Changing Lives. Inspiring Action.

TVF Weblog

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.


Children tend to love playing outdoors with other children. It is so much fun to be surrounded with other children at school who can share your interests in playing sport, action jumping, running activities and everything in between.

burmese_childrenIt always seems to be never-ending fun for them in the school playground. Children never get tired or bored. This is an image that we all are used to – seeing children smiling and generally happy at school is an ordinary thing for many of us in the UK. And it is great!

Thanks to the ‘Burma 2012’ project that was completed last year, many children living in small villages like Thin Yone Pyan, Kwai Thay and Kan Ni in Burma (Myanmar) have begun to experience the same. Three new schools were built for the local communities with funding provided by True Volunteer Foundation and its supporters. The new schools were completed in partnership with Heal Kids Foundation and provide schooling, support and not to mention fun to 180 local children per year.

new_burma_schoolThe project has changed many Burmese children’s and their parent’s everyday lives. It has got much brighter and busier. Exploring the world through education is an exciting and new activity for the local children. This is how some of the children describe their new experience’ I love to meet my friends at school’, ‘Now I can tell interesting stories to my little brother’, ‘I like to draw’ etc. These are just a few examples on how encouraging school can be for someone who had not had an opportunity to experience it before.

TVF is currently running a ‘Burma needs school’ campaign. We will tell more about it our next blog post.



Written by Naveed Anwar

The lack of a good education is one of the biggest causes of poverty across the globe.  Having an educational infrastructure (i.e. schools) is only half the battle. Teacher training is crucial and often the missing element. In order to get a good education children need to have teaching methods which motivate and offer them freedom to learn while in school, and this is where the “chalk and talk” teaching fails.

“Chalk & Talk” is a formal method of teaching with a blackboard and the teacher’s voice as its focal point. This method is used in classrooms across the world. However, this formal and somewhat unimaginative teaching method has come under scrutiny, with many people suggesting that teachers should not rely solely on this technique if they want to engage and inspire their students. Another criticism is that this method of teaching tends to go with the pace of the fastest learner and can leave a lot of children behind, particularly if they have had no pre-school learning.

Through using no teaching aids the “chalk and talk” method fails to stimulate many students’ interests in learning. Education needs to be more practical, should allow children to express themselves and learn independently at their own pace. Montessori education is an alternative approach to the traditional “chalk and talk” which allows children to shape their own learning and develop sensory, numeric, language and practical skills. Montessori education is hands on and keeps children stimulated. With “chalk and talk” some students are not attentive in class and do not naturally have the motivation to learn. With no utilisation of teaching aids, charts, slides and pictures, teachers are unable to capture the imagination of their students. The failure to enthuse students has resulted in many young people leaving school without the knowledge and skills to help them aspire and do well in the future.

In this regard “chalk and talk” fuels the cycle of poverty, which refers to a set of factors by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention. Poor families become trapped in poverty for many generations due to having limited skills to break the cycle.

So what needs to be done to tackle this problem and create greater opportunities for young people? Several charities such as TVF and Futurelab believe that teachers must alter traditional teaching methods and adopt more activity-based approaches as well as class participation between the student and the teacher. Learning becomes more interesting and significant when students are actively involved. Having a school infrastructure is only half the battle; teachers need to be trained so they are fully equipped to maximise both the facilities and the opportunities for their students.

By. Penelope Maclachlan

There’s many a slip between cup and lip summarises what can go wrong if richer countries try to help poorer ones through aid alone. Maladministration and corruption can occur anywhere along the supply line. If the recipient is torn apart by natural or manmade disasters – tsunamis or civil war, for example – the likelihood multiplies of thieves snatching for themselves what was meant for victims.

A more effective way of helping the world’s poorest people is to tax businesses operating in poor countries. Financial leaders must make clear the use that governments will make of revenue collected. Building a dictator’s seventh palace is misuse of tax. Appropriate use includes health, education and infrastructure. Every country should progress until it no longer needs foreign aid, but is self-sufficient. Bernard Shaw said that benevolent people loathe alms-giving; no one, individual or nation, should need charity.

The G8, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA and the UK, recognises this. Since 1 January 2013 the UK has been president of the G8. Earlier this year George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented to the Group policies on tax evasion and ways to help poorer countries collect taxes due to them. Osborne said that the UK had helped Ethiopia increase tax collection, and he claimed the UK had also helped Kenya and Ghana. In February 2013, Group of 20 finance chiefs engaged in talks in Moscow with a pledge to stop multinational companies moving profits to low-tax countries.

