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No. 59: Sustainable Development Goals & our charity

 

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 59: The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals & our contribution as a charity

You may have heard us talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), read about them on our website, or on social media posts – but what exactly are they and how does School in a Bag fit into them?

About the Sustainable Development Goals:

There are 17 SDGs, which have grown out of many years of work by countries and the United Nations (UN) and ‘adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.’ *

The SDGs came into effect on the 1st January 2016, a ‘universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030’*. Basically, a 15-year target to reach the level of these goals that has been set as being achievable, yet a big step forward from where we are now. Different countries have different focuses on each SDG as some will affect them more than others (i.e. clean water in Great Britain isn’t an issue like it is in many African countries, but our climate action definitely needs work).

*Source

Here are the 17 SDGs:
As we’re all different learners, we’ve included the information in different formats: written, infographic and video so by all means skip to the one that works best for you, or take a look at them all:

Sustainable Development Goals

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change

 

Or watch the UN’s short video here

So now we know a little more about them, how do School in a Bag and the SDGs go together?

Well, through our work, we fit primarily into FOUR of the SDGs:

No. 2 – Zero Hunger
No. 4 – Quality Education
No. 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation
No. 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

       

Zero hunger:

End hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

In our very first SchoolBag project in Swaziland, the provision of eating utensils was paramount to the children being able to receive lunch – for so many, this was their only meal of the day. Tragically, if children had nothing to eat with, they were turned away from the dinner queue and went without. our SchoolBags have always had lunchboxes in them for this very reason.

In Nepal, the inclusion of a tiffin box in the SchoolBags mean that children can take their lunch to school – prior to this, children would go home at lunchtime and not return for afternoon classes.

The LunchBoxes and sporks provided by Light My Fire in our UK-packed SchoolBags do nine things: knife, fork, spoon, plate, bowl, LunchBox, learning resources – colour, shape and a stencil to trace around!

     

Quality Education:

Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education. By 2030, build and upgrade education facilities and substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers.

We know that SchoolBags make up a crucial part of the educational jigsaw and without the basic resources our contents provide, learning is minimised to children trying to remember information. Yet, the provision of resources is not included in the targets mapped out bu the UN. Our aim in the delivery decade from 2020 – 2030, is to champion the large agencies into working with is so that we can collectively provide education alongside building schools and training teachers.

       

Clean water and sanitation:

Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.

Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.

The water bottle in our SchoolBags are crucial for children staying hydrated, not only during the school hours but also on the lengthy journeys to and from school, that many of our children undertake.

Prior to receiving our SchoolBags, the children in The Gambia would crouch under the school stand pipe and collect water in their mouths before sitting off on their walk home in high temperatures. This caused litres of spillage, leaving standing water that became a breeding ground for insects and diseases. The children were shown how to fill up their bottles, which created less waste, and gave the children water for the lengthy walk home!

The recent addition of LifeStraws into some of our UK-packed SchoolBags adds to this, too. The clever invention of a simple, easy-to-use ‘straw’ means even the dirtiest water can be sucked up through the membrane micro filter, that cleanses the water before it enters the mouth clean. This opens up clean water everywhere – and the straws themselves, will do its job for 4,000 litres – if our beneficiaries consumed one litre a day, the LifeStraw will last them almost 11 years!

         

Industry, innovation and infrastructure:

Increase the access to small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.

By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean environmentally-sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.

SchoolBags for some of our projects in Ghana, are made in association with Trashy Bags – an enterprising company that makes bags out of rubbish and recycled materials. The Trashy Bag SchoolBag rucksack is made from recycled water sachets collected from the storm drains by a handful of the TrashyBag employees. The sachets are cleaned, cup open on three sides to form strips, sewn into sheets and transformed into rucksacks by a team of seamstresses. the projects in a win, win, win – Ghanians are employed, the environment becomes cleaner and the children get a fantastic re-purposed SchoolBag…that’s very waterproof!

These are the main four SDGs our work fits into, but we also touch on some others too, including:

No. 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing – through the recent inclusion of our hygiene kits
No. 5 – Gender Equality – we never specify who our SchoolBags are for and they’re never made ‘gender-specific’ as we believe everyone has the right to go to school.

So, these are what the Sustainable Development goals are about, in a nut shell. It’s great that even though we’re only a small organisation, we can have a big impact on key global partnerships that all the UN countries are adhering to. It’s now less than nine years until the goals set need to be met, we’re in the ‘Delivery Decade’, and so far change is happening…We as a team will continue our efforts, and whenever we can make improvements to what we deliver, will do that too.If you would like to read about the SDG agenda in more detail, take a look at this link

Thanks for reading,
Team School in a Bag – Transforming lives through education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 121,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 47 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website:

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!
2021-03-30T12:03:41+00:00

No. 58: Can You Become A Repeat Giving Hero?

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SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 58: Can you become a Repeat Giving Hero?

Hello and welcome to an unprecedented second ‘Blog in a Bag’ (BIAB) this month. 

BIAB 57 released this time last week broke the very sad news that after much deliberation, Home Farm Fest would not be happening again this year thanks to the Coronavirus Pandemic.  Whilst we know it is bitterly disappointing and we will miss welcoming you all to Home Farm over the second weekend in June, we do feel it is the correct and sensible decision for us.

Our sadness has been lessened by the wonderful feedback and comments that we have received – you have certainly warmed our hearts over the last week and we feel inspired to put on the best Home Farm Fest possible in 2022 🙂

Our charity events:

Home Farm Fest is not only the biggest event that we run for our charity, it is also vitally important. The money that we generate from it is put towards funding us as an organisation. As a charity, we have become adept at the ‘beg and borrow’ mantra in order to help us function at the lowest expenditure but actually, running a charity is no different from running a business – it’s just that our income is not channelled in to profits but rather supporting those less fortunate than ourselves.

We still have the same running costs and Home Farm Fest is fundamental towards keeping us ticking. It contributes towards: financing our rental charges and numerous insurance policies, keeping our vehicles on the road, covering the costs of necessary group memberships, subscriptions and monthly tech platform payments, not to mention paying staff wages, HMRC tax payments and pensions. And that is before we have funded any projects or purchased any SchoolBag stock.

The charity:

In the past two years, we have transformed our organisation. We’ve put in place the governance, board, policies and reserves to strengthen our foundation and solidify our practices. Thank goodness that COVID didn’t strike before then as it may well have been a different story! We are keeping our heads above the water at the moment, but only just. The truth is this…the forced fallow years of Home Farm Fest along with the cancellation of our other signature ‘In-house’ events has left us with a huge deficit hole in funding…a hole the size of £190,000!  It’s a hole we need to try and fill and that is where we need your help (again!).

Other options…

The majority of the big charities raise their vast sums of money through supporters donating on a monthly basis. They have tens of thousands of donors, whose small contributions each month add up to a significant regular income that is guaranteed. Guaranteed revenue each month allows stability. It also enables organisations to plan and commit to fulfilling their remit with sustained certainty – add the one time, one-off donations on top of this and suddenly you have a model that enables the broadening and expansion of projects and programmes.

One of our favourite charities is US-based – charity:water. It has an incredible giving programme called ‘The Spring’ which, during the last 10 years has acquired over 35,000 monthly givers. The average donation is $33.00….THIRTY THREE DOLLARS!  Imagine $1,155,000 (£834,525) coming in to our bank account every month. We could fund 41,726…FORTY ONE THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX SchoolBags each month!

