I’ve done this before a few times… I know it’s called Amy’s blog but Amy (me) is in freezing London right now finishing off some vital fundraisng and, though Coldplay donating us three framed platinum discs (two sold for over £700!) and Oliver Thornton auctioning the Priscilla Queen of The Desert script (which sold for £1500!) is raising us lots of money… I can only be in one place at one time, so thank goodness for my amazing volunteers who are working hard buying shoes for children as soon as we are selling the celebrity variety over here in Blighty.
So this blog is about Paula Harper, a brilliant volunteer, who started working for the project as a celebrity shoe hunter, she managed to procure some pretty good ones too, such as Morgan Freeman’s!
Not only did she get lots of the shoes for the charity but on the night of the event she then bought back Simon Pegg’s star wars trainers in the auction. She then started a Just Giving page, to which she donated the equivalent of what she had raised £350 out of her own pocket.
So by night Paula is a fundraiser for the charity in the UK and in the day? She is a nursery nurse in Crouch End North London. And what luck is that, because our next step is to start setting up nurseries and child care provisions for dump children and for parent scavengers to leave their children in a safe place.
So straight after the event, Paula flew to Cambodia to start researching nurseries and of course give out shoes. We sent her to the ODA project, which is a great organisation for vulnerable and disabled children in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The director, Leng not only runs this centre but he also does outreach to the six surrounding free schools in very rural and poor areas and he actually built and funded the schools too.
To match the ODA’s uniform campaign; providing all the children with new uniforms, Small Steps Project provided all the shoes to over 300 children and Paula was there to size them, buy them and give them out.
But her training was to set up a nursery provsion and visit the Anlong Pi dump nursery so that she would have a wealth of knowledge and skills for when we start our nursery provsions at the Let Us create Centre and the Sihanoukville Dump in the new year.
But when Paula went off to visit the four schools she discovered that there were also four nurseries too, set up by ODA and they were quite basic with not much in the way of materials. So not only did Paula kit them all out with new equiplment but provided them with a routine and structure for them to follow.
So in only six weeks the wonder volunteer has kitted out all the nurseries with new equipment and routine to follow and a structured nursery session for the staff to follow and given out over 300 pairs of shoes. What a success! Paula has also funded her own trip.
So then next step for us is our partnership with LUC, a centre that provides a place base, food, medical care and art therapy to street children and scavengers. It is LUC with who we deliver our weekly outreach project to the 40 children on Sihanoukville dump with and where we will be setting up a nursery and a creche and running those provsions will, of course, be Paula.
Then we want to either bring the dump children to the centre or rent/build a provsion closer to the dump community for the babies and children there. We had raised enough money for the outreach project and to set up nurseries in already existing centres- but our own centre? Well that was a dream that we were continuing to fundraise for- until last week when something amazing happened…
I went to meet with a sponsor of the charity, Scott Dunn travel. I told them all about Paula and the nurseries and how important they are.
If you say to a scavenger parent- why do you bring your children here? It is so dangerous! They always say- what choice do I have? Well that is what we want to offer, a choice and an alternative to being on a rubbish dump. I told Scott Dunn this and they have donated £20,000 to the charity so that we can create these provisions and a centre. So it’s not a dream anymore, it’s a reality, now we really can take our next steps and start getting children off dumps and into education and give them choices they never had before.
Clare Gates from Scott Dunn explained why they want to help us do this: ‘At Scott Dunn we believe that all children enjoy the same simple pleasures, and given a space where they can make new friends, learn new skills and explore their imaginations, they can have experiences they will remember. This is true for the children who use our kids clubs on their holidays and through the donation we have made to Small Steps we hope it can be true for the children who live on the rubbish dumps of Cambodia.’
So massive thankyou to Paula for sharing her knowledge and taking a bit of Crouch End to Cambodia and to Scott Dunn for funding our dreams and the childrens improved futures.
Paula has her own blog so if you would like to read in more detail about her volunteering please visit her blog