Pupils from St George’s Catholic Voluntary Aided College in Southampton spoke out today on behalf of millions of people across the world by asking our very own Secretary of State for International Development to use existing UK aid to support small businesses overseas.
Over eighty pupils looked at some of the benefits small businesses can bring to people living in poverty and the challenges they face – focusing on the story of Luz Mila and her family in Colombia.
Groups watched a short film (see http://www.cafod.org.uk/resources/secondary/lent-fast-day-2011 ) and discussed some of the reasons why Luz Mila and her children had been forced to flee their home in the countryside to the city.
Her daughter (Eliana) explained in the film the difference a small business had made to the entire family. Supported by CAFOD partner (Pastoral Social), Luz Mila received training from a local church group and joined others to work together in their own metal furniture making cooperative. Everyone in class could see the difference it was making to the family’s life. They now have money for school and a sense of hope for the future.
But pupils also discovered that having a small business has its own challenges. Luz Mila’s business suffers if anyone is off sick, as the cooperative does not employ many people so they can not produce as much work if someone is ill. The business also faces stiff competition from others who use poorer quality supplies and the workers only get paid when the business makes a profit. Small businesses make up the vast majority of business activity in developing countries –and they have the power to lift millions out of poverty and reduce inequality – but they need special support.
At the end of the session pupils were invited to sign a petition to Andrew Mitchell (Secretary of State for International Development) to ask him to use existing UK aid to support small businesses overseas.
The petition asked Andrew Mitchell to ‘act BIG and support small businesses’ because they
- Help lift the poorest and most vulnerable people out of poverty
- Act as a safety net for people and communities in times of global financial difficulties
- Give people pride and confidence in their work.
Some students also wrote their own personal messages:
Dear Mr Mitchell…
“Please use the aid budget to help people who have their own small businesses in developing countries. Small businesses are important to help people earn money, feed their families and control their own lives.’
“Please can you help small businesses worldwide. Everyone deserves a chance.”
“Can you please….invest money to lift small businesses and families out of poverty. Help them with things like roads, houses, education and health. This will make a big difference.’
“Please help small businesses because they really do help the poor”
“Could you please use the…aid money to help people with small businesses so they can have a better future.”
“I think you should spend the money on smaller businesses as they are the ones that need help. This will help people lead a better life.”
This is just one of the many ways in which St George’s pupils, staff and parents are supporting CAFOD. It really is a terrific school and it was great to say thank you in person today to so many students for all their fantastic fundraising for our brothers and sisters overseas.
At lunch time, Headteacher Mr Wilson, Deputy Head Mr Walford and Mrs Lee-Cann along with some of the students also presented me with a cheque for a whopping £418.90! Thank you all so much!
Pupils had taken part in a non uniform day during Lent to raise the money – and given something up to donate the money saved to CAFOD. Thank you everyone for all your hard work! It really is appreciated by everyone here and all our partners across the world.
Find out more about CAFOD’s new campaign and take action today via http://www.cafod.org.uk/business
The session used at St George’s can be downloaded from here –