Pause…

School in a Bag currently have 23…TWENTY THREE monthly givers…and guess what…? We are on the hunt for more!

Repeat Giving Heroes!

So, could you join our current band of Repeat Giving Heroes – the ‘elite 23’ and contribute on a monthly basis to help? If so, it really doesn’t have to be the equivalent of $33.00 per month (although that would be lovely, wouldn’t it?). Small donations are so welcomed as they really do start to add up. We tend to think of it in terms of ‘what could you sacrifice each month? A cup of coffee? A bottle of wine? A magazine subscription or a treatment?

In the year of our Fifty4Fifty campaign, our target is to try and get a further 50 Repeat Giving Heroes signed up to support us on a monthly basis. Whilst we would be so grateful if you agreed that your contribution could go in to the pot to help start plugging that Home Farm Fest deficit hole, it can of course go towards funding SchoolBags. Either way, you will be helping us carry on our life-changing work of transforming lives through education.

Lastly, as a nation we have all just experienced the challenge of home schooling and being ‘teacher’. Imagine this experience without any learning resources whatsoever: no internet, no technological devices and no paper, pens or pencils. This is the scenario faced by so many of the children and teachers we support around the world through School in a Bag, and that is why our desire to accrue more Repeat Giving Heroes is so desperately needed.

The children at a nursery school in The Gambia shared chalk and little blackboards prior to receiving our SchoolBags.  The SchoolBag contents transformed the way the children could learn and teachers could teach.

You can sign-up here…now…!

To sign-up to become a Repeat Giving Hero, please click here. To let us know how you would like your contribution utilised; for either operational costs or SchoolBags, please email us at: [email protected]. All new Repeat Giving Heroes will be sent a School in a Bag pin badge so that you can proudly show off your support of our work.

And finally, finally, if you do sign-up to support us on a monthly basis and you use social media, don’t be shy of posting about the Hero you have just become – you never know, it may just inspire someone else to follow your lead.

Thank you in anticipation.
Team School in a Bag – Transforming lives through education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 121,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 47 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website:

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

2021-03-30T12:42:50+00:00

No. 57: Having to postpone our music festival…again

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SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 57: Having to postpone our biggest annual fundraiser…again

It’s with heavy hearts we’ve decided that postponing our biggest annual fundraiser, Home Farm Fest, is the most sensible decision with the current situation as it stands. This is the second year we’ve had to do it (we never dreamed we’d have to do it again after last year), but here we are a year later…

We’ve put together a statement with our reasons why we’ve chosen this option. Please have a read:

STATEMENT

Home Farm Fest 15 is postponed again – this time until 2022

When we had to bring the sad news that Home Farm Fest was postponed last year, we never imagined we would be having to do it again this year, but we, the School in a Bag team and Home Farm Fest Committee, have had to make the difficult decision to move it once more, this time to the 10th – 12th June 2022.

This has almost been a harder decision to make, due to the government’s announcement last week of dates being worked towards easing lockdown. Their ultimate goal to allow gatherings is 21st June, which is obviously after our second week of June date that we hold Home Farm Fest, and whilst there is an option of moving the date to later in the summer, there are many reasons why we feel this still isn’t the right solution for us. Here’s our thinking:

  1. We want to put on an event that is safe and does not put people’s health at risk! 

This is our absolute priority and the safety of our punters, performers and volunteers is paramount.  Whilst we all hope that vaccination program continues its rapid rollout and the ‘ R’ number remains low once the restrictions start to be lifted, there is no guarantee we will be COVID free after June 21st and we would hate to be held accountable for running an event that helped spread the virus and increased infection transmissions.

  1. We cannot afford to put on a festival that jeopardises the reputation of the festival or the charity

Naturally, if the above scenario were to happen, it could have lasting damaging consequences not only for the future of Home Farm Fest but also School in a Bag and that is a risk we are not prepared to gamble on.

  1. We cannot afford to plan and invest in a festival that we cannot guarantee will go ahead

Putting on Home Farm Fest is not only a huge commitment of time for our small team and countless volunteers but also a vast investment of money for our charity.  School in a Bag has taken a big hit in lost revenue from cancelled events courtesy of COVID and whilst we have managed to stabilise the charity through our new online platforms, we are not prepared to invest in an event that we cannot guarantee will bring us the expected financial return.

As a festival committee and charity board, we feel it is more important to keep the charity afloat and will therefore concentrate on the processes and platforms we have put in place to help us adjust and hopefully get through the pandemic.

  1. We do not want to put on a festival that compromises the spirit of Home Farm Fest.

Home Farm Fest is a relaxed, family flowing festival with a variety of stages and attractions that allow intimate social interaction and integration.  It’s what we, and those, who attend have grown to love and expect.  Putting on a compromised festival that could have restrictions to the flow, movement and management of people is not something we are prepared to work towards.

  1. We want to give performers, suppliers, traders and volunteers the heads up now

We feel it’s important that we make our decision now, rather than waiting. This will give our musicians and stage teams the opportunity to try and get other gigs, market traders to find other events and ticket holders to make decisions, too. (see later)

  1. Why not move Home Farm Fest to later in the year?

With the level of excitement about the 21st June (be assured, we’re just as excited!), there will be so many events, parties, gigs, gatherings, missed birthday celebrations, weddings etc organised meaning the market will be absolutely saturated. With the UK summer extending to mid-September at best, that doesn’t leave many weekends for everyone to do everything they’re planning. For us to make HFF viable, we need to sell 3,500 tickets and with most people juggling their weekends going to all their social events, we can’t afford to lose out on our regular ticket sales and have fewer people attend.

Home Farm Fest has always been such a huge part of School in a Bag. Last year really shook us when we couldn’t hold it. We love having everyone joining us at our charity HQ; the atmosphere and fun times the weekend brings with it. Whilst not having is for another year is so disappointing, there is a reality that is driving our decision and we feel that if we postpone it once more now, we will be able to come back with a great festival next year – and HFF15 will finally happen!

Events Home Farm Fest

Our plans for 2022

We made a commitment to our performers, sponsors, volunteers, stage teams etc that the postponed Home Farm Fest of 2020 would be replicated this year and therefore we want to honour this commitment in 2022. It is inevitable that over a two-year period some aspects will have changed, and we will adapt accordingly for next year.

So many of you were incredible at rolling over your HFF2020 ticket which at a time of real uncertainty, helped give the charity such peace of mind.  If you have a ticket that you purchased for HFF2020, this will continue to rollover to HFF2022. We would absolutely love your support in keeping your ticket and blocking out the 10th – 12th June 2022 in your diaries for HFF now!

Not only will this feel like a ‘free’ festival by the time it comes around as the money spent purchasing your ticket will be long gone, but also, you’ll have ended up getting them at a cheaper rate as there will be a natural increase in ticket prices for next year (not a huge amount as we don’t believe in hiking prices up dramatically, but there will be an increment).

If however you need to be refunded your HFF15 tickets, please email us and we will of course honour this. The refunding of tickets does have a window and that is until Friday 30th April. We feel this is an appropriate length of time to decide what you would like to do.

As per last year and keeping with the positives, from an agricultural point of view, our local farmers who cut the grass on the festival site unseasonably early will this year again be able to get a much fuller yield for their cattle – making them happy for a second year!

Have we contacted everyone?

Yes. Everyone who’s integral to running HFF, all ticket holders, performers, traders and volunteers have all been notified individually and this post through our social media platforms is to let the wider community know as well.

Has the ticket money already been spent?

