James volunteers for AFFCAD UK and is embarking on a 35 hour, non stop walk to raise money for the charity in April. The route for the walk will be shared nearer the time so people can join around London! It will be around 150km in total! 

Please help James reach his target of £3,000 by donating. Even a small donation makes a difference, with £19 enough to fund a child’s education and food for a whole school term. Read on below hear about James’ experience and if you’d like to donate, you can do so here.

James Contreras is walking for 35 hours to raise money for AFFCAD

Everyone had a different experience of Covid lockdowns. It was one disease that found its way across borders, cultures, and ages. However, the global lockdowns that ensued varied in length and severity. In England, there were towns where you could walk a few miles across into Wales and Scotland, and the rules would look completely different. This variation in laws and lockdowns arguably was experienced most profoundly within Global Education. Despite England’s initial reluctance to close schools, English school children spent the second longest time out of the classroom in Europe. Children missed nearly half a year’s worth of school. Although this number will likely affect generations regarding their social, emotional and economic development, it pales compared to Uganda. Ugandan children spent 60 weeks out of school during the Covid pandemic. This does not account for partial closures that left many Ugandan children out of education for nearly two years. Authorities warned at least 30% of these students may never return. According to the nation’s national planning organisation, some people have started working, while others have married or had children early.

Perspective is vital as the first impression for many children I taught was that lockdown was early summer. Sir, this feels like an endless summer was one remark that stuck out on a phone call with one student a week into lockdown. However, the early summer feel of lockdown was replaced by a feeling of dread, loneliness and anxiety for many children. Education is an integral part of the school. Still, for many, this is just an added luxury. Instead, it is an escape from dire home lives, and the lockdowns revealed the cracks in every country’s society, as Covid cut off the stabilising force of interaction. In the case of education, Covid cut off a school’s ability to help and identify these cracks in society, and many children just fell through.

I can only talk about facts and figures in Uganda as I did not teach or experience their lockdowns. It would be unfair to do so. I was paid. I had job security while most teachers in Uganda went unpaid for two years, with many still out of a job. This shows the importance of telling the narrative from the perspective of Ugandan children, helping to show that hopes and fears are universal for the world’s youth. The only difference is many of these children in Uganda are now denied education, with AFFCAD serving as a lifeline in Bwaise. These stories can be found here.

Like many international charities, the donations have dried up in a post-Covid world, with the cost of living crisis hitting everyone and domestic poverty worsening. Most charities help worthy causes. It is strange to think that this can complicate things, often feeling like they compete against each other, vying for our collective attention. Somebody could argue that I am guilty of pedalling this competition narrative in my writing, pitting the Ugandan educational experience against the English, both competing in a perverse battle to the bottom. However, we all must choose where to put our passions in life. Education happens to be mine, and AFFCAD is an outlet for that. In no way should this belittle other causes, but donation and fundraising are as much about helping a charity as it is about showing support for friends or family on an issue they care for. Please read more here if you want to learn more about my fundraiser and donate.