We work with partners in Bihar State, India, providing education for ‘Dalit’ children who are denied access to school. Recently we have established a new ‘rooftop’ school as a creative solution to providing education in a severely crowded and muddy slum area.
Despite the caste system being outlawed, its hierarchical rules still pervade across India and result in the oppression and exclusion of those in ‘lower’ castes. The Dalits are considered to be the bottom rung of the caste system, and are often known as ‘untouchables’.
We support 25 schools in Patna, both in the urban and rural areas, but recently our partners identified one urban slum area facing severe poverty, crowding and appalling conditions. The ground is too sodden and muddy to build on, there is a lack of space to rent and any shelter that is available is often cramped, dark and flooded. The idea for a 'rooftop' school provided a creative solution for a classroom, avoiding the muddy slum floor. The children are now able to be out in the fresh air, using the rooftop school to gain an education.
This urban slum area where the new school is located is a ‘Musahar’ community, who are considered the lowest strata of the Dalit caste, also known as ‘rat eaters’. The children that attend this school have been called ‘rat pickers’ by locals, and we are working with them, not only to provide education, but to rebuild their sense of self worth and awareness of their rights.
Sister Veena, project leader in the urban Patna schools says “Every person has an inbuilt capacity for change. Children with limited resources are able to bring a change in their lives and life of the community. I would like to see their self esteem and self image grow stronger. I want them to grow in a loving and caring atmosphere”.
Just £22 pays for a month’s rent for the rooftop classroom.
You can donate to project here, or sign up as a monthly donor to provide consistent support for our work in India.
Read more about our work in India
George Hemmati is on his way to Venice this weekend to take part in the Venice Marathon for Children on the Edge. It's his first ever marathon and he's hoping to raise £350 for us after hearing about our work with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. We chatted to George about his challenge....
What made you decide to do the Venice Marathon?
Well I've never done a marathon and I've never been to Venice so I thought two birds, one stone!
What made you want to fundraise for Children on the Edge?
I was keen to run for a charity working with refugees and then I came across the Promising Practices project. It was here that I noticed Children on the Edge had been chosen as one of the top 20 leading projects in refugee education with your work with Rohingya refugees. I was particularly inspired by your work given the scale of the atrocities being inflicted in Myanmar so it was really a no brainer.
Have you taken on anything like this before?
I've done a handful of half marathons in my time but never a whole one! (eek)
What are you most excited about?
I'm looking forward to that race day buzz. Wherever you're running, it's always great to have a crowd cheering you on and chucking you the odd jelly baby to keep you fuelled!
What are you most nervous about?
Not being able to get a reservation at a restaurant after. I'll be craving a BIG pizza!
How have you been training for the marathon?
I downloaded a training plan online and tracking my runs using an app. I'd be lying if I said that I've stuck to it religiously but I've managed to tick off most of them off. The best parts having been heading out on those Sunday mornings and running down Regents Canal. It's dreamy! The worst parts have been trying to motivate myself to run after work when it's dark and all you want to do is relax - never easy. The 22 miler in my training plan was also pretty gruelling!
Whilst we won't be in Venice to cheer George round the course on Sunday (sadly), we wish him the best of luck and we'll be sure to eat some pizza in his honour this weekend!
Can you help George reach his sponsorship target? He's got just £75 more to go! If you need some motivation, just look how hard he's been training.....
UPDATE 25th October:
George completed the Venice Marathon on Sunday 22nd October 2017, in 3 hours and 47 minutes, a fantastic achievement! His current fundraising total is £429, well over his target of £350. So he deserves a huge well done on both counts.
I actually had a great time for the most part but the last 12k was KILLER! I finished in 3:47 so chuffed with that (the photos are from the last kilometre!). And yes I had pasta AND pizza after.
Well done George!
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.
October 8th 2017, we held the sixth annual Children on the Edge Chichester Half Marathon, raising a record-breaking £33, 294 for our work with vulnerable children around the world.
The event has been growing year-on-year and we were delighted to have a record 1160 runners register for this year's race in one of three popular events - the Half Marathon, Ten Miler and Team Relay.
Organised in conjunction with Everyone Active, the event is one of our key fundraising events throughout the year. It is only made possible thanks to the support of our local sponsors; Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property who have generously supported the event each year since is was revived in 2012.
The race has become a popular date in the diary for runners across the South, especially with our challenging multi-terrain course over the Downs taking in the Trundle and Centurion Way.
Ben Wilkes, UK Director at Children on the Edge said:
“This year's race raised a record £33,294, which will make a huge difference to our work with vulnerable children. We are grateful to all our runners, sponsors and supporters who make the event possible and we continue to be blown away by the support we receive from the local community. It’s great to see the event growing year on year and we look forward to next year's race on Sunday 7th October!"
Children on the Edge would like to thank local businesses Chichester College, Covers, Evans Weir, Gnarly Tree, Harries Coffee, Krowmark Workwear, Natures Way Foods, The Run Company, South Downs Water and Wiley for all their support to make the event happen. We couldn't do it without them.