No. The ticket money is held in our Eventbrite account (our ticket management platform) meaning that we can reimburse all the ticket holders if necessary. To be completely open and honest, rolling the tickets over gives us such a good and positive head start on ticket sales next year, and means current holders don’t have to worry about buying them.  And of course, not having to reimburse tickets will save us a vast amount of time!! We would never deny someone who wants their money back though, and the reason for only giving a specified time to do so is so that there’s complete segregation between tickets already sold, and us putting the tickets for next year’s festival on sale.

So, what’s the future?

The future is bright! We have some exciting new leads for School in a Bag in place and whilst we are still adjusting to the new platforms that we now use to promote ourselves, our support base is growing well beyond our local catchment area thanks to the online world.

To date, we’ve distributed over 121,000 SchoolBags in 47 countries, and this number continues to grow. One thing that has become absolutely clear from the partners around the world who we work with to implement our projects is this…. the need for SchoolBags now is greater than ever.

Home Farm Fest is such an important part of our overall operation and this is the reason why we have to guarantee it can go ahead and raise the sums of money that it does.  We are disappointed we won’t be seeing you at Home Farm once again this year, but are looking forward already to delivering HFF2022 where you can help us surpass the £500,000 raised since the inception of the festival.

Feedback

Of course, everyone loves good feedback, but if you have any negative feelings towards what we’re doing, or how we’re doing it, please let us know directly by emailing us: [email protected] and we will answer any questions or thoughts you have. Negativity on social media isn’t what anyone wants or needs. As we said, we’re a small team and Home Farm Fest is only a part of what we do and we are dealing with this on-going situation as best we can.

Lastly, we’d like to say an almighty thank you to EVERYONE involved in Home Farm Fest and despite it not having happened for over a year now, we get included in some lovely social media posts from people looking forward to its return. We feel very positive about 2022, we have exciting new plans we can’t wait to share, and after two unplanned fallow years, we will come back so ready to bring you HFF15!

Keep safe and we look forward to being in a field with you in June 2022…
The HFF and SIAB team: Luke and Zoë

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE HOME FARM FEST WEBSITE

Thank you for taking the time to read our statement. As you can see, not an easy decision, but an important one.

We look forward to hosting HFF again next June, but in the meantime need to focus on fundraising in other ways to help make up for the loss from the festival revenue.

Team School in a Bag & Home Farm Fest

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 121,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 46 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website:

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

2021-03-30T15:23:04+00:00

No. 56: Fundraising Challenge – 2021: Fifty 4 Fifty

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‘Blog in a Bag’ No 56: Fundraising Challenge 2021

As we continue to adjust and acclimatise to a virtual world of raising money, 2021 marks a special year for School in a Bag and to commemorate it, we bring you the Fifty4Fifty Challenge!

Why the Fifty4Fifty Challenge?

For those of you new to School in a Bag, the charity was born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set up in memory of Piers who tragically died in the Indian Ocean Tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004.  Born in 1971, Piers would be turning 50 years old on May 28th and to acknowledge his half century milestone, the Fifty4Fifty Challenge invites you to fundraise based around the number 50.

How does it work?

The aim is to create a challenge that is personal and hopefully achievable to you personally or as a group.

You may chose to make number 50 the total of what you set out to conquer – for example, with SchoolBags distributed to children in 46 countries the target for Team School in a Bag is to get in to our 50th country by the end of the year. In addition, Founder and CEO Luke’s challenge is to try and run a 50 miler in the summer and raise enough money to fund 50 SchoolBags in the process.

Another way to tackle your Fifty4Fifty Challenge could be to set yourself 50 repetitions of an activity – you could do it on a weekly basis or do it consecutively over 50 days. Or for those striving to improve will power, how about giving a vice or habit up for 50 minutes, 50 days or 50 minutes each day??

The key is to: 

  • Make it bespoke to you and your abilities
  • Plan a challenge that you can realistically achieve
  • Make sure it’s FUN…(remember it makes up the first three letters in FUNdraising!)
  • Raise money to fund numbered, trackable SchoolBags

And remember, your challenge does not need to be of a physical nature.  You might set yourself a challenge to read 50 pages of a book each day, play an instrument for 50 minutes each week, learn 50 new words or save your 50 pence pieces for a whole year. 

Whilst the target is always to raise money for SchoolBags (imagine if you could fund 50 SchoolBags from your challenge!!), we have often found that challenges that offer some self improvement at the end of the process generate a greater incentive and are more memorable. And for those of you, like Piers, who are turning 50 this year, well, you’ve got an obvious challenge…how about asking for donations instead of presents?

OK, I’m in…how do I sign up?

Click the button below to set up the online fundraising page for your Fifty4Fifty Challenge and follow the instructions below….

CLICK HERE!

Remember to let us know about your Fifty4Fifty Challenge so that we can help promote it too.  Naturally, in this current climate the obvious way to fundraise is digitally but if you do want a paper sponsorship form, please do email us at: [email protected]

Good luck and have fun with your Fifty4Fifty.  Please, please observe and adhere to the current COVID guidelines and restrictions when you tackle your challenge and thank you in advance for helping our continual mission of Transforming Lives Through Education.Team

Team School in a Bag – Transforming lives through education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 121,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 46 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

2021-03-30T15:45:34+00:00

No. 55: End of Year Review – School in a Bag’s 2020

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 55: End of Year Review – 2020

 

In early January, our calendar was already full and 2020 look set to be a great year of fundraising, promotion and operations as we worked to continue our mission of Transforming (more) Lives Through Education.  Our new schools presentations at headteacher conferences widened our network and we had lots of new schools lined up to engage with, we added new corporate connections: Salesforce, South Somerset District Council One Team Showcase and Successful Women in Business to our existing brilliant partnerships with Blake Envelopes and SAP Fieldglass and Home Farm Fest 15 was taking shape with tweaks and new features.  Meanwhile, our governance refresh of shrinking the Piers Simon Appeal down to a small set up in order to make School in a Bag a standalone charity with a Trading Subsidiary bolted on was almost complete.  From an operations point of view, we had projects lined up in many of the existing countries that we support and new potential partnerships on the horizon, whilst the 40’ high top container filled with 1128 SchoolBags, learning resources, over 600 pairs of shoes and school furniture loaded in the yard at HQ bound for The Gambia was on the vessel and due to arrive in the third week of March.

 

Season’s greetings to you all.  2020…what a year hey? A year that most of us will be glad to move on from. And, given the very different year with so many of our events and usual fundraising processes put on hold, you could be entitled to expect a rather shorter review this year! However, for Team School in a Bag, the pandemic has created change and forced change…and this round-up will highlight those that we have implemented and those that we are working on as we adapt to the new conditions to continue our life-changing work for thousands of children around the world.

Salesforce employees packing SchoolBags on the Ohana Floor in the Salesforce Tower.  On the 29th floor, the views of the city were amazing!

South Somerset District Council employees packing SchoolBags at the One Team Showcase Event where SIAB CEO Luke Simon was the keynote speaker.

