Head of Pro Bono and Community Investment;A&O: 2014-present
Director of Marketing, Business
Development and Communications;A&O: 1987-present
A&O’s record-breaking charity partnership with War Child has drawn to a close, but the issue of displaced children remains the focus of our global charity work.
In the middle of the dusty Jordanian desert, a clown with bright orange hair is making children laugh.
The children are young refugees from Syria, living in the Emirati Jordanian refugee camp. They’re in a classroom taking part in a pre-school lesson with an early childhood care and development teacher, learning about letters, numbers and shapes through play.
The classroom is part of a new education facility built by War Child, a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people affected by war.
War Child has been A&O’s global charity partner for two years. The partnership, which ended in September 2018, raised a record GBP1.5 million across 41 A&O offices. The first GBP500,000 of this funded War Child’s Rescue Childhood programme and construction of the new education facility.
Rescue Childhood provides the Syrian children, who are between four and six years old, with vital early-years education and psycho-social support, using storytelling and creative activities to overcome trauma. It also supports parents and carers with a positive parenting programme. Since it opened in September 2017, nearly 1,200 children and parents have been through the programme. Another 300 children and 280 parents started the programme in August 2018.
War doesn’t discriminate
Kate Cavelle, A&O’s head of pro bono and community investment, has visited War Child in Jordan twice.
“For me, the highlight of our War Child partnership was seeing the impact of the work we’re funding – watching the children playing and laughing at the clown with the bright orange wig in our education space,” Kate says. “The Emirati camp is relatively new and had no resources for young children – no education or safe places to play. The War Child team told us that when the children found out they were starting their classes, they were so excited they couldn’t sleep the night before!”
But, Kate says, the visits to the camp were also a humbling experience. “I was so struck by the honesty of parents who admitted they needed advice and support because the effects of the war were impacting their ability to be good mothers and fathers. Even while coping with their own traumas, they were so optimistic about what the education and support could do for their children, as well as themselves.”
Psycho-social support is crucial for adults as well as children, Kate explains, as most arrive in refugee camps expecting to be there for weeks, maybe months, but end up staying years.
“It’s such a waste for these skilled adults and young people living in the camp with no opportunities to learn or work,” says Kate. “It’s very hard for parents to just keep going, knowing they’ve lost so much and can’t provide for their families anymore. War doesn’t discriminate; everyone suffers. It isn’t fair.”
The number of forcibly displaced people around the world – now estimated at 68.5 million by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency – is still rising. People are being displaced for longer and have less chance of returning home.
For this reason, Kate says, A&O decided to continue the focus on displaced people through our new global charity partnership (read more below) as well as through A&O’s wider pro bono and community investment programme. “There is still a pressing need to provide an emergency response as well as longer-term support,” Kate says. “So many causes of displacement – whether conflicts or other issues – don’t receive much attention in the media but people are desperate for help.”
After the TV cameras have gone home
Providing a lasting response for young people affected by conflict is a key element of War Child’s work around the world. The GBP1.5 million raised through the A&O charity partnership was nearly three times the target, giving War Child additional money to use as unrestricted funding. This is a vital source of income for the charity, giving it funds it can direct quickly to where they are needed most.
It also enables War Child to help communities rebuild in the aftermath of conflict – “After the TV cameras have gone home”, as War Child chief executive Rob Williams puts it.
One example of this is in northern Uganda where, after 21 years of conflict, a generation of young people has missed out on an education and 80% of them have no formal employment. On top of this, Uganda supports 1.4 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
War Child’s initial work during the conflict has grown into a project called KATI – which means ‘now’, ‘start-up’ and ‘the centre’ in the Luganda, Kiswahili and Luo languages spoken in the region.
In April 2018, a team from A&O visited the project. “The KATI project is a social enterprise,” explains associate Puja Patel, part of the A&O team. “It works with young entrepreneurs to offer micro loans that they could not otherwise secure, and provides training and mentoring to help young people grow and develop their businesses.
“I got to know War Child by fundraising for the partnership in New York. I was so impressed when I met the War Child and KATI teams in Uganda, particularly Julius Kitara, KATI’s CEO. He’s such a great leader and is so closely involved – he knows the details of every young entrepreneur’s story.
“Visiting the project had a real impact on me. I’ll never forget the work we did, the different businesses we learned about and the Ugandan culture.”
“The highlight of our War Child partnership was seeing the impact of the work we’re funding – watching the children playing and laughing at the clown with the bright orange wig in our education space.”
Global response to a global crisis
The War Child partnership broke all previous fundraising records for A&O. The ‘First Hour, First Day’ global fundraising campaigns in 2017 and 2018 raised nearly GBP940,000, with well over 1,000 people contributing each year. Twice during the partnership, international teams trekked 70km across the Dana Nature Reserve in Jordan to the ancient city of Petra, raising more than GBP140,000.
We also provided War Child with pro bono and volunteering support throughout the partnership. On the legal side, this ranged from advice on commercial, IP and employment matters; and, on the non-legal side, translation support, graphic design and presentation skills training.
The largest pro bono project has been a review of War Child’s safeguarding policies and procedures in the wake of serious complaints made against other charities at the start of 2018. While War Child was not associated with any of those complaints, A&O teams helped review its relevant policies and governance framework to ensure its practices in areas including recruitment, training and security meet the highest standards.
Overall, 41 offices played a part in the War Child partnership. “We’ve had such a strong response from across our international network,” says Richard Grove, A&O’s director of marketing, who visited the Emirati camp in November 2017. War Child’s work has resonated, he believes, because the refugee crisis is global.
