We have a volunteer scheme enabling people to spend 6 weeks in Ghana at various times in the year working with our local staff to help set up our projects. A fantastic way to have the experience of a lifetime whilst helping to change lives. You can find out more at www.livelyminds.org/volunteer. I was inspired to set up Lively Minds after my own volunteering experience so perhaps this will inspire you too!I'd be happy to give talks in your place of work and also for Escape the City Members to contact me directly if you have any questions. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.orgWe're also always looking for people in the UK who might have a few hours a week to spare to help us with fundraising, PR or other skills that can help us grow and raise awareness of Lively Minds.
Alison is escaping her role as a lawyer to run overseas children's charity http://www.livelyminds.org/" rel="nofollow">Lively Minds. Alison set up Lively Minds in 2008 following a year sabbatical. Since then the charity's changed the lives of over 18,000 poverty-stricken children in Uganda & Ghana.
Up until now she's run the charity as a volunteer alongside her job. Now she'll be escaping to Africa to run the charity full time.
We have a volunteer scheme enabling people to spend 6 weeks in Ghana at various times in the year working with our local staff to help set up our projects. This is a fantastic way to have the experience of a lifetime whilst helping to change lives. You can find out more at http://www.livelyminds.org/2_involved/47/volunteer" rel="nofollow">www.livelyminds.org/volunteer. I was inspired to set up Lively Minds after my own volunteering experience so perhaps this will inspire you too!
We're also always looking for people in the UK who might have a few hours a week to spare to help us with fund raising, PR or other skills that can help us grow and raise awareness of Lively Minds.
Since September I've been working full time for Lively Minds. Up until then I was been running the charity 1 day a week as a volunteer.
We work in rural villages where children are living in poverty. We train vulnerable mothers from the communities to run educational play centres for their children.
These children just don't have the opportunities that we do here in the UK, so this simple project makes a huge difference - reaching them at an early age when the foundations for learning are set. By training communities to run the project themselves we ensure it is sustainable and communities are empowered.
Since 2008 we've set up 44 centres and are inundated with requests for more. Over the next 12 months I'll be dividing my time between Ghana & Uganda to grow the charity.
On a day-to-day basis I'll be working on refining the programmes so we can scale up cost effectively, working with education authorities, training staff to build their capacities and applying for funding.
My employers have been very supportive, allowing me to work 4 days a week so I can spend one day per week running the charity (which I do from my London home unpaid). I use most of my annual leave to travel to Uganda or Ghana to manage the projects and support my staff.
I've been working as a legal advisor in the civil service for 8 years. My last role was in the Ministry of Defence advising on a range of issues.
I was inspired to set up Lively Minds following a 2 month trip volunteering in Ghana - I saw children living in poverty that weren't getting basic early years educational opportunities.
Upon my return to the UK I couldn't get Ghana out my head and wanted to try and make a difference - at the time I hadn't planned to set up a charity. I took a year's sabbatical in 2008 to travel to Ghana and then Uganda - Lively Minds was born! I then returned to work running the charity as a volunteer.
In 2010 we were short-listed for a http://worldofdifference.vodafone.co.uk/" rel="nofollow">Vodafone World of Difference award. We came 2nd with 2k votes - people were interested and inspired by our work.
I realised I could really make a big difference to so many more lives cheaply and sustainably. Once I recognised Lively Minds was a 'proper organisation' I began to think big.
I want to now devote myself fully to Lively Minds to realise my dream and grow the charity so we can change lives for thousands more children long into the future.
Initially I focused on small scale growth. I'd been working with some excellent community leaders and they were keen to take the projects to neighbouring villages. On my return to the UK I recruited trustees to support them - Lively Minds was born!
As the projects use local resources, we keep costs low. Funding has been through a few small grants from applications to foundations and other loyal supporters donating and organising events.
Last year, myself and the trustees decided it was time for the charity to grow. To do this we need to recruit additional staff and offices in Ghana and Uganda so we can reach more communities.
We've created a strategic 3 year plan for growth and recently recruited a part time fund raiser in the UK so we can raise more funds to enable the scale up. Myself and our fund raiser are still working from our North London homes to minimise operational costs - a London office/space is our next step. (Anyone with a spare desk - please let us know!).
Best bits: Seeing the massive difference the projects are making in action. When I visit the villages the mothers who we've trained tell me how much they have benefited from volunteering; gaining confidence and realising they can find ways out of poverty so their children can have a brighter future. Teachers also tell us how the children attending Lively Minds Play Centres perform better in school, and by incorporating health promotion and hand washing into the projects, all the villages report a reduction in diarrhoeal diseases - one of the biggest killers of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Worst bits: Often we'll spend weeks on applications for funding; they're all-consuming and the details, budgets and information required is immense. We believe our projects can really make a difference and we know that once set up they will continue to change lives for many years to come. So when we receive a knock back from a funder it's quite devastating!
Pretty early on someone said to me stop saying 'I' and say 'we' when you talk about what you're doing as this will get you in the habit of thinking the project is bigger than you. I've always followed this advice and think about the project in terms of Lively Minds' staff and volunteers - we're an organisation working together.
And the advice I'd give to someone wanting to do something similar - Better to do something than nothing at all.
I never initially planned to set up a charity. That just happened along the way! I saw a way to make a difference and went for it. Even if you don't have much money you can still do a huge amount. In the Lively Minds first year and with just £3k, we set up 10 play centres training over 250 mothers and reaching over 1,200 children.
We've now set up 44 play centres across Ghana & Uganda and they, and our other projects, are changing lives for over 8,000 children and volunteers each year.
http://www.thefsi.org/" rel="nofollow">The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) selected us to be one of their affiliate charities for the year in 2010 which was a fantastic opportunity as I had access to training and support. Their website is full of useful information for small charities and they provided free training too.
When I came back from Ghana after my 2 months volunteering I read a book about a woman who had set up a hairdressing salon in Kabul Afghanistan. I thought if she can do that, then maybe I can make a difference too! http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Kabul+Beauty+School+by+Deboriah+Rodiguez" rel="nofollow">The Kabul Beauty School by Deboriah Rodiguez.
A good board of trustees - our trustees come from a range of backgrounds in the field of management and early years education. They are always there to advise me with any issues I'm unsure of.
http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/" rel="nofollow">The Charity Commission Website - lots of useful guidance.