18 December 2013

A Baby from Bolivia...

I am in Argentina right now, and will be working on projects here for the next few weeks. I have visited an organisation my charity, CHW, supports, called Bethel. Bethel has eighteen houses for orphaned and abandoned children. Three of the houses are for people with disabilities. Some of the people in these houses are adults. They were children when they arrived at Bethel, and could not live independently once they grew up.

Entrance of House 5

During my first visit to Argentina, I volunteered in House 5, one of the houses for people with disabilities. There are now some new people who have come to live in House 5, including a baby of one year and one month. She can only be fed through a tube. Her mother was from Bolivia and was working in Argentina. She abandoned this baby in a hospital when she was a few months old. Now this child will stay in Argentina for the rest of her life. The mother may even had left by now. It is a very sad story, but, to be honest, this baby has ended up in a very good place. The staff at Bethel care so much for the children, and House 5 always feels like it is full of warmth and love. Despite how this baby's life began, Bethel will give her the best life possible.

With Alicia, one of the physiotherapists.
Last time I was there, my charity paid for a donation of nappies.

05 December 2013

Travel theme: Sky

I recently found Ailsa's weekly travel themes. Last week, the response I posted to her travel theme, about a day I spent in Cape Town, on a trip with the children from the three creches run by Seawind Educare. This week, the theme is "sky" and it reminded me of Seawind Educare and Cape Town again!

When I read the theme, I thought of this photo, of children at one of Seawind Educare's creches playing outside, with a beautiful, bright blue sky in the background!

I find Cape Town very beautiful. The people I work with there are also trying to make life more beautiful for the children at their projects. Yesterday, I posted an appeal from Seawind Educare for clothes and toys for the children, on my charity's website. If anyone from Cape Town happens to read this and wants to donate items, or arrange a collection for these children, that would be amazing! If you are interested in helping, please get in touch by leaving a comment below, or you can contact me using the details on the "about" page.

Here are some more photos of the sky from my last trip to Cape Town in February/March 2013:

30 November 2013

Last Day of NaBloPoMo!

Today is the final day of NaBloPoMo - the challenge of blogging each day for a month.

I have to prepare for a charity stall tomorrow and am wrapping some of the prizes for the lucky dip!

I am glad to have completed NaBloPoMo! I found some great new blogs to follow. I will catch up on reading those blogs, once I have wrapped the rest of the gifts! At times it was challenging to write a post each day. Well done to all the other bloggers who did NaBloPoMo this month!

29 November 2013

Today: Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure published in South Africa!

Today, South Africa's Minister for Basic Education published the final Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure! I recently posted about Equal Education's campaign on this. The final Norms and Standards can be seen here.

Equal Education published the following statement on its facebook page

Equal Education's General Secretary Brad Brockman has released his initial thoughts on the Final Norms and Standards For School Infrastructure 

You can find them here (https://twitter.com/BrockmanBrad) and here (https://twitter.com/equal_education)

In summary:
1. There are shorter timeframes in the final regulations; and better prioritisation of the worst off schools. 
2. The draft stated that MECs must provide implementation plans for improving school infrastructure in line with norms and standards in 6 months, the final version gives them a year. Why the delay?
3. Its also problematic that these implementation plans are not required to be public, communities have a right to know this information; particularly when targets are aimed to be met by and what is planned for their school.

Review of the final version is still on-going and a more in-depth analysis will follow in the coming days.

For now this is a time of reflection on a ultimately successful campaign to have the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga pass legally binding school infrastructure regulations.

Congratulations, to all our members who have campaigned with focus, discipline, and without tire for the last 3 years. We did it! (You can read a full recap here: http://www.equaleducation.org.za/campaigns/minimum-norms-and-standards/overview).

Thanks also to the Legal Resources Centre and the Equal Education Law Centre for all their work in getting us to this point.

Forward with the struggle for equality in education!

#BuildTheFuture #FixOurSchools

It is great that the Norms and Standards were published on the date promised! It will be interesting to continue to follow Equal Education's work, to see their full reaction to the final Norms and Standards.

28 November 2013

Grateful to those who help children

I am not from the USA, but I could not fail to notice all the posts for Thanksgiving! It just happened that the facebook status for my charity, CHW, was based on thankfulness and being grateful today. This was a nice coincidence! Here is the status:

We are grateful to all of our supporters and volunteers! This photo is from New Life in Ghana, the first organisation we started working with. The children are siblings and came to live at the orphanage earlier this year. They are sponsored by two of CHW's supporters. CHW raised the money to build the playground that they are in. Thank you so much to each of you who make it possible for us to support different children's projects around the world!

27 November 2013

Children from a Home in Romania Singing about Pies!

