One of our earliest grants was to a fantastic young charity called READ international, which collects good quality second hand school books in the UK and sends them to schools in Tanzania, where the secondary school syllabus is very similar. So instead of waste here and one book per class of thirty in Tanzania, they reduce waste and the students have the chance of having a book of their own. The collection of books is all done by UK university student volunteers, so the main overheads are shipping costs. The experience of our ex-medical student trustees suggested that there was the opportunity to start a similar scheme in relation to medical textbooks, which are very expensive and mostly unused following training.
The donation of medical textbooks - which our medical students take for granted - is an easy and effective way to promote health education and autonomy in resource limited settings. It has also provided us with a great opportunity to team up with a charity we really admire. If you're interested in donating old textbooks or getting involved, please get in touch with READ.
We have given a grant of £1,300 to a charity called Action for Children in Conflict, which helps some of the most disadvantaged, disenfranchised and socially excluded children and young people in Africa. The programme that we are supporting works specifically with street children in an area of Kenya called Thika, which was hit hard by the collapse of the Kenyan coffee market and suffers from high unemployment and poverty. They currently provide direct support to over 500 acutely vulnerable children and indirect services to over 1000 children in the area. The charity has seen tangible success since the programme started in 2004, contributing to a 40% reduction in the numbers of street children in Thika.
One of our trustees and a fellow doctor, Dr Dagan Lonsdale, came across the Manna Rescue Home when they were visiting Fort Portal in Uganda last year, where they had spent their medical electives (see 2008 projects for stories of their trips). The Home provides a home and loving environment for 30 children with and orphaned by HIV, whose home life is one of abuse and neglect. The children are educated at local schools, their medical needs provided for at the local hospital and by the nurses working on site. Food, recreation and pastoral needs are provided for by the Home.
Dr Lonsdale found the Home inspiring, despite the difficult stories and lives that lay behind it. The trust is now sponsoring two of the orphans at the Home: Eriya, a 9 year old boy, who lost both his parents to HIV/AIDS in 2003. Prior to joining the Home, was living with an 80 year old grandmother who simply could not care for him and his brother. Eriya has embraced the opportunity of living at the home; he loves playing football and cards with the older boys, and he recently completed his first school term, where his grades put him second in his Primary 1 class. This sponsorship provides for their all round care - including educational and medical needs.
We are also sponsoring Daphine Angel, a 9 year old girl, who lost both parents and lived with a relative who did not want her. She was heavily stigmatized by the other people she was living with and when she came to Manna Rescue Home she was very thin, and starving for attention. Her health has improved although she still suffers ear infections. She loves playing with any toys she can find or make, and loves to dance.
Ever since we came across the organisation PEAS (see the Bees to Uganda project in 2008), we've been impressed by their innovation, energy and commitment to finding sustainable education solutions. So we were very pleased to be able to work with them again in helping to fund university scholarships for five of their students. PEAS currently operates 3 schools in Uganda, with two more in the pipeline. They are all low fee schools with some free places.
The intention is that all PEAS schools become financially independent of PEAS in time and, indeed, their first - St Janan's in the suburbs of Kampala - has now achieved this. The funding we have given PEAS will help put five of the students that have graduated from their schools through university, on the understanding that they will return to PEAS schools for 3 years to act as finance managers and science teachers.
PEAS are also looking supporting their students beyond the immediate education, and have started a scheme to provide micro finance grants to groups of students to start small businesses. We have provided a one off £1000 grant to help them do this. The individual grants - of £200 each - will be awarded to students on the basis of business plans and the money given in tranches as plan targets are met. To find out more about PEAS, please click here.