We talked to founder Jane Anthony about the charity, working abroad, and fundraising, ahead of their Radio 4 appeal.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have 15 years of experience working with disabled children. While initially working in the USA as a special, and later inclusive, education teacher, I developed an expertise in autism and learning/intellectual impairments. Over time I developed a commitment to wanting to have a greater impact on the lives of the most disadvantaged disabled children and eventually travelled to Africa to support children with autism in Ghana.
Initially planned for 3 months, I lived in Ghana working on and researching childhood disability for nearly 3 years! I then came to the UK in 2006 to undertake a PhD, which explored the social and logistical barriers to accessing primary education for children with disabilities in Africa. As well as being the Executive Director of AbleChildAfrica, I am a Co-Vice Chair on the Board for Action on Disability and Development International (ADD). I fill any spare time I can find with outdoor pursuits and as much travel as possible.
Tell us about Able Child Africa and how the charity started.
A small team, we have enjoyed an incredible history since 1984, when we began supporting children injured by the Ugandan Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s. 30 years on, and as AbleChildAfrica, we have extensive experience and remain the only UK charity exclusively working for and with disabled children in Africa.
Our philosophy is simple: we support local, African-led organisations who share our passion and determination to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children, help them with skills, expertise and resources that they might not have access to, and strive to ensure that they are sustainable. In turn, these very organisations can maximise the impact they have on disabled children and their families.
How long have you been at Workspace and what’s it like being settled at Southbank?
We have been at Workspace for ten years, moving offices as we have grown! Being in such a well-connected charity hub area means we can frequently meet and network with like-minded individuals, and lobby to and with those connected to the nearby Palace of Westminster.
Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
Seeing the impact our work has made on the ground is phenomenal, and we are proud that 92% of our total expenditure is spent on charitable activities. This offers excellent value for money to each of our donors.
How are you funded?
AbleChildAfrica is a UK registered charity and our work in Africa would not be possible without the support offered to us by a range of funders. We rely heavily on income from individuals, through our annual Gala Dinner and through running events and challenges. We also receive support from organisations, including companies, charitable trusts and foundations, and other grant-making bodies.
Where do you see AbleChildAfrica in a year's time? In three years’ time?
We strive to go beyond our current successes and expand the ways in which we work to have an even larger impact on the fulfilment of rights for disabled children in Africa. Our ambitions are big. In one year, we will have grown our team and income to build more partnerships with further African-led organisations. And in 3-years we will be a well-recognised name and expert in the field of childhood disability, continuing to seek change in policy, legislations and practice affecting disabled children at national, regional and international levels.
What are the most important trends in raising awareness and fundraising? Any good advice?
Raising awareness and fundraising are both vital in the process of challenging attitudes and beliefs, and can result in remarkable improvements in the lives of the most vulnerable. Technology is definitely the huge trend that nobody can afford to miss. Charities are offered multiple software management platforms and communication channels. It’s incredible how we can listen to and inform those who donate, and those in other countries interested in our work. The latest gadget we heard about in the office was a snooze button app designed to donate money to charity each time you select to oversleep – you snooze you lose… or give!
What are the main challenges of doing work overseas. How do you overcome them?
Working from London with no direct staff in the field can be a challenge in terms of logistics and distance. This is also a choice, as our partners are selected to be leaders in providing local solutions. It is also central to our vision for African-led development for the continent.
What can other businesses based at Workspace do to support AbleChildAfrica?
Donations are crucial to support work with a real impact, and each contribution from our Workspace family and from you. will allow us to continue to make incredible changes for the largest minority group in the world.
We are also keen to work towards meaningful charity partnerships, or supporting the more brave offices in getting involved in some of the toughest challenges in the UK and Africa – including the SAS-style Tough Mudder or a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. We also welcome contributions such as through payroll giving and in-kind support, and are happy for new people to approach us and bounce off ideas.
What are the most important things for you in an office space? What's your office luxury?
Our small team sacrificed our need for luxuries when we chose our career paths! But if push came to shove, we would hold on to our coffee maker.
Find out more about the charity here