As we near the end of a phenomenal year at Children on the Edge, we wanted to share seven inspirational highlights from our work.
These ‘stand out stories’ reflect the talent and resilience of the children we work with, the transformation that has happened in communities, and the inspirational generosity of our supporters.
Click the pictures below to read each story, and if you’d like to have this kind of good news in your inbox each month, sign up to our newsletter.
We'd like to thank all our supporters for making this change possible in 2017. Our focus will remain the same into 2018; to work with the most forgotten children, living on the edge of their societies around the world.
On the 30th of December, Rose Beddington succeeded in her goal of trekking the South Downs over Christmas and raising funds for the vulnerable children which Children on the Edge support.
Rose was so moved by the plight of the Syrian refugees who search for a safer life for their families, she decided to get involved.
She said, “I wanted to do something different at Christmas which would have meaning for me and for others in the wider world. Walking the South Downs Way is a constructive challenge for me.”.
As Rose began her trek, she kept a diary, recording daily entries as she went. One particular day the weather was so bad, she reported; “From Alfriston to Beachy Head. Horizontal rain followed by hurricane winds. Blown over on The Severn Sisters. No one else out - I wonder why?!’”
Another entry shows how Rose was not alone in her journey, as friends responded to her invitation to join and support her through the most challenging parts of her trek: “A wild and windy day today. Another Saint - Saint Brian Dallyn picked me up at 7.30… Fast walking to meet Michele Reverenne for lunch”.
When Rose explained why she chose to fundraise for Children on the Edge she said; “For several years I have donated to Children on the Edge which is a small charity based in Chichester. They do excellent work with children on the margins of their society, and also empower those around the children to help themselves. I like this particular charity because funds are not wasted on slick offices or bureaucracy. All donations go straight to those most needing it.”
Rose completed her Christmas trek on the 30th of December just in time to see the New Year in, and she raised a fantastic £1,250 for Children on the Edge.
Would you like to fundraise for our work by taking on a personal challenge, like a walk, run or cycle? Find out more.
We have been working with the Rohingya community in Bangladesh for the last seven years, providing low-profile education for refugee children in an unregistered camp. The Rohingya have experienced persecution, oppression and human rights abuses from the Myanmar army for decades.
Since we have worked with them, we have witnessed surges of violence in 2012 and 2016, with thousands of refugees pouring into the already crowded camps. This year we were delighted that our model of low-profile, community based education here was selected as part of the Promising Practices initiative, which sourced, documented and promoted innovative practices in refugee education.
Soon after this, the horrific news about the latest wave of violence against the Rohingya began to emerge. Since the 25th of August, approximately 700,000 more refugees have fled the worst series of attacks against them to date. Our Asia Regional Manager, John Littleton said “On a human-rights level, this situation is the most appalling we have ever encountered. 2,000-3,000 people have been arriving each day with stories too horrific to print”.
Hundreds of thousands of those refugees have ended up in the unregistered Kutupalong camp where we work, making us well placed to respond to the crisis. We have begun an initial provision of food, solar lighting, clean water and sanitation, whilst doubling up our 45 refugee schools as safe spaces for new arrivals. At this time we were delighted to be chosen by The Times Christmas Appeal as their international charity, with journalists focusing on our work with the Rohingya over December.
Next year we will be building 100 more semi-permanent schools in the camp, based on the effective model of our Learning Centres in Cox’s Bazar. Ben Wilkes, Executive Director at Children on the Edge says “These new centres will draw on our experience, providing colourful and innovative schools which stand out for their excellence. Our main concern is that these children have consistent support, long after the current flurry of attention subsides.”
Read more about our education work with the Rohingya
Children on the Edge have been selected by The Times as one three charities they are raising money for this Christmas. Over the next month, the paper will focus on their work providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the 25th August, fleeing a brutal military crackdown from the Myanmar army. Despite decades of attacks and persecution, this is largest wave of violence against them to date, and has been described by the UN as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
Children on the Edge Asia Regional Manager, John Littleton said “On a human-rights level, this situation is the most appalling we have ever encountered. 2,000-3,000 people have been arriving each day with stories too horrific to print”.
Esther Smitheram, Communications & Advocacy Manager at Children on the Edge said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by The Times to feature in their 2017 Christmas Appeal. This is a huge opportunity for a small, local charity like us to showcase our globally recognised approach. We hope that The Times Christmas Appeal will help to raise funds to ensure we can continue to respond the current humanitarian crisis and support this new wave of refugees in the longer term".
Refugees have fled to camps along the border of Myanmar, most of which were already at capacity. Around 60% of those refugees arriving in Bangladesh are women and children, subject to appalling conditions and at risk of hunger, trafficking and disease.
One recent arrival is Mohammed, who was shot in the leg as he fled the military, carrying his two children. He told the charity “It is taking people 12-18 days of travel to reach the border, through thick jungle, as all other routes are being watched by the military. When we arrived, there were around 2,400 of us kept in a holding area, we received a small amount of water and a packet of biscuits to last us two days”.
Children on the Edge have been providing education to some of the most forgotten Rohingya refugee children in the unregistered Kutupalong camp for the last seven years. This makes them well positioned to provide humanitarian support, through local partners, to those whose needs are the greatest.