I just found a great video of children at one of the children's homes my charity supports in Romania, singing at a Pie Festival! This was two winters ago, so the children have grown a lot since then! They are singing about how pies can have fruit and vegetables in them!

My charity is trying to fundraise to help sponsor a carer's salary at this home, so that there are enough people to work with these children. It seems that people prefer to donate items, like clothes and toys, but if there are not enough staff to work with the children, then the home will not be able to continue. The children have faced a lot of difficulties in their short lives, but the home they are living in now is very nice. They get food, medical care and go to school each day. Our stall on Sunday will help to fundraise towards this appeal for the home.

It was nice to find this video again! Apparently the children had only known that they were going to have to sing at the Pie Festival a few days beforehand, so they were not able to practice too much, but they did so well!

26 November 2013

Open Letter to South Africa's President from Equal Education Members

This Friday, South Africa's Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is due to publish Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. These will set out the most basic standards for infrastructure that schools in South Africa must meet. Today, the organisation Equal Education, shared the following video on youtube. It shows schoolchildren reading an open letter to President Zuma, on why he needs to ensure that Minister Motshekga goes ahead and publishes the Minimum Norms and Standards.

Earlier in the year, Minister Motshekga released a draft of the Minimum Norms and Standards. However, the draft was too vague, and did not give proper details of the standards schools would need to meet. To understand more about this, as well as to learn more about Equal Education's campaign, here is an earlier video:

To gain a further insight into the standards of some schools, it is worth watching Equal Education's video of a Solidarity Visit to schools in the Eastern Cape, lead by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:

The standards between schools in South Africa varies greatly. I attended Public Hearings held by Equal Education in Cape Town, back in March. Teenagers from schools in Cape Town told everyone of how their schools lacked science labs, libraries and sometimes functioning toilets. However, there were gasps and exclamations of shock from them, when they were shown some photos of schools in the Eastern Cape.

There is a countdown to the publication of Minimum Norms and Standards on Equal Education's facebook page. I am waiting with anticipation to see what will happen on Friday!

25 November 2013

Resources for a School in Argentina

It has just been confirmed - I will definitely be working on some projects in Argentina next month! It will be great to go back.

I will also have the chance to distribute items to an under-resourced primary school, in the province of Cordoba. I have brought donated items to this school before, and the children always seemed so pleased with the new stationery, and would crowd around the teacher who was giving out the items to each class!

Some items a volunteer collected for this school a couple of years ago.
I am based in London, and if anyone would like to contribute some items for the school, I would need to receive them by 6 December. I know this is all such short notice, but it has only just been confirmed! If you do want to help, you can either leave a comment below, or contact me through the details on the "about" page. Any items will be so much appreciated!

If anyone has any ideas either of where I could get some suitable school resources in bulk, or where I could advertise the collection, please let me know. I wish I had a bit more time to arrange all this!

I think of all the resources that were available to me at my school, and how little these children have in comparison. I really hope to be able to collect some good resources for the children at this school.

24 November 2013

Travel Theme: Fragrant

I have been reminded of a day in Muizenberg, Cape Town, back in March, thanks to finding Ailsa's weekly travel themes! These week's theme is "fragrant". (Follow that last link, if you want to take part too!)

One early morning, I joined the founder of Seawind Educare, Rita, for a surf walk, along with children (and their parents) from the Educare's three creches. The salty fragrance of the sea air was nice and refreshing!

Surf Walk along the beach at Muizenberg

I like the fragrance of the sea and the beach. It reminds me of my early student days, as I did my undergrad degree at Aberystwyth, by the sea. However, I can honestly say that I never walked along the beach at around eight in the morning, when I was a student, like I did for Rita's surf walk in South Africa!

The beach at Aberystwyth

After the surf walk, Rita had arranged to take the children to a nearby resort, with a playground, bouncy castles, face painting and other activities.

Bouncy castle, near Muizenberg

It could hardly be described as "fragrant",  but the "plasticy" smell of the bouncy castle did remind me of when I was little and played on bouncy castles. So whilst not a particularly nice scent in itself, it did bring back memories! It was great to see the children enjoying themselves.

I am really glad I could join Rita for the surf walk. She does amazing work with  disadvantaged children in Cape Town, and has continued with it all, despite the fact that it has been quite a challenging year (more about that here). I admire all that Rita does to help children!

I found Ailsa's travel themes though Lucid Gypsy's blog. I am grateful for this, as it was nice to think back to that day at Muizenberg beach.

23 November 2013

Coats in time for Christmas!

