The Next Century Foundation was honoured to interview Patricia Parker OBE on her recent recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Kids for Kids was founded in 2001 by Patricia Parker OBE after her first-hand experience of the terrible conditions in which children were living in Darfur, Sudan. Patricia and her son Alastair, a trustee of both the Next Century Foundation and Kids for Kids, were captured by rebels in 2005 yet, despite the dangers of Darfur, continued to visit the region whenever possible.
Since 2001, Kids for Kids has helped over 550,000 people and has introduced their integrated projects to 106 villages in North Darfur, Sudan, creating a sustainable and lasting change. Kids for Kids adopts a village, introducing an integrated package of grassroots projects identified by the villagers themselves that will help them out of poverty long-term. The charity’s ‘lend a goat’ scheme provides 5 nanny goats and access to a billy to the poorest families in a village, then over two years they build up their flock and pass on the first 5 kids/baby goats to another family, providing nutrition and a source of income. Equally crucial is the installation of water handpumps, as well as the provision of basics including mosquito nets, blankets, farm tools and much more, including training village midwives and first aid workers, and providing veterinary care for the animals. To address climate change, Kids for Kids has planted over 53,000 drought resistant trees.
How does it feel to be awarded an OBE in the 20th year of Kids for Kids?
It’s 20 years. It’s 106 villages. It’s 500,000 people. The weird thing is I’m not good with big numbers, I’m more interested in individuals, (our motto is one goat at a time, one child at a time!) but because we’ve become 20, I thought I’d put together the figures. Having it all brought together in public recognition, it’s pretty overwhelming, after 20 years of trying to gain attention. Darfur is the size of France, but people have no clue about it.
How has Darfur been impacted by Covid-19?
We’ve never known conditions as bad as this. In 2001, we visited a regional hospital in Mellit, and took pictures of the hospital conditions. I showed some pictures to friends this year and they said these are the pictures you took in 2001, and I said no these are the pictures I took two days ago. There is no hope of oxygen, no hope of ventilators, no testing. You can pay for tests, but these people earn less than £12 a year. When you go to hospital, you have to take bed covers, your own food and pay for your medicine – some hospital beds lie empty because people cannot afford to pay.
There is no education on Covid and there is little they could do to alter their way of life. They are mixing with fewer outside communities, but you have to go to regional capitals, you have to go to markets. Kids for Kids has provided soap and literature for those who can read – five bars of soap for every family in every village. We want to prevent problems becoming disasters which is why we provide midwives, train first aid workers, provide some human drugs. We have encouraged a revolving fund for veterinary and human drugs, however this still costs money. Malaria is still the biggest killer in Africa, but we have cut deaths by 2/3 by providing mosquito nets.
Kids for Kids has helped over 550,000 people and 106 villages in North Darfur. Why do you think your approach has been so successful and enduring?
We are involved closely for the first two years – we train them and then follow up. We go back and work with them, if need be, but we also train committees who then supervise the families. It’s about following up and making sure things are working and we also provide the incentive of building a kindergarten centre, community centre or veterinary centre, which the people will work hard for. It’s even harder to raise funds now though, even before it was always a huge amount of work. However, when you compare a mother holding her child knowing they are starving, aid donations are beyond argument.
What are your hopes for how things will change for the children of Darfur under the new Sudanese government?
If they could only get finance, the government could provide basic infrastructure that Darfur desperately needs. There’s not even any main roads, most are tracks. They need to finance healthcare and help people to access water. The tragedy is the UK government has cut its aid this year by around a third.
Kids for Kids is not only a lifeline for local communities in Darfur but has been recognised as a model which the new Humanitarian Aid Commissioner in Sudan wants all organisations to follow.