Newcastle based international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) has revealed details of its most successful year to date, which saw its activities make a positive impact on 14,408 people in East Africa during 2017.  Not only did the work of the charity have a positive effect on the lives of so many individuals during the past 12 months, COCO also succeeded in reaching a major fundraising milestone of £4 million in donations received.

COCO works with communities in remote regions of East Africa to help young people access the education that can allow them to build successful futures for themselves.  The charity has now published its 2017 Impact Report, demonstrating to supporters and the wider public exactly how contributions have made a difference on the ground during the last year.

The report highlights how COCO continued its innovative work in 2017, across Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, where it has now supported a total of over 50 transformational projects in 16 countries.  Notable achievements over the past 12 months include building on the success of the Schools for Life programme which has now enabled 2,360 young people to access sustainable education in a safe environment, through a programme covering six key elements; shelterpower, water and sanitation, foodsports and recreation, and entrepreneurship.  In 2017, Schools for Life engaged with its 13th school, and began operating in its third country, Uganda.

In addition, COCO’s small loans scheme continued to be a successful means of empowering entrepreneurs to establish sustainable businesses to increase economic activity within their communities.  Throughout the year, 1,173 loans were awarded, bringing the overall total to 6,000 loans since the scheme was established.  A recent study found that recipients were subsequently able to increase household income by an average of 18 times, with some increasing their income to 100 times its original level.  Sustainable agriculture training also continued to be a successful area of activity with 21 communities reached and 256 people receiving training, enabling people to increase their income by up to 284%, which has largely been used to educate children and meet other household necessities.

Lucy Kendall, CEO of COCO, said: “The last year has been one of milestones for COCO.  We celebrated raising a total of £4 million since being founded in 2000, as well as the third anniversary of our Schools for Life programme.  We also continued to work with rural communities, empowering them to learn new skills and enabling them to work their way out of poverty.  We organised a packed calendar of events and, thanks to the generosity of our wonderful supporters here in the North East and further afield, that helped us to raise funds which has made a huge difference where it has been invested.  We have also continued to focus on transparency, and our Impact Report is just one way in which we are able to demonstrate to all of our stakeholders exactly how their contributions are used.”

As well as continuing to grow and improve its already established projects, in 2018, COCO’s plans include getting work underway on the Hoja Beach project in Tanzania, which involves the construction of a sustainable lodge, restaurant and sustainable agriculture demonstration site.  Profits from that business will be reinvested into the local community which suffers from poor education, infrastructure and a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.  Plans also include the introduction of a sexual health co-ordinator in Tanzania who will expand on COCO’s work in educating school students on sexual health.

Lucy added: “We are very proud of our achievements in the past 12 months, but there is still much more to be done.  Our strong relationship with overseas partners gives us the opportunity to build upon this year’s success and overcome any challenges that we face along the way.  We have lots of plans in the pipeline and plenty of opportunities for individuals and businesses to get involved with a great regional charity that operates on an international stage.”

COCO was co-founded by Steve Cram and British Army Major Jim Panton in 2000 and its headquarters are in Newcastle.  COCO invests in small, sustainable, community led initiatives that can make a big difference at a local level.  

To find out more about the work of COCO and how to support it visit www.coco.org.uk, find the charity on Facebook or follow @COCO_Charity on Twitter.