Hmmm, the third week in March – a week, when the Coronavirus that we had been watching on the news channels for two months finally reached our shores, got a grip on our nation and rather quickly shut it down.  The changing guidelines from those first daily briefings had us penning ideas for variations of how we could work, including a pared down Home Farm Fest until the reality kicked in and inevitably, we were forced to announce that our signature fundraiser, which helps fund us as an organisation could no longer go ahead. Our optimism of using this new time to ‘bring ideas on the backburner to fruition’ lasted all of a week as the realism of home schooling whilst trying to work was simply not feasible.  The plan, make use of the Government Retention Scheme by furloughing the team but keep CEO and Founder Luke on a 50% workload and salary to keep the charity ticking over.  The crash diet of our outgoings and expenditure in mid-March was of paramount importance for sustaining immediate cashflow in the unpredictable times ahead and with three of the team of four furloughed, we were momentarily able to tread water and take stock.
Now…the question was…how does a public facing charity that runs events, interacts with society and visits establishments to promote its work raise funds during a lockdown?  As the real world became accustomed to the virtual, digital world for contact, we quickly promoted the online platforms that we had (read more here) and following an article in Trail magazine outlining a virtual 3 Peaks Challenge on a staircase, Luke felt that the post on social media encouraging the idea needed to backed up with action.
The target: to summit the equivalent height elevation of all three mountains in one attempt to raise money for our partners around the world who were trying to home school in very different conditions to the luxury of our online experience.  Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to make grants of £400.00 available to our partners – to read their stories, please click  here.  Their gratitude was heart-warming, but the overriding feedback was that they needed more.  How do you top the 3 Peaks?  Well, you go to the biggest mountain that you can: Everest…and once again, on May 29th our online community were very generous in supporting the 24hr challenge to summit the 4,023 flights of steps to the roof of the world (well, the mezzanine to the office) to raise more funds.

Quite brilliantly, others were joining the virtual fundraising challenge, championing our cause and by the time the second weekend in June had arrived, mini Home Farm Fest tributes in back gardens were the inspiration for raising funds and keeping School in a Bag in the social media spotlight. Read about them and the Everest Staircase Challenge here.

More often than not, it is hard to step out of the sphere of your work –  it’s inevitable really… you are fully immersed in a daily routine, working to a calendar of yearly events all built in to a model that has grown organically over the last decade and it is difficult to step away and look back at your model with any real clarity or scrutiny.  Strangely enough, COVID has forcibly afforded us this opportunity to stop, process and analyse our organisation where in normal circumstances, we simply would not have had the time or mindset to do it.

As accustomed as we are now to the digital world, we were certainly lacking in this department pre-COVID – our website was out of date, did not convert well onto mobile/tablet platforms and made fundraising rather one dimensional.  In addition, our trusty old database, built on dated software which was a step up from ‘the spreadsheet’ is now struggling with the sheer volume of SchoolBags and information we have on it.  So, it was time to get designing…and with the fantastic and patient guidance from our developers Cetast, we are very proud of the new website which gives a informative overview of our work (backed up with strong images and video clips), a comprehensive donate page offering donors variety in how they support us and a shop (more about this later!).

Check it out for yourselves here.  We are more than excited to now be working with Cetsat once again to build a bespoke database for our SchoolBag beneficiaries and donors which will not only streamline the process of crediting SchoolBags, running reports and analysing data but also provide us better donor integration, something the team has been lacking over the years.  So you’ll be delighted to know that you might be hearing from us on more personal levels in 2021 

The schools reopening in September coincided rather nicely with the easing of regulations in some of our partner countries and we are able to announce that SchoolBag distributions were back.  We are always in awe of our amazing partners around the world who help us realise our mission but our respect for them is overflowing as they have juggled COVID regulations and windows of openings in between lockdowns to coordinate our projects and distribute SchoolBags.  We are delighted that in the latter half of the year, collectively, we have been able to provide SchoolBags to children in:

Nepal:                          316 (105 + 199 + 12)
Tanzania:                     584 (75 + 400 + 109)
The Gambia:               1128
Guinea Bissau:            240 (Country 46)

And we have SchoolBag consignments being packed and In Transit to:

Georgia:                      240 (Country 47)
Ghana:                        400
Lebanon:                     250 (Country 48)
Nepal:                         124
Sierra Leone:               240

Children in Guinea Bissau, West Africa (Country 46) with their SchoolBags – in association with Humanity First

In the Autumn, we announced that COVID time had also made us re-evaluate the contents of our SchoolBags and introduced the exciting inclusion of the LifeStraw to guarantee clean, safe, potable drinking water for our beneficiaries.  The report also stated that our new Hygiene Kits were on the way and we are delighted that the first have been packed in to our SchoolBags ready for shipping to Sierra Leone and Lebanon.  The Hygiene Kit comprising a bar of soap, a flannel, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a washable face mask all housed in a small water-resistant bag is a necessary inclusion as it helps combat the spread of COVID but also promotes good oral hygiene, something that many of the children we support are lacking.
The Hygiene Kit also continues our alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals and adds SDG No. 3: Good Health and Well-Being to the list that we are helping to tackle around the world.  From a business point of view, it also opens up a wider catchment of grant funding now that our SchoolBags are compliant towards tackling COVID.  We are indebted to our corporate patrons Beechfield Brands Limited for providing the bags free of charge and the heroes who are making the wonderful facemasks which are steadily arriving at Home Farm.

November and December are usually big months for us as we dip our toes into the world of retail with a pop-up shop in our home town shopping centre and prepare for the 18hr Big Bag Pack in Tesco, Yeovil and our annual Boxing Day Walk, all events that rely on face to face contact and personal interaction.  Sadly, COVID put stop to these events in their usual format which gave us the chance to run them virtually.

Tesco kindly put static collection displays in store which we customised and added a QR code enabling donors to pay through their smart phones, walkers blew away the Christmas day cobwebs by doing their own walk donating via the website and facebook and our online pop-up shop inviting people to fund SchoolBags for Christmas blew us away with 426 SchoolBags funded up until December 22nd.  In fact, people are still funding SchoolBags now which is simply wonderful.

Despite the year being compromised, December saw us reach the next milestone of having distributed 120,000 SchoolBags since our inception in 2009 and we are grateful to everyone is has helped us get this far.

For the most part, COVID has not been as perilous for School in a Bag as it has for other charities.  To our fortune, we have good reserves from being sensible over the past two years and we have used the time to adapt to the new conditions that we now live with.  One could argue that these were overdue for us and we certainly see some of the new ways of working continuing, even if we do get back to a life of social interaction. However, the inevitability of change coupled with the expectation of an impending recession forced the realisation that some facets within our work would cease to be available.
Uncertainty has been one of the big challenges that COVID has created and with the roles that Charlotte (Finance Operations Officer) and Lis (School Liaison Officer) undertook for the team completely compromised, they both very sensibly put the feelers out for guaranteed work. We are delighted that both found fantastic full-time positions that complement their skills sets in new organisations immediately.  Both Charlotte and Lis were amazing members of the SIAB family who were instrumental in getting the charity to where we are today with 120,460 SchoolBags delivered to children in 46 countries.  We wish them both the very best of luck in their new roles – thank you.

So, four and a half have now become two and a half as we have welcomed Zoë and Louise back to work – for now our roles are rather more merged and we are still working through some of the backlog so please accept apologies and bear with us.  But in essence our time is split between promoting our ethos, fundraising, analysing our output, strategising our future and alignment towards the Sustainable Development Goals and deciding what projects we can realistically fund.  Whilst change has been subjected upon us, I am proud of the advances we have made (and continue to make) in adapting, delighted with the projects that we have completed and implemented in constrained circumstances and excited about what the digital world holds for us as we move tentatively in to 2021.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us during this unprecedented time – we are always grateful but doubly so this year.  It has also been wonderful to see so many new subscribers sign up to receive our news through the website pop-up – welcome to the School in a Bag network. We look forward to a time when we can see you all again in person but for now, we wish you all a healthy and happier New Year.

