Last week saw a whole day of celebration for 36 new 'graduates' of the Child Friendly Space we support in Jinja, Uganda.
The whole community of Soweto turned out to mark the achievements of the top age group of children at the Centre, many of whom will now be transitioning to mainstream primary school. This has been made possible by the educational foundation they have built at the Centre, and by the livelihood scheme which is part and parcel of the programme here.
The livelihood scheme enables parents to be able to afford primary school by loaning them the money for fees and costs, then providing them with agricultural training, inputs, or supporting them with other small business ventures, until they are able to pay back the fees, and continue funding their child's education independently.
A recent report showed that through these training sessions, not only are women developing their own source of income, but the output from the farm has significantly increased and enabled an increased supply of nutritious vegetables and other food stuffs to the Child Friendly Space. More nutritious crops have also been introduced on the farm based on the advice from officials from the Jinja Regional Referral Hospital children’s unit with whom the staff at the Centre have established a partnership to guide them in issues of nutrition.
Consequently the younger children joining the Centre now the older ones are moving on, will be enjoying a constant supply of nutrition in their meals, from their own parents. Certainly a cause for celebration all round.
Find out more about the Child Friendly Space in Uganda.
Read other stories about the project.
In an amazing feat of bravery, Alan Lau, set off on the 7th of December to row solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for our work He set off from Gran Canaria and is aiming to arrive approximately 90 days later in Barbados, covering a distance of 3,000 miles using only the power from his oars.
As a motorcycle racer, triathlete, long distance cyclist and a gravity enduro mountain biker, Alan is not unfamiliar with challenges. He has dreamed about crossing oceans in a boat since his childhood and the dream started to become reality in winter 2008 when he was inspired by reading the story of another ocean rower coming to the end of her challenge.
In addition to raising funds for our work, Alan is also hoping that his adventure will inspire others to step outside of their comfort zones. The boat “CurryFishball” that will be used for the crossing has been specially built by Rossiter Yachts, a family run business spanning 3 generations of boat builders who Alan has really enjoyed working with; “I feel safe knowing that my boat has been built by Cris Rossiter and his team.”
His expedition is fully self funded, with a very lean team that helped with preparations. During the expedition itself, only the safety co-ordinator is involved from land, to provide weather information and co-ordinate communications.
To engage with the community and to help raise awareness as well as funds, Alan has been running several competitions and raffle draws for school children to get involved in. Competitions have ranged from creating the best theme for the boat to be painted with to designing the T-shirt graphics for the team. He has also given short trips in the boat.
You can help support his cause by going to his Justgiving page and follow the adventure by reading his blog which will actually track the boats progress across the ocean! Just go to the ‘Where is Alan’ tab on his website.
We’re hugely grateful to Alan for choosing to support us through this incredible personal challenge and wish him every success in his adventure. Watch this space for updates as and when they come through.
We often go on about our brilliant local fundraisers and there are always lots of brilliant people out there putting their heads together and raising lots of money for us.
Every so often someone comes along who knows about Children on the Edge and what we do and they want to go that extra mile to do what they can to help. We have had people walk, run and cycle long distances and we have seen people complete seriously strenuous mental and physical challenges, all to help the vulnerable children around the world that we work with.
The very lovely James Chinnock has chosen 2015 to be an entire year of challenges which all began when he ran the Children on the Edge Chichester Half Marathon back in October. It was then he thought that 'just running a half marathon' wasn’t quite hard enough!! After taking part in the Paras P Company 10 miler, James decided to spice things up by deciding to tab* five separate events throughout 2015, including two half marathons, two paras selection events and one special forces battle fitness test route, finishing up with the October 11th Chichester Half.
*For those of us not in the know, we have been reliably informed that ‘tabbing’ is the army term for running a long way wearing boots, combat trousers and a big green rucksack weighing 35lbs, plus water! Yes, we think he’s barmy.
After being ‘advised not to’ join the Para Reserves (4 Para) due to his age (just a spring chicken at 40!), James has set about proving everyone wrong. After signing up and then completing the Paras 10 event in Colchester, followed by two more and not completely passing out, he started to think about setting himself a huge personal challenge to raise money for Children on the Edge. The events he will be taking part in are -
Hastings Half Marathon - 22nd March
Special Forces 10 Miler - 3rd May
Paras 10 - 4th July
Paras 10 - 6th September
Chichester Half Marathon - 11th October
If you would like to support James to reach his target and to give him some inspiration on those long winter training runs, please donate via his Just Giving page or text TABB95 and the amount you would like to donate to 70070.
