Changing Lives. Inspiring Action.

By Nichola Mae Meron

School children

© Creative Commons, Trishhhh

When I went to primary school I had to wear a maroon-coloured woollen jumper over an equally unfashionable white shirt and matching polyester skirt. I used pens that had no buttons or extra colours, and the notebooks we wrote in were grainy and brown. We all hated it, but since our school provided these for free, we were forced to use them, albeit against our will.

When I visited my family in the Philippines that summer, I told them about my days at my new school, including my awful school uniform and equipment. To my surprise they didn’t share the same feelings of repulsion – only awe and envy.

According to figures from the Department of Education and the National Statistical Coordination Board in the Philippines, 1 in 6 Filipino kids will not attend school. Further, only 7 out of 10 kids will complete elementary school. Of those 7 kids, only 4 will complete high school, and of those 4, 1 will proceed onto university.

The main reason for this? Poverty.

Carmel Castrillo, a Filipino Londoner, took much of her secondary and further education in the Philippines. She agrees that money plays a huge part in education.

‘Kids with really poor parents are so desperate to go to school that they’re willing to travel far and go through dangerous conditions to get there, like swim under a bridge, or climb onto an open-top school bus that’s already so packed. But some kids just can’t afford to make those trips.’ And getting to school is only the first hurdle. ‘You pay for your books, paper, pens – the schools don’t provide that for you – nothing’s free.’

I asked what would happen if kids turned up with no stationery, and no money to buy any. ‘Teachers buy things for them.’

Our conversation soon turned to teachers, and I was surprised to hear the kind of roles teachers have in schools.

My aunt is a teacher there. If the kids have a project, a lot of them can’t afford to buy things for it. But my aunt, like most teachers there, will buy the materials for the kids. But it comes out of her own pocket. It’s hard because she doesn’t get paid more than 7,000 pesos a month [about £95].’

Teachers in the Philippines like Carmel’s aunt aren’t just classroom facilitators. To children, teachers are seen as heroes and leaders who are respected as much as their own parents.

‘Teachers have authority there. They’re so dedicated and will go through the same material over and over again until everyone has learned it. They’d spend hours after school teaching students. But they wouldn’t get paid extra for this.’

Poverty doesn’t just affect the children – the teachers’ livelihoods inevitably suffer. Sadly, many teachers are choosing to move abroad, after being tempted by higher salaries. Inevitably, it’s the children that suffer.

‘Students always say that they couldn’t achieve anything without their teachers. If the teachers that they rely on begin to leave, so many children will see no other hope in life.’

Late last year, the deadly typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. The storm killed thousands and shut or destroyed over 7,000 schools.

Hundreds of organisations have worked tirelessly to rebuild schools and provide classroom supplies that were damaged or previously unavailable. For example, Save the Children built several ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ for children whose schools were torn apart, while the Red Cross began building temporary classrooms in the affected regions.

While their efforts helped to bring education back to children in those areas, there are still those who will never see the inside of a classroom. And it’s these children that feel increasingly disillusioned by the need to go to school and make something of themselves.

If any lesson came out of Haiyan, it’s the need to be proactive; we can’t wait for another disaster in order to help those most in need. Although we can’t directly solve a problem as big as poverty, we can certainly help promote the need for education.


By Sebastian Krutkowski

Eight years have passed since Sir Ken Robinson’s influential TED talk about the significance of creativity in education and the economy.

We are now in the knowledge economy, but we still do not have an education system that can cater for its needs. As old careers become replaced by new ones, creativity becomes the salient differentiating factor between people competing for jobs. At the heart of rebalancing our education curricula to reflect the needs of this new economy is our view on creativity and human intelligence.

What is creativity and how can we cultivate it?

Creativity is about looking at existing problems in new ways, seeing new opportunities, and exploring emerging technologies. According to Sir Ken Robinson, while the knowledge economy expects us to produce something original and useful, people continue to have their creative potential educated out of them at schools.

The enduring paradox is that most children think they are creative, while most adults think they are not. However, creativity is not a rare talent that only special people have. The human mind is naturally curious. Culver Hill from the Institute for Applied Creativity at Texas A&M University, notes that before entering the school system, a young child asks an average 125 probing questions every day. After the university experience, young adults only ask a mere six questions a day.

Schools under the current education system teach conformity and compliance to procedures. Incessant testing and pressure on students to perform well academically makes them risk-averse and effectively incapable to adapt to new ways of performing work in the current, let alone future economy. To maintain efficiency and productivity in a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to overlook the human factor as we will never get the best out of people.

This is why students should be encouraged to experiment more, make cross-disciplinary connections between different subject areas, use their imagination and interact with classroom equipment (rather than merely sit in desks and receive direct instruction). Answers and solutions should be discovered, not written down from the board to memorise.

