A Worthy Cause
On February 27th I’m running the half marathon version of the Cambridge Boundary Run: the reason? To raise money for the charity Street Child of Sierra Leone. You may think that half a marathon is no great feet (pun intended); however, having broken my leg last term, this challenge is an attempt to get back to fitness as well as a way of supporting a charity that I feel a personal responsibility for and think is an entirely worthy cause. Over the next few weeks, up until the run, I will be sharing my weekly training successes and failures, as well as some of the experiences of my time out in Sierra Leone as I remember them!
I volunteered out in Sierra Leone over July 2010 as a result of attending a presentation about the charity in Michaelmas term. What immediately attracted me was the fact that you didn’t have to pay some UK establishment any money for the privilege of volunteering. I’d previously taken a gap year in 2008 (thankfully before the youtube video ruined it for everyone…) and, whilst researching volunteering projects, came across a vast archive of articles about how poorly managed and unhelpful many of these projects are. So I decided against a life changing experience for the time being.
This charity seemed different. In Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by a civil war that finished just a decade ago, there is extreme poverty despite the rich resources and huge potential for mineral mining, agriculture and tourism. Families are often unable to support their children sufficiently and as a result the children often take to the streets in order to make it on their own.
Conditions on the street are of course no better. Children as young as 10 resort to stealing, drugs and prostitution in order to survive. Set up three years ago, Street Child of Sierra Leone acts to reunite street children with their families whilst catering for their nutritional, medical, educational, recreational and psycho-social needs over 18 month cycles. Once families have been traced and reunited, the charity ensures that families are able to support their children appropriately, and that children are reintegrated into school. To achieve this, families are given financial and managerial help in setting up small businesses that provide a steady income. Money is collected and saved every week in local banks and then redistributed at the end of the financial year for the families to invest and expand their businesses.
The charity’s emphasis is on creating sustainability and preventing dependency. Of the 400 children already reunited only two have taken back to the streets and required further help. This is a hugely effective charity, with intelligent objectives and implementation. An extremely worthy cause.
Volunteers are welcome all year round and all you have to pay is for your transport there and back. If you’re interested in the charity more info is available at: www.street-child.co.uk
Please donate in support of my run at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TomSearle
Next week: Recovery from a broken leg and how training is helping/hindering its progress