Over the past few years the media and international community have painted an overly optimistic picture about the promised transition to peace and democracy in Burma (Myanmar). Human rights groups working on the ground have seen little genuine evidence of this reform and describe a country still plagued with human rights abuses, many of which violate international law.
In a recent report Burma Campaign UK stated that ‘Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama and the United Nations have all said that Burma’s reform process is stalled, backsliding, or backtracking. The British government has still not publicly and unambiguously accepted this’.
As the reform process has ground to a halt, we are seeing serious consequences for those we work with:
How to take action:
This week, our Director Rachel Bentley and Head of UK Ben Wilkes have been visiting the project we support for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The project is two tent schools inside two Syrian refugee camps in Bekaa Valley, which are designed to bring child friendly education to the children who live here.
The plight of Syrian refugees has been widely covered in the national and international news media. Since the original brutal suppression of political protests in March 2011, almost 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives in escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule.
The violent internal conflict has demolished entire neighbourhoods and forced more than nine million people from their homes. 3.2 million have fled to neighbouring countries, with over a million of these ending up in Lebanon.
With a population of just 4 million themselves, the Lebanese have been struggling to accommodate the flood of new arrivals. Large camps are not permitted by the Lebanese government and as a result, throughout Bekaa Valley, small camps of 50-100 families have sprung up, many of which are still without basic services for children.
Walking around these camps this Monday, Rachel described the onset of colder weather and its potential impact: “Winter is on its way so conditions are worsening, the camps are a bit of a mud bath already as it was raining hard today. In a few weeks it will be snow so I can't imagine what surviving day to day will be like then. Many of the children were still wearing flip flops on their feet so they will need warm shoes for winter. Fortunately the school tents have stoves in so will remain warm, bright places whatever the conditions”.
In terms of education, the official UN policy has been to integrate Syrian children into Lebanese schools, but these are now at capacity, so there is a need for education within the camps. Although they are working to provide some informal education in the area, as a consequence of the ever increasing influx of refugees, this cannot extend to all of the Syrian camps in Bekaa Valley.
Children on the Edge are supporting our Lebanese partner, Al Rahma Al Mountassira, who provide health clinics and supplies to two camps. After setting up and running a successful tent school in one of these camps, we supported the establishment and running of a school in the second camp. This second tent school provides education to 74 children aged between 6-12 years.
Spending time in the schools Rachel said “The schools are very impressive. The classrooms are bright, warm, creative places for the children. The teachers are really creative in their approach and really engage well with the children, making learning fun. The schools are truly child friendly spaces; welcoming, safe and fun. The curriculum is even more developed than on my previous visit and the investment in teacher training is really noticeable. The classrooms have beautiful art work displayed and there is real evidence of each of them being stimulating learning environments”.
Where other projects of this kind bring in teachers from the outside, this model focusses on raising up refugee teachers from within the Syrian community, using Syrian materials. Whilst visiting, Ben talked to Kristen who has been instrumental in implementing this approach:
“Kirsten, who spent 7 years inside Syria before the troubles has been pivotal in changing the curriculum here in the camps. She has sourced Lebanese workbooks that are the most similar to those in Syria and then added her own spin. She uses Montessori techniques and lots of games and activities to help the children learn phonetics, language, maths, and science.
The feather in her cap, was that she has been able to get a few Syrian maths text books across the border to enable the children to learn like they do at home. It doesn't sound much, but the war in Syria has meant the local schools now struggle for equipment let alone getting materials. For a while the text books were banned from leaving the country, but these few that Kirsten obtained have now been photocopied and the Syrian teachers treat the copies like gold!
Kirsten’s love, care, attention and diligence has meant these children have something other children taking refuge in Lebanon don't have. It's just a small example, but because she has this approach across the board, it means that the school, the learning and therefore the experience of the children is first class. It's a brilliant refugee school.”
As the fun of Christmas approaches here in the UK, please spare a thought and make a donation to these refugee schools in Lebanon. The cold weather is encroaching more each day and Rachel explains how “There are many more camps in the area with no schools so we would love to help to see more open. It is not just about an education but creating places where children can be safe, warm and have fun to take their minds off the terrible conditions they are living in and the terrible conditions they have escaped from in Syria”.
Please consider donating to this project as part of your Christmas giving.