Today, I spent a few hours sorting through children's coats at a storage depot, for the Wrap Up London campaign. It was amazing to see how many people had donated coats - both for children and adults, and I was glad to think that some people who did not have coats will now have them over the cold winter months. These coats will be distributed to homeless shelters, refugee centres, and other charities, which have partnered with Wrap Up London.

Sorting through some of the coats

This is just a short post, to keep up with the NaBloPoMo challenge of blogging each day, throughout November! I have a work deadline for Monday, and I am also arranging things for a charity stall, but I will try to write some longer posts soon! Earlier this month, I wrote some posts about the Wrap Up London campaign, and also about what matters at Christmas. Another NaBloPoMo blogger had inspired me to write about Christmas! Today really reminded me of this, as it was great to see the spirit of giving - both in the way that so many people had donated coats, and also because people were volunteering their time to sort through those coats. I am really glad to know people who truly care about others, and who will go out of their way to help them!

22 November 2013

A Play about a Childhood

This week, I went to a play, called I Declare at My Own Risk, written and performed by Alina, a young Roma actress from Romania. I met Alina through a movement supporting Roma rights in London. Her performance was truly amazing, and she shared episodes of her life which took place from when she was ten years old. She shared the difficulties she went through, after her family was evicted from their home, and also shared her experiences relating to exclusion and acceptance of her identity, as a child, a teenager, and as a young adult.

There is a really good video about Alina and her play here.

It was a very powerful performance!

21 November 2013

If young people were actively engaged in all aspects of society...

If children and young people were really actively engaged in all aspects of society, how do you think the world would change?

Screenshot from a slide shown at Michael Furdyk's Taking IT Global session, during the
Global Education Conference.
A major barrier preventing children and young people becoming actively engaged in all aspects of society, is that adults may not see their input and participation as valuable. Their engagement will then not be encouraged. In this sort of atmosphere, it is unlikely that children and young people will see themselves as being "community leaders, problem-solvers, role models, mentors and key "stake-holders"." Society is missing out on a great opportunity when it excludes young people. As one teenager said, at the Annual EuroChild Conference last week, older people have more experience, but younger people can contribute fresh ideas. This seems like a great combination! 

Excluding young people means that they may be denied a sense of belonging. The implications of this can cause issues impacting the whole of society. If a group of people gets the feeling that nobody wants to listen to them, then dangerous, or anti-social behaviour may become appealing - because these excluded people might not feel a sense of responsibility to a society that does not respect them, or maybe they want to try to make a statement, in an attempt to be heard by everyone else!
A group of young people giving a presentation on youth participation at the Annual Eurochild Conference, November 2013.

Another issue is that governance systems across the world are structured in a way that constrains youth participation and leadership. Whilst addressing young people at a youth leadership forum, called Youth 21, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki said:

"It would obviously be unnatural that I, a member of the older generation, would easily and willingly accept that younger people, my own children, should, at best, sit side-by-side with me as co-leaders, fully empowered to help determine the future of our people."

However, he encouraged young people to organise and ready themselves, to take up leadership roles and to overcome the attitude of older generations. 

I think the world would be a better place if we made the effort to enable children and young people to participate, and to become actively engaged in all aspects of society. How do you think the world would change if we did this?

The picture of the quote above, was taken from a session at the Global Education Conference. This conference is online and is free to attend. Live sessions are taking place until the end of tomorrow (22 November) and there are recordings from earlier session this week. If you are interested in education issues, I definitely recommend taking a look at the conference site.

20 November 2013

State of Children's Rights in England Report launched on Universal Children's Day

Today is Universal Children's Day. The annual State of Children's Rights in England Report is also being launched today, by the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE). The Report is a review of the Government's progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in England. Shockingly, CRAE found that:

"Of the 118 areas identified as needing Government action, 88 of those areas have made no progress or have gotten worse in the last 12 months."

CRAE has also been tweeting some facts, taken from the findings of the Report. These include:

"Babies with fathers who are shelf stackers almost twice as likely to die as those born to professionals.

"65% of child deaths that were caused by ‘deliberately inflicted injury, abuse or neglect’ were avoidable "

More information, along with a link to download the Report can be found here. Key findings are given here.

I am attending the launch, as I was involved in doing research, and drafted some sections of the Report. If you want to follow the discussion surrounding the children's issues raised by the Report, the twitter hashtag is #SOCR13 and CRAE's twitter handle is: CRAE_official The launch begins at 16.45 GMT.

I am looking forward to the launch this afternoon, and to hearing the speeches about the state of children's rights in England. The findings that CRAE has tweeted so far, show that much must be done to protect children's rights in England.