Ben Wilkes, Executive Director at Children on the Edge has returned this week from visiting the camps in Bangladesh. He says: “The largest challenge facing the camp is the sheer scale of them. Kutupalong camp now claims the sad title of the world’s largest refugee camp. With many agencies rushing to provide aid, much work has been poorly implemented and is now causing further problems. We will be avoiding these pitfalls by ensuring we do thorough research and work with quality providers. We are currently working with local partners to provide thousands of families with clean water and sanitation, food parcels and solar lighting.”.
In addition to the provision of aid, Children on the Edge are utilising their 45 refugee schools to create safe spaces for newly arrived refugee children. They plan to provide consistent support, long after the current flurry of attention subsides, by establishing another 100 semi-permanent schools in the camp over the next year.
This work will be featured in the Times throughout December and into the start of the New Year, donations from readers will be split between Children on the Edge, Alzheimer’s Society and the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust.
You can donate online at thetimes.co.uk/timesappeal or call 0151 284 2336
Amita, is an 8 year old Dalit girl from Bihar State. One morning her landlord knocked at her door, demanding she replace her sick mother working in his fields. She said she was on her way to school and was mocked by the landlord and his men, who taunted her, asking if she ‘wanted to become a magistrate one day’.
When she replied ‘Why not? I could do that!’ she was beaten until she was hospitalised.
Amita’s family are not only seeking justice in the courts, but have now made their home one of the 25 Centres we support in and around Patna for Dalit children. Project leader Varsha says ‘They are without fear. They are fighting not just for themselves, but for all Dalits’.
These Centres are not just for basic learning, but through this provision of education, aim to break the cycle of oppression that children like Amita face. Centres are creatively placed, not only in homes like Amita’s, but riversides, rooftops and under trees. They learn maths, English, Hindi and all the skills that they are often denied at mainstream school, but they also learn about their rights and how to realise them.
Sahlil attended our Learning Centre in Narangi Sarsikan village. After learning in class about the rights his community is entitled to, he decided to address the lack of clean water in the area. With the support of his teacher, he wrote to the local government and two new water pumps have now been installed in the village.
As a result of learning at the Centre, Sahil has now entered mainstream school. He says “Since going to the Centre, people value me and I have respect. I want to be a doctor and change people’s lives, but I am starting with changing the village!”
Varsha says ‘If Dalit children grow up thinking they are nothing, then they will expect nothing in life. Education is the start of this change.”
Read more about our work in India
We support nine Learning Centres in the slum areas of Cox’s Bazar, ensuring that working children who cannot attend mainstream school can access flexible education and have a chance to rest and play with their friends.
As we prepare for the Christmas break and end of term celebrations here in the UK, we take a look at what the children at our tented schools in Lebanon have been doing to mark the end of their term earlier this year.
The children took end of term exams for the first time this summer. After the exams, children, parents and teachers were then invited to attend an end of year celebration. The teachers gave well-deserved, glowing comments about each child and presented them with a certificate and a small gift.
To celebrate their hard work, the children were also given the chance to enjoy a number of fun day trips, which incorporated activities to build skills, like leadership and problem solving.
The youngest children visited a nature park where they saw lots of animals and were able to go on a treasure hunt, eat lunch together and compete challenges. The children reported that they had great fun on the trip.
The middle students enjoyed a day out to a little creek. They loved playing in the water, and also went on a treasure hunt, played team games and had a picnic lunch together.
The oldest children went to a local historic town, to visit a cultural monument and take part in a scavenger hunt. This became a day of discovery, looking at architecture and history in a fun way, whilst making comparisons to Syria.
The final celebration involved a movie night for the children, with a screening of ‘Finding Nemo’ dubbed in Arabic. For many of the children, this was the first time they had seen a film on a big screen. The teachers gave out juice and snacks and had around 400 children, parents and teachers watching together!
Read more about our work in Lebanon
Displaced families in Kachin State, Myanmar spent last Christmas Day in an emergency shelter, and New Years Day in a hastily constructed bunker as mortar shells blasted around them.
This situation has become commonplace for hundreds of Kachin children, who have fled conflict and are surviving with their families in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps on the border of Myanmar and China. The hardest to reach of these camps are situated high in the mountains, with freezing conditions and very little access to aid. Families have fled to these remote areas in the hope of finding safety, and yet are subject to regular military occupation and attack.
Spending Christmas Day in a shelter is not the worst these children have endured. 3,000 civillians from Zai Awng camp have endured regular shelling and military occupation, forcing them to the Chinese border a number of times, only to be beaten and turned away. A new settlement called Sha It Yang was eventually created, but it lacks clean water and with one road in and out, is cut off from basic supplies.
Children have witnessed terrifying attacks, been forced to hide in the jungle overnight, lost many of their friends and family on the journey, only to end up in a camp with appalling conditions. Our teacher here said “We are doing the best we can, but naturally the children are quieter, less active and less able to be engaged and creative”.
Thanks to the response of Children on the Edge supporters, we’ve been able to ensure that the two new Centres built in the new camp are warm and safe places, where children can begin to recover from what they’ve been through. Last New Year’s fireworks across the border were terrifying for them, we are hoping this year they feel safe enough to enjoy them.
Children on the Edge remain the only organisation providing ongoing support to young children in these remote camps. Going into 2018 we will be actively seeking support for this crisis that the world has overlooked. One teacher said “The wider community is so tired of the fighting, they just want to go home, and they don’t understand why the world isn’t paying attention”.
Find out more about our work in Kachin State.