“I want the children in the centres to have a different life to the one their parents have.” Angela Russ, TRAID
In Dhaka, ChildHope and our partner Nagorik Uddyog are running centres that protect, educate and nourish children while their mothers work long hours in garment factories. These life-changing centres are being funded by the UK-based charity TRAID. We spoke to Angela Russ to find out more about TRAID and what it hopes to achieve through its partnership with ChildHope.
Can you tell us what TRAID is and what it does?
TRAID is a charity working to stop clothes being thrown away. In the UK, consumers bought around 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing in 2016 – almost 200,000 tones more than in 2012. But while we’re buying more clothes than ever, we’re wearing them for shorter periods of time. The average lifespan of an item is clothing is just 3.3 years, with clothes being thrown out because they don’t fit or we just don’t like them anymore. TRAID collects and sells unwanted clothes to avoid them going to landfill, and to fund international projects which try to improve the textiles industry. We also educate children and adults about the impact our clothes have on the people who make them, and the environment, and how to make more sustainable choices.
What’s your role at TRAID?
I am the Head of International Programmes, which means that I identify projects that will contribute to TRAID's objectives. I try to join up projects that can learn from each other, to create a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. We're currently funding projects in Benin and Ethiopia which help cotton farmers to convert to organic; one in India which works with Fairtrade, organic farmers to produce organic seeds; a natural dyes project in Sri Lanka; and two projects in India which aim to improve conditions for homeworkers who embellish clothes, and girls and young women who work in spinning mills. And of course the children's centres in Bangladesh funded through ChildHope.
What do you most enjoy about your work at TRAID?
Learning about the textiles industry and how it affects individuals in their very different roles, and the environment, is actually fascinating. I also like trying to be as good a funder as possible. That means being flexible, understanding and available for people right from the time they’re applying for funding all the way through to the end of the project.
And what’s the hardest part of your job?
We have a very small fund so every pound has to be spent very carefully. Figuring out which projects I think will have most impact can be very challenging.
Tell us how you work with ChildHope.
ChildHope applied to us in 2013 through our annual funding round, and we have funded them ever since. It sounds a bit arrogant to say that we 'work' with them - I don't think a funder's role should be overstated: we give them grants and make suggestions we hope will be useful. In addition to our grants for the four centres, TRAID's shop customers have also been directly involved. In 2016 we asked them to donate money as well as clothes. We managed to raise enough to buy 120 birth certificates for children in the centres. This means they’re official citizens of Bangladesh, so they can access school and healthcare. And with proof of age, they’re at much less risk of being forced into early marriage or illegal employment.
What do you like about ChildHope’s approach?
I think ChildHope is more respectful towards its partners than a lot of NGOS, especially the larger ones. An example of their joined-up way of working is the annual meeting - all ChildHope's in-country partners come together to share knowledge and discuss, and find solutions, to common problems. Another one is the partnership agreement they have with the in-country NGOs. The agreement is developed by both partners and thereby attempts to start each project on an equal footing, something that might sound quite slight but is actually very important in trying to counter what can be a very imbalanced relationship.
Have you had a chance to see the difference your funding is making?
I've been to the children's centres we fund in Dhaka. They are lovely, nurturing oases of calm in the middle of an extremely crowded and hectic city. As a mother myself, I can appreciate how reassuring it must be for the parents to know that their children are safe, stimulated and well fed while they are doing their very difficult work in garment factories.
What are your hopes for TRAID and ChildHope’s partnership in the future?
Funding permitting, I hope we continue to partner with ChildHope for a long time - social change does not happen in a couple of years. I want the children in the centres to have a different life to the one their parents have. Or, ideally, obviously, neither TRAID's nor ChildHope's work would be necessary and we could all go and sit on a beach!
You can read more about ChildHope’s work with children in Dhaka here.
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