19 November 2013

Sad Statistics on Sanitation, released on UN World Toilet Day

Today has been declared World Toilet Day by the UN. The aim is to highlight the lack of access to proper sanitation faced by many around the world. As the UN's website states:

"While a vast majority of the world's population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity (2.5 billion people) do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines... The lack of improved sanitation largely contributes to the fact that almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases...Lack of private toilets in schools is a major reason why girls do not continue their education once they enter puberty." 

The South African organisation, Equal Education, today released the results of their audit of sanitation at secondary schools in Tembisa, in Gauteng. Here are some of their findings:
  • At over half of the schools surveyed, it is commonplace for more than 100 boys or 100 girls to have to share a single working toilet.
  • In some schools, there are days where there are no functioning toilets for students to use.
  • No students reported having regular access to toilet paper or soap.
  • Many schools have broken or non-functioning taps; sometimes there is no water supply.  
  • Long lines at bathrooms keep students from class and bad smells from nearby toilets distract them in class.
  • One student said, “My dignity is not there anymore because of the dirty toilet I have to go to every day.”  
Equal Education has presented the findings of their audit to the education authorities in the area and has asked them to release a timeline for developing a plan to address the crisis. You can read Equal Education's full press release, with more details about both the findings, and ideas of what the plan should include, here, and also more about their sanitation campaign in general, here.

Equal Education has also produced infographics, based on their findings, which I have downloaded them from their facebook page to share them with you:

I would definitely recommend following Equal Education, either on facebook or twitter to keep up with their news. I had the opportunity to attend Public Hearings, held by Equal Education, in Cape Town, earlier this year. I wish there could be more organisations like this, advocating for quality, and equality, in education systems for children.

Thank you, Equal Education, for drawing our attention to this sad, and pressing issue on UN World Toilet Day. Wishing you much success in achieving improved access to sanitation for these students.

18 November 2013

Looking for Shoe Boxes for Children in Romania!

Have you heard of shoe boxes for Christmas? Some charities ask people to put gifts in a shoe box, and mark whether it is suitable for a boy or a girl, and for which age group. The shoe boxes are then often wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. These are then distributed to children living in poverty, at Christmas time. Two of the most well-known Shoe Box projects in the UK, are Operation Christmas Child and Smile International's scheme. There is a lot of information on their websites about how these sorts of projects work.

A kindergarten teacher, called Diana, who works with very poor children in Romania, has asked me if I can help find a project which would be willing to donate shoe boxes for her to distribute to the children she works with. Her school is in a place called Tarlungeni, in the county of Brasov, in Romania. I have visited Tarlungeni many times, as my own charity, CHW, supports projects there. There is a lot of poverty in Tarlungeni. Last year, Diana was able to give some presents to the children and it was very much appreciated.

If anyone can help with this, please could you leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to get in touch another way, all my details are in the "about" section of the blog. Thank you so much!

Really hoping to get some shoe boxes of presents sent to the children in Tarlungeni!

Meeting with Diana (right) last week, when she came to London, with a group of educators
from Brasov, doing an exchange scheme arranged by a London Borough Equality Council.

A photo I took in Tarlungeni, one winter.

If I get permission, I will try to share some photos of the children Diana works with too.

17 November 2013

Why children benefit from volunteering

Following on from a post I wrote last week, about the value of volunteers, I would like to focus on how valuable volunteering can be for children.

Children are as much a part of this world as adults are. Volunteering can give them the opportunity to learn about important issues and give them a chance to do something to help solve problems in the world. This can really be seen in this video, by Youth Service America, where third graders had learned about childhood hunger:

As well as this, volunteering means children can meet new people across the generations and can learn new skills.

Children and teenagers have volunteered for my own charity, CHW, and seem to really enjoy being part of this. High School can be a difficult time, and one teenager remarked to me after a fundraising event, "It was really nice to feel wanted, for once." Volunteering offers an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere.

Younger children have also helped with CHW, usually coming to volunteer at an event, along with their Mum or Dad. They have been happy to be involved, and like it even more once they know a bit about the cause. Volunteering can be a way for children to participate in community life. It also helps them to become more responsible citizens.

Some very young volunteers (whom I haven't actually met!) recorded a song for CHW. They were supervised by one of our volunteers in Wales, who wrote the song. He put an article in a local paper about this, which you can see here. It ends with a nice quote from one of the children about how they felt, helping other children who were less fortunate.

Here is the video, with the song recorded by the children:

I have personally seen some of the benefits of involving children and young people in volunteering. My own little cousin was not quite a teenager when I started CHW and she always wanted to help at the fundraising events. She seemed to really enjoy working with volunteers of all ages, to make the day a success. She also learned about the issues facing children around the world at a young age. She still helps out now, and I am very grateful for this!

There are some ideas for how children can volunteer, according to their age group, on this site.
If you have any good ideas for more ways children and teenagers can volunteer, please let me know in the comment section below!

