'My time here has given me a fantastic insight into the workings of a small charity' - A few words from Ella on volunteering.
On #GivingTuesday we are celebrating the different ways that people give to our work, here’s Ella, explaining how and why she gives her time to Children on the Edge:
Since the end of September, I have been volunteering for two days a week at Children on the Edge. Having studied Anthropology, and then volunteering abroad with VSO, I was very excited (and surprised!) to discover that an international charity working in Asia and Africa was based in Chichester.
I filled in a volunteering application form straight away and have now been helping out here for 6 weeks. In that short space of time, I have been exposed to a huge range of the work that goes on here at the UK office. So far I have assisted in preparations for the Chichester Half Marathon (a big fundraising event on the Children on the Edge calendar), carried out research into potential corporate partners, sent out appeals, contributed to online campaigns, and assisted with database management.
My time here has given me a fantastic insight into the workings of a small charity, and the staff here have truly made me feel like a valued member of the team, helping me to build skills that will prove invaluable for my future employability. I also know that Children on the Edge is working in places that don’t often receive help from the bigger aid organisations, so even when I’m rolling up wrapping paper all day for the Christmas campaign, I know it is time very well spent!
We are hugely grateful to Ella for dedicating her time, skills and patience to support our work. If you’re interested in volunteering, please do get in touch.
Last week our Head of UK Ben Wilkes, together with Mark Hermann one of our corporate partner supporters, visited the projects we support for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. What they were most struck with was the vulnerability of the families living here. These people have fled to Lebanon for safety and refuge, but have found themselves in volatile environment, trying to survive a day to day existence that is full of uncertainty.
After spending time with different people in the camps Mark described how "Refugees do not necessarily escape in a cloud of bomb smoke or a shower of bullets. They live in situations not so far from our own, but they feel a threat coming closer and closer, and finally they are forced to flee. They may have lost close family or had threats made against them.
For one woman we talked to, the final drop was when her husband was kidnapped for two hours and told he must spy on family and friends - or he would be killed. They crossed the Syrian border shortly after and moved into a very primitive Lebanese refugee camp (these are not like the much nicer UN tents I see in the media a lot!). Although she had very little she proudly showed us her family and offered tea".
When interviewing different people from within the refugee community about what their most important priorities were, the constant response was they wanted to feel safe, to be able to stay with family and near friends in a culture similar to home. Most of all there is a longing to be able to return home and to normal life as soon as possible.
We all see comments on our news-feeds and screens intimating that refugees somehow have the agenda of pursuing ‘our’ possessions, lifestyle, housing and jobs. What we have found spending time with this community is that none of these things are considerations for a family fleeing violence.
Mark described how “Even when living in an improvised 'tent' made of plastic and bits of wood, the people I met did not even remotely think of going west unless they were literally forced to. On the same morning they had stated that they felt safe in the refugee camp, the military arrived there, fully armed, announcing that the camp had to be cleared in a week due to a military base expansion. They gave no direction of where to go to, and still till this did not put the west on the radar for these families”.
The military base is being expanded from a nearby checkpoint, and for security reasons the army do not want any camps in the sightline of the base. This will affect not just this camp, but up to 25 camps along the border. To give some context, this is around 2,500 Syrian families (10,000 people) who will be displaced within Lebanon.
This evacuation is a devastating blow for people in the camps we are working in. The school we support in this camp will have to move, the families will have to move, and there is currently no place for them to go. One family had just saved up a year’s worth of rent money and paid the landowner for a space for their tent. They will not get this money back, and will have no money to pay rent should they find another space to rent. Many landowners abuse the desperation of families needing land, using sexual exploitation, unpaid labour and child labour as payment when people have no other means to pay.
Project Manager Nuna has managed to negotiate a 10 day extension to the evacuation deadline, but describes the current feelings of the community: “We met again some of our teachers yesterday (they’re from within the camp and want to follow us wherever we set the new education centre) and the fear of the unknown is really high. It’s winter time. How can they quickly find another place to go to? What will they do with their families, where will they sleep? How will they pay for the next landlord? How will they move their belongings? After they dismantle their tent how will they take all the wood and plastic?”
We’d really appreciate any support you can give, whether it’s a donation via our site or our Just Giving appeal, whether you can buy our ‘All Wrapped Up’ Christmas paper, or just share information about the project, it all makes a difference.