Along with our regular runners, we also had a fantastic team of runners all raising money for Children on the Edge as part of our Run for Refugees Team. Our 25 fundraisers raised an incredible £7,096 for our work with refugee children in Bangladesh and Lebanon. This included, Mrs Salmond Smith, Mr Bromfield & Mr Brittain, teachers from Prebendal School in Chichester, who took part in the Team Relay and raised £255.
Nicky Hellard has volunteered at the Chichester Half Marathon for the past two years and this year decided to run instead. She didn't believe she could finish the race; but took on the challenge, trained hard and built her confidence each week with longer runs, raising £322 in the process.
When asked what she'd say to someone else thinking about fundraising for Children on the Edge she said:
"It is a great charity that does wonderful work right in the front line with the most vulnerable and overlooked children in the world. As charities go they are one of the best, the staff are dedicated and the overheads are extremely low".
We are enormously grateful to everyone who took part, raised money, or supported the event as a volunteer or spectator. We can't wait to see you again next year!
Do you want to take on a challenge for Children on the Edge? Find out how.
‘Many of my friends stopped going to school, but I didn’t do this, and will never do this’ - Safiya speaks out about child marriage
Safiya is studying at Grade 3 level in one of our Community Schools for Working Children in Bangladesh, not only this but she is also challenging the norms of child marriage in her community.
The Schools we support here in Cox’s Bazar provide a free education in the afternoons for working children, and ensure equal access for girls. Here they have a few hours to learn, rest and play with their friends. All the students follow a BRAC curriculum and are prepared to access government schools at a later stage to continue their education beyond Grade 3.
Safiya is a member of the child council and, in the recent newsletter that they publish, she talked about her feelings on child marriage.
“Early marriage is a deep worry in our slums. Most of the parents commonly do it, and my grandmother is also interested in giving me away in marriage. I have heard from my teacher that early marriage is a risk to girl’s health and even their lives. Girls who have these health problems can’t be happy. Several times I have tried to explain this to my grandmother, I even talked about an example of one of my friends who married early and is now suffering.
In my slum many of people say ‘Why are you studying?’ I look older than I am, so they think I should feel the same as them and stop going to school. Because of these types of comments many of my friends stopped going to school, but I didn’t do this and will never do this, whatever people said”.
The schools help to protect girls like Safiya by giving them a route to stay in education. Teachers are trained to talk with children and their parents about the benefits of staying in school, and the risks associated with child marriage. Through the child council, children are learning even more about their safety, their rights and how to raise their voices.
Safiya is one of the first to begin speaking out about this issue, she says “If I leave the school my grandmother will marry me off, which I don’t like at my early age. I have decided to advocate against early marriage in my slum. If my neighbours don’t hear me I will bring my teacher to explain it to them, early marriage is a risk for health and life. Everybody pray for me so I can do it”.
Rachel Bentley is the International Director of Children on the Edge. Returning from a visit to Bangladesh in September•, she made the following statement:
In the last month, a catastrophic rise of violence and ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State, Myanmar has forced over 480,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh, into makeshift refugee camps and local communities. These already impoverished communities, who are still taking stock of recent flood damage, are ill-equipped to host scores of traumatised new arrivals.
Returning today from a trip to Cox’s Bazar and the Kutapalong area where we work, it is clear that the situation is in flux and evolving every day. At present we have observed the following regarding the location, conditions and provision of aid for refugees:
There are few solutions being presented for this beleaguered and stateless population, who are still largely unwelcome in Bangladesh and remain victims of hatred in Myanmar.
Over the last week our partners have conducted a survey determining that at present, the majority of refugees are situated in the Kutupalong camp. They are now carrying out further needs assessments, ascertaining how best to help in camp, identifying unreached groups and gaps in provision.
This will direct our first tranche of emergency humanitarian support (October-December 2017). This response will be implemented by our partners, MUKTI who we have been working with since 2000 and who have ample capacity.
We anticipate that within the next few weeks and months, refugees will migrate back towards the slum areas around Cox’s Bazar. Children on the Edge already have a presence in many of these communities through our support of Learning Centres for working children.
The second tranche of our support will commence from January 2018 onwards. During this stage it is likely we will establish a number of new learning centres for Rohingya children in the communities, however we will be constantly monitoring a situation that is, and will continue to be in constant flux.
The priority of any work we deliver is to extend support to the most vulnerable refugees, those who are unreached and overlooked. Whether in the camp areas or the communities, during this phase the Centres we establish will provide stable, safe spaces for children to learn, play and recover from the trauma they have been through.
This is an ongoing humanitarian emergency that will persist beyond 2018. We need to establish immediate humanitarian provision, as well as consistent longer term support for the most vulnerable displaced Rohingya children.
• A more recent situation report (November 2017) can be found here