Campaigning for Save the Children: a surreal journey
I began campaigning with Save the Children during the 2010 General Election after they held an event at my then school. At the time, the air was rife with a lot of politics but not a lot of policy. The media was more concerned with conjecture over whether or not Gordon Brown could resurrect his leadership and the ever-so-eloquently-named Cleggmania was sweeping the country while the politicians were brandishing the word ‘cuts’ at one another as if it could actually translate into literal action.
Even as a conscientious follower of politics it was fair to say that I was fairly switched off. However, when Save the Children came to my school as part of its Poverty Kills Childhood campaign my apathy was completely shaken off.
Like many people, I had heard of Save the Children but knew very little about the tremendous work that it actually did. When members of the global children’s panel were brought to my school for a question and answer session with the local parliamentary candidates, I experienced a real eye-opener.
I met children from as far away as Bangladesh and Nigeria and as close as Wales and Scotland. Each person had issues, ideas and beliefs that not only shed light on what truly mattered to them in their locality, but also on the nature of child poverty and what needed to be done to tackle it. Through the questioning of local parliamentary candidates who seemed somewhat disconnected from the realm of international poverty I realised that at no matter what level — regional, national or international — we all have a role to play in tackling child poverty and we all can make a difference.
So in June, when one of my teachers asked me if I would be interested in being involved in another Save the Children event, I jumped at the opportunity. This time though, the grey glory of my school’s posture-correcting-chairs was replaced with the grandeur of Downing Street and Parliament. I found myself on a somewhat surreal journey from an A2 History exam to Westminster.
The petition carrying the signatures of thousands of Save the Children supporters that we handed in at No. 10 once again highlighted the massive backing and great work of the charity. Prominent politicians, such as Andrew Mitchell and John Bercow, reiterated their commitment to tackling child poverty at the reception at Speaker’s House. The message was felt by all – whether in the UK or abroad, poverty kills childhood.
Since then, I have recently been involved with Save the Children’s ‘Press for Change’ campaign ahead of the UN Summit reviewing the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
With just five years to go before the goals have to be met, and in light of the mass changes that have occurred since 2000, including the economic crisis and the rise of the so-called next generation of developing superpowers, the MDGs have never been more important, and it has never been more imperative that we fulfil these goals and our commitments.
It was this campaign that led to me attending the Bond conference with both the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. However, despite promises to honour the UK’s commitments and the ring-fencing of the 0.7% of public spending for overseas aid, it was felt that the government was not going to truly push for change – an issue I to ask the Deputy Prime Minister himself about the next day, following an internet web chat he was taking part in.
By the time this blog is actually posted the World will have had the chance to change the course of history at the MDG Summit. At a time when promises of change abound from nearly every politician on the planet, we have a chance to truly create meaningful change.
It comes not from new ideas, but a commitment to an old one — the eradication of child poverty. Although I have not been campaigning for Save the Children for a long time, the past four months has imbued me with what I know will be a life-long support for both Save the Children and the fight against child poverty.