This space was covered in tents before being moved on by the military a few weeks ago
For two years now Children on the Edge has been supporting education for Syrian refugee children in small settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. With a vastly overstretched national education system, there have not been enough school places available for refugees in the Government schools, making informal ‘camp schools’ a crucial part of providing education for Syrian refugee children.
With the support of UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank and bilateral donors, this September the Lebanese Ministry of Education launched a nationwide 'Back to School' campaign to invite all parents to register their children in Lebanese schools. The purpose of this initiative is to maximise access to certified education for all children in Lebanon, and could mean that 200,000 Syrian refugee children between the ages of 3 - 14 could access certified basic education.
Children on the Edge welcome this initiative and our partners are working with local and international agencies to shape and promote it. However, at present there are many practicalities that prevent the children we are working with from taking advantage of this opportunity.
The cost of travel to local schools is prohibitive for the refugee families we work with and the ‘shift’ system (refugees are to be taught in a second afternoon shift) means that children would be travelling home in the dark. The quality of education in the state system has also suffered - The 3RP report states that children are struggling with the new and different curricula, language of instruction, lack of appropriate infrastructure, teacher capacity, over crowding, students suffering from trauma and distress, lack of safe WASH facilities, and limited catch up programmes, all of which are continuing to create barriers to education, even for those children who have managed to enrol.
People we have spoken to in the camp have said that sometimes this has resulted in the mistreatment of children, so all things considered at this point, the ‘Back to School’ initiative is currently not the right fit for the communities we are working with.
Work is continuing by the UN to strengthen the national education system and to provide education for both Syrian refugees and the vulnerable Lebanese population. This is a long term process on which the UN is working in close partnership with the Lebanese government and the Ministry of Education.
In the meantime we will continue to support informal education through our child friendly spaces in the refugee camps and work with local and international agencies to shape the implementation of the ‘Back to School’ initiative. The teachers have changed the time of the shifts offered at the camp schools, so that they finished in time for those who wanted to attend public school as well.
It is our hope that through these partnerships, the current barriers to attending mainstream school will be lessened and the children we work with will be able to gain safe access in the future. In the meantime, the camp schools need our support more than ever.
Find out more about the project
Donate to our work here
With those long cold winter nights drawing in, the struggle to leave the sofa for the gym becomes harder and harder. For one of our supporters leaving the house to exercise has become an essential part of the daily routine.
Meet Dan. Dan created his own incredible challenge event, named the Triathlong, to fundraise for Children on the Edge. By no means has Dan set himself an easy task!
The Triathlong involves swimming 23 miles, running 870 miles and riding 2270 miles all by the end of 2015. To put that into perspective, it’s the same distance as swimming across the channel, running from John O’ Groats to Lands End and riding the Tour de France!
For the past year, Dan has been running, swimming or cycling every day come rain or shine to complete this challenge. With less than a couple of months to go, we found out how it has been for Dan completing the Triathlong and a little more about the idea behind it.
What inspired you to do your own challenge event?
In 2012, my daughter Grace was diagnosed with ependymoma brain tumour. She underwent brain surgery and follow-up Proton Therapy in America. A year later the tumour re-appeared and was surgically removed again. This time she had full head and spine radiotherapy.
She was so brave and happy throughout this scary and long process. She's had over 60 radiotherapy sessions strapped to a bed & had more than 20 MRI scans to date. She lost her hair but rarely lost her smile.
She is now tumour free and has no symptoms or side-effects. It's miraculous. Even her hair has grown back. Grace inspired me with her perseverance. I wanted to do something to show us all that even though bad things do happen, greater good can come through them.
During Grace’s therapy, I started to think a lot about how we can make changes in what we eat and how we live that can greatly affect our health. I wanted to show that getting better wasn’t just something to do with special medical treatment, but something we can all take control of and start working at.
What was the process of creating the Triathlong?
Firstly, I attempted a challenge to run every day of 2014 - which failed after 62 days.
That was the genesis of this idea. A challenge over the whole year. I wanted to do a triathlon so I was fixed on those 3 activities.
I wanted to find distances that were challenging but vaguely achievable. I worked on finding distances that had a ‘real world’ reference: Swim the channel, in the length of the UK and cycle the length of the Tour de France!
