Charity starts on the web

Charities online

If you have a spare minute, you have enough time to use the Net to raise money for charity. All you have to do is pay a fleeting visit to the NSPCC's donate-4-free and click on the site's large button.

The companies that sponsor the site each pay 2p to the NSPCC every time the button is pressed (don't waste time hitting it like a mad woodpecker, though, as you are only credited with one visit a day). At the moment there are only two sponsors, which means each click earns 4p.

That might not sound like much but visit donate-4-free every day - make it your home page and you're less likely to forget - and the NSPCC will be pound;14.60 a year better off. Persuade pupils who have access to the web at home to do likewise and you can all give yourselves a pat on the back for boosting the charity's coffers.

But your pupils may get more from the exercise - if they pay only a fleeting visit to the rest of the NSPCC site or follow the links to sites such as Bullying Online, they'll realise there are groups they can turn to for support if the going ever gets impossibly tough.

Although many charities still fail to appreciate the potential of the web, the best are discovering its potential to raise both money and public awareness of their work. These sites are beautifully designed, regularly updated and packed with information. For example, the RSPB site, www.rspb.co.uk, is a twitcher's paradise, with a database on British birds, superb photographs and webcam broadcasts from various hides across the UK.

Pupils surfing the internet in search of charities they'd like to support are just as likely to be attracted by the less prestigious organisations, such as the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary (www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk) and the charmingly named Hedgehog Preservation Society (www.software-technics.co.ukbhps). Encourage pupils to visit as many of these charity sites as they can. If nothing else it will give them an insight into the untapped potential of the web to make the wide world a better place.

Of course, charities realised long ago that the best way of winning the hearts and minds of children was to get teachers to do the hard work for them and that busy teachers were far more likely to help if they were given relevant resources and ready-made lesson plans. The net offers the perfect medium for distributing this literature as it can deliver instantly without wasting a donated penny on printing and postage.

A case in point is Children Helping Children, the appeal currently being run by The TES with UNICEF, This encourages British pupils to raise money to help rebuild Afghanistan's shattered education system. The TES is championing the campaign not only in its pages but on its website; as well as an A-Z of fundraising ideas, teachers will find photographs, maps, games, a weekly newsletter and ideas for lessons.

The material is refreshingly free from doom and gloom, emphasising instead how even small sums of money can make a big difference to the lives of the 1.7 million children in Afghanistan who are still deprived of basic schooling.

Such dogged optimism is at the heart of Global Citizenship, a cross-curricular approach to educating children about world poverty which the major charities would like taught in every British classroom. For a full curriculum and advice on how to implement it follow the links from the Oxfam website (www.oxfam.com).

No organisation has done more to promote the cause of Global Citizenship than the gang of celebs behind Comic Relief who, through a brash mixture of tomfoolery and tugs at the heartstrings, somehow manage to persuade children that it's cool to care. The educational programme it developed to support its Say Pants to Poverty campaign in 2001 was particularly good. You can still download sample lessons from its website, www.comicrelief.com.

However, by the time you read this the site should be geared up for the Sport Relief extravaganza, which reaches its grand finale on July 13 - a date every teacher should note. If it's anything like Red Nose Day, don't be surprised if your pupils insist that you play five-a-side football in flippers or open the batting in an underwater cricket match.

But if you can't face anything so demanding after a hard year's teaching, simply try to find the energy to click a mouse, visit donate-4-free and put another 4p in the NSPCC's coffers.

Arnold Evans

What's on offer online?

The major charities provide teachers with a wide range of free downloadable classroom resources ideal for cross-curricular work.

Problems There is so much material on so many sites that tracking down what you need can be a nightmare. And don't expect downloadable lesson plans to be topical - not all materials are updated regularly. Finally, be wary of getting so involved in charity work that you spend too little lesson time on fundraising.

Further information

Virtual Futures, a report on how charities are coping with the challenge of the internet, is downloadable from www.virtualpromise.net School Fundraising In England (price pound;9.95) can be ordered at www.fundraising.co.ukbookseducation.html

NGFL list of major charities: www.school-resources.co.ukCharities.asp

Database of British charities: www.charitychoice.co.uk

UNICEFTES appeal: www.tes.co.ukafghanistan

Donate-4-free: www.nspcc.org.ukdonate-4-freedonate-upd.asp

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