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August-September 2015 | Features

Educating out of poverty

Educating out of poverty

There are many organisations reaching out to educate children in the developing countries and trying to make a difference but Childreach International embraces young people, helping their peer group. We met up with them in their London head office to find out why.

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Helping the Children of Nepal

August-September 2015

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Tucked away in a secluded courtyard just off busy Holborn in London are the offices of Childreach International. An organisation that says, “We work in genuine partnership with local communities in the developing world to secure children’s most basic rights. We help children learn in a good school, stay healthy and most importantly, keep safe.”

I went along to talk with their CEO Firoz Patel and their Head of Communications Tom Law. After the introductions I was ushered into a room to review a film titled ‘Sold’. The film will be shown in the UK in January 2016 and was about a child from Nepal.

I was riveted for over 80 minutes as the film demonstrated child slavery in Nepal and India. It answered many of my questions I came with but raised even more so I sat down with Feroz and Tom to hear about their work.

Feroz started Childreach International when he was at university in 2006 studying international development and NGO management. He explained, “I was discussing sustainable development with like-minded students and we were asked what it meant to us and concluded it was about future generations. We thought that if you can give access to education for young people to enable them to learn to read and write you are 90% of the way there. They can then demand their own rights.”

I asked Feroz what sets his organisation apart from all the others, the set up was pretty impressive with banks of telephones manned by young people. He replied, “We started to work with young people up and down the country and as a result we now have students from over 50 universities working with us. Our funds come from thousands of students who go out and shake buckets but they also do these life changing events called challenge events where they walk up Kilimanjaro, walk the Great Wall of China or even the Everest Base Camp in Nepal.”

Feroz mentioned that they have had between six and seven thousand student volunteers working with them over the years.

“They often comment, ‘this has been a life changing experience for me’ they also meet the country director and can see exactly where all the money they have raised goes.”

As Feroz says, “What blows me away is the comments on feedback forms when students go and visit the projects they raised money for. They often comment, ‘this has been a life changing experience for me’ they also meet the country director and can see exactly where all the money they have raised goes. One thing I was taught was that in an organisation like this we need to have transparency and accountability. If we have the right cause and follow those principles the money follows.”

The charity has programmes in several countries including the UK and at the forefront of their attention right now is Nepal.

Tom told me of a recent event where a coach load of students from Northampton University came down to London, stayed overnight in a youth hostel and collected money from 6am until late in the evening for Nepal at ten underground stations raising over £3,000. I was later privileged to speak to the Nepal country director and get a first hand account of the situation and their response.

Both Feroz and Tom would keep diverting to Nepal and since the film I viewed earlier was about child trafficking in Nepal the subject was relevant. However they did wish to emphasise that the organisation’s focus was on child education. Feroz told me, “We have an ongoing programme to raise £250,000 to build schools in Sindupalchowk, a district north east of Kathmandu which was the epicentre of the earthquake. We want to get children back into school where they will be safe so we are building temporary schools for immediate use.”

The Rotary Club of Walton on Thames along with their twin club Hiedelberg-Schloss and a partner club in Nepal are raising £42,000 to help with the programme which they name, ‘Taught not Trafficked’

Both Feroz and Tom wanted to really impress on me that Childreach International will be in Nepal continuing their work when all the other aid agencies have left the programme in that country. I must admit to finding these guys really inspiring and my time with them overran by almost an hour and even then I had so many more questions to ask.

One thing I believe they are truly right about is that the key to eradicating child trafficking is through education and I wish them the best of luck in their fight to achieve that.

Rotary Magazine