Tax has acquired a bad name which it does not deserve. When citizens pay taxes they should feel confident that the revenue will go towards what they need for themselves and their families and friends, and the prosperity of their country. They should also understand that we must pay a fair price for imports such as chocolate and coffee. Without the growers in Africa, the UK would lack these commodities.

Aid does nothing towards preventing tax evasion, or recovering misappropriated funds. Tax reforms enshrined in international law are overdue. David Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos (The Guardian, 24 January 2013) took a swipe at Starbucks for paying £8.6m corporation tax in the UK over the past 14 years – a fraction of what it owed.     Starbucks’ promise to pay £20m over two years is controversial. Paying tax is not a matter of promise but a legal obligation. Tax reforms may be the answer but as yet governments lack ways of enforcing them.

In 2010, the Education Secretary Michael Gove proposed to axe £162m in ring-fenced funding for a national network of School Sports Partnerships. In the wake of an outcry from athletes, pupils and opposition MPs Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a partial U-turn; however, the ring-fenced funding was still cut by 69 per cent and only guaranteed until 2013. So why is sports education the first to be cut?

As financial austerity measures begin to take their toll the balancing act of what to fund and what to cut becomes more challenging. UK school budgets are extremely tight and any required savings tend to come from deleting or reducing certain aspects of the curriculum. Due to the importance placed on more traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History, subjects with less academic weight lose out on funds once budgets become tighter.

Sports education tends to fall in the latter category, and with these cuts heavily affecting schools it is feared that this will greatly impact on the amount of sport that is played by children both now and in the future.  Adding to this concern is the drive towards selling off precious playing fields; to date 22 sport pitches across London have been approved for sale, which does not support the 2012 Olympic legacy.

Many studies highlight that the amount of hours children spend indoors on computer games is in keeping with their becoming less active. In addition high computer game usage does not allow children to envisage a realistic future career, which, as a result, could affect their school achievements. This is extremely unfortunate as sports education is critical to a child’s development. Sport provides young people with the opportunity to express themselves and provides important lessons in teamwork, discipline and motivation. It also allows young people to experience life to its fullest, encouraging self-belief, drive and enthusiasm.  This far outweighs them spending too much time indoors watching video games, potentially exposing them to games of a violent nature and which do not teach children the proper meaning of life.


© Creative Commons, HUBCAM

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games swept Great Britain with sporting fever and shone a spotlight on the important role sport has to play. Team GB had 550 athletes competing in the Olympics and working with them were 450 accredited staff and 300 volunteers. This shows that sport not only creates sporting champions and brings people together around a common cause but truly harnesses a spirit and belief that through hard work and perseverance anything is possible. As public budgets for sports grow tighter it is critical that the UK looks to find new ways of working together across the public and private sectors to protect sports education for its children and secure the legacy for which the 2012 Olympics set the stage.

To find out more on what True Volunteer Foundation are doing to address this, please visit the Wimbledon Sporting Project page.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has long been known for the beautiful Buddhist temples and for its political landscape. Being one of the least developed countries in Asia Burma has seen an adverse impact on its educational system. Many children in Burma did not have the option of attending school. On average, a Burmese adult only has 2.8 years’ worth of schooling behind them which is far below basic requirements in most countries across the globe. However, Burma is now beginning to see change at a swift pace. This has been aided by large investments from non-government organisations across the world, which have realized that a vision of a better Burma can only be guaranteed by giving every child access to education.

The international community is beginning to come together through forming key partnerships with local communities. By having greater access to schools Burmese children will have the resources to gain the skills they need to break out of the Cycle of Deprivation and achieve future success.

For the first time in many years there is now hope for Burmese children and a real opportunity for the international community to unite to support their future. But we must act now, and act together.

True Volunteer Foundation is proudly taking part in this new groundwork of creating new schools in Burma. If you would like to find out more on how True Volunteer Foundation is helping the Burmese children please click here to visit our campaign page.


We are very excited to welcome you to our brand new website and blog. Browse through the site to learn about our unique principles and discover how we work with True Volunteers, the Corporate Sector, Universities, Governments and small charities to changes lives.  View our projects and take a tour of TVF’s Global Footprint via the interactive world map. Visit the Recruitment Zone and apply on line to join us and help others by engaging in a Social Career today.  Watch this space for current news and opinions on Volunteering, Education, Corporate Social Responsibility, Micro-Finance and International Development.