Archive | A chance to learn RSS feed for this section

Debitia Elliott Farley – Liberia – Preparing to Leave

6 Oct

“The past informs us that if we don’t intervene, no one will.”

 

Debitia Eliott Farley is a Programme Manager for FAWE, Children in Crisis’s NGO partner in Liberia. Here Debbie writes as she and her colleagues prepare to travel to help remote communities in Rivercess County as part of Children in Crisis – FAWE’s emergency Ebola response.

Ebola has attacked our nation, its grip has taken firm control on the fibre of our society, killing people and leaving many traumatized. Rivercess, our project county is of no exemption to this epidemic. Officially there has been eight deaths reported in the county. We believe that now is the time to show our support for our target group- the children, the vulnerable women, the teachers, and the larger community that we work with. Despite being an educational NGO, the question on our lips was how can we be of help to these vulnerable people in Rivercess? What is being done to avoid the further spread of the virus in the county? It came as no surprise to us that little had been done in Rivercess in terms of awareness and sensitization, and the provision of anti-Ebola materials; once again Rivercess had not being prioritized. With this we were further convinced that we needed to intervene.  We did not want a repetition of what happened in Lofa County (in Northern part of Liberia, where the Outbreak first started) to repeat itself, where an entire village was wiped out due to the outbreak, because people failed to take the necessary precautions, because people were not informed, because people acted late.

Jarvis loading the vehicle

Jarvis loading the vehicle

We are very passionate about the work we do and the people we work with. All through our work, the passion to help people in these remote and rural areas can be seen. What can one say about a team willing to cross two big rivers in small canoes for 40 minutes and walk for another 30 minutes just to provide water and sanitation services to a community that had never had access to safe drinking water? Or of a team that will cross precarious, narrow and terrible bridges just to provide training to teachers and community women? It is with such same passion that we again, brave the storm and join the fight against this deadly virus. We don’t want any of our beneficiaries to fall prey to this virus, we want to act now, because if we don’t, no one will. The past informs us that if we don’t intervene, no one will. No one was willing to alleviate the problem of children drowning in the Cestos River, on their way to school. Everyone but FAWE-Children in Crisis saw it as impossible to get a school across that River. We want to assure the people of Rivercess that we are in this fight together, and that we care about their wellbeing.

We have targeted 39 communities, and with two teams of three, including two health workers, we will be out in the field, providing sensitization and awareness messages to these communities. We shall spend one day in each community setting up task forces and community hand washing stations, and distributing anti-Ebola materials.

Hygiene kits and awareness materials

Hygiene kits and awareness materials

We are excited but the excitement is not without mixed feelings. Excited because once again we are reaching out to some of the county’s most marginalized and vulnerable people; excited because we are a part of this fight; excited because together we will overcome this common enemy. However, there are some mixed feelings, mixed because we leave our families and friends behind in the midst of this crisis, trusting that they will be safe in our absence; mixed because most of the time, we will not be able to communicate with our loved ones as we will be in the jungle in areas with no communication network; mixed because unlike other visits to the field, where the team was in the lead, this time the team is lending support to the experts; mixed because even though, the risk of contracting the Ebola virus is low in Rivercess, that thought lingers on…. What if it were to happen? However, in the midst of all this, we are willing to act, to beat the odds, and jump the hurdles. We remain strong and unbended, our drive and force coming from our strength as a team and the fact that many lives will be saved as a result of this intervention. We are not perturbed by the risk involved, instead we are encouraged to move ahead and effect a change. We are committed to this cause, and we will reach out to those communities that others won’t dare or dream of. We will help prevent the spread of Ebola in the country.

 

Children in Crisis  and FAWE have launched an emergency appeal to help our partner communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia protect themselves from the Ebola outbreak.

Please donate today,  your donation can be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

Donate button graphic

UKAID logo

Advertisements

Marie Koroma – Sierra Leone – A voice from the lock-down

2 Oct

There was a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and a remembrance of what it was like during the rebel war. My children don’t know that experience but I do.

My name is Marie Koroma. I work with FAWE-Children in Crisis team in Kambia as a Community Education Support Coordinator. I am a mother of three children; two boys and a girl. I am also the guardian of two children whose own parents cannot afford to look after them.

I want to tell you about my recent experience of a weekend in lockdown during the 3-day national sit at home, employed as part of the Ebola response in Sierra Leone. No one was allowed to leave their house for 3 days while the Ebola Campaign Teams visited houses in an effort to identify cases, spread awareness and get the spread under control.

