Why it's better to give than receive

Harvey McGavin on the launch of the Giving Nation campaign

Charity might begin at home, but a new campaign aimed at getting it started in schools is now under way. Giving Nation is designed to combine the fundraising efforts already going on in many schools with the demands of the new citizenship curriculum. The G-Nation resources - stylishly designed for a secondary school audience - include a pack with lesson plans, teacher's notes, activities and projects plus a website with games and chat for pupils and more resources for teachers. And the benefits, the campaign insists, aren't just for those on the receiving end - getting involved in charity fundraising can be good fun and a great learning experience too.

Three-quarters of 11 to 16-year-olds and 89 per cent of schools currently raise money for charity, according to research conducted last year by the Giving Campaign - a government and charity-funded body charged with championing good causes, which also produced the new resources. "Young people already give fairly generously," says Carolyn Holcroft, the campaign's manager for schools. "What the pack does is help schools take what they are already doing in their work for charities and get more educational benefit from it."

The survey seems to endorse the popularity of such a campaign - 57 per cent of pupils would like to do more for charity and 78 per cent said they feel good when they give. And teachers are already convinced of the educational benefits. Eighty-two per cent of them said fundraising was a popular activity at school, two-thirds thought it would improve their school ethos, and nearly a half saw it as helping schools meet their curriculum targets.

The G-Nation materials are not simply cheerleaders for charities - you can discuss the pros and cons of the charity business, such as the fact that around 80 per cent of donations actually reach good causes after administration and fundraising costs. "We want to encourage debate and get young people to think about the issues a lot more, like why charities exist, why government doesn't fund these particular services, and how they distribute the money," says Carolyn.

There are surprising facts and figures to fuel classroom debate. Did you know that there are 180,000 charities in the UK; medical research charities receive most support, followed by children's charities; Help The Aged has 700 staff and 255,000 volunteers? The urge to help others can be a strong motivator, especially when children see the powerful difference they can make. Stickers and posters put the possibilities in stark contrast, comparing the costs of industrialised life with what the same money would buy in the developing world (Latest Mobile or Clear a Landmine? Clubbing with your Mates or Immunise a Village?).

Spurred on by such statistics, pupils may be keen to get involved; the website and resource pack have plenty of practical guidance on how to set up and run a campaign. Pupils are given 50 ideas on how to raise money and advice on how to gather support and sponsors, and there are pro forma press releases and checklists. G-Nation is hoping schools will celebrate their fundraising exploits in G-Week in June, seven days of "action, reflection and recognition" and hopes to have 1,500 schools involved. With just that number of resource packs already sent out to schools it has found plenty of takers - and givers - prepared to live up to its slogan "get ready to change your world".


CASE STUDY - Atiq Uddin

Atiq Uddin knows more than most about the problems facing people living in Afghanistan - members of his family live in the battle scarred cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad.

When the Taliban fell, Atiq was beginning his second year of teaching history, geography and ICT at Tupton Hall Chesterfield. As the plight of ordinary Afghans became known in the West he was determined to do something to help them and to get his pupils involved too.

He heard about The TES UNICEF campaign, Children Helping Children, and organised a non-uniform day at the 1,800-pupil Derbyshire school. Along with a sizeable donation from Atiq's own salary, pound;2,300 was raised - more than any other school. The appeal has so far raised pound;222,452 to rebuild and re-equip schools in Afghanistan.

Atiq arranged for UNICEF's regional organiser to come into the school and show pupils the slates and books their money would buy. "A lot of people hand out money and don't see the end product so it's good to show students what they actually bought," he says.

"They were quite moved by what they achieved. More than anything it broke down barriers and misconceptions about Afghanistan. There were some people who thought we were giving money to what remained of the Taliban. A lot of them were changed for the better."

One of the best things, says Atiq, was "seeing some mouths drop open when they were told just how what they were giving was affecting the lives of hundreds of children. A lot of them don't get the opportunity to affect other people's lives so much and in such a positive way."

The school is sponsoring a child in India through his education and Atiq is organising another event to raise funds and, just as importantly, awareness of landmines in Cambodia. The knock-on effects of involvement in the appeal will, he hopes, last a lifetime.

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