Education is just one of the countless benefits of the First World that so many of us unwittingly take for granted.
The majority of us would say we look back on our school days with fondness, and recall them as some of the best times of our lives.
So what becomes of the millions of children across the globe for whom school and education are alien concepts? Children whose daily activities consist not of times tables and skipping in the playground, but scouting rubbish heaps for items to sell, begging for food or working in dangerous industries on potentially life-threatening tasks?
These are the very youths which Hemel Hempstead-based charity HOPE For Children aims to target with a groundbreaking new aid initiative, The Education Club.
The ambitious project seeks to break away from the ‘one child, one sponsor’ fundraising models favoured by much bigger organisations such as Oxfam.
As an initially small charity set up in 1994 with a £5,000 bequest to Warners End resident Dr Bob Parsons OBE, HOPE has grown to help more than 44,000 children and families across Africa, Asia and the UK in the past 12 months alone.
From its unassuming town centre office in Bridge Street, the charity’s brand new campaign focuses on providing children around the world with the education they deserve by asking supporters to pledge as little as £1 per week, or £52 a year.
The money will help fund innovative education schemes, which not only encompass traditional school buildings in Third World countries but also provide creative solutions to schooling, including pop-up teaching sessions for street children within markets in places such as Delhi, India.
HOPE’s new chief executive Murielle Maupoint, who took over the post in December, is enthusiastic about the subject and the success of the newly-launched Education Club.
She said: “It’s about enabling children to have the childhood they deserve.
“Childhood should be about safety, trust, fun, being in a nurturing environment and being allowed to play, grow, learn and develop.
“But for millions, that’s not the case. They are on rubbish dumps picking bits of cotton to recycle for 20p, they are rummaging for food or selling themselves for sex –horrific things. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders.”
Murielle, who is 41 and has two young children of her own, says the campaign will cut costs against traditional sponsorship methods by reducing postage of documents and leaflets, and by sharing wider communication on the scheme’s progress as opposed to single updates based on individual sponsored children. This, she promises, will mean more children are exposed to an education and those pledging cash will see exactly where their money goes.
A main focus of the project is to impact on disadvantaged children before the age of seven, to ensure they receive maximum long-term benefit. The Education Club also promotes inclusive teaching for those with disabilities, who are often shunned in other societies.
Many children are rummaging for food or selling themselves for sex –horrific things. They have the weight of the world on their shouldersMurielle Maupoint, HOPE chief executive
Murielle added: “As a small charity, we have to do more with less. We have created the Education Club to make sure donations are used as effectively as possible. The campaign puts children first and helps secure their futures in a safe and sustainable way. Education is the key to changing a child’s life – and people can help for less than the price of one cup of coffee a week.”
Visit www.theeducationclub.org for ways to get involved. The first 10 people to become Gold sponsors will receive a free signed copy of charity founder Bob’s book, A Journey of Hope.