Hannah Newton talks to some of the people who are moved to do more than drop a few coins in a charity collection tin, helping to change the lives of people in different parts of the world
When you buy a souvenir from a street-kid while on an exotic holiday do you wonder why that child is on the street and not in school? Do you wish you had the courage to shake things up and make a difference to that one child? What would make you do that? Faced with the cruel reality of our divided world, after all, what can we possibly do to change it?
Meet some people who decided to stand up and make a difference . . .
ONE TO ONE SUPPORT
Lyson Zulu was just 17 when Nicky Lewis, a Bath mum of twins, met him. He was giving a life skills session to street kids in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, using sport as a vehicle, with a particular emphasis on HIV and AIDs. At the end of the workshop he gave each child a slice of bread.
Nicky says of that encounter: “I remember being in absolute awe of him, bearing in mind I have watched literally thousands of sports coaches at work over the years. He blew me away and the kids were captivated. He was the most amazing role model – and he was only 17.”
Nicky was in Zambia as part of a delegate of British universities who specialise in sports. At the time, she was working for the University of Bath and had taken some students out as part of a collaboration between British universities and Zambian sports organisations.
Lyson was living in the capital city with his aunt and uncle – his mother had died of TB when he was ten and his father had left shortly after.
“I thought Lyson was extraordinary, totally inspirational, his charisma, his beaming smile, his empathy and kindness for the children, his maturity at that age. He was incredible.”
The next day Nicky rang her husband Iestyn and told him about Lyson: “I said, ‘We have to support this young man’.” Iestyn agreed and the following year Lyson, after months of hard work, was awarded a football scholarship at the University of Bath. Nicky and Iestyn went on to support him, paying his living expenses and becoming his legal guardians in the UK. Lyson graduated from Bath with a foundation degree in sports performance and was then offered a place at Loughborough University. He completed his degree a BSC in sport and exercise science in 2010.
Lyson Zulu from Zambia making friends on a visit to Swainswick School
Today, he has risen to be head of football at the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Zambia. He says: “I hope to be an inspiration to many other young people in Zambia and in the world. If you stay focused, determined and work hard, anything is possible.”
He adds: “I was lucky enough to have met Nicky and Iestyn. I owe them everything that I am now. They made my dream a reality and I cannot thank them enough. I am lucky to have people I can call family in the UK, their twins Deia and Siena are gorgeous and are like my sisters. Through the friendship I have travelled with Nicky on her work assignments and have had the chance to learn from some of the best in the game (football) at Chelsea, Reading and Southampton.”
Nicky and Iestyn continue to offer support to Lyson. Nicky, who works as a professional skills mentor for the Premier League, shares football mentoring ideas and information with him.
“I tease him and tell him he’ll be Minister for Sport someday! But the truth is, on this journey, he has taught me so much as well.”
While on the trip of a lifetime to Tibet and Nepal, Colerne-based Lisa Whitehouse-Foskett visited a Buddhist monastery. With each step to the sacred site she passed beggars of all ages: “Finally, I saw a young boy of While on the trip of a lifetime to Tibet and Nepal, Colerne-based Lisa Whitehouse-Foskett visited a Buddhist monastery. With each step to the sacred site she passed beggars of all ages: “Finally, I saw a young boy of about five, his baby sister by his side,” she recalls.
“He was wearing traditional clothing, had wind burnt cheeks, and was rocking back and forth, his begging bowl at his feet, sobbing. It was at that moment I said: ‘That’s it, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to do something’. One of my fellow travellers said: ‘Don’t let it get to you, they do it on purpose.’ I replied: ‘I don’t care, a child of that age should not know or be experiencing that kind of heartache and pain’.”
Lisa returned to the UK and in 2005 set up CFENC, the Charitable Foundation for the Education of Nepalese Children. Having never run before, but needing funds to get the ball rolling, Lisa applied for a place in the New York Marathon and went on to raise £2,500.
Lisa has never looked back. The work of the charity is two-fold: building and re-building schools in remote mountainous areas, using local labour and materials, suppling furniture, uniforms, stationery, sports equipment, toys and books. Secondly, through financial donations from individuals and groups, children are sponsored to attend school. The charity supports 30 children at eight schools – but continues to look for new donors and sponsors.
