At Work: Fundraising - Funding story - Save the Children and Comic Relief

Radhika Holmstrom

Save the Children got £1m from Comic Relief for a project that works with girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nobody denies the devastation that armed conflict wreaks, yet it's difficult to get funding for work to repair the damage if there's any suspicion that the conflict will be revived.

James Hardiman, trust development executive at Save the Children, is particularly concerned about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he describes as "one of the most challenging and troubled countries where we work.

"There's almost no funding specifically targeted at this region - very few companies have major offices in the area, and a lot of funders prefer places with more established and stable governments."

Africa analyst Thalia Griffiths says: "In aid terms, this stuff is pretty thankless. There's nothing much for celebrities and visiting ministers to see and admire."

Hardiman found particular difficulty securing funding for a project that works with girls, who are often described as the forgotten casualties of the conflict in the DRC. He says the project has huge potential, which should benefit up to 7,000 young women.

Comic Relief eventually provided the full amount it required, just under £1m, but there aren't that many other donors for similar work. "I think we still rely on a relatively small number who understand that you can't turn your back on a country just because of the way the government functions and the threat of civil war," says Hardiman. "By and large, these are donors who specialise in Africa and already know about the region, so we can sell them the project rather than the country. Comic Relief is a good example, but there aren't as many others as we'd hoped."

Save the Children's new Rewrite the Future campaign, targeted specifically at children in areas of armed conflict, could widen the pool of potential donors in the future and diminish some perceptions of risk. As Griffiths points out, any risk will in any case be well worth taking. "Getting today's young people into education, jobs and vaccination programmes is a chance to start turning round decades of neglect in the DRC as well as the more immediate and more terrible scars of the war," she says. "Effective education and training helps people rise out of aid dependency and rebuild their economies themselves. It's easy to say they should, but they need the tools to do so."

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