Kids for Kids

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Kids for Kids is a British charity (not for profit) that was created in 2001 before the conflict erupted, to help children struggling to survive in remote villages in Darfur, Sudan. It is still the only charity created specifically to help the forgotten children of Darfur. It was listed in the top three UK charities for the International Development Charity of the Year at the UK Charity Awards.[1]

The charity was founded by Patricia Parker MBE to help children who are facing lives of inconceivable hardship in remote villages of Darfur. Kids for Kids provides long term self sustainable projects, identified by the communities themselves—and, uniquely, run by them. Projects are designed to prevent small problems from becoming disasters. "Hospitals can be many miles away, and the few rural hospitals have virtually no equipment" said Parker. "Women go to hospital in labour, on the back of a donkey. Surely we could do better than that?"

The original inspiration for the charity which has transformed the lives of over 300,000 people through simple, commonsense interventions, was a chance meeting with a nine-year-old child who was struggling across the desert in the immense heat of Darfur, to fetch water for his brothers and sisters. It was a walk that took him seven hours, and then he faced the long walk back. His water also kept three little goats alive—their milk was the children's only source of protein, minerals and vitamins. Parker realised the symbiotic relationship between water and goats and determined to do something to help. "Aid agencies were in Darfur in 2001, and since then emergency aid has poured in to the region, but there is little, if any lasting benefit for families struggling to survive out of sight of the world" she said. "My idea was that I would ask ordinary people like me, to help, one goat at a time! If governments and INGOs couldn't do it—we would!"

Kids for Kids supports grass roots projects that communities identify as the most effective way of enabling them to help themselves. "We don't believe in charity" said Parker "our aim is to empower women to take charge of their own lives, long term". First priority is water and for the first time in a long while the Water Environment and Sanitation Department in North Darfur is in a position to drill as many hand pumps as Kids for Kids has money for. "A hand pump can be named after a donor" says Parker. Many Kids for Kids pumps are treasured as a living memorial for someone who has died, or to celebrate something special. In some areas, where hand pumps prove that there is plentiful water, they can be converted to submersible solar powered pumps which will help many people. This year one of the villages Kids for Kids is adopting is Kulkul, the village rebels took Parker and her son Alastair to when they were capture in 2005. Parker is hoping to be able to provide the first Kids for Kids' Solar Powered pump if they can raise the £20,000 ($30,358) Other Projects include the training of midwives—there is no health care in villages so that when there is obstructed labour, a common complication in a region where FGM (female genital mutilation) is widespread, means that rope delivery is the only form of help—first aid workers who treat simple wounds, teach hygiene and even build latrines—provide veterinary care, train in farming techniques and water harvesting, provide donkeys—the only transport in a region where there are no roads—donkey ploughs, carts and water carts, farm tools and seeds, blankets, mosquito nets and other household essentials—and, most importantly, the provision and repair of hand pumps. Long term improvement of the environment, the planting of trees, is another priority, and forms another source of income for families. An extensive tree planting campaign has been funded since 2006, with a Demonstration Garden in the main Tree Nursery in El Fasher, where trees planted back in 2006 are now tall enough to give shade and where people come to picnic at weekends. Kids for Kids has also funded a new Midwives Training School in El Fasher where they fund the training of 40 village midwives each year. But the Key project is a Goat Loan. The poorest 15 percent of families in each Kids for Kids village is lent six goats to provide milk immediately for the children and to enable mothers to have a livelihood as the little flock multiplies. At the end of two years six goats are passed on to another poor family, and so on. Eventually the whole community benefits from this simple, life changing, loan. It has been called the best Microfinance project ever. To ensure that the projects are sustainable and there is clear accountability, the management of the projects is carried out by village committees which are trained in book keeping—but, most importantly, they are accountable to their own communities. This has ensured that the projects have survived even during the worst periods of violence.

Today in Darfur there are 70 Kids for Kids villages where children are facing a better future. Communities are also asking for a Kindergarten in every village. Indirect benefits such as tomatoes and okra now flourish where once there was nothing but sand. Families from the camps are asking to settle in Kids for Kids villages and there is now a Welcome Home Package which provides the basics to help a family to settle permanently, because they come with nothing, links them to a resident family, and includes them in the Kids for Kids Animal Loan Committee. This embedding of a family has resulted even in members of different tribes being welcomed into communities and the project has been recognised as a unique and valuable exercise in conflict resolution at grass roots level. Kids for Kids is planning to adopt seven communities in 2015, subject to funding. "This would help us transform the lives of 13,700 people" said Parker "I wish we could help more."

In 2013, in response to the appeal of hundreds of women in Darfur, Kids for Kids opened its first Kindergarten at Abu Nahla. This is one of the first brick buildings in the village and includes latrines, a veranda (shade and an extra classroom) a water tank and fruit trees. Kids for Kids worked closely with the State Ministry of Education which is funding the teacher. The school is fully equipped including toys both for indoor and outdoor use. The Director of the State Ministry of Education said that it is the first school of its kind in Darfur. Kids for Kids is constructing three more schools now at Abu Digeise (supported by Joanna Lumley OBE) Azagarfa (supported by City of London School) and Um Ga'al. The latter is the village where the little nine-year-old lived whose Walk for Water inspired Patricia Parker to found the charity. Kids for Kids is asking for support for more schools this year.

Kids for Kids has been mentioned with approval in debates in the House of Lords[2] and notable supporters include Ruth Rendell, Eamonn Holmes, Alastair Stewart and Javier Solana who donated half his Carnegie-Wateler Peace Prize money to them in 2007.[3]

Various communities have said that the Kids for Kids simple integrated projects—the loan of goats and donkeys, training of midwives and para-vets and much more—are enabling them to stay in their homes.[4]

In February 2005 Patricia Parker and her son were abducted by rebels in Darfur but subsequently released unharmed.[5] At one point during the abduction the leader of the rebels shouted: ‘Don’t you understand that I could have you killed at any moment?’ but Parker kept smiling and I said: ‘Of course I do—but I also know about Sudanese hospitality and I know that I am perfectly safe’. They were released the following morning.[6]

They have been covered in the Daily Mail[7] and the Mail & Guardian (Zimbabwe).[8]

Kids for Kids works directly with villagers—with the help of one of the most respected veterinary doctors in Darfur—Dr Salim Ahmed Salim. Dr Salim has been appointed Kids for Kids Programme Manager and, with Project Manager Hassan Mihisi works on projects which include hand pumps, first aid workers, midwives and blankets and mosquito nets as well as tree projects and the new Kindergarten Projects which commenced with the first in Abu Nahla, a remote village northeast of the regional capital, El Fasher.

Chairman Patricia Parker MBE said “When I was in Darfur recently I was shocked to find not one foreign aid worker. Because of the fear of kidnap—which is all too real it seems—no one is going to the region and it has become a forgotten country. People flocked to a workshop in El Fasher which was hosted by Osman Kibir, the Wali of North Darfur, to tell us of the struggle they are facing not just because of the indirect affects of violence, but soaring inflation has resulted in a total inability to feed their children properly. In one village alone 50 children died last summer from malnutrition or related problems. Even the death of one child is a tragedy and there is serious risk for many children. Visible signs of malnutrition are everywhere. Thankfully our goats and donkeys and all our other initiatives are helping in our villages—but there is urgent need to help more children now, before it is too late. I have photographs of children whose hair has turned preternaturally blonde because of lack of protein. If that is the outward sign, what about bones, teeth and even brain cells? Kids for Kids needs help now if we are to help children before it is too late."

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