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COCO in 2016 – Guest Blog by Joe

2016 was COCO’s best ever year.  The most money ever was spent on charitable expenditure, thanks to the generosity of everyone who supports COCO and being able to reduce our administration costs! This has meant we’ve been able to achieve so much at our projects, impacting on the lives of thousands of people in East Africa. In the last financial year COCO directly impacted on the lives of 10,604 people – including school children in our Schools for Life programme, caregivers who received small loans and sustainable agriculture training. We also indirectly impacted on a further 42,447 people – including children of loan recipients who can now go to school and other community members to whom training and knowledge was passed on.

We love our overseas challenges because they help raise the funds needed to support our programmes in East Africa whilst at the same time offering some truly life changing experiences. Take our Kilimanjaro trek - whilst immersing yourself in a unique culture and taking on the physical challenge of climbing the world’s highest free-standing mountain, prior to the trek you get a chance to visit a local COCO project allowing you to see first-hand the impact of your fundraising. We also run a Maasai Cycle Challenge, giving people the chance to follow in elephants’ footsteps as they cycle across Kenyan Maasailand. In addition to fundraising, our cycle challenge provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in Maasai culture as well as spotting East African wildlife! For more information on how to get involved on our overseas challenges in 2017, click here!

Through our Schools for Life programme COCO empower schools across East Africa to achieve academic success whilst simultaneously helping them to become operationally self-sustainable, through careful cost reduction and innovative strategies to generate income. The six key elements that collectively contribute towards the programme being successful are shelter, power, water and sanitation, food, sports and recreation, and entrepreneurship. We are immensely proud to say that our Schools for Life project continued to see terrific results across 2016:

  1. Hoja Secondary School – students have achieved the top results out of 183 schools for four years running and the school is now operationally self-sustainable!

  2. Elimika Centre – now self-sustainable due to income generation and agriculture programme.

  3. Kindimba Juu Secondary School –students have achieved the fourth highest exam results in the region after just one year in addition to the construction of a rainwater and harvesting system

  4. Mercy Primary School - now self-sustainable due to solar powered water pump and farming. Thus providing nutritious food for students and and additional income for the school!

  5. Maasai Academy – achieved 1st place in recent tests in their area.

However, COCO’s impact on schools in 2016 isn’t just limited to East Africa. Across the year we worked with 6 schools in the UK and has established a successful partnership between Mercy Primary in Kenya and Regent Farm in Newcastle upon Tyne. Importantly, this work also helps to make children more aware of international development.

Alongside our Schools for Life programme, we also work with communities to help them find innovative and sustainable ways of escaping poverty. Small loans lead to an estimated 50% increase in income in the first 6 months. Last year also saw the creation of a new project, Global Batwa Outreach (GBO), which aims to integrate the community into wider society by teaching them marketable skills. Sustainable agriculture training uses cheap and environmentally friendly techniques to increase crop and thus increase income.

‘Agriculture training taught me everything and how to change my life. Since the course, I can now live off and sustain my family with what I grow in the garden which is an amazing feeling’. - Happy Komba, a community member that received sustainable agriculture training. She now owns a beautiful garden with enough food for her family and aims to educate the rest of the community in sustainable agricultural techniques.

Being surrounded by good people is fundamental to the success of any charity, and at COCO it is no different. Volunteers are invaluable to COCO, by donating thousands of hours and working tirelessly on many different tasks they save COCO thousands of pounds and bring with them new skills and ideas. Our staff and board also work tirelessly to keep the charity running smoothly. Support from our corporate sponsors and trusts and foundations is also vital to COCO’s work.

Looking ahead to the future, we have begun to develop a Teacher Training Centre which will provide good quality teachers not only to our partner schools, but to hundreds of other schools, improving the quality of education for 96,000 children within 5 years. This would reinforce the Schools for Life project as good teachers are essential to good quality teaching. Furthermore, it gives students the option of becoming a teacher upon leaving school.

Once again, thanks for your support, and here’s to a great 2017!

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