A few weeks ago I had the privilege of accompanying Comic Relief to India to see how the money we raise for the charity is spent. Since our partnership began in 1999, Sainsbury’s has raised over £100m for Comic Relief, and whilst I’ve been looking after our fundraising efforts for the last three years, seeing the projects they fund for the first time and meeting some of the people we have helped was an eye-opening experience. It made me feel even more proud of our colleagues and customers for raising so much money every year.
The projects we went to see were all focussed on helping vulnerable children. The first of these was Magic Bus, which runs a mentoring and sports-based development programme for thousands of disadvantaged children across New Delhi. Magic Bus helps children to socialise and get fit, while also teaching them new skills and building their confidence and aspirations. As well as taking part in a sport session (on a piece of land that had been transformed by Magic Bus from a rubbish dump to a playing field), I also met children who were learning about health issues, education and gender equality, which helps them to be aware of wider social concerns and make positive choices.
The second project we visited was Butterflies, which helps vulnerable street and working children across India. It runs a series of highly successful programmes that include informal education, health care, vocational training and enterprise. The team also lobby the government to improve child protection policies. We saw just a handful of the initiatives they run (including a catering college and an outdoor mobile classroom), however the project that had the most impact on me was a bank run by the children themselves, giving homeless kids access to a facility allowing them to save money, and take out loans to set up or grow their own businesses.
Next we saw some of the work done by Katha Schools, which seeks to foster a love for reading among children. Comic Relief is funding their ‘I Love Reading’ project that helps provide thousands of storybooks for kids living in Delhi’s poorest slums, whilst also providing mentors to help the children improve their reading and literacy skills. While looking through some of the books, I was heartened to see a book made by the children themselves called “Super Girls”, in which the children were writing about female role models such as Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to go into space.
Finally, we visited a project that was dedicated to giving young girls a safe environment to play outside and learn about sexual health. Sadly, disadvantaged girls often face an even harsher existence than boys, with many being forced into prostitution, becoming hidden and even harder to reach and help. However, thanks to the funding provided by Comic Relief, we witnessed girls sitting outside playing netball together, learning about HIV and socialising in a safe environment.
Of course, these projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work Comic Relief is doing in order to help some of the poorest communities around the world. All the same, it was wonderful to see, and a great affirmation of the generosity our colleagues and customers show for the charity every year.
Thank you to everyone who’s shown their support for Comic Relief over the previous years, and we look forward to raising money with you again for Red Nose Day 2017!
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