Working Life: James Cole uses literacy to empower families overseas

The programmes officer at Feed the Minds sees his work as involving the education of whole families

James Cole
James Cole

It's wonderful to be able to go overseas and see the empowerment that people receive from the work we're doing. We focus on adult education, but I see it as family education because when parents have literacy skills their children's potential is multiplied.

Literacy is much more than reading, writing and numeracy. It's a tool for transformation: a basis for IT skills, understanding ballot papers, weighing produce or calculating change.

All of our projects are run in partnership with community-based organisations – we combine their local knowledge with our educational expertise.

I'm based in London and am the point of contact for most of our overseas partners, but I visit projects two or three times a year. I then cram as much into the two weeks as possible. There are lots of late nights tapping away on my laptop by torchlight, and I have to plan to charge it up when the generator is on.

Back in the UK, I deal with various projects all over the world. I oversee the review of applications, process contracts and grants and am involved in project development and feedback. Most of our projects are in Africa so the time difference is manageable, but occasionally I stay late or start early in order to have direct contact with colleagues in the Caribbean or Asia. The Ebola virus is currently affecting the work we're doing in Sierra Leone and I'm in regular contact with colleagues there about what activities we can and can't do. If I don't hear from someone for a few days, I worry. I'm privileged to work with such committed people.

I enjoy the variety of a small organisation because I can get involved in lots of areas, including helping to plan our 50th anniversary celebrations this year. I've also become communications champion, which has forced me to stop being a social media Luddite. Now I tweet and we have online forums for our partners to share ideas.

Feed the Minds helps marginalised people to transform their lives through education by working with community-led projects in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus