‘250 million children worldwide can’t read. We’re on a mission to change that.’
If you visit the No Barriers Foundation website, you will come across this disheartening statistic.
You will also meet a bunch of enthusiastic young people who have decided to actually do something about it. Working towards the goal of fighting poverty through education, The No Barriers Foundation stocks empty classrooms, hires and trains local teachers, publishes local-language children’s books, and rigorously tracks results to ensure that less fortunate children receive an excellent education.
We asked Kieran Roberts, founder and director of NBF, to talk about his mission:
What is your background?
I studied law at the University of Manchester and whilst there I became active in politics. I was always aware of inequalities and how people’s chances in life were a complete lottery, and I had a fierce drive to do something about it.
Whilst completing my law degree, I became Chair of the youth wing of the regional Labour Party. I focussed our campaigning on tackling homelessness, particularly youth homelessness. We brought together local political leaders and charities to push the issue further up the agenda and raise money for local homelessness charities.
How did you come up with the No Barriers Foundation?
The more I read and learned from being engaged in politics, the more I believed that access to a quality education was one of the most fundamental, underlying issues that permeated every other. I consider education as the most reliable way out of poverty.
A book by Room to Read founder John Wood had a great impact on my attitude. It made me think I could do a lot more outside of politics by starting a charity and working directly in developing countries where poverty was most stubbornly rooted.
What is NBF’s mission and aims?
I started The No Barriers Foundation late 2015. The aim has always been broad: to give more children in developing countries access to a quality education.
We reached out to smaller charities based in the countries we wanted to work in (those with poor literacy rates that taught English from primary/elementary school) and we began sending children’s books.
From there, we’ve hired and trained teachers, produced resources in line with national curricula and we’re working on our first dual-language book for teachers to use in Bangladesh.
What has NBF accomplished so far? What are you mostly proud of?
In two years we’ve sent over 3000 books and trained 23 teachers across 4 countries (Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guyana and Kenya).
We’ve brought innovative teaching methods to schools in Bangladesh and we provided internet access, a laptop and projector to one school which has opened up a world of information to them.
We trialled our ‘Ready to Read’ project in Bangladesh in 2017 and of the 90 pupils who participated, over 90% made above average progress in reading, writing and speaking.
So, is NBF a charity?
The No Barriers Foundation officially became a charity in 2016. This means there is a transparent, accountable way for people to support us and further our mission by donating easily online. No one takes a salary or expenses, so 100% of our donations go directly towards our projects.
How do you find eligible schools/areas? And why donate to NBF and not to another long-established organization like UNICEF?
The schools we work with are prioritised based on a number of factors. Most are rural and more difficult to access and all of them are open to both boys and girls equally.
Larger charities are nearly always based in urban areas and work with schools in inner-cities or in the suburbs. The remote schools are often missed. Because we partner with smaller charities ran by local people with local expertise, they help us reach these remote schools. Although I may be biased, I genuinely believe that donating to The No Barriers Foundation makes your money go further; all of it goes directly to our projects and reaches some of the most cut-off schools in the world.
How do you make sure that donations reach their final destination?
All the donations sent to schools in developing countries are thoroughly accounted for. We don’t send them until we have receipts and sufficient evidence that they are being spent where they should be.
Other costs like shipping books we do ourselves, which is a lot more straightforward. Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves. This will always be our approach.
How many people are involved in NBF?
The No Barriers Foundation is entirely supported by volunteers. We have a great team of PGCE students who have been fundraising for us over the last year, but at the moment most of the day-to-day work is done by myself.
I’m actively looking to expand the team and want to bring in more teachers to help run our projects in the 4 countries we work in.
How can someone help?
People can also help by starting their own fundraisers on JustGiving as this is essential in making our work possible. It could be running a marathon, skydiving, mountain climbing – anything! A team from Manchester completed the Great Manchester Run and raised a cool £1700. That allowed us to hire a teacher in Bangladesh for one year.
A lot of us already have enough stuff. Have you ever told someone ‘I don’t know what I want’ and then been given gifts that you don’t really want? Imagine transforming that and utilising your birthday to get more children a good education. A girl made the extraordinary gesture of donating her 21st birthday to No Barriers Foundation and she raised £525 from friends and family. With that money, we were able to ship 1000 books to our partner schools throughout the world. That’s the impact these events can have.
If you want to get involved with The No Barriers Foundation, please don’t hesitate to contact us either at [email protected] or @NoBarriersFdn on twitter.
‘Education is the most powerful tool in removing the barriers which trap childern in poverty.’