful to all involved.
If you’d like to find out more about fundraising for our work, don’t hesitate to get in touch.