Small Stevenage charities get government backing to continue 'crucial work'

PUBLISHED: 08:26 25 January 2020

Some of the young women in Sierre Leone who have benefited from Peace Child International's entrepreneurial project. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.

Some of the young women in Sierre Leone who have benefited from Peace Child International's entrepreneurial project. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.

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Two small Stevenage charities have government backing to help continue transforming the lives of young people in Sierre Leone and Kenya.

Mabintu Mansaray, 22, has set up her own business selling beauty products after taking part in the Peace Child International entrepreneurial project. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.Mabintu Mansaray, 22, has set up her own business selling beauty products after taking part in the Peace Child International entrepreneurial project. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.

Peace Child International and Just be a Child have each received a £50,000 grant from the Department for International Development's Small Charities Challenge Fund, which supports small UK charities to run projects helping people in some of the world's poorest countries.

Peace Child International was founded in Stevenage in 1982 and has given thousands of young people in parts of Africa hit by war or disease access to training and education.

It has a target of supporting 10,000 more young people by 2023 and is currently supporting young women in Sierra Leone, offering training for them to start and run their own businesses, and escape poverty and marginalisation.

One of the young women to benefit is 22-year-old Mabintu Mansaray.

UK volunteers celebrate the packing of thousands of donated books bound for Kenya, so a library can be established in a deprived community in the African country. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.UK volunteers celebrate the packing of thousands of donated books bound for Kenya, so a library can be established in a deprived community in the African country. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.

She said: "The training changed my life. I'm able to support my family. I feed my children every day, buying them fruit and rice. I can also help with the school fees. I don't need to depend on anyone. I feel proud.

"I am sure my business will succeed. I can improve my business through savings I have made from it.

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"I don't borrow from the bank or my family.

Kenyan children enjoying donated books from the library established by Just be a Child. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.Kenyan children enjoying donated books from the library established by Just be a Child. Picture: Courtesy of the Department for International Development.

"I am no longer afraid to talk and make my views heard. From the training I got so confident and am able to stand on my own."

Just be a Child was founded by Stevenage resident Lenka McAlinden in 2013 to establish libraries and playgrounds in deprived villages in Kenya.

The charity has so far created four libraries - transformed from shipping containers and stocked with donated books from the UK - and supports local volunteers to run the libraries.

As well as helping children learn to read and supporting their school work, adults are also using the libraries to learn new skills and trades.

Lenka said: "We are delighted with the funding. Bringing books to new communities is always heart-warming, rewarding and life-changing - for us in the UK and our communities in Kenya.

"Watching our communities develop, flourish and fall in love with reading is what keeps our volunteers motivated."

International development secretary, Alok Sharma, said: "Charities in Stevenage are doing crucial work to help people in developing countries."

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