What inspired you to fundraise for Children on the Edge?
I wanted to help children who are struggling and at risk in places all over the world. Children who don’t have all the attention and care that my daughter had received. I also have close connections with Children on the Edge through my church, friendship with the legendary Ben ‘Barefoot’ Wilkes and now my sister Eloise works there too!
What do you think all children should have the right to?
The right to food, shelter, education, friendship and somewhere safe to play and have fun. Also knowing that someone recognises their priceless value.
What will you be doing to fundraise?
I will be using social media to let people know how I am getting on through the final two months, combined with an e-mail newsletter. I also shared my challenge story when I did Chichester Triathlon this summer & more recently the Children on the Edge Chi-Half.
What distances have you run already and how much do you have left to complete?
As of the 12th November I have swam 13 miles, cycled 1958 miles and run 713 miles. There are 49 days left with 12 miles to swim, 312 miles to Cycle, and 157 miles to run… I am planning to finish the whole thing with a final ‘triathlon’ on New Years Eve (or whenever the pool is open!).
Finally, whats a typical week like with all your triathlong activities?
There is no typical week! It’s crazy trying to fit it all in sometimes. I just try and get it done early in the day if possible. Sometimes I end up running in the dark at 10pm! Its pretty stressful especially when you are ill or the weather is really horrible.
As the daylight hours shrink and the weather gets worse - I just grab the opportunities wherever I can, cycling to work or running twice a day. It makes you do some crazy things!
We wish Dan the best of luck with the rest of his Triathlong and can’t thank him enough for completing this amazing challenge. If you would like to support Dan, you can donate to his fundraising page.
Watch this space for Dan’s final Triathlong update!
We are delighted to announce that Chichester Festival Theatre will be hosting a performance called ‘Spotlight on the Edge’ in the New Year to support our work. This will be an evening of fundraising through music, song and dance by some of the most talented children in our locality, coming together to make a difference to children globally.
The one-off cast of gifted local young people includes Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, Dance Innovation, Arabesque School of Performing Arts, West Sussex Music, Dance Industry and Chichester Music Academy.
The performance will take place on on 24th January 2016 at 7.00pm and tickets are available now via the Chichester Festival Theatre website. This is a great Christmas present, and promises to be a magical two hours of entertainment.
Watch this space for updates from our performers as rehearsals get into full swing.
Here at Children on the Edge our fundraisers are alway taking on a range of exciting challenges to raise money for our projects. One of our amazing supporters, Lydia, decided to take the plunge (literally!) and completed a sky dive in October.
Lydia first heard about Children on the Edge through working as a consultant for The Body Shop at Home™. After hearing our presentation at their last conference, Lydia became particularly interested in our work in Uganda and wanted to learn more about the ways she could help. Fast forward a year and Lydia had signed up for a Skydive to raise money for Children on the Edge and The Benjamin Foundation.
We caught up with Lydia to find out all our about her incredible experience.
How did you first come up with the idea of doing a sky dive?
Skydiving is something I have thought of doing since I was around 13 years old! I have no idea why, apart from the appealing factor of free - falling through the sky…call me crazy! It took me 10 years to get the guts to finally complete my dream stunt.
The only reason it was booked is as a sufferer of mental illness, I was having a very good day and thought just do it! So that is what I did! It is the best thing I have ever done in my life.
What inspired you to fundraise for Children on the Edge?
I feel Children on the Edge is a very deserving, special charity. After doing some research and reading some further information, Children on the Edge has become one of the charities I would like to continue to support as much as possible. It reminds me of the charity I work for, where as we help young people and families within the UK, Children on the Edge are helping those across the world.
What was your favourite part of the Sky Dive?
The best part of the skydive was the feeling of falling through the sky! When the chute opened, it was the most incredible feeling going through the clouds with all the amazing views! Words really can not describe how enjoyable jumping, falling and chuting 13,00ft is- unless you experience it for yourself!
What do you think all children deserve the right to?
I believe all children deserve the right to be happy, loved and cared for. I view families in so many different ways, whether they are made up of birth parents, foster parents or adopted children, one thing every family should have in common is happiness and a safe environment. Children deserve the best possible upbringing and security that they can get, to show they are cared for.
