Christian Aid plans to expand global poverty work in Britain's schools

By staff writers
September 2, 2007

The UK-based international development agency Christian Aid intends to double the number of volunteer teachers it recruits over the next two years to help share stories about the work of its 700 partner organisations in 50 developing countries.

Christian Aid, which advocates with and for the world's poor, irrespective of religious or non-religious convictions, currently works with 150 volunteer teachers in 1,200 primary and secondary schools across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It says it wants to increase that number to 300 by 2009. Volunteer teachers take assemblies, help with citizenship days, share in leading lessons or class projects and provide teachers with information and resources on a range of topics including climate change, water, health and sanitation, trade justice and HIV.

Christian Aid has always made a point of working with secular and other faith bodies as well as the churches, and it raises a substantial proportion of its income from door-to-door collections.

Among those who have collaborated with its work on issues like the arms trade and development are comedian and journalist Mark Thomas, an atheist.

The agency has always invested heavily in producing development education materials for schools - and these have been praised by educationists from a variety of backgrounds.

It emphasises that its work is aimed at raising the profile of global poverty issues, not proselytising - contrary to accusations against religious agencies by Richard Dawkins.

Depending on experience and preference, volunteer teachers can assist in either primary or secondary schools. The number of visits will be down to the individual but they are encouraged to aim for at least one school visit per month.

Christian Aid says it is looking for volunteers who have experience in working with young people and have the ability to engage them in a range of development issues. An open mind, a good understanding of the education system, the ability to work independently and creatively, a flexible attitude and a willingness to learn new ways of working are also essential.

Training is provided by the agency and all new volunteer teachers will attend a one day induction course. In addition they will be given the opportunity to shadow an experienced volunteer teacher and will be supported by a local volunteer teacher network and local area office.

Lis Clugston, a volunteer teacher, commented: “Most young people are aware of the bad things in this world and feel helpless about situations. Christian Aid offers them opportunities to do something. At every session I've had at least one person will ask 'how can I find out more?'”

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