A furry adventure in Africa: Fairtrade Fortnight
- Fairtrade Fortnight, 27 February - 11 March
Imagine if 41 per cent of your class were absent from school. In Africa, that is the staggering proportion of children aged 5-14 who are deprived of any education and forced to work, according to a Unicef report released last year.
In the past decade, positive changes have been made to legislation and the growth of fair trade products and cooperatives has given thousands of children around the globe a brighter future. But millions continue to slip through the net, living in squalor on the street without even basic necessities.
It was this fact that inspired Gareth Morris to take a year-long sabbatical from his work as a primary school teacher. In August last year, he set off with a team of four like-minded people to ride the 12,000 miles from London to Cape Town with charity Cycle Africa. The aim of the journey is to raise awareness of the work of a host of charities to help street children, and to raise funds to support their work.
What nobody expected was that two soft toys like us, Dino and Lion, would become celebrities. Plucked from obscurity out of Gareth's living room in south London and expected to be little more than mascots, we became inimitable ice-breakers with the street children and incredibly popular with British pupils back home. That's how we ended up with our own blog, updated every Friday, where we write a profile of each country we visit.
The blog is a way to share with younger pupils the experiences of the street children and charity workers we meet, the food we eat, the buildings we see and the languages we hear. And, of course, there are photos of us on our international travels.
While the team works with a number of charities - including Street Action, Retrak, Street Child Africa and Railway Children - to raise awareness of their long-term projects and change the way that many local people think, it is us, a dinosaur and a lion, that the street children are so keen to meet. Many of these young people have never experienced the care or protection of a responsible adult. In fact, they have never really had childhoods. Many had never even seen a soft toy. They always smile and want to hold us, and they can't believe how soft we are.
We are aiming to raise pound;100,000 and, so far, sponsors, friends and family have donated pound;24,000. But we want schools to get involved to help us raise the rest. The charity Retrak (www.retrak.org.uk) has a lesson plan to help teach Year 5 and 6 pupils about the issues affecting street children - Retrak calls them "the forgotten children of the world".
Since leaving London in August, we have cycled through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Romania. We have also travelled through Bulgaria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, and are currently in Ethiopia visiting a street project. Here, an estimated 150,000 children are classed as "street children". Many have been dumped because of poverty; others have ended up on the street due to family strife or being orphaned; some have run away to escape abuse.
We met children who were begging for money to pay for school fees, a uniform or school equipment. We met children who had been abused or violated, regarded as barely human and cast out on to the very fringe of society. We met children who begged or scavenged through rubbish to find food. And we met girls who had disguised themselves as boys to reduce the level of abuse they sustained. Some children even had no names. Often, the general public and public services fail to recognise them as "children".
"We are not trouble makers, just ordinary kids, but we are despised because we are on the street and this takes away our joy," said Amaretto, 14, in Ethiopia.
"Women throw food at me as if I am a dog," Godwin, 10, in Uganda told us.
The local charities work in four main ways: engagement programmes such as surfing, football, art, drama or music; therapeutic social-work programmes; referral to youth care centres where children can be offered an alternative to street life; and aftercare, following up work with a former street child.
When we arrive in Durban, South Africa, we will visit a surfing project, Umthombo Street Children, supported by Street Action, which offers children an alternative to street life. But it's not all work: we're looking forward to surfing with the children, although we are a little concerned about getting our fur wet. It's a completely different life, and far less sedentary, than we ever imagined we would have.
We're delighted that so many people are following our blog and that so many schools are using it in their classrooms to help children learn. Some classes are following us in geography; others in PSHE. Our story is also used in literacy topic work.
Lion is quite shy, so I do most of the talking and am happy to answer children's questions via email or Skype about our journey, street children and the countries we visit. We are not due to finish our travels until August - not bad for two soft toys from south London.
Wherever you see the number icon on these pages, visit www.tes.co.ukresources022. Our resources bank is the largest collection of free teaching resources in the world. If you have resources you would like to share with fellow teachers, visit www.tes.co.ukresources. You can get in touch with the TES Resources team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Key stage 1: fair trade trivia
What do your pupils know about fair trade? Test them with a quiz from CAFOD.
Key stage 2: puzzling pieces
Students can grasp the bigger picture of fair trade piece by piece with this jigsaw puzzle.
Key stage 3: fair trade cookbook
Cook up some fair trade treats with a class cookbook from Traidcraft.
Key stage 4: fair chocolate tasting
For a chocolate-filled assembly highlighting the themes of fair trade, try a script and PowerPoint from Truetube.
In the forums
Share your ideas for Fairtrade Fortnight.
For all links and resources visit www.tes.co.ukresources022
For more information visit our blog at http:dinoandlion. wordpress.com or find us on Twitter @dinoandlion
We are proud to be part of the Cycle Africa team. Visit www.cycleafrica.org or Twitter @cycleafrica
Please email your questions to email@example.com
Photographs by Craig Pollardwww.cycleafrica.org.