Yule tide regards,
Luke and Team SIAB

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School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 120,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 46 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

 

2021-03-12T12:39:42+00:00

No. 54: Changing Lives – Adding Filtered Water!

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 54: Transforming Lives Through Education – now with filtered water!  

Our water bottle has a life transforming addition which continues our work to align with the Sustainable Development Goals.

We won’t lie…it is hard to see the positives of this COVID-19 pandemic, but here at School in a Bag, we always keep looking…and one of the pluses this strange period has afforded us is time – time to adapt the usual working procedures that we had grown accustomed to and time to reflect on the core values of a decade’s work.   A decade in which we have transformed the lives of over 119,000 children in 45 countries by providing them with a SchoolBag filled with vital components that enhance their opportunity to learn in the classroom.  In 10 years, the contents of a SchoolBag have barely changed, which, one could argue, is testament to just how necessary all of the carefully chosen items are across all of the cultures within the varying education systems where we have distributed our SchoolBags.  But, our COVID time has enabled us to look and see how we can improve what we provide for children in our little red bags.

The world is changing and yet, in the same token, it isn’t!  What?…I hear you say.  Well, let us explain.  COVID-19 has made us examine the importance of hygiene and now more than ever in our lifetime, the necessity to wash our hands is critically important in minimising the spread of the virus.  We have had to change our mindset and habits and get used to the fact that hand sanitising regularly throughout the day is now normal.  Our COVID period work alongside the brilliant organisations that we are fortunate to partner with has reconfirmed that it is now time to add a hygiene kit to the contents of our SchoolBags and we are currently busy researching suppliers to make this necessary addition.  Keep your eyes peeled for more news on this development in the next few months…

But some things haven’t changed.  2020 still looks like the future when it is written down and yet clean water for many in our world is a luxury they cannot afford!

“785 million people in the world live without clean water.  That’s nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide or ten times the population of the UK. The majority live in isolated rural areas and spend hours every day walking to collect water for their family. Not only does walking for water keep children out of school or take up time that parents could be using to earn money, but the water often carries diseases that can make everyone sick. Access to clean water means education, income and health – especially for women and children.” 
charity: water (including image below).

We know how important the water bottle is within the contents of our SchoolBags and whilst it doesn’t have the educational value of the pencils, pens and paper, the health benefits are vital:

“The water bottle in our SchoolBags are crucial for children staying hydrated, not only during the school hours but also on the lengthy journeys to and from school* that many of our students undertake.  Prior to receiving our SchoolBags, the children in The Gambia would crouch under the school stand pipe and collect water in their mouth before setting off on their walk home in high temperatures. This caused litres of spillage, leaving standing water that became breeding grounds for insects and diseases. The children were shown how to fill up their bottles (which created less waste) and gave the children water for the lengthy walk home!”
School in a Bag website.  You can watch this here.  

(*FYI – the record journey we have encountered thus far is in Tanzania where children walked 13 miles each way to school – that is a marathon a day, just to get an education.  We managed to secure the children push bikes through the charity Wheels4life which trimmed five hours from their daily commute time!)

But on reflection, being able just to collect water in a bottle is not enough.  What if the water is unsafe, parasitic or contaminated?  The result: at best, children will fall poorly and sick and miss time in school…at worst, they could even die.  Our COVID time analysis has made us want to provide children with clean, filtered water so that we eliminate the risk of water borne diseases and illnesses, keep the children in education and provide improved disease-free water for their families.  This desire also helps further our alignment with Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation which states:

By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.

To achieve clean, filtered water in our SchoolBags, we have turned to a product that we are familiar with – cue the LifeStraw.  It is an amazing device which arrived on the scene in 2005 and has been eradicating 99.99% of bacteria, parasites and microplastics in water ever since.  In order to boast such life changing statistics, you might think that the water needed to be boiled or treated but no, you can suck puddle water up through the straw and hey presto, clean, safe potable water comes out the top!  What also makes the LifeStraw an amazing product is that the membrane microfilter that cleanses the water before it enters your mouth will do its job for 4,000 litres – if our beneficiaries consumed one litre a day, the LifeStraw will last them almost 11 years!!

It is a staggering piece of equipment and one which we are delighted to include in our SchoolBags.  To our good fortune, our friends at the Rotary Club of Brynmawr in Wales have been supplying LifeStraws to communities around the world for a number of years and they were very happy to collaborate and provide us with a batch for our next consignment.  240 SchoolBags complete with LifeStraws were packed last week and will make their way out to Georgia in early October for distribution through our partners Humanity First Georgia (HFG).

“To shed some light on the situation in Georgia, there’s been a recent report from UNICEF which says over 50,000 children do not have access to basic educational material, and given that schools have been closed since March and will stay closed until September at the earliest, there’s a large number of children from a country population of 3.8 million who require basic educational material. 

Our aim for all projects has been to target socially vulnerable families. In Georgia the Government scores families to determine their social status. Families with 50,000 points or less are considered socially vulnerable. Humanity First Georgia has been assisting families with 1,000 points, with one family as low as 500 points in the remote areas of the country! In such areas, the water sources are not potable so the LifeStraw will be a necessary item in your bags.”  Mohsin Tahir – HFG

Whilst this different time is certainly proving a big challenge, we are grateful for the self-reflection it has prompted and thankful to our supporters, donors, partners on the ground and suppliers for helping us continue in our mission to tackle education poverty around the world.

We look forward to sharing the images of the Georgian children with their SchoolBags in due course.
Please keep safe and well everyone,

Team School in a Bag – Transforming Lives Through Education (now with filtered water!)

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 119,000 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

 

2021-03-12T12:44:49+00:00

No. 53: SchoolBag Distributions Are Back!

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 53: SchoolBag distributions are back!  

It’s been a while, but we are delighted to bring you news that two consignments of SchoolBags have finally been handed out in Nepal and Tanzania this month following an ease in lockdowns and both have a similar thread to them; this being that the projects were inspired by people who were either touched by the work of School in a Bag or the children they felt a strong desire to help.

Yvonne Pederson – Loveland Rotary Club of Colorado: 90 SchoolBags for Shree Sunkoshi School in Nepal.

‘Hi Luke, this is Yvonne Pederson from the Loveland Rotary Club in Colorado who is visiting the UK on a Rotary Exchange” ….said Frank Spurr, treasurer of the Rotary Club of Yeovil as I was banging in wooden stakes marking out the main avenue on the Home Farm Fest site in 2019.  With dirty hands (and not my smartest attire), we were introduced and shared a brief conversation about the work of School in a Bag in amongst radio messages and the tele handler scooting back and forth.  Yvonne’s exchange trip coincided with our busiest week of the year and fortunately, not put off by my appearance, she was keen to learn more.

“If you could come to the farm at 07.30 on Tuesday morning, I can tell you the what, why, where, when and how we work patter” was our parting exchange.

Sometimes when you meet people you get a sense that they are orchestrators and as I told Yvonne about our work, I could already see that the cogs were ticking.  Yvonne left primed with knowledge, resources and I sensed an appetite to want to spread the word in Colorado to her club members and those neighbouring.  We followed up by sending her our presentation and speaker pack so that she could present to the club more formally and she convinced the clubs’ movers and shakers to support her.  With strong Rotary connections through Sudip Koirala in Nepal, a school was identified, a target of SchoolBags to fund was formalised and a district grant was submitted.  Our brilliant in country partner Jimmy Lama in Nepal was briefed so that when the district grant was approved, and sent to Nepal we were up and running.  A time frame and logistics were falling in to place and Yvonne and some club members were excited at the prospect of heading out to Nepal for the distribution of the SchoolBags they helped fund.