 

Marie Koroma, Community Education Support Coordinator for FAWE, one of Children in Crisis's partner organisations in Sierra Leone.

Marie Koroma, Community Education Support Coordinator for FAWE, one of Children in Crisis’s partner organisations in Sierra Leone.

 

The three day sit at home came at a bad time – my salary for the month had not yet been paid and because everyone was stocking up on food the cost of commodities was getting too high. A day before the lockdown, I joined the hue of people, mainly women, who went to procure food items at the market. I could afford to buy only a few items as prices of basic food stuff had increased by 50%-100%. Things like rice, fish, palm oil, pepper, onions and spices, to name but a few. The influx of people in market coupled with the hike in the price of food stuffs, made it difficult to buy all that was needed. Lots of food items were in short supply, despite high demand. All in all I was only able to buy enough food to last for two days. Going into a 3-day lockdown with not enough food for my family, and not really knowing if it would only last 3 days was scary.  Access to pure drinking water was a huge challenge during the lockdown as there were no running taps- we had to fetch water from a nearby stream. We never drank from the stream before now.

The sit at home day in day out for three consecutive days was difficult for my family, especially for my children. They cried because they couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed out to play.  I myself found the experience very stressful. There was a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and a remembrance of what it was like during the rebel war.  My children don’t know that experience but I do. The sit at home brought back the memory of the fear I used to feel. I was feeling sick with it and then even started to worry that I was developing the symptoms of Ebola until I called my elder sister who provided some words of consolation.

At home I listened to the radio since we don’t have access to electricity for television. Every day for the three days I was glued to the radio, listening to messages on prevention and control, and the process and progress of the Ebola house to house campaign. Together with my family we prayed fervently and discussed issues surrounding the epidemic. To overcome the stress, we cleaned the house.

On the second day of the campaign, we were visited by the Ebola Campaign Team comprising of 4 people; a teacher, a health worker, a youth representative and a community volunteer. They talked to us about the disease, how dreadful it is, how to prevent it, how to control it and what can be done in case of any Ebola suspected case in our mist. A lump of Soap, sticker to indicate their visit and a pictorial flier carrying Ebola messages were given to me.

On a personal level I think the three day lock-down will not bring a complete end to the Ebola crisis in the country but I do see it as part of a process to combat the disease.  It comes with a difficult price, but it has helped to expose some of the hidden Ebola cases. More sick people showed up voluntarily and my misunderstandings of the disease were reduced.

 

Children in Crisis  and FAWE have launched an emergency appeal to help our partner communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia protect themselves from the Ebola outbreak.

Please donate today,  your donation can be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

Donate button graphic

UKAID logo

 

Koy Thomson – The Angels’ Share

23 Sep

“This is I admit an uncomfortable truth. Humanitarian funding crashes after two years when people judge that the emergency has passed and lives have been duly saved.” 

Our Founder and Life President, Sarah, Duchess of York last week was a guest speaker at the highly prestigious ‘La Part des Anges’, the annual charity cognac auction.  It raised a record amount and was widely covered in the Press. Throughout her speech – which was simultaneously translated into Chinese and Russian – The Duchess spoke most passionately about what motivated her to create Children in Crisis 20 years ago.

During those 20 years the Duchess’s support and championing of Children in Crisis has sustained and grown. The Duchess has been a constant in the organisation, through the ups and downs, the changes in trustees and CEOs, and the triumphs and tragedies in our work. I admire that tenacity and loyalty.

 

Sara, Duchess of York, spoke powerfully at ‘La Part des Anges’ - getting to the core of why she felt compelled to establish Children in Crisis.

Sara, Duchess of York, spoke powerfully at ‘La Part des Anges’ – getting to the core of why she felt compelled to establish Children in Crisis.

 

The Duchess reminded her audience that at the time she set up Children in Crisis, historic changes were taking place in Europe. The impacts of the end of the Cold War, the Chernobyl Disaster, the start of the Bosnian war were all playing out on our doorstep. As closed societies opened up, they revealed many shameful scenes of abused and abandoned orphans; children who were sick, displaced and disabled.  I can hardly believe it when I look through our video and photo archives. It was gut wrenchingly appalling.

I have no doubt – as she told her audience, that as a mother it deeply affected her – I can see that in the photos. The Duchess has often told me how she looked to existing charities for help. Back then I was working for a big international charity, and I remember her visiting, and leaving flowers for our Chief Executive – a nice touch.