Another way of awakening creativity is to mainstream the arts into education curricula as it is the norm in Montessori and Steiner schools. The arts would foster the students’ aesthetic inquiry into the nature and diversity of the world through an exploration of the shapes, colours, rhythms, artistic expressions and relationships arising from various cultural contexts.

Teaching methods, which are dominant today, should be revised and tailored to assist each child in fully realising his or her creative potential. Enabling children to enjoy learning without the unhealthy stress or risk of early burnout from excessive pressure or criticism can only yield positive long-term outcomes. An exploratory spirit cultivated throughout one’s entire education will result in a “reservoir” of creativity that will be essential to better deal with economic, technological and cultural change.

Interested to learn more?  Read and download TVF’s whitepaper – Developing creativity and innovation in Education

By Shahzad Mahmood 

International or foreign aid is distributed to countries that do not have the resources to meet primary needs. There are two forms of international aid: short term and long term. Short-term aid, also known as emergency aid, is given when a country is in need of crucial supplies during a natural disaster or in times of war. The supplies usually include food, shelter, medical care and water. Short-term aid is important when the people affected are in need of crucial supplies to survive.

Long-term aid is used to help a country develop through establishing schools, hospitals, roads, irrigation and sanitation systems. The ultimate goal of long-term aid is to provide a backbone for the country and its people so they can move forward and help themselves.

True Volunteer Foundation provides long-term aid through its focus on providing education to those who do not have access to opportunities for personal development; be that by providing access to finance and training to run a small business or building a school so children have a place to learn and grow.

There is the age-old saying, “give a man a fish and he will eat for the day; teach a man to fish and he will eat every day”. Education is at the heart of change – it teaches, trains and assists understanding so ultimately every individual can support themselves and their community. With access to quality education people can break the poverty cycle, without access to education many poor families become trapped in poverty for generations due to having limited knowledge and skills on how to break the cycle.

NepalTVF has set up nurseries and primary schools for children to get a head start, providing them with the same opportunities as other children around the world and hopefully inspiring them to pursue other interests such as medicine, technology or even agriculture. TVF has also been involved with other types of education projects, such as setting up community centres for adults to learn more about how they can utilise their resources to benefit themselves and their families.

The role of education in poverty eradication is crucial; only countries who have good educational systems have achieved self-sufficiency, growth and prosperity. There are many challenges in achieving an equal and quality education for everyone across the world, particularly in countries that face extreme poverty and hardship. NGOs and governments must continue to work together to improve access to education – quality education can truly change the world and empower people to help themselves.


By Vanessa Ash

Having a degree qualification does not guarantee a ‘high flying’ job or even a job. Our economy is still struggling with the recession; 30.4 per cent of the 18-24 age group have been unemployed for over a year, and the numbers continue to grow. One in three recent graduates are employed in lower skilled jobs than originally intended.

True Volunteers working at TVF's HQ

In this tough job market; graduates need an edge over their competition; could a possible solution be volunteering? Volunteering is significant in increasing an individual’s job prospects. 87 per cent of employers regard volunteering as a ‘positive effect on career progression for young people’.

Of course which activities you volunteer in should be parallel to your career focus as this is more likely to prepare you for a permanent role and employers may be more likely to consider you for a position.

Volunteering makes a statement

Spending your time, helping others for free shows that you are not purely motivated by money. Employers admire this and will get the impression that you are a dedicated, motivated worker. 73 per cent of employers would employ candidates with volunteering experience over those without.

Employers expect certain levels of work experience

Volunteering as opposed to most internships – allows volunteers to stay on as long as they want to; this benefits the volunteers as they can reach the level of experience they feel they need before they choose to leave. This is particularly useful when employers require 6 months plus of experience; the volunteer will gain sufficient experience to ease them into their new job.

Volunteering increases your confidence which translates well to employers

Volunteering can give you a positive attitude and sense of accomplishment; 88 per cent of volunteers say volunteering gives them a sense of personal achievement’, 83 per cent say it ‘gives me the chance to do things that I am good at’ and 97 per cent say they get ‘a sense of satisfaction from seeing the results’.

Feeling that you are able to contribute effectively and being passionate about what you have achieved will increase your self -confidence which will come across well to employers and increase your chances of landing a job.

Mental Stimulation

Individuals with free time, the unemployed and those in between careers can keep their brains active by being productive. Instead of being stuck in mundane routines you will be in the process of learning and encountering social interactions which are new to you, helping develop your skills set.

In today’s job market achieving relevant work experience will increase your chances of being considered for employment over another graduate with no experience; volunteering is highly desirable to employers.


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