And then, in early 2020 news of a spreading virus from China into Europe started to gain media attention and in a sad telephone conversation with Yvonne at the end of January, she let me know that they would not be heading out to Nepal in March given the country’s proximity to China.

And we know what followed…

However, in late July, the Nepalese government announced that they were easing the lockdown prompting Jimmy and Sudip to spring in to action.  We were all delighted that on August 5th the children at Shree Sunkoshi School received their SchoolBags on a hot, humid day in the middle of the rainy season!  And it wasn’t only the children who were happy:

How wonderful!  I am SO looking forward to pictures I can share with lots of smiling faces… I am so happy it went well and you were able to sneak it in before another city closure.  THANKS SO MUCH JIMMY and SUDIP! – Yvonne

Rod and Sue Burnell – Glastonbury:  75 SchoolBags for Maji Moto Primary School in Tanzania.

“Luke…there’s a couple walking around in the yard asking if this is the home of School in a Bag” said Mum.

“Right, send them on up to the office and we’ll put the kettle on” was my reply and just like that, Rod and Sue Burnell introduced themselves and began to tell us of the amazing time in Tanzania that they had just returned from.

It soon became clear just why they had sought us out.  Their guide had taken them to a small Maasai school that had precious little and both Rod and Sue had come away with a strong desire to help.  Over tea, we hatched out a plan of just how we could realistically bring a project to fruition to fund 75 SchoolBags.  Rod had the school contact and had the bit between his teeth to raise £1500 – all we needed now was Wilhard to come on board.

Willhard Mgobela is our in-country partner in Tanzania.  Based in Iringa, in the south of the country, he has coordinated 19 projects for us since 2013 delivering thousands of our SchoolBags to the children that his organisation IRUDI supports.  He has also procured stock and distributed SchoolBags on our behalf to children in other areas of Tanzania, often embarking on day long road trips to deliver them himself and like a true star, he agreed to help us, Rod and Sue.  Willhard liaised with Ole from the Maji Moto Primary School and the delivery and distribution of 75 SchoolBags was planned for March 20th.

And we know what followed…

‘The President has ordered all schools to reopen on June 29th so we will distribute the SchoolBags in the same week once I have contacted Ole’ read the email from Willhard on June 16th.  Finally, Rod and Sue’s dream to help the Maasai children they had been moved by last November would be realised.  True to his brilliant form, Willhard sent us 75 photographs of the children who received their SchoolBags and the accompanying name lists which we sent to Rod and Sue for their keeps sake.  Rod’s email sums up his happiness:

“Well I’m over the moon with what you’ve achieved. What fantastic news – good old you and Willhard.  There will be a lot of children who will have thought it was Christmas I’m sure, and what a super thing to happen to youngsters who have nothing and are going through these horrendous times.  We will sleep well tonight.”

Willhard’s correspondence informed us:

“Some of the students had moved to other villages with their parents searching for greener pastures for their cattles so there were only less than 50 children at school. The head masters decided to surmon some few Maasai children from a nearby Kisaki school as the donation was meant for Maasai children.

We hereby request for 350 more school bags for 5 Magulilwa ward schools.”

And just like that, we are back – back to distributing SchoolBags with a request to fund more.  How we have missed this!  We know that the likelihood of regionalised and national lockdowns in the UK and around the world are a very realistic proposition – but for now, we are looking forward to the schools returning and getting stuck back in to what we know – fundraising and distributing SchoolBags.  With a global blip in the education of children, the need to fund SchoolBags is now greater than ever.  We also know that our response needs to be digital and that we need to find more Yvonne’s, Rod’s and Sue’s – true heroes who have made a difference to the lives of 165 children in two different continents!

Willhard has requested 350 SchoolBags for 5 schools in Tanzania so this seems like a very good place to start at the beginning of a new September term.  If you can be an Yvonne, Rod or Sue hero and help us help Willhard, please support us here.

We wish all of the returning teachers and children the very best of luck for a smooth restart back to school.

Thank you
Team School in a Bag  – Transforming Lives Through Education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,800 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

 

2021-01-29T12:01:48+00:00

No. 52: We Welcome The New School in a Bag Website…Ta Da!

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 52: We welcome the new School in a Bag website  

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls….we are proud to present to you…(drum roll please)…the new schoolinabag.org website”.

We know that throughout this ghastly COVID pandemic, there have been some positive outcomes and one of these for School in a Bag has certainly been the time it has afforded us to finally get a new website designed and built.  We’ll be honest…an upgrade for our previous website (created in 2012) was long overdue and it has been on our ‘To Do’ list for the last four years to bring the work we do up to date. So much has happened in the past eight years – pulling together the content has been a big concentrated chunk of work which, in our normal working environment, we just were unable to find the time to shut ourselves away and produce it.  So, if you felt we have been a little quiet since the world went in to freeze frame at the end of March, this is the reason… lockdown has provided that productive opportunity and finally, we are delighted that our new, modern, glossy site is now live and available for you to peruse!



The brief we set ourselves was a simple one:

To create a clean, easily navigable site that provides an in-depth view of our work, both historic and current which is user friendly, interactive and interesting whilst enabling the user to donate and track a funded SchoolBag with simplistic ease.

For viewers that want to go through it systematically, the website gives a comprehensive, honest account of the way we work which is backed up with case studies, strong images and video clips, whilst for those that want to jump straight to the section they are after, it should still provide enough information within the text and imagery to give a good overview of our work, be it through our operational activity, partnerships we have fostered or fundraising events and processes we carry out.  Effectively, the ‘Home/Why SchoolBags/Our Work and About Us’ tabs provide the What?, Why?, Where?, How?, When? and Who? information about our work whilst ‘Get Involved/Blog/Shop and Donate’ are calls to action to support us and gain the current news.  We hope you are as pleased with the results as we are.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice a new addition of an e-commerce ‘Shop’.  Naturally, you can fund a SchoolBag through this platform (new supporters within the UK have already funded SchoolBags this way!) and some of our key merchandise items are on sale now…but, you can also expect some new additions in the not too distant future which we are very excited about :).  Keep a look out for these arriving soon!



And, we can now offer our supporters more options with regard to the type of donation they want to make – be it funding SchoolBags or funding us an organisation.  The latter of which has become critical for our survival as we face the prospect of having to raise the £100,000 deficit in lost operational revenue from the postponement of Home Farm Fest and our other ‘In house’ events courtesy of the COVID pandemic. We will go in to more detail regarding our plight to raise this money through our ‘I Donate Monthly, Can You?’ campaign next week and inform you all about our goals and targets to try and achieve this.



But for now, we hope you will take the time to explore the website.  Please let us know what you think and if you are able, please share, share, share it to everyone that you know so that they can see it too.  Perhaps you could encourage them to subscribe to our marketing mailing list on the home page at the same time? 🙂

Our final word is one of thanks – to Hannah Gauntlett, who during her time here at School in a Bag put together the framework for the website and to the patient and brilliant team at CETSAT, who worked tirelessly to realise our vision in to the wonderful website that we present to you today.

Thank you
Team School in a Bag  – Transforming Lives Through Education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,800 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

 

2021-01-29T12:18:58+00:00

No. 51: ‘Everest Staircase Challenge’ & Fundraising Stars

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 51: The Everest Staircase Challenge and the fundraising heroes continuing to support our cause to educate!  