What do you think about children volunteering? It would be great to hear your thoughts on this.

16 November 2013

Why children and adults should work together...

A quote from a teenager, addressed to the adults at Eurochild's Annual Conference:

"You have more experience and we have new ideas. It is an ideal combination!"

Do you have any examples of where children and adults have worked together on a project, or to achieve a goal? Or, do you have any ideas on ways that children and adults could do this?

15 November 2013

Visiting a Children's Council in Milan

Here are some photos from my visit to a school in Milan yesterday, which has a Student Council. The idea expanded, first to other schools in the area, and then to the district level. There is now a Children's Council for the district, and as this worked well, there will soon be Children's Councils established in all nine districts of Milan. The children explained their roles as delegates of the Council, and it was so great to see their enthusiasm!

The visit was arranged as part of the Annual Eurochild Conference.

14 November 2013

A Quick Update from Eurochild's Annual Conference

Here is a photo of two members of  Cyprus Children's Parliament giving a presentation yesterday, at Eurochild's Annual Conference:

This morning, all attendees of the conference will go to a study visit. Mine will be to the Milan Municipality to hear about their project to develop Children Councils in the nine districts of the city.

I wanted to tweet updates from the conference but my connection just would not cooperate yesterday! I'll try again today (from: @_Catti). Other people did not seem to have the same problem and were able to tweet, and you can follow the conference on twitter via the hashtag: #ac2013milan. 

I will write more fully about some of the great ideas I have heard so far, about protecting and promoting the child's right to participation, once I have a more reliable connection!

13 November 2013

Got to Milan... now in search of Children's Ombudspersons!

I have reached Milan, after a 4 am start today! I will soon make my way to the registration for the Annual Euochild Conference. I have seen on the Conference's website that the Ombudspersons for Children from various countries are attending!

An Ombudsperson for Children is an independent institution which defends children's rights and acts as a champion for children.

I am particularly interested in the role and function of Ombudspersons for Children, as I spent some time earlier this year doing research for a Cape Town children's rights organisation, called Molo Songololo. I helped to develop part of their advocacy document, calling for South Africa to establish an Ombudsperson for Children. They recently held a Roundtable discussion on this.

Given my research, it would be great to have the chance to hear about the work of Ombudspersons for Children firsthand, here in Europe. I am looking forward to the start of the Conference!

12 November 2013

Off to the Eurochild Annual Conference...

In a few hours I will be leaving for Italy, to go to the Eurochild Annual Conference!

The theme of the conference is children's rights and participation. I will hopefully be able to tweet updates from the event. If you would like to follow what is going on there, my twitter handle is @_Catti and the hashtag used for this conference is #ac2013milan.

Now I have to go and finish packing but will try to post again from Milan!

11 November 2013

The Value of Volunteers

Volunteering can involve doing random things! Today, I found myself at a train station at 7.00 am, whilst it was still dark, ready to hand out leaflets about Wrap Up London, which is a scheme where people can donate their unused or unwanted coats, for those in need.

Early (and rainy!) start this morning - on my way to volunteer at Baker Street station!
The Wrap Up London stand at Baker Street
Afterwards, I tweeted about this, and got a really nice response from Hands On London, the charity running this scheme.

I am always looking for ways to show appreciation to those who volunteer for my organisation, CHW, and tweeting a quote like this is a really nice idea! Everyone at CHW is a volunteer, and I am so grateful for the time they give to support the children's projects. Volunteers are indeed priceless, like the quote says!

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is celebrated on 5 December each year. It can be a great opportunity to arrange or participate in voluntary event. If you are a volunteer manager or coordinator, IVD could also be used as an opportunity to highlight the work of the volunteers you work with and to thank them.

Here is an album on facebook from last year's IVD, showing some of CHW's volunteers in action!

I mostly volunteer for causes to do with children, but do other voluntary work too, whenever I can (like today!). Do you volunteer? If you do, what causes do you support? And if you are someone who works with volunteers, how do you thank them for their invaluable input?

10 November 2013

Busy week ahead!

It will be a busy week, to try to keep up with NaBloPoMo - posting everyday throughout November!

From Wednesday to Friday, I am going to be attending the Annual Eurochild Conference in Italy.

Tomorrow I will be at Baker Street station for a couple of hours, from 7 am, helping to promote Wrap Up London 2013. This is a great initiative, where people can donate coats they no longer need to those in need.  Although I blog about children's rights, this project is for adults too, and coats for all ages can be donated. If you are a Londoner, please consider donating a coat! You can donate on 13-15 November, from 7am until 11am at these tube stations:

Kings Cross
Charing Cross
London Bridge
Liverpool Street
Baker Street
Canary Wharf
Highbury and Islington 

Alternative places are also given at the bottom of this page, for those who cannot make it to one of those stations then. 

