Global Fund for Children (GFC) is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to transform the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.
In the last twenty years, they have transformed millions of children’s lives by supporting meaningful change where it stands to do the most good: in the heart of the community.
Together they are helping to fight poverty and injustice and promote educational and social initiatives for children around the world.
So how did it begin?
One woman’s “moment of obligation” led to a global grassroots network fighting for children’s rights.
In 1990, on a hot and dusty day in Bhubaneswar, India, Maya Ajmera stepped off a train and was struck by an unusual sight. Amid the chaos of the train platform, a group of children and a teacher were sitting in a circle, completely engrossed in simple learning exercises.
When the lesson ended, Maya approached the woman and learned that the children lived, played, and begged on the train platforms. She learned that a local organisation—in its desire to provide the children with a pathway out of poverty—offered the children free education, clothing, and food. But most importantly, this informal school instilled in the children a sense of self-worth and empowered them to determine their own futures.
It was a simple, powerful model of grassroots change. Seeing this inspired Maya to create Global Fund for Children in 1993, with support from Echoing Green, the premier fellowship for social entrepreneurs. Her approach was based on the belief that small amounts of money, when given to innovative, community-based organisations, could make a real, lasting impact on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. In her book, Invisible Children Maya calls this her moment of obligation. In 1997, the train platform schools—called Ruchika Social Service Organisation—became the first GFC grassroots partner.
At the core of Maya’s approach was a desire to foster global citizenship in children from a very young age using the power of children’s books and other media. Since 1996, Global Fund for Children Books has developed over 30 award-winning titles, with over 2 million copies sold worldwide. Proceeds from the first book, Children from Australia to Zimbabwe, supported the train platform school in India that inspired Maya to create GFC.
Maya stepped down from her position as president of GFC in 2011 and remained on the board until 2013. Under Maya’s seventeen years of leadership (1993-2011), GFC grew from a seedling vision into one of the largest networks of grassroots organisations working on behalf of vulnerable children. Over the years, GFC expanded its grant-making model, incorporating services that help GFC’s grassroots partners improve their sustainability, develop their networks, increase their visibility, and grow and deepen their capacity to positively affect children’s lives. To date, GFC has awarded $39.9 million in grants to over 600 organisations in more than 75 countries, touching the lives of more than 10 million children worldwide.
On March 1st, 2018, Global Fund for Children launched the Voice of Youth Global Campaign, a year-long initiative to lift up the voices of today’s youth and let them know we’re listening, not just to take notice, but to take action. They aim to highlight the challenges that young people face and affirm their right to influence the programmes and policies that impact their lives.
In Kenya, where children with disabilities are often institutionalised, Little Rock ECD Centre is pioneering a new education model: the first inclusive early childhood education center in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. The center serves children with disabilities, orphans, and children affected by HIV/AIDS. To ensure care for the whole child, Little Rock’s services include medical care, occupational therapy, nutrition, library services, and parent support groups.
Asylum Protection Center (APC) is one of the premier organizations assisting asylum seekers and migrants in Serbia, including thousands of Syrian refugees. APC provides children and youth with legal services and counselling; connects them to medical, educational, and social services; and informs them about their rights.APC also conducts outreach across the country, distributing humanitarian aid and information to refugee families.
Recognizing the importance of English literacy in India’s growing economy, LeapForWord (LFW) uses a multipronged approach to increase English proficiency among rural children, thereby opening doors to success in school, work, and life. The organization offers English language instruction in schools across five districts in the state of Maharashtra and also runs two learning centers that teach English to younger children and train older youth to become English teachers themselves.