“Thanks for your appreciation and encouragement to help to educate more children in the remote villages and slums. We are thinking and planning to adopt schools at villages and slums to educate as many as children to learn to read and write by your support. We concentrated to reduce the school drop outs and child labor. Our volunteers are teaching well and children are learning for knowledge in different subjects, mainly mathematic techniques and skills and English grammar and speaks in English, also painting, games and puzzles. 

Thanks for your support that you collected and distributed to all the partners. We are very grateful for your good work for sharing fruits for fruitful life and bright future for CHILDREN.”

Namaste, Madhava
Mercy and Grace, Vijaywada, INDIA

This is just one of the many responses of gratitude we have received from the beneficiaries of our staircase challenge funding.  For our partners Mercy and Grace, they have used the opportunity to venture in to the slums to seek out and support more children by providing them with some simple resources to enable their volunteer educators to teach.

However, it was clear following the funds donated from the first staircase challenge summiting the equivalent of the 3 Peaks that our global partners would need more money to assist in their home schooling efforts during the pandemic lockdown.  There was only one thing for it…to go higher and further…

Friday May 29th, 2020…67 years to the day that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first to summit Mount Everest and it was my turn to have a go at climbing 8,848 metres, albeit in slightly different conditions!  My aim…was to complete the Everest Staircase Challenge reaching the same height elevation on the staircase up to the office in the barn by going up and down it 4,023 times – my target…was to achieve it in under 24 hours. Training had gone well but I was anxious about my knees and whether general fatigue would determine that I needed to take a sleep break. After six and a half hours, I knew I would be in uncharted territory but without frost bite, altitude sickness, jet stream winds or depleted oxygen levels to contend with, I really had nothing to worry about. compared to the actual Everest challenge! The first four segments of 610 flights of stairs each (more than four summits of Ben Nevis) were long and tough at almost three hours each, and that final segment just to get to base camp at 5,345m above seal level was easily the hardest. My knees ached at this point so I took a longer break of 45 minutes, elevated my legs, iced my knees and it did the trick.  The ache didn’t worsen, the segments from base camp to the summit were more varied and although my pace slowed, I reached the faux summit at 2.50am on the Saturday morning, 22 hrs and 25 minutes after setting off. Several people called in to the barn to show their support (from a distance of course) which undoubtedly helped ease the monotony and of course, watching donations roll all just made it all entirely worth it.  Huge thanks to everyone who supported the lockdown staircase challenges – the beneficiaries and the team here are so, so grateful.

It felt fitting that a proportion of the funds raised from the Everest Staircase Challenge should support our brilliant partners Helambu Education Livelihood Partnership (HELP) in Nepal.  Since 2012, HELP have put together and distributed over 17,000 SchoolBags to children in hundreds of schools and facilitated three of the school builds co-funded by School in a Bag so they are hugely respected from an educational perspective throughout the Sindhupalchok district.  Please allow Jimmy Lama, the Founder and Executive Director of HELP to explain how our funds have been utilised.

I am pleased to be sending you a quick report and update on how the £400 was spent.

1. We have purchased a Zoom license with two host capacity to conduct a large meeting. It cost us £48 that will last through the end of June. This will allow us to run as many online meetings and training we plan with teachers, Saathi teachers and students over the coming week. Using it, I presented on last week about the impact our work and we have a 5 days teacher training scheduled from Monday onwards. I attach a picture of what I presented last week.

2. We have also created several educational videos that are being premiered. We now have them compiled on YouTube to share it with schools and children beyond just the schools we work and support. Here is the Youtube link showing various educational materials our Saathis have produced.  Your support will enable our Saathis to devote more time to share it widely and create similar videos in the future. We will use about £100 for this work.

3.  I had initially planned to put some of the funds to set up internet at Nakote School to which we did some preparation, however last week the government sealed everything going and coming out of Helambu area, which means we could not send anybody to set up the facility. So, we rolled back our plan and announced to provide basic stationery and colouring books to children who are most deprived in and around Kathmandu. We purchased and got delivered various colourful books, copies and play equipment worth £250. I sent out the notice about the availability of these items through Vibers and my Facebook too. I received far requests more than the items we have to distribute. So, naturally, I had to be selective. For this phase, I have chosen 16 children who are all orphans who live together in the orphanage called “Sahoyogi Samaaj Nepal” or “Helpful society Nepal”. I will attach pictures of what we had distributed but they were mainly copies, colour books, colour pencils, pencils, storybooks and play items. We even got featured by local news for providing this support. Here is the link to the news but it may not be too helpful for you as it was written in Nepali. Here is also a link to youtube that the local newspaper did for us. I then reached out to 10 kids whose family work in a carpet factory but they have lost their jobs. There were then some requests from here and there. A few children have also started sending me the work they have done with the stationery such as colouring on the book we gave – you will see in the attached pictures.

Further donations of £300 per contribution from the Everest Staircase Challenge have also supported our partners:

INDIA: Mercy and Grace
INDIA: Rural Welfare Development Society
GHANA:  Merona Foundation
TANZANIA:  Pamoja Leo

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Aside from staircase climbing challenges, some of our loyal supporters have created online birthday fundraisers to raise funds in lieu of presents. Facebook is an easy platform to create this on and we are eternally grateful for this selfless act which enables us to continue raising funds during the lockdown when so many of our annual events have been postponed. Thank you.

Talking of one event in particular, the second weekend in June felt decidedly quiet here at School in a Bag HQ as the usual furore and amazing music of Home Farm Fest was replaced with only the sounds of birdsong and the rain :(. We celebrated the week-long build up to HFF15 #thefestivalthatdidnthappen with a look back through the archives which you can see on the Home Farm Fest Facebook page. In true supporter spirit, we were delighted to see that some of our loyal festival friends held their own homage to Home Farm Fest in their gardens and rather brilliantly, some of you even turned these in to fundraising events asking for donations instead of the beer money you would have spent! And whilst the village was eerily quiet, HFF committee member and School in a Bag trustee Keith Brownhill hosted Home Pharm Fest, a sister act the the real Mccoy just 250 metres up the road, where he recreated the festival in his garden with pre-recorded and live acts (carried out by himself), all to raise money for the cause and a festival challenge he was willing to undertake!

How lucky we are to have such committed and creative supporters who endorse what we do and help us make a difference to the educational opportunities for underprivileged children around the world. Thank you again.

Keith performing ‘I Want To Break Free’ by Queen’ on the Main Stage at Home Pharm Fest 🙂 !!

I started this blog with a lovely testimonial from our partners Mercy and Grace in India and a request from them feels like a fitting close Blog in Bag 51.

“Hope you are fine and healthy. Children are learning and teachers are looking for guiding the children. Could you please send help?  Could you please collect donation to buy a laptop for the teachers to download latest methods from Google to collect and share useful material in teaching to children?  If possible to donate. Thanks to understanding the need.”

Namaste, Madhava

As I write this from the laptop where I download all of the learning materials for my two daughters so that they can make use of the abundance of online resources provided by their teachers, it appears that our partners have reached the point where they need to access this online provision of learning as it is such a challenge without one. Any further help and contributions towards a laptop would be transformative to the education they can provide which we readily take for granted every day at the moment. If you are able to contribute, please do so here and email [email protected] to let us know about your generosity.

Thank you in anticipation,

Luke Simon
Founder and CEO of School in a Bag

 

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,800 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

2021-01-26T09:10:28+00:00

No. 50: How You’ve Helped Our Partners Home-School

SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 50: How you have helped our partners home-school during the COVID-19 lockdown  

For Blog in a Bag 49, we presented the dilemma facing our International partners during this Coronavirus pandemic…‘How do you home-school during a lockdown in the developing world?’

