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!