By Joanna Ragsdell, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
It is a saying in the English language that if you smile the world smiles back. This is the basis behind the UK charity Comic Relief which uses humour to raise money to create a world free from poverty. In its history it has raised over £900 million helping 15,789 projects in the UK and Africa.
One of the projects sponsored by Comic Relief is Feed the Minds organisation. This charity runs grassroots education projects in some of the world’s poorest communities to save lives and reduce poverty. It builds hope, independence and opportunities for the future. Education is key to taking people out of poverty and enabling them to have a greater standard of living. It can provide a person with self-worth, empowerment and understanding of the world. The project targets certain countries within Africa and other parts of the developing world.
The importance of Feed the Minds can be seen in the story of Nusura Kassim, a woman from Arua, Uganda, where only 28% of the female population can read, compared to the UK where it is closer to 100%. Nusura Kassim was denied education, sold into marriage and left to bring up five children alone. She could not get a steady job because she could not read. Since attending classes, Nusura’s life has transformed. Thanks to her numeracy skills, she has a profitable business and hopes to build a secure home for her family.
The success behind this project is the partnerships between the UK volunteers and local organisers. The charity treats each different region separately enabling a community-based vibe towards the project. This allows for a cultural exchange to take place so that both the UK and local volunteers can learn from each other to provide the most effective service. This allows locals who feel marginalised within the society to empower themselves and take on a more prominent role within the community.
Every project covers one or more types of practical education:
- Vocational skills – to increase people’s living standards and independence.
- Health education – to improve people’s quality of life and ability to support themselves.
- Civic education – to help people access their rights and understand their responsibilities.
- Peacebuilding – to promote understanding between different groups, and reduce prejudice and conflict.
- Practical theological education – to equip ministers to meet community development needs.
The project works on the theory that if the world’s poorest improve their education then they can ultimately work and lift themselves out of poverty. Feed the Minds also understands the importance of the community and peace among groups to enable this personal journey of the individual to take place.
To come full circle – do these charities not suggest that if you smile the world indeed smiles back? When the UK raises money by ‘doing something funny’ then they can ultimately help those who need it most and put a smile back onto their face.
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy