The boss of North East based international children’s charity COCO has returned from a visit to projects in East Africa, where she witnessed first-hand the impact of the organisation’s work in helping young people into education.

Lucy Kendall, CEO of Newcastle based COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) made a two-week trip to Tanzania on behalf of the charity, whose work is focused on enabling communities in remote regions of East Africa to help young people access the education that can allow them to build successful futures for themselves.

During the visit Lucy met with COCO’s current community partners to evaluate the progress of numerous projects in Northern Tanzania and to gather first-hand evidence of the organisation’s impact overseas to share with the charity’s numerous stakeholders.  She met with representatives from the Schools for Life programme which is enabling young people to access  sustainable education in a safe environment, through a programme covering six key elements; shelter, power, water and sanitation, food, sports and recreation, and entrepreneurship.  She also met with beneficiaries of the small loans scheme which is empowering entrepreneurs to establish sustainable businesses to increase economic activity within their communities.

Commenting on the visit Lucy said: “We are a charity that is focused on transparency, we need to be able to demonstrate exactly how their contributions are used, and these field trips enable us to secure first-hand testimony to support the statistics.  Over the past 14 years I have made numerous trips to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa to see for myself what’s happening on the ground.

“While I was in Tanzania I was introduced to many people whose lives have been transformed by some small intervention funded by COCO; Simon the rice farmer who is producing double the yield because he was trained in composting, Giveness who is sending her children to nursery and running her own business because she was given a loan and an entire Maasai community whose nursery school numbers have doubled because they can now grow maize, sell it and pay for school.

“While there are always improvements to be made, it was evident that through our strong relationships with our overseas partners we are making a huge difference in communities in areas so remote that the levels of poverty are significant.”

COCO is keen to counteract the recent bad press for some charities operating overseas.  Lucy added: “With so many negative stories in the press at the moment, one might be inclined to think that the international development sector is not the greatest place to be right now, however I can vouch for the fact that there is some great work taking place in the sector.  Our partners on the ground are finding solutions that get parents into employment, children into school and teachers onto training programmes to ensure only very best quality education is delivered.  This trip has given me a fresh perspective, new energy and a confidence boost to take COCO’s work to the next level.”

COCO was co-founded by Steve Cram and British Army Major Jim Panton in 200 and its headquarters are in Newcastle.  COCO’s activities have made a positive impact on 200,000 people in East Africa through 50 transformational projects covering 16 countries.  Last year COCO succeeded in reaching a major fundraising milestone of £4 million in donations received.

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.