North East based international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) has launched an appeal following a huge loss in income that has resulted from the impact of COVID-19. COCO kicked off its 20th anniversary year in January by announcing ambitious fundraising plans, but since the coronavirus outbreak took hold in March, there has been a drop of around £130,000 in the income that it expected to generate from events, representing a major blow for the small charity. The COCO appeal is part of the national #NeverMoreNeeded campaign that is highlighting the acute challenges facing the not for profit sector during the pandemic.

COCO was founded in 2000 by Steve Cram CBE and British Army Major Jim Panton, and over the past 20 years has grown into one of the North East’s most dynamic and well-loved charities. Led by CEO Lucy Kendall, the organisation works in remote regions of the developing world to provide children with access to the education that is essential for a good start in life, investing in small, sustainable, community led initiatives that can make a big difference at a local level. Since its inception, COCO has raised over £4.5 million to fund its work and along with its partners, has now undertaken 66 transformational projects in 16 countries, positively impacting on the lives of over 200,000 people.

Most of COCO’s core team have been furloughed during the coronavirus outbreak and Lucy Kendall has been running the charity from home. Key fundraising initiatives that were scheduled for the summer, such as the annual Steve Cram Charity Golf Day, were cancelled, and sponsorship money from COCO participants at other events dried up. As it became clear that the outbreak was going to be a long one, Lucy and the COCO Board took the decision to vacate the charity’s Newcastle headquarters. Thanks to the support of local businesses and individuals such as Ward Hadaway and Newcastle University Business School, COCO will be able to hold meetings in other offices in the future, and has also been offered storage space for key equipment.

Lucy Kendall comments: “2020 was supposed to be a great year for COCO – it is our 20th birthday and was set to be a platform for celebrating the impact that we have made since we were founded, and raising funds to do even more. Instead, we have had to cancel events and of course our incredible local and national supporters, and beneficiaries overseas, have faced their own challenges and uncertainties.

“It was a real wrench to leave our own headquarters, but an essential step in the circumstances. We are hugely grateful to those local businesses and individuals who have stepped in and offered to let COCO use office space. Knowing that our team can still meet in the future, and also get together with partners and potential supporters, makes a big difference, and gives me confidence that we can navigate our way through these tough times.

“However, we can’t escape the fact that we have suffered a huge drop in fundraising income this year. It’s a massive blow for a small charity like COCO – any and every donation to this appeal will be hugely appreciated and allow us to continue investing in those projects that so desperately need our support.”

To make a donation to the COCO campaign, visit https://coco.enthuse.com/cf/never-more-needed-campaign. Watch a video message from the charity’s co-founder Steve Cram at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7f_oWpf4WM&feature=emb_logo. Find out more about COCO at www.coco.org.uk and for more information about #NeverMoreNeeded visit https://nmn.org.uk/.