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NEWS > Alumnae Profiles > Charlotte Baker runs Small Steps for Africa

Charlotte Baker runs Small Steps for Africa

Charlotte Baker (LEH 2002-2009) studied Modern Languages at Oxford and now works as a producer for BBC Radio 4. She launched an NGO called Small Steps for Africa nearly seven years ago.

Small Steps for Africa is a registered charity that provides educational opportunities and healthcare support to families in Sub-Saharan Africa that would never otherwise have access to either. Our work is currently focused in Madagascar, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world - but the charity has its genesis in a project my mother and I embarked on in Uganda while I was still at LEH, providing clean water to a remote community in 2008.

I started the charity after visiting Madagascar as part of my Year Abroad, while studying French and German at Oxford. While I was there, I met a family of six children who had never been to school, having been abandoned by their father and left in the care of their alcoholic mother. I promised to do whatever it took to ensure this family would have an education. Seven years later, they are still being supported by Small Steps for Africa, and we are also directly helping more than 70 other children, and have indirectly supported hundreds.

Essentially what we do is give children from impoverished backgrounds an education and the healthcare support to help them stay in school. We believe that educating young people is one of the very few sustainable things you can do to help lift communities in countries like Madagascar out of poverty.

Notable success stories in recent years include one girl reaching the end of sixth form college - she is due to graduate this year and has ambitions to become a doctor. Another of our sponsored children at Akany Avoko Faravohitra has been top of her class at school for the past three years, having had a very fragmented education up to that point - she has ambitions to go to university in Europe in 2022.

Our approach is very simple - we offer sponsors in the UK and elsewhere the opportunity to directly sponsor a child and support them through their education. We then fund projects around this core aim, such as supporting educational infrastructure, paying staff salaries and funding programmes like a breakfast club for children who get very few meals at home. I run the charity alongside my full-time job as a journalist at the BBC and we have very little in the way of running costs, meaning that nearly everything we are given by sponsors goes straight to our beneficiaries.

We have two programmes - one in the village of Ambohidratimo, about 30 miles from Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. In partnership with local NGO Ankizy Gasy, we support children from extremely poor families who struggle to put enough food on the table every day, let alone pay for schooling. Sponsors with this programme currently pay £130 per year, which covers school fees, uniform, books and two hot meals per day. 

The second programme is at Akany Avoko Faravohitra, a home for vulnerable girls in the centre of Antananarivo. These girls are placed at the centre by the courts, which provides them with a safe haven and an education. Often they have been abused by family members, orphaned or have committed petty crimes due to extreme poverty. The centre’s aim is prepare them for independent life once they leave - we’ve recently opened a vocational training centre there to help girls learn practical skills such as hairdressing, cooking and handicraft making. The current cost of this programme is £35 per month, but part-sponsorship is also available at £17.50 per month. 

One-off and regular donations made by our supporters help us to meet our other costs, including those of our breakfast programme in Ambohidratimo, supporting the salaries for three members of staff at Akany Avoko Faravohitra, and investing in the new vocational training centre there. 

We are currently looking for partners involved in the restaurant/catering business who might like to partner up with SSFA and support the training restaurant that has recently opened - and our sponsorship programme always has a waiting list!

For more information, see our website www.smallstepsforafrica.org or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/smallstepsforafrica/.

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