Street Child: keeping children safe and in education
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A little help goes a long way: just ask Fatou*, a 14-year-old girl who lives in the Kenema District of eastern Sierra Leone.
In that part of Africa, the future for girls like her is uncertain. Education outcomes are poor. Nearly a quarter of all children never finish primary school, and those who do progress to secondary education often face economic barriers as families struggle to cover the costs.
Fatou sat her National Primary School Examinations in 2020. Her parents wanted her to enrol in secondary school but their income from subsistence farming could not support the expense.
“My parents tried everything to pay my school fees, even taking out a loan,” Fatou says, “but they couldn’t raise the money so I had to drop out and help on the farm.”
In our experience, local organisations know how to deal with emergency situations best.
Tom Dannatt, Street Child
It’s a situation all too familiar to Street Child, our Global Charity Partner, and why it has pledged to make a difference to the lives of one million children from 2021-2024 through a material contribution to their safety and access to learning.
Street Child’s focus on improving the life chances of children, particularly through education, resonated with A&O and led to our two-year partnership. As 2022 drew to a close, we had contributed more than GBP800,000 to the charity, including GBP660,000 in cash, with the rest in pro bono and in-kind support.
Street Child works in 21 countries, targeting environments where children’s safety and schooling are most likely to be compromised. It seeks out gaps in aid and assistance, and is often one of few organisations supporting children in particularly challenging situations, such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and South Sudan – and, in 2022, in Ukraine.
Progress on education in Sierra Leone
In the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, Street Child saw an opportunity to improve the life chances of children. This year, with GBP500,000 of support from A&O, it is starting work to transform 40 primary schools into productive learning spaces through renovations and teacher training, and to enrol 1,500 girls into secondary education.
In the first year of our partnership, Street Child enrolled 750 girls into school. One of them was Fatou.
Through Street Child’s programme, Fatou was able to start her junior secondary education. The charity also gave her a support package of a bag, uniform, shoes, exercise books and a hygiene kit.
More than 420 girls have received additional support through one-to-one counselling, and campaigns have been implemented in schools across five communities to address gender-based violence.
To help the girls’ families cover ongoing schooling costs, Street Child distributed 500 business grants under its Family Business for Education scheme.
Among recipients was Fatou’s family, who invested part of their grant in their rice farm to improve yields. They are also starting a business selling biscuits and snacks in their village, putting the whole family on a sounder financial footing.
Street Child provides business grants – 93% going to women – alongside training and mentoring for the families to develop business plans for sustainable sources of income. As well as helping with education costs, this has wider benefits such as improved nutrition and quality of life for the whole family.
Meanwhile, work to transform rural primary schools is also well under way in the Eastern Province. Three schools have been renovated and 80 teachers across all the schools have been trained in education methods that help children catch up with basic literacy and numeracy. Street Child has distributed teaching and learning materials including paper, chalk and pencils to all 40 schools.
The charity involved members of the local community in renovating the schools to embed a sense of ownership and encourage their continued upkeep.
Responding to the crisis in Ukraine
Ukraine is Street Child’s first response in Europe. “Having met the GBP500,000 funding target for the Sierra Leone project, the rest of our contributions go to Street Child as unrestricted funding,” says Kate Cavelle, A&O’s Head of Pro Bono and Community Investment. “This allows Street Child to respond quickly to emergency situations, like in Ukraine.”
The team drew on its extensive first-hand knowledge of conflict and crisis environments elsewhere in the world. As Tom Dannatt, Street Child’s CEO, explains: “In our experience, local organisations know how to deal with these emergency situations best. They have established relationships with their communities and know how to source essential items quickly and usually more cheaply.”
Often in emergency situations, funding is concentrated within large international NGOs, which means local organisations on the frontline are operating with limited funds.
“Our emergency appeal is channelling 100% of donations to local, vetted partner organisations who are providing support both in Ukraine itself, and also on the Romanian and Moldovan borders where the gap between the need and the aid being provided is greatest,” Tom says.
“They are catering for basic humanitarian needs but also setting up safe spaces and opportunities for displaced women in particular to lead activities, as well as trying where possible to keep learning alive.”
We really are helping change children’s lives and creating a better future for them, their families and their communities for generations to come.
Claudia Di Paolo
A&O’s fundraising and pro bono contributions
Fundraising efforts have been taking place right across A&O to support Street Child’s work. June saw more colleagues than ever participating in an ‘Around the World Challenge’: more than 175 people from 29 A&O offices took part, raising nearly GBP44,000.
Participants designed their own challenges this year. One colleague completed a wild-water swim in the UK every day for a month; a team from Perth collectively spent 24 hours in the ‘plank’ position.
“In addition to all the fundraising being done by our teams, the aim of our Global Charity Partnerships is to provide pro bono support, using legal and non-legal skills, to help set the charity up for more success in the future,” Kate says.
So far in the partnership, A&O lawyers have advised on a number of contracts and partnership agreements. They also acquired public interest status for Street Child Switzerland to enable tax-deductible donations.
On the non-legal side, a project to integrate Street Child’s people values into its performance management framework and recruitment process has been started. ‘In-kind’ contributions have included hosting a launch event for Street Child’s first-ever Ramadan campaign, which generated GBP56,000 in income for the charity.
A team visit to Sierra Leone
With Street Child’s programme well under way in Sierra Leone, a team of 11 people from across A&O travelled to the country’s Eastern Province to visit schools there that are in the process of being transformed, and to meet children and families benefitting from the programme.
“The aim of the trip was to enable colleagues to get a better sense of the impact of Street Child’s work on children and communities,” Kate says. “Everyone who visited Sierra Leone has a role to play in being an active champion and mobilising efforts to support Street Child within their offices.”
I strongly believe in the power of education as a way to transform countries.
Claudia Di Paolo
One of the participants was Claudia Di Paolo, a Senior Professional Support Lawyer in Paris. She says: “I wanted to be part of this trip because, as a member of the Pro Bono Committee in Paris, it’s my responsibility to help make Street Child’s work in Sierra Leone tangible for everyone at our firm.
“I strongly believe in the power of education as a way to transform countries, so this experience has been a fantastic opportunity to see from Street Child’s team in Kenema, and from the beneficiaries we met, that we’re really making a difference for the children, their families and their communities,” Claudia says.
“People were proud about their girls going to school, proud of being able to achieve their ambitions to raise and help their families and their village. We are doing more than giving children, in particular girls, access to school (which was already a huge success) – we are also helping Sierra Leone’s rural and urban development for years to come.
“We can do so much more together, so my priority now is to share my experiences and work with the Pro Bono Committee in Paris to inspire new people to support this partnership,” she says.
What’s next for the partnership?
With one year remaining, A&O’s next big fundraising campaign was to be ‘First Hour, First Day’, where colleagues could donate the first hour or first day of their pay in January 2023 to Street Child.
January 2022 saw 900 people contribute GBP468,000. “We’re hoping we can match that this year and get over the GBP1m target,” says Kate. “We’ve seen so many crises this year – not only in Ukraine, but also the flooding in Pakistan and the earthquake in Afghanistan – hampering Street Child’s existing efforts to continue girls’ education there.
“We want to do as much as we can to support Street Child’s work to keep children safe and in learning, in some of the most difficult situations around the world.”
To find out more about Street Child’s work visit street-child.org.