The short answer is ‘with great difficulty’ – without the abundance of technological gadgets and good wifi connectivity that we are blessed with, our partners are faced with executing the best practices and measures they can to ensure that the children they support maintain some level of learning.  This ranges from creating and delivering printing worksheets and recording lessons for radio broadcasts right through to making calls to parents to advise of learning topics/techniques and producing audio/video lessons that could be made accessible on devices or the internet.

The blog post was coupled with the 3 Peaks Staircase Challenge – a fundraiser that team School in a Bag had promoted as an idea to raise money and help pass the time in lockdown…and then felt compelled to participate in.  On May 2nd, Founder and CEO Luke Simon completed the Challenge in 6hrs and 28 minutes summiting the equivalent height of the highest mountains in Wales (Mount Snowdon), England (Scafel Pike) and Scotland (Ben Nevis) back to back to back, climbing a combined height of 3,508 metres by going up and down the staircase to the office 1,514 times!



The Challenge raised funds for our International partners and their efforts to educate the children they support in lockdown and we were amazed by the generosity of our amazing supporters and donors who helped us raise almost £2,000!  In all, School in a Bag were able to make contributions of £400 to our partners who requested financial assistance.  Here are some of the ways the money was spent:

India
Partner: Mercy and Grace

In Vijayawada, our partners have been able to provide children with stationery and educational resources to enable them to learn as schools are to remain closed until August.  Whilst Mercy and Grace run their own school and invited outside children to visit it and receive their gifts, our contribution has enabled them to seek out children who live in the slums to provide them with basic learning resources as well.

“Hope you saw the pictures of the Children who have got educational materials and learning skills of mathematics.  Underprivileged children are struggling to learn, read and write because they don’t have any resources and teaching during this locking period for 3 months up to August.”

“Today, hot, hot summer temperature in India. Children are feeling uncomfortable by COVID and Hot Summer Season with record temperatures of 44 degrees.”

 “All of these children are very, very poor and needy. The teacher and volunteer working for educating the Children at slum Areas.  First Day is introducing and teaching materials distribution and next day onwards starts teaching in every day.  Children are happy to learn read and write to know new subjects.

We are searching and looking for potential donors and sponsors like you to educate underprivileged and impoverished and Orphan Children from slums and Villages.  The Children are struggling suffering and starving for daily basic needs. We hope that one day we will reach to fulfil the dream and vision to meet basic needs of the Children to make a difference in their lives for a better life and bright future.”

Madhava – Mercy and Grace

Ghana
Partner: Merona FoundationIn Accra, the donation to the Merona Foundation was used to buy three printers for Star International, Saviour Children Foundation and Faithway Christian Academy schools so that they could print out worksheets.“Good afternoon Luke. A thank you message from a beneficiary below.” Cynthia “On behalf of the board of directors of Faithway Baptist Church and Academy, I wish to express our profound gratitude and appreciation to you for the gesture (printer) given to us.
Please kindly forward this piece of appreciation to the Donner for us.
We say thank you and may God bless you.”Rev. Moses
Faithway Baptist Church and Academy

India
Partner: Rural Development Welfare Society

In Visakhapatnam, our partners RDWS sent the following report:

As with the grant provided by SIAB, we had been bought some Story books, charts for drawing and doing art and craft and English Dictionaries to improve the vocabulary in the children and we provided them with a kit of pen, pencils and crayons copy writing books and few note books etc. and also provided with glucose energy drink and biscuits to improve the immunity in their body and mind to concentrate on their regular educational studies and to improve immunity in their body so as to fight against attack of Corona Virus. We also prepared a very good time table for these children to follow during this lockdown to continue their education as without any interruption because we have a good force of volunteers in each and every village to assist them with proper coaching during early morning classes at their home. We had been instructed each and every volunteer to go and visit each child and help him/her in their regular academic studies with personal concentration. Main project activities are as follows:

  • Awareness to all children and their parents and all stake holders in the villages on the care and protection from attack of Corona Virus through maintain of personal hygiene, regular hand wash and through practice of social distance.
  • It is decided to help 342 children from 18 villages through this project by providing them with a Time table to each child and educational materials like, dictionaries, work books, note books, charts and crayons, pencils, pen for doing and art and craft, providing a set of copy writing skills to improve their hand writing skills and story books so to improve their moral and communication skills.
  • We are also providing them with face masks, hand wash soaps, hand sanitizers etc. prevent them from attack of Corona virus. We also providing them with glucose energy drink, biscuits etc. to improve the immunity in their bodies because improvement of immunity is one of the solutions to protect us from the Corona Virus.
  • We are providing training to our village-based volunteers to take up regular classes at the homes of the children doorstep by assisting them in their academic education and also help them in spoken English and mathematics and general science subjects through conducting regular classes for the children at their home by maintaining social distance methods.

“This is about just today program in one village and will continue this project in more and more villages by the end of this month with our village volunteers.

Thanking you so much for your cooperation in this project.”

John Suresh Babu,
National Director-RDWS,

Tanzania
Partner: Pamoja LeoThanks to support from School in a Bag we have purchased MP3 players and speakers with prerecorded lessons by our wonderful education team.We have loaded them up with English, Maths, Songs, fun games and also the comforting voices of Teacher Sarah.Sarah is more than just a teacher to the children or in some ways you can say she is the full meaning of a teacher. She is for many of the children the first adult that showed them they were capable, she was the one that sat with them after their Mum died and taught them to trust the works again, she is the one that explained that it’s ok to cry, she is the one that sat with them while they raged and showed them that they were lovable afterwards.Being away from school for many at risk children is about more than lost learning – many are aching for their special teachers, social workers and care givers.We visit every one or two weeks but now they have their teachers voice with them to help them learn but also provide that little comfort.Georgina Harris Hill – Pamoja Leo

After we had donated the funds from the 3 Peaks Challenge, we received a late request from a partner and we felt they could just not go without.  Therefore, we donated to them and now, once again, we need to raise some more money to recuperate the debt!!…

I think you might know where this is heading!

Not put off by the staircase up to the office, the new plan is up the ante and have a go at another Lockdown Staircase Challenge on a bigger mountain:

EVEREST!
 
So, the fundraising page has been left open and amended, training has commenced since the 3 Peaks Staircase Challenge, Nepalese prayer flags now adorn the walls and bannisters and the Everest Staircase Challenge will take place on Friday May 29th (which coincidentally happens to be the 67th anniversary of the first Everest summit in 1953).  The targets…1. to raise more money to provide ongoing supporting for our partners as the lockdown extends, 2. to complete the challenge and 3. to try and do it in under 24hrs.
 
The statistics:
Height of Everest:  8,848 metres
Flights of Stairs:  4,023 (2.2 metres in elevation gain per flight)
Start time:  04.00 hrs
Estimated finish time:  ??



Our wonderful supporters were incredibly generous for the 3 Peaks warm up event and I am hoping that my efforts can muster some more funds to help the plight of our brilliant partners who are working so hard to keep providing education for their children during this pandemic.  I am also hoping that my knees survive the ordeal!  To make your contribution, please visit the fundraising page.

Thank you to the amazing teachers who have made home-schooling very easy for our children during the lockdown. We wish them an enjoyable half term and the very best of luck for the reopening of schools on June 1st to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children.
 
Thank you for your continued support.  Please stay safe and well.
Luke Simon

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,500 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

 

2021-01-26T09:12:03+00:00