While the existing charities were doing great work, they were not really focusing on the issue that the Duchess felt passionately about. She told the Cognac audience that once the cameras turned their attention elsewhere the humanitarian interest and funding waned and support dried up. This is I admit an uncomfortable truth. Humanitarian funding crashes after two years when people judge that the emergency has passed and lives have been duly saved. But it takes decades to repair the effects of major conflicts and emergencies. People are not refugees or displaced for one or two years – the average period is 17 years.

Clearly moved, the Duchess told the high profile audience that worldwide today some 57 million children are denied an education, and half of these live in countries affected by conflict.  From its humanitarian roots, the mission of Children in Crisis now focuses on children and their communities in conflict affected countries. Even in these countries we make an effort to reach more remote communities, and children who are excluded or discriminated against because of gender, ethnicity or disability. Our approach, as the Duchess emphasised, has to be to build on peoples’ capacity to solve their own problems – including their ability to persuade their weak governments to assume their responsibilities. Education and child protection is not only what families and children desire, but can be the most cost effective and strategic actions in a conflict affected context.

The Duchess explained that Children in Crisis has reached nearly 1.4 million children and their families in many countries worldwide, and today we work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi and Afghanistan. As I said, not only did she found the charity, but she has been the constant in Children in Crisis, and can rightly take a huge slice of credit for this achievement.

The Duchess told the guests about a young woman, Felecia, she had met on a previous visit to a Children in Crisis programme in Liberia. I was with her at the time, and we were reflecting on the whole issue of children affected by war.  The Duchess recounted this in her speech, noting that the children of war are now young men and women who had missed out on education, and had their future chances diminished. Felecia was too old to return to school, but her children’s prospects depended upon her somehow filling that gap. Children in Crisis’s programme of support enrolled Felecia into adult literacy and vocational training classes. It was an added delight therefore that we were having this conversation over tea and cake that we had bought in Felecia’s bright blue painted shop ‘Sis Felecia’s tea shop’. As Felicia told us, both her, and her children’s futures were considerably brighter.

 

Felecia with her daughter outside of her tea shop in Liberia.

Felecia with her daughter outside of her tea shop in Liberia.

 

What I particularly liked about what the Duchess said was that it was not the typical speech that is all about how great the charity is. She cut to the core of the matter which is about how great our supporters are.  Children in Crisis could not have achieved all it had without the support of all its donors and supporters. As the Duchess said, “We are nothing without the vision and heart of supporters to make the world a better place: our supporters desire to reach out to the neediest children and to bring lasting change.  It is your desire to help all children lead full and happy lives and break free from endless cycles of poverty and war that is the engine of change.”

Finally, she invited the guests to be part of the charity’s ambition to double the number of children we reach over the next few years. I hope they will be inspired. I was.

 

Children in Crisis is delighted to announce that all funds given by the British public between the 3rd September and the 2nd December 2014 will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government.

Your support of our work has never been more powerful or important.

 

Donate button graphic

All our work is powered by children’s voices

10 Sep

 

“You expect us to confront difficulty and to stay with children until the job is done.”

 

In the second of a series of blogs, Koy Thomson our CEO introduces the 21st anniversary campaign ‘A Chance to learn, a chance in life’ and explains how your support could change the lives of twice as many children.

 

Talking to the women of RiverCess County, Liberia, Feb 2013

Talking to the women of RiverCess County, Liberia, Feb 2013

 

In my previous blog, I looked back over the last two decades and the incredible work that Children in Crisis has been able to achieve, with the amazing help of our donors and supporters.

This year, we are very proud to launch ‘A chance to learn, a chance in life’ (#ChanceToLearn). We’re so proud we even put out a press release about it to tell a many people as possible.

The campaign celebrates the 21st Anniversary of Children in Crisis. This coming of age reflects a confidence and maturity in our mission.  We know that you our supporters want us to stick with challenges of countries affected by conflict, because this is where the need is greatest. You expect us to confront difficulty and to stay with children until the job is done. You want us to help families and children help themselves, because this is how to generate long term sustainable changes.

Over the last 20 years, we have achieved so much, but we want to go so much further, which is why we are appealing for more resources.

We want to double the number of children who can benefit from our programmes to offer them protection and a quality education.

In order to do this, we plan to invest in local research so that we can continue reaching the most vulnerable communities where children have been most forgotten.

And we will make a real difference by refining and delivering sustainable models of change.

 

Batwa children playing in Burundi. Children in Crisis reaches out to the most marginalised communities.

Batwa children playing in Burundi. Children in Crisis reaches out to the most marginalised communities.

 

Pupils of RiverCess County, Liberia

Pupils of RiverCess County, Liberia

 

– Imagine a child who has lived through war, and very likely lost members of their family along with hope for a better future.