In 2015, giant earthquakes struck Nepal, abruptly halting construction on the charity’s work in the region. An appeal for funds raised a staggering £25,000 in just four-weeks. The west country charity sent emergency aid to 20 mountain villages and tents to families, teachers and medics who had lost their homes. This paid for a water filtration system at a school in Katmandu and water and sanitary aid to refugee camps.
Now Lisa’s team are just about to re-commence work on the construction that was stopped due to the earthquakes. Lisa says: “Once I set my mind to do something, I don’t give up, I won’t and don’t let people down. Our two eldest students are pursuing their dreams; Sangita has begun nurse training and Karma is about to start his pre-medical studies to become a doctor. Neither of them could have achieved this without CFENC and their sponsors’ support. We are now seeing the fruits of our hard work and the aspirations of my personal dream.”
FRIENDSHIP AND SUPPORT
Meanwhile, in Upper Swainswick, six young men – friends since childhood – aged between 16 and18 recently embarked, for the second time, on a big adventure. Having found and got involved with the British charity, The Friends of St Michael, the boys set about raising money to support the rural Ugandan school this charity helps.
Tobias Leigh-Wood: “On our first visit to the school, we felt a real connection with the small group of boys through sport. We decided we wanted to build a new dorm for them, because they had an old, small, damp and dark building, there were not enough beds, the boys got bitten by rats at night and when it rained, it flooded.”
The six teenagers from the UK who took their labour and laptops to a school in Uganda
On their first visit they raised £800 for sports equipment and took out used laptops. The second time they went out, earlier this year, they had raised £8,000 to build a new dormitory. The British teenagers also took out 20 laptops and set up a wifi connection. They spent five weeks painting, decorating the dorm and leading sports sessions.
“We have given the boys somewhere safe to sleep and mosquito nets – but I think we could do more,” Tobias adds. This group of friends are currently studying for A-Levels and considering university next year, but they hope to support a new group of youngsters who may choose to give hope in rural Uganda just as they have.
WORKING WITH ORPHANS
In 1989, while her children were young, Bathford mum, Naomi Brown, was devastated to see graphic pictures of neglected children, suffering in harrowing conditions, in the over-crowded, state run Romanian orphanages on the news.
Desperate to help, but busy as a young mum, Naomi never forgot those shocking images. In 2010 when her own children were grown up, she decided to act. She discovered The Life Foundation, a small charity that supports its volunteers to visit and give practical help.
This is hands-on care for the children. Naomi said:“I wanted to be able to visit, get to know the children both in the community and the children and adults in institutions, while raising money in the UK. It’s been wonderful to visit each year and see the difference the work of the charity makes to the children.”
Bath-based charity Send a Cow was established in the late 1980s when EU milk quotas forced milk farmers to slaughter healthy cows. Dairy farmer David Bragg, responded to an appeal from Uganda for milk. He says: “I realised one cow made a huge difference to a Ugandan family, while I could milk 200 cows and it wasn’t making an impact.”
So David, along with several other farmers set up the charity. Dairy cows were flown out to Ugandan families who benefited from their milk and ultimately their calves.
David says: “The initial aim was to provide milk to the malnourished, but it became clear that the manure was equally beneficial: it improved land and increased crops. Then followed our discovery that, by improving skills, both farmers’ confidence and community relations were improved.”
These three elements: livestock, sustainable organic agriculture and social development – make up the training programme of the charity. David adds: “It is only by providing all three that the roots of poverty can truly be addressed.”
Dairy farmer Katie, with Kisakye, provided with help from Send A Cow
Twenty-five years ago the charity was literally flying cows out to Uganda, today they work in seven African countries, developing existing livestock and rolling out the project to more families.
So if you have ever thought about raising your head above the parapet but were unsure, take this advice from Lisa: “Once people are relying on you, you absolutely cannot let them down. It is real, a huge responsibility. It becomes part of your life. When real lives are affected by your aspirations and decisions, it’s not a game, but a wonderful feeling when you see that you have helped those who otherwise, for whatever reason, would not have been given such a chance in life.”
And as Oscar Wilde once said: “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention”.