Family Portraits

From time to time, data that COCO requires can be difficult to obtain and, therefore, the way in which it is collected has to be considered carefully and strategically.

One subject that often proves problematic is finding out about children’s families. For some children, the structure of the family is a sensitive topic and so direct questioning can be inappropriate. What’s more, holding the attention of nursery pupils can be challenging in itself.

As a result, COCO has had to come up with a child-friendly method to collect information in this field and it has been largely successful. Working in Tanzania recently, COCO asked younger children simply to draw pictures of their families for the team. In doing so, the task was transformed into a fun activity for the children and the chance of upsetting them over what could be a delicate issue was minimised.

Family drawing 3

Unfortunately, this method does have some drawbacks. Given that many do not understand the purpose of the task, it can be inaccurate as certain children just replicate the example family they are shown. On top of this, it can often be hard to distinguish family members in the drawings as stickmen do not always clearly distinguish gender or age.

Having said that, the majority of the pictures did provide an insight into the children’s families, with some children making gender particularly easy to determine!

Family drawing 1

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Guest Blog: Luc Johnston

Luc spills the beans on the skills he has learnt, his career aspirations and the COCO office antics

That’s me now finishing my 8th week of my internship here at COCO and it’s safe to say that it has been an incredibly enriching 2 months so far. I have managed to learn a wide range of skills like how to organise an efficient and successful event, process financial payments and communicate confidently over the phone, amongst other skills.

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Sporting Stevie C’s Connected Gen T-shirt

I found myself at somewhat of a crossroads when I finished my university degree. All of a sudden it was time to choose a career and to start applying for jobs. However, I really felt disenchanted with the idea of pursuing a career in finance, or telecommunications or even sales for that matter, especially if it entailed moving to a big city like London. Realistically speaking, the charitable sector was the only area that I could envision myself working for in the future as it gives me a sense of pride and fulfillment in the work that I’m doing.

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Becky and myself caught in the act

Fortunately for me the COCO summer internship presented itself and it was quite frankly a position that I couldn’t turn down. During my time in the office I’ve had a wide range of tasks on my agenda and can say that my two favourite areas would be finance (strangely enough), as I feel I am learning really important financial and data handling skills that will prove to be useful later on in life, and the Corporate Partnership Proposals. Albeit the Proposals have been a little time consuming they are very important as they bring in a significant amount of money each year and moreover establish long lasting and fruitful relationships with businesses and businesspeople both regionally and nationally.

The toughest part of this internship has been adjusting to the professional working lifestyle. By that I am referring primarily to the early morning wake ups. Although, having said that, after a couple weeks I adjusted and got myself into the groove.

One of my more memorable experiences in the office would be the time that Heart FM gave us a special visit. You see for quite a while now we’ve been playing our very own version of ‘win before they sing’ in the office which has been a good laugh but has also unearthed one or two fiercely competitive spirits. Well anyway, the voice of the northeast himself Mr Tom Campbell caught wind of our little game and decided to pop in and orchestrate a special one just for us. There was a little breakdown in communication though, as we thought we were playing to be entered in the weekly £10,000 draw but we ended up with a dubious Heart FM flag and some 6p car stickers.

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As you can see Bradley can hardly contain his excitement with his idol Tom Campbell in the room

At the end of the day I’ve had a superb time working here and I’ve really benefited on a personal and professional level from picking the brains of each member of staff here to find out exactly how this organisation ticks and to also help me in my own personal development. One of my biggest concerns when I arrived was that I would be an ‘add-on’ to the team and be assigned wishy-washy jobs. However I have been given a lot of responsibility and the team put a lot of faith in the 2 interns here and I believe both Becky and I have done pretty well as a consequence.

Education Removes Ignorance: Listening to Lekrumuni

Education is hugely important for the children of Lekrumuni, a Maasai community in northern Tanzania. However, with the nearest secondary school at 13km away, it is also out of reach for many of them. In early 2015, the Lekrumuni sought to partner with COCO to construct a secondary school in the community. In July 2015, COCO’s Overseas Operations Coordinator, Bradley French, and a team of research volunteers from Newcastle and Sunderland University visited the community to find out first-hand how easier access to schooling could benefit the community.

To gain a comprehensive overview of exactly what the community wanted from a school a variety of methods were used, from conducting interviews to collecting official government statistics. At the forefront of these methods, though, was simply listening to what the people of the community had to say.

One approach was to hold a group discussion with students at other ‘local’ secondary schools to hear their opinions on a variety of topics. The first of which was the importance of education. The students were fully engaged in the discussion and gave some uplifting insights into why they value education.

Lekrumuni data infographics (1)

All students valued education as it was regarded as an effective way of tackling local issues such as FGM and poverty. With one student summing up this advantage with “education tackles ignorance”.

Another topic of discussion were barriers to education in the local area. The barriers were hugely varied; some children can’t go to the local schools are they are too far and there are no dormitory facilities, others come from families who can’t afford school fees, meanwhile some girls are unable to continue in education as they are forced into marriage.

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COCO is hoping to start partnering with the Lekrumuni community in the near future. Watch this space for any news on development!

Guest Blog: Our Communications and Events Officer Rebecca Churchill

After we were visited by Heart North East radio.

My name’s Rebecca and I’m currently interning as a Communications and Events Officer at COCO! I had always really liked the idea of working in the charity sector because it seemed to combine creativity and social justice, and when the opportunity came up at COCO I was excited to find out if this was true.

So far the experience has been brilliant- everyone’s so friendly, and because it’s a small team, work is varied and stays interesting. Chiefly my role is to use the donor database and assist our lovely Fundraising Manager Kievah, though in the past seven weeks this has expanded to involve community fundraising, finances, and event planning.

The gorgeous Slaley Hall at our Steve Cram Celebrity Golf Day.

As it can take a while to learn the ropes at a new job, Kievah made sure that we were gradually introduced to tasks so we didn’t feel overwhelmed, and that has meant I am really comfortable with what I’m doing now. In the first few weeks I learnt how to operate the database on Iris, and send group emails with MailChimp, as well as other administrative tasks like distributing fundraising packs. I attended my first event- the annual Golf Day with Steve Cram, which made me appreciate how much energy and planning goes into ensuring guests have a brilliant time. There was a brief painful moment where I had to go on stage to model some merchandise without warning and felt a bit like I was dying, but overall it was a great night and Slaley Hall was a beautiful venue.

What has surprised me most at COCO is that after being talked through some financial procedures by our Finance Manager Diane, I got the hang of it and now operate the donations we receive through Just Giving. Other highlights include working with several volunteers to develop a social media strategy in response to a report produced by the Newcastle University Business School, and most hilariously, receiving a call from Tom Campbell at Heart Radio North East, and realising we were on air!

My sunny work space at COCO HQ.

At the moment I’m focusing on some independent projects; developing a COCO Alumni scheme, as well as planning an event to honour our volunteers, and organising Christmas card sales. I also gave some suggestions to Brad on ways to keep improving the way we work with universities, and it’s been great to contribute what I’ve learnt from my experience in societies.

Having just graduated, it’s amazing to already be working in a role I enjoy this much, and I am definitely set on staying in this sector after my placement finishes.