“We all see so much in the news and want to help in some way,” Richard says. “War Child has shown us the people behind the news stories – teachers, doctors, business owners – who’ve been forced to leave everything behind because of the conflict.
“But the partnership has also shown us the impact we can have. Our support is helping give back to Syrian families a part of their life they would otherwise completely miss – parent-child relationships, playtime, education and more.”
Back at A&O’s Rescue Childhood centre in Emirati camp, a group of 275 children are getting ready for graduation day, when parents and the camp community come together to celebrate their achievements throughout the programme.
War Child’s Hussein Al-Amoudi is visiting the classrooms. “The centre is busy, like a beehive,” he says. “You can hear music from the classrooms as the children rehearse their performances for graduation day.”
War Child’s psycho-social support facilitators are also working with children in their ‘Little Fellows’ classroom, where creative activities help the children discuss daily life and find ways of overcoming their trauma. The children in this group have prepared a play, song and exhibition of their artwork for graduation day.
War Child’s early-years curriculum is helping to prepare these children for continued education, while also providing a safe space to play and socialise. As one parent observed: “Our son has hearing difficulties and used to be by himself a lot. He was laughed at by other kids because he couldn’t express himself, but since starting at the centre, he has really blossomed – he’s much more confident and sociable and he’s made new friends. Already he can recognise letters of the alphabet and knows how to count. For all children, this is a great preparation, but it’s been especially valuable for our son.”
Looking back at the partnership, Kate says War Child has been an impressive organisation to work with. “The quality of their people, the knowledge, compassion and commitment they have are outstanding,” she continues.
“They don’t walk away until the job is done, so we feel hopeful that the children and parents in Emirati camp – and children affected by conflict elsewhere in the world – can look at their future with a greater sense of optimism.”
Over 100 fundraising events
- • Trek Jordan in 2018 and 2017: 42 people from 15 offices completed the 70km trek across Jordan’s most beautiful nature reserve, ending in the ancient city of Petra, and met War Child’s team in Jordan
- • Performance of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes: performed at London’s famous Hackney Empire theatre – organised, staged and performed by 140 A&O staff and alumni
- • Five-a-side football tournament: 20 A&O teams from across Europe competed in Amsterdam
- • Refugee Run in Hong Kong: a simulation putting 70 people from A&O and our clients in the shoes of a refugee. Also in Hong Kong, a silent auction to see A&O partners running a tea trolley service in fancy dress and staffing the office’s reception area
- • Uganda Feast: cooked and enjoyed by A&O teams in Warsaw
- • Sydney Harbour Splash: a team of eight completed the famous one-kilometre open water swim in Sydney Harbour
- • A week of War Child in the U.S.: cake sales, an office yard sale and silent auctions at office summer parties
- • Welsh Three Peaks Challenge: an A&O team climbed three mountains in Wales and cycled between them – 26km of walking and 230km of cycling, all in 24 hours
“So many causes of displacement – whether conflicts or other issues – don’t receive much attention in the media but people are desperate for help.”
Hope and Homes for Children
New charity partner brings hope to children
Hope and Homes for Children is A&O’s global charity partner for 2018-20. The charity, which specialises in the deinstitutionalisation of children, was the clear winner in a poll of more than 2,500 A&O people.
Our goal in the two-year partnership, which kicked off on 1 November 2018, is to raise GBP1 million and provide the charity with significant pro bono support to strengthen its work around the world.
The first GBP500,000 raised will be spent helping about 7,500 children in Nepal and India – children trafficked into orphanages where they can be exploited for profit.
These children come from vulnerable families suffering extreme poverty or displaced by humanitarian crises, who are actively targeted by networks of human traffickers and coerced into giving up their children. Once inside an institution, children are at risk of being forced into modern slavery and further trafficked for physical or sexual exploitation.
Of Nepal’s 567 orphanages, 72% are located in tourist destinations to attract financial donations from international visitors.
“Institutionalising children in orphanages does so much harm,” says Kate Cavelle. “But it’s an issue, and a consequence of displacement and poverty, that many people are unaware of.
“The vast majority of children in these institutions don’t need to be there, so we want to raise both money and awareness – within A&O and more broadly – to help Hope and Homes for Children put a stop to this practice.”
A&O has also joined forces with other private sector organisations and the UK Department for International Development (DfID) to collectively work towards a move away from supporting young people in institutional care.
“Instead,” says Kate, “we want to focus on projects and charities that deliver work in line with international standards of child wellbeing, care and development.”
Mark Waddington, CEO of Hope and Homes for Children, agrees. “More than 80% of the eight million children housed in orphanages around the world have living parents or relatives,” he says. “This partnership will help us tackle a hidden global crisis and enable us to rescue children from Nepalese and Indian orphanages and reunite them with their families.”
A landmark legal model
“We also want to use the incredible skills and expertise of A&O’s global teams to develop a landmark legal model to reform safeguarding of children internationally,” says Mark. “If we can achieve this, we will create a legacy that positively impacts millions of children. We are over the moon to be chosen as A&O’s next global charity partner.”
Once the first GBP500,000 target has been met, additional funds raised by A&O will support Hope and Homes’ mission to close institutions elsewhere in the world and move children into loving, stable families.
Hope and Homes for Children is also collaborating with governments to tackle the root causes of family breakdown, ultimately working towards a day where orphanages have been eradicated.
“This partnership will help us tackle a hidden global crisis and enable us to rescue children from Nepalese and Indian orphanages and reunite them with their families.”
A&O’s partnership with Hope and Homes for Children launched on 1 November. If you’d like to get involved or find out more, please contact Daisy Wakefield, A&O’s Global Charities and Communications Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.