Logo from Hands On London's Website

I also have a piece of work to complete tomorrow, so will have to get on with it after I am back from Baker Street!

Today, I had a meeting in London with people advocating for Roma and Travellers. I will have another meeting on Tuesday with some people visiting London, who work in the education sector in Brasov, Romania.

I will really try my best to post each day this week (hoping all goes well with my internet connection in Italy!). Sending out good vibes to everyone taking part in NaBloPoMo, and especially to all the bloggers on the Yeah Write Grid!

Hope you have a great week everyone!

09 November 2013

News from Children's Hospital, Cape Town

Social media can take up lots of time! I am trying to learn how to use it in an effective way for my charity, CHW. It is more challenging than it sounds! Today I saw some good updates on the facebook page of the Sarah Fox Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. It is the only children's convalescent hospital serving the Western Cape. I have visited the hospital and seen the great work they do there! I am also hoping to fundraise for them in the future, if they send appeals to CHW.

Babies' ward

Their facebook page was updated from time to time, but today a post appeared from someone new, saying that they would now be responsible for adding to the page. The following was their second post today, which really shows what amazing work Sarah Fox does:

"We now have an aromatherapy programme at Sarah Fox, and I am the lucky person to be the aromatherapist (Fiona M...). I am so enjoying this. It is so rewarding to see a child smile - a child who cannot speak or move- but who feels his feet being massaged and a smile stretches his face. Or the quiet little boy who never speaks and looks VERY serious.. .and then one day he's a little chatterbox.. and you realise the lovely caring staff and the treatment he has had at Sarah Fox, have created a miracle."

The first update asked for more people to like their facebook page, so if you want to do that, you can go to their page here.

Nurses I met during my last visit to Sarah Fox, earlier this year.

(I don't have permission to share photos of the children here on my blog, but there should be more photos on the hospital's facebook page.)

08 November 2013

Ideas for a good lucky dip needed!

Have you run a stall for children before, at a fete or a fair? Some volunteers for CHW are going to run a stall with a lucky dip to fundraise on 1 December in London. For those who are unfamiliar with what a lucky dip is, it is a game where small prizes are wrapped up and children select one. They don't know what they have won until they open it! The lucky dips I have seen usually have a large container, with something like shredded newspaper, etc, so that children have to dig through it to find a present. The volunteers did have a stall last year, but want to make it even better this year!

Volunteers at the stall, with the lucky dip, in 2012
If you have any tips for running a lucky dip, or a stall in general, it would be great to hear from you! Maybe you did a lucky dip with a twist? Then it would be great to hear how you made it even more fun for the children! The volunteers will be allowed to run other games too, alongside the lucky dip, so all ideas are welcome and would be very much appreciated!

Also, if  you are in London and know anyone, or any shops, that may be able to help with donating prizes, that would be wonderful too. Below is a photo of some of the prizes that were donated last year. They were very popular with the children.

We want to make it a really fun stall for the children! It will be raising funds for children who don't have very much, so it will all be for a good cause.

Some of the donated prizes in 2012.

Getting the prizes all wrapped and ready for last year's lucky dip!

07 November 2013

A child's right to be heard

Should children be able to participate in decision-making? I definitely think so. As fellow human beings, I believe their opinions should be listened to and taken into account. In fact, they have a right to participate in decision-making, provided for in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although, as this site, produced by Save the Children, in Wales, explains:  "This does not mean that children can now tell their parents what to do. The Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making."

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Article 12 of the Convention provides for the child's right to participate in decision-making.  This is summarised here by Eurochild:

"The right applies to decisions that affect individual children (such as decisions about their health and education) as well as groups of children (such as laws and policies). It requires adults to make sure that:
  • active steps are taken to encourage and support children to give their views;
  • children can express themselves in a way of their choosing, without worrying about the consequences of speaking up;
  • children are told how much influence is possible and what influence they have in fact had."

States which have signed the Convention, and then made it part of their law, must implement all the children's rights and protections given in the Convention. Nearly every country in the world has made the Convention part of their law. Only three have not: Somalia, South Sudan and the USA.

The theme of Eurochild's Annual Conference, which takes place in Italy next week, is about the child's right to participate. The background paper for the Conference is here. I am really looking forward to attending and learning about the different ways people have put this right into practice!