– Imagine a child who has been abandoned or marginalised by her community because of disability, race or gender.

– Imagine a child who has started their education, but is now under threat from Ebola or the threat of renewed violence.

 

All our work is powered by children’s voices.  We work with local partners to encourage local leadership and empower the community to help themselves to deliver an appropriate, practical and relevant model for sustainable education.

We want to do more, but some of our projects are under threat which is why we have launched our appeal.

Simply, Ebola in West Africa and political transition in Afghanistan are having a direct impact on our work.  We need to adapt to the circumstances – finding alternative ways of keeping our educational promises to children and supporting parents to keep their livelihoods going. And we will be playing our part in coordinated efforts to provide a preventative and protection response.

But this needs resources and we really need your support.

It’s so important that the UK government’s UK Aid Match Scheme is supporting us between September and December.  Every pound raised from the British public will be doubled AND if you are a UK tax payer, we can benefit from Gift Aid too.  So your donation will work even harder and go even further.

Please help.  It’s really vital.  There is so much we want to do, so much we can do but we need your help.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to read this and if you can help, your support will go a long, long way to giving a child (and with matched funding, their sibling) a better future.

There are plenty of ways in which you can put your hand up and pledge your support. 

 

Donate button graphic

 

A chance to learn, a chance in life

9 Sep

“Our constant has been a long term commitment to shattered communities after the cameras have left and the emergency aid dries up.”

In the first of a series of blogs about our 21st anniversary campaign, our CEO Koy Thomson highlights some of Children in Crisis’s achievements over the last 20 years.  Achievements only made possible because of the generosity and support of our donors and supporters.  We wanted to take the opportunity to thank you.  

John, a disabled shoemaker in Sierra Leone, Oct 2013

Koy Thomson (left of picture) meets John, a disabled shoemaker in Sierra Leone, Oct 2013

 

We are really excited to launch our 21st anniversary campaign ‘A chance to learn, a chance in life’ (#ChanceToLearn).

21 years is a coming of age, as with every birthday, we thought it’s important to take stock and reflect on what you’ve helped us achieve in the last two decades.

It is thanks to your desire to take a stand and do something in a world that is often chaotic and unfair that we have achieved so much.

With your help we have built more than 48 schools, trained more than 10,500 teachers and educated more than half a million children.

In Sierra Leone, we’ve provided vocational training to nearly 1,000 child soldiers, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo we have improved education for some 57,000 children in 50 schools and in Afghanistan nearly 500 women who missed education because of the war, graduated from vocational training and three-quarters of them have been able to set up livelihoods as a result.

It has been a long journey to our present focus on education and child protection. In the early years, we delivered safe water for 200,000 people in former Yugoslavia, provided medical assistance to 8,000 children in Russia and treated 6,700 children in Poland for cancer and chronic illness.  In Afghanistan, 10,000 children have been protected from abuse and mistreatment and over 100,000 street working and out of school children have receiving accelerated teaching.

Our constant has been a long term commitment to shattered communities after the cameras have left and the emergency aid dries up.  Because resources are scarce the support must be long-lasting. Our aim is to improve the lives of children and their communities in some of the most remote, post-conflict territories by delivering sustainable education.

School children welcoming Children in Crisis in Burundi

School children welcoming Children in Crisis in Burundi

 

The South Kivu Plateau in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The South Kivu Plateau in the Democratic Republic of Congo

 

In total over the past 20 years with your help, we have reached and helped nearly 1.4 million children and their families.

Your support to these children’s education and protection has given them the best start for living a happy and healthy life. I have no doubt that because of you, they face a brighter, better future.

A huge thank you from us and all the children we have helped.  Without our supporters we couldn’t have done all this.

But some of our projects are under threat which is why we have launched an urgent appeal.  Ebola in West Africa and political transition in Afghanistan are having a direct impact on our work.

We need to adapt to the circumstances and play an active role in providing a preventative and protection response.  To fulfil our commitment so that children and communities can fulfil their dreams of receiving a quality education and to create and continue their small business enterprises to support their families.

But this needs resource and we really need your support.

It’s so important that the UK government’s UK Aid Match Scheme is supporting us between September and December.  Every pound raised from the British public will be doubled AND if you are a UK tax payer, we can benefit from Gift Aid too.  So your donation will work even harder and go even further.

Please help.  It’s really vital.

Thank you.

Please pledge your support, so that Children in Crisis can reach out to many more vulnerable children, and give them a chance to learn, a chance in life.

Follow #ChanceToLearn on twitter and facebook.

Donate button graphic