Friday, 13 June 2014

TES - Hope blooms in Sierra Leone's schools despite lack of support

I wrote this article for TES from Sierra Leone, after visiting schools in the remote northern chiefdom of Tambakha.

The schools were built by charity Street Child. Incredibly, before 2009 when the charity began working in the area, Tambakha had only three schools and two qualified teachers for 9,000 primary-aged children.

Building the schools and training teachers has been an incredible achievement, but the area is struggling to maintain the institutions without government backing.

I was amazed to see how hard locals were trying to support their children's education despite so many barriers. In some classes the children had no books or pencils - they were learning everything aurally.

This piece was written to coincide with a Street Child fundraising campaign. A film shot during my trip explains more about the charity's work in the area.

To read the full article, visit the TES website.

Watch the film at about Street Child's rural schools project.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Children & Young People Now: Female Genital Mutilation in the UK

This feature for Children & Young People Now explores how children's services in the UK should act to prevent and support children and women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).

More than 20,000 girls aged under 15 could be at risk of FGM in England and Wales every year, while 66,000 women living in England and Wales had undergone FGM.

I spoke to representatives of local authority children's services, social workers, health and education professionals and charities to find out how they are dealing with the issue, and what still needs to be done.

You can read the full piece on the CYP Now website (behind a paywall).

Monday, 26 May 2014

Guardian - How to tackle youth unemployment in conflict-affected Senegal

Civil conflict has raged for 32 years in the Senegalese region of Casamance. Yet it is rarely reported on and it's young people - hit hardest by the disruption - have been forgotten.

Following the ceasefire called by rebel leaders, I wrote this piece for the Guardian using previously unpublished research produced by Y Care International.

Y Care International has worked in the region since 2006 alongside YMCA Senegal to support young people back into training or employment.

You can read the full article on the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Independent - One girl's story of survival in a Liberian slum

In this feature for the Independent, I described the tragic story of a girl living in the West Point slum in Liberia's capital Monrovia.

I met Princess and her baby on a trip to the country when I was visiting projects run by charity Street Child. Thanks to Street Child's staff in Monrovia, Princess is safe and on her way to a better future.

I also shot the pictures for this piece.

You can read the full article on the Independent website

Friday, 25 April 2014

BBC World Service - From Our Own Correspondent - Liberia's Decoration Day

I witnessed this unusual public holiday on a trip to Liberia. It was far from the day of honouring the dead I expected.

In this piece for the BBC World Service I describe how celebrations in Monrovia's cemeteries turned into public raves, with dancing, singing and drinking on the graves.

Sadly, I also discovered practices in the graveyards that threaten people's rights to live in clean environments and access safe water.

You can listen to the broadcast on the BBC World Service website.

Graves inches from houses

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Observer Exclusive - plea to Sierra Leone's prodigy athlete

In these exclusive interviews for the Observer, I presented the story behind the case of missing marathon runner Mamie Konneh Lahun and highlighted the plight of Sierra Leonean athletes.

A week after Lahun disappeared following the London Marathon, I spoke to her manager and co-runner Idrissa Kargbo about the events leading up to the race and why she might have absconded.

Their comments revealed the struggle athletes face in a country still recovering from a horrific civil war, and the commitment and talent they have which, if nurtured, could inspire a nation.

Read the full article on the Observer website.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Alcoholism and neglect - advice articles for young people

These moving stories from two young women who experienced parental neglect and alcoholism are designed to help other young people in the same situation. They are accompanied by advice articles on intended to help young readers spot warning signs and find help.

Living with an alcoholic parent
My mum was an alcoholic

My parents don't care about me
I was neglected as a child

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Highlighting appalling detention conditions in Togo

In this article for the New Internationalist, I reported on the Week of the Detainee - a unique event in Togo - that aims to highlight the plight of detainees in the West African country's 12 prisons.

The event, created by Togo YMCA, is little known in the UK. Now in its fourth year, it is one way Togo YMCA and UK charity Y Care International are trying to improve conditions in prisons and tackle Togo's exceptionally high levels of pre-trail detention.

A detainee delivers a speech at the opening ceremony.
Pic: Togo YMCA
Currently around 70% of the prison population of Togo's main jail, in the capital Lome, have never had their case heard by a judge. Many will wait years before anyone reviews their case, even after committing petty crimes, or in some cases, no crime at all.

You can read the full article on the New Internationalist website.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Guardian - Breaking the silence about breast ironing in Cameroon

In this article for the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network I spoke to young victims of breast ironing in Cameroon. This little-documented practice needs more attention to enable the girls affected by it, and the mothers who do it, to understand the risks it carries to women's physical and mental health.

The article sought to demonstrate the importance of empowering girls in Cameroon to speak out about harmful practices, including early child marriage and rape.

You can read the article in full on the Guardian Adolescent Girls Hub.

A small London-based charity set up by Cameroonian women is campaigning to raise awareness of the issue here and in Cameroon. The Came Women and Girls Development Organisation needs more support to continue its work.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Investigation: How government cuts have decimated play services

My investigation into how children's play services have been affected by central government cuts to local authority budgets, revealed nearly a third have removed some staffed and unstaffed play provision since 2010.

The findings of my freedom of information request provided the first concrete data to backup anecdotal evidence that children's play has suffered drastically under the current government.

You can read the article in full on the Children & Young People Now website (subscription only).

Play expert Tim Gill wrote this blog about the results.