06 November 2013

Chatting with a Charity in Romania

Like a lot of people, I dread going to the dentist! I am scared about the pain and I hate hearing the sound of drills as I sit in the waiting room. Actually, I need to remind myself that I am very lucky to have access to dental care. I just finished a skype meeting with Oana, who runs an Association helping underprivileged children, in Romania. My charity, CHW, fundraises for this Association. We talked about the Association's educational programmes and the children's progress. Then Oana said that she has seen that some of the children's teeth are in bad condition. She told me that the cost of having a cavity filled can be equal to the cost of food for a family for a month! She said I could let CHW's supporters know that any donations towards toiletries, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and also soap, would all be very welcome. I will pass this message on for her.

It is amazing to know people like Oana, who put so much energy into improving the lives of children who so desperately need help. I will always try my best to support their efforts, as they are really making a positive impact - improving things in the present for the children, and also giving them hope for their future.

Helping Oana (right) at a fundraiser she had arranged at a university in Brasov, Romania, last year. Oana had made jewellery and art work to sell , to support the Association's programmes.

05 November 2013

What matters at Christmas

I am thinking of Christmas today... and not just because there are already Christmas displays in some of the shop windows here in London! Today, I came across a great blogger, who is also doing the NaBloPoMo challenge (to write a blog post each day during November), called  Glorius Mettle. It made me reflect and want to write a post on Christmas too (although, yes, I do realise it is still quite a few weeks away!)

As well as this, I create an update for a child rights advocacy organisation each week, so they can pick up on all the latest news. Yesterday, I saw that according to the charity, Shelter, 80,000 children will be facing homelessness in the UK, this Christmas. I am so shocked by this figure.  Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb said that such things should not be happening in twenty-first century Britain and that:

"No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help."

I have spent Christmas in some very different places, and each time I had the opportunity to be working with people who truly cared about children, and gave them the help they desperately needed. Without those inspirational people, those children would not have had a very happy Christmas. Staff running children's homes in Ghana and Romania made sure the children had a great day, with food, music, a party, and of course, a Christmas tree! An organisation in South Africa made sure the children who came to its creche each had a gift to take home for Christmas.

Last Christmas, I was in London, and I volunteered for Crisis, a charity for single homeless people, and helped at one of its shelters. Whilst homelessness is a huge issue all year round, there is something extra poignant about Christmas. It is not an issue of material items and presents. It is the fact Christmas is often a time that people spend together, and that is why it felt so important to be able to create a space where people could do just that, at one of Crisis's shelters. The guests could eat a Christmas meal and do various activities, like art, watching films, and playing games. Crisis also looks to the future - there were services at the shelter, from hairdressing, to help with putting CVs together, and getting free legal advice. People have been able to turn their lives around using these services. (Some of my fellow volunteers were once guests at a Crisis at Christmas shelter.)

I have seen that some people seem to truly believe in the 'spirit of Christmas' and want to help others in need, and I am so lucky to know people like that. It has also been such a positive experience to volunteer over Christmas, and I would definitely recommend it. For anyone who might want to make a donation instead, Crisis and Shelter both do great work!

Some of my Christmas photos!

Christmas party and a visit from Santa arranged for the children at the home, Casa Mea            
Helping to take some of the younger children at Casa Mea to see the big Christmas tree in the nearest city!

With the tree, and then dancing on Christmas Day, at New Life

South Africa:
Christmas play, by children at Seawind Educare
All of these organisations are supported by my charity, CHW.

04 November 2013

Ditch the Label and Stop the Bullying!

I came across a great anti-bullying charity recently, called Ditch the Label. I was doing some research for the Children's Rights Alliance for England, and needed some stats on bullying. Ditch the Label published their first Annual Bullying Survey earlier this year. It was really sad to see what children and young people have been experiencing.

Here are some of their findings:
  • Up to 68% of young people in the UK will experience bullying.
  • Young people with disabilities or from sexual minorities were found to be the most at risk of bullying.
  • 60.2% of the young people who were bullied were targeted because of attitudes towards appearance.
  • 57% of bullied students were dissatisfied with support services on offer.
When I read that last statistic, my first thought was that we have to do something to improve support services for these young people who have experienced bullying. Whereas, actually, it would be better to take action to try to stop bullying in the first place, and then there would be no need for such support services.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A report released last week, by The Children's Commission on Poverty, showed that poorer children in the UK were more likely to report bullying. Children from poorer families were asked if they ever felt embarrassed or were bullied because their families did not have enough money. 55% said they felt embarrassed and 14% said they had been bullied.

Another form of bullying has been on the rise in recent years. Yesterday, I blogged about the fact that so many children around the world do not have access to the internet. Sadly, those who can easily access the internet may use it for destructive purposes, including cyberbullying. Bullying can now extend from the school playground, right into a child's home, through the internet.  