Not only has Lydia conquered this brilliant challenge but she has also raised over £400 for our work! A huge thank you to Lydia for being such an amazing supporter!
Want to to fundraise for Children on the Edge? Get in touch with our fundraising officer today!
At Children on the Edge we consider the children we help as stakeholders in their own future with their own rights and not passive recipients of aid, services and provision. A significant part of realising this, is to ensure their meaningful participation in our projects.
This process goes beyond tick box surveys and formulaic child stories. It can range from encouraging children to evaluate the positives and negatives of our work and its impact on them and the wider community, through to gaining their perspectives on their teachers and on all decisions effecting them. It also focusses on ensuring that the most vulnerable children are heard, as well as those who are able, confident and competent at expressing themselves.
This time last year we visited our project in Bangladesh where we did some participatory interviewing and activities with the children. We were glad to see a regular newsletter, with a readership of 1,500 being produced by the children, enabling ownership of the project and enabling them to communicate about their progress and achievements.
At this stage they were just beginning to form child councils, a forum for children to express their opinions about the project and represent those of their friends. A year on and our project partners have been working hard to further establish these groups. Meeting fortnightly, each child council member represents a group of students who they develop relationship with so they can reflect their views clearly. They work to bring out issues that some children might like to express, but are too afraid or shy to talk about.
Many problems and views have already been brought to light, last year the children expressed how they would like benches in the schools and education up to Grade 5. Benches are being bought, and we are working hard to find funding to increase the grade years. In more recent meetings, it emerged that a student from Amotolirchora school was made to go to a beach area to earn money, but if he failed to come home with enough he was beaten by his parents. Another child had admitted that he was scared to study, as he struggles to understand anything in the class room.
If it weren’t for the children being encouraged to have a voice, these issues would not emerge. The child councils are gradually communicating to all 600 children on the project that their opinions and feelings are valued, and will be acted upon, that they are not just beneficiaries, but are owning and designing the project.
There is still a way to go with this process. Even the children on the council can be shy about communicating their ideas, and the staff are starting to encourage them by using stories, dramas and play. They have also spent time educating the groups on child rights.
Within the schools themselves, teachers work hard to ensure that the most vulnerable children are heard. One teacher describes how “We praise the shy students about everything they do. We give them the chance to participate more times than the other children. In a dance we let them be the ones to do the dance. Each shy child we help to make friends with a more talkative child. The more talkative child encourages the shy child”.
Rachel Bentley is visiting the project this week, so watch this space, as well as Facebook and Twitter for a further update on the project.
Find out more about the project in Bangladesh
Child participation is part of our wider rights approach, read about how this shapes our work
Donate to the project
Children on the Edge has a rights based approach in all the work it does, it is guided by a UN treaty called The Convention for the Rights of the Child. This convention is a promise, made in 1989, by governments across the world, to do everything in their power to protect and promote children’s rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential
How is this different from any other form of aid or charitable work?
Being guided by the CRC means that instead of regarding children as passive objects of care and charity, they are seen as human beings with a distinct set of rights. As an organisation we resource and support children to be agents of change in their own futures.
All the rights described in the Convention are things that many charities and civil groups uphold as part of their daily activities, the difference is that organisations with a rights-based approach don’t uphold rights incidentally, but contribute directly and intentionally.
What does this actually mean for the work of Children on the Edge, in a practical sense?
Rights in the Convention are set out in 54 articles which describe what a child needs to survive, grow, thrive and reach their potential. They are all as important as each other, but four articles (2,3, 6 & 12) are given the special status of ‘guiding principles’, which are needed for any of the rights in the Convention to be realised. These principles are listed below, with a few examples of how we are guided by them them in our work:
Can I change anything by adding my own voice?
Duty bearers are those people who have obligations to meet with regard to a rights holder and their ability to realise their rights, this will often be governments, local authorities, or even parents. We work with all these duty bearers in different ways, and encouraging local ownership of projects enhances the accountability of duty bearers in itself.
In addition to this we do encourage our supporters to add their voices to petitions and letters to government officials who can influence the law and the treatment of people and ensure their rights are met. Some of the latest situations you can help with are as follows:
- Preventing backwards steps in Bangladesh regarding child marriage.
- Heard things are fine in Burma? They’re not see how you can change it.
- Contact your MP about Kachin State, Burma and what needs to happen there.