Our approach

Where others see victims with needs, we see children with rights....

Charities and NGOs traditionally based their work on meeting the needs of the people they help. ‘Nothing wrong with that’ you might think, but in practice it often creates a situation where the beneficiaries become reliant on aid, and their governments are let off the hook. Our approach is that yes - children have immediate needs, but they also have rights - the right to an education, the right to live free from violence etc.

Those rights are supposed to be protected by international and national laws and conventions, and there are governments and councils responsible for upholding them. We do help meet the immediate needs, but it’s part of a bigger programme where we’re also helping them to campaign/lobby to make sure that the local, national and international govts/bodies are held responsible. And we’re helping them to meet those rights by training social workers and helping to build or refurbish schools.

We’re cost-effective, but not cheap.

Working in dangerous, insecure places like Iraq is more expensive than in countries like India. We take the security of our staff and the children very seriously, and our planning, training and staffing budgets reflect that. Our projects are providing intensive support to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable children in the world, and every penny we spend is put to the best possible use in doing so. It’s cost-effective and it’s life changing. But it is more expensive than some other NGO projects.

We focus on quality, not quantity.

Our aim isn't to provide some kind of support to as many children as possible. It is to provide sustainable, intensive support to the most marginalised and vulnerable children and young people. It would be easy to reach lots of 'beneficiaries' by buying thousands of children a school uniform, or by giving street children a lift back home - but without addressing the family, social and economic problems - the children will most likely be forced to drop out or run away again.

We don't judge our success or our impact purely by the total number of children and young people we've directly supported.

We're careful that the children don't become dependent on us.

It's all too easy for well-meaning charities and NGOs to intervene in children's lives and provide everything for them. Our aim is to strengthen the capacity of the families, communities and authorities to look after their own children. They'll be there and doing that long after we've gone.

Our Field Director in Uganda explains War Child's approach there.

 

Our neutrality and impartiality keep us safe on the ground.

Humanitarian work can be a dangerous business. Afghanistan has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of attacks on NGO workers in recent years. The trust and acceptance by the local community is what keeps our staff safe and lets us deliver our work. We’re a non-political, impartial organisation. We’re not an anti-war charity and we don’t campaign to get British troops in or out of a conflict. Our focus isn’t on who started a war, it’s solely on the children caught up in it.

We get the whole community involved in, and ultimately responsible for, our projects.

Our projects are all rooted in their local communities and they involve and employ local people. Our child protection committees for example, bring together local councillors, policemen, teachers, tribal elders etc. to train them to take responsibility for identifying and protecting vulnerable children in their communities. The best kind of project is one that will be continued by local people even after we’ve left.

We employ very few ex-pat staff in the field. Our projects are delivered by local people - teaching them new skills and supporting their local economy.

War Child staff in Goma
Our staff in Goma, D.R. Congo.

 

We go where most Development charities don’t, and we stay long after most Humanitarian ones (and the TV cameras) leave.

There’s often a vacuum between ‘Humanitarian Aid’ ending and longer-term ‘Development Aid’ starting. Usually because it’s done by different agencies and has very different sources of funding. Sometimes this gap can last for many years and leave fragile communities in limbo and without the support they need. War Child is one of the few NGOs that fills this gap.

So for example - the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNHCR and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have narrower remits – they do a brilliant job at meeting people’s immediate shelter, food and medical needs in an emergency. When that crisis ends, there’s usually another one somewhere else that requires their attention. Similarly, agencies like Plan and Water Aid start doing their longer-term projects (child sponsorship, building infrastructure etc.) when a region is out of its ’conflict’ stage and is stable and secure enough for them to work in. We specialise in helping communities keep their children protected during – and crucially, in-between – these stages.

We adopt a holistic approach

In line with our strategy, our work fits into three themes: Protection, Education and Livelihoods. By addressing all three we're able to support children and their families in the short term as well as setting them up for a better long-term future. We've also identified three interventions or styles of working that are crucial. Within this matrix we make sure that in each country we're working in, we're doing a broad range of work. Here's some examples of what we mean:

 

PROTECTION

EDUCATION

LIVELIHOODS

DIRECT SERVICES

Child Protection committees

Night ambulance in Kinshasa, Girls' centres in Goma.

Child helplines.

Providing school uniforms, pens and satchels.

Support to pay school fees.

Livelihood training (e.g. vocational courses in carpentry, tailoring, hairdressing etc.)

CAPACITY BUILDING

Training soclal workers in Afghanistan.

Community based protection mechanisms.

Educating teachers about child protection.

Rebuilding schools and accomodation for disabled students.

Micro enterprise associations, village savings schemes.

ADVOCACY (local and global)

Child Safety Report Cards projects.

Lobbying G8 on Declaration on sexual violence in conflict zones.

Support for the Global Campaign for Education.

Working with employers to improve benefits and conditions for their staff.

 

We base our projects on the needs and wishes of the children themselves.

This seems kinda' obvious but it’s still quite rare for an NGO to ask its beneficiaries what their problems are and what they want done about them. After all, the kids know much more about their lives and their needs than we ever could. We can’t just rely on asking the teachers, parents etc. because sometimes they are the problem.

Sometimes their solutions are incredibly simple and effective. For instance when we asked kids in Iraq what they were afraid of, they identified the cars outside their school. Two of their classmates had already been run over and killed and so we built a simple speed bump. Problem solved.

We respect and admire the resilience of the children we work with.

Some charities raise money by guilt-tripping people into feeling pity for the children they work with. You know the drill – emaciated kids staring wide eyed into the camera. ‘Please help me’. We don’t do that. The children we work with have already lived lives of extreme violence and hardship and they’re still here to tell the tale. You don’t survive life as a street child or child soldier without being incredibly tough and resourceful. They deserve our compassion and most importantly they deserve their rights to be met. But we don’t want to raise money for them by portraying them as helpless victims. With a bit of support, they can rewrite their own future.

We treat boys and girls differently.

We recognise that although girls and boys have equal rights, a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. This is especially true in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where there are strict customs about the role of girls in society. Boy and girl street children often resort to different means of survival and the support they need is different.

We believe that giving kids an education is one of the best ways to protect them

Education is a big focus in the majority of our projects. That’s because in conflict-affected countries, an education is not only life-changing (giving a child basic literacy skills opens up all sorts of opportunities), but it can also be life-saving (teaching a child how to avoid land-mines could also save their life).

The nature of conflict is changing — with civilians increasingly becoming targets and children often bearing the brunt. This means that our work is not just about getting kids into schools (which during conflict can sometimes be un-safe), but enabling them to learn whatever their circumstances and environment. That’s why we also provide informal education and training programmes, for example, for kids who can’t travel into school during times of violence or those that have been pulled into the violence themselves as child-soldiers and need to catch-up on their lost education or learn a vocation.

We’re a small charity with big ambitions.

There’s 29 of us in our Uk office. We’re passionate about changing the world for millions of children whose lives are torn apart by conflict. We rely enormously on the dedication of a brilliant team of volunteers to support our programmes and fundraising work.

We’re masters of ‘blagging’ and are lucky to work with talented pro-bono partners and people/companies who donate gifts-in-kind. All this enables us to punch way above our weight.