Ditch the Label has also published an Annual Cyberbullying Survey. This survey showed that:
  • 7 in 10 young people are the victims of cyberbullying.
  • 20% of young people are experiencing cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • Young people are twice as likely to be bullied on facebook than on any other social networking site.

This page has some guidance on how to deal with cyberbullying - for children, parents and teachers.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think the name, Ditch the Label, is a great one for an anti-bullying charity. Often people label others, based on their appearance, or their interests, or their background, etc. They then form perceptions, because of these labels. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to abuse and bullying. It is important to try to help those who bully others, as with the right support, they can stop inflicting this pain on others.

A nice thing I have found about NaBloPoMo (the challenge to write a blog post everyday throughout November) is the discovery of other great bloggers who are also doing this challenge. I would like to share with you to a post I found yesterday on Mifusa's Blog: Presents of Presence. The post is here. First it highlights the most terrible consequence of bullying: suicide. Then it gives a truly inspiring video, of a man called Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs, speaking very powerfully about bullying and about love. I wish more young people could watch this video, and hear Nick's message. Please share that post as much as possible to get the message out there!

Feel free to share any other useful sites or videos in the comment section below, or any advice or thoughts you may have. Bullying is a huge issue, and causes so much pain to so many people. I think that any time we can put in to the anti-bullying effort is surely time well-spent.

03 November 2013

Why Children Need the Internet!

Given that you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you have a computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, or some other device for accessing the internet. This means you are one of the 2.7 billion people who are online. Just under 60% of the world's population, however, does not have access to the internet!

I actually got the idea for this post because I am taking part in the NaBloPoMo challenge, to write a blog post each day in November. I read this post, on the yeah write site, about computers and technology, by another blogger Cynk, who is also taking part in NaBloPoMo. It made me think about how accustomed I am to using the internet. It is a part of my everyday life. For many others around the world, this is not so. Children who are not taught how to use computers, and the internet, will find it harder to get decent jobs as adults, in an increasingly interconnected, digital world. They cannot experience the benefits of having access to the internet.

Computers for the Children!

Yesterday, I blogged about a Homework Centre in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. They have a couple of computers there, and really want to teach the children how to use them, because they can see how useful such skills and knowledge will be for the children's future. They would like more computers. I am hoping that my charity, CHW, will be able to help with this in the future, or that I might be able to find someone else (either an individual or an organisation) who can help with donating computers to the Centre. This would not be the first time we, at CHW, have helped children's projects with computers. We raised funds to repair the computers at an education centre, run by the Atelier Sacelean Association, in Romania, and also raised the funds for a new classroom to be built for a school run by New Life Orphanage in Ghana. The new classroom became a computer lab. (The computers were donated by another organisation, but the room had to be built for the new lab!)

Computer Lab at New Life, in Ghana

The 'Digital Divide' and Children
The 'digital divide', ie the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, is  a huge issue and one that will greatly impact a child's future opportunities in life. Often the 'digital divide' is looked at in international terms. Of all the people in the world who are not connected to the internet, 90% are in developing countries. Expense is a big problem. The founder of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has said:

"...the majority of the world's people are still not online, usually because they can't afford to be... In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just one gigabyte of data can cost well over two months' wages for the average citizen. The result of high prices is a widening digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science..."

The problem is not just an international one though. Access to computers and the internet varies within parts of the same country, meaning some children will have access and some will not. The quality of their resources will vary too.

This article by Laura Dimon, brings up the point that New York's digital divide is holding young New Yorkers back. She shares a quote from Manhattan's Borough President, which states that over 75% of school facilities have a maximum download speed which is 100 times slower than the target speed in the National Broadband Plan. These students will not have a fast enough connection speed to have access to all the educational resources they need.

Crowding around the computers at the Atelier Sacelean Association, Romania

What can be done?

Whilst organisations such as A4AI and Internet.org are looking to get more people connected to the internet, there are things which everyone can do to help. If you have any computers or laptops that you no longer use, or if your office or college will be getting new equipment, it is possible to donate the old computers to certain charities.  These charities can refurbish the old computers, if necessary, and will then distribute them to schools, education centres or other children's projects. It would be best to try to look this up, to find a charity close to you where you could donate electronic equipment (see how useful the internet is!). As well as helping children, this is also an environmentally-friendly way to get rid of old equipment.

Here is a useful list of ten tips of things to do before donating an old computer.

Also, if anyone has any ideas on getting some computers or laptops to the Homework Centre in South Africa,  please let me know. I would really appreciate it!

Children at the Homework Centre, South Africa

Thank you for taking the time to read this post... I am grateful that I have a laptop and access to the internet and can do things like take part in NaBloPoMo! I just hope I can use all the resources I am lucky enough to have, to help children around the world to get online too, and to open up more opportunities for their futures.