When Sarah, Duchess of York saw children in trouble, she did more than making a donation or taking part in a few engagements as part of a royal visit. In 1993, she founded the charity Children in Crisis, bringing education and care to forgotten children in rural and remote areas of the world.
“There were children out there to whom nothing was given, not even tomorrow, and yet they were being overlooked,” the Duchess said in her 1996 autobiography, My Story. “Disasters have a brief shelf life in our volatile world; today’s front-page war zone is next month’s forgotten news.”
Departing from the royal tradition of being invited to help a cause or finding an existing charity to work with as patron, Sarah built Children in Crisis from the ground up. With a mission of “the relief of hardship, distress and sickness of persons in need, particularly children, in any part of the world,” her group helped educate and empower those who had fallen through the cracks.
In 2018, the Duchess decided to merge Children in Crisis with a very similar organisation, Street Child. The two charities melded together and kept the name Street Child, with Sarah stepping into the role of Founder Patron.
Like Children in Crisis, Street Child, which was founded in 2008, works to help children in some of the toughest places in the world. They aim to get kids off the streets and into school, giving them a chance for a better future. Street Child volunteers go to “places where others won’t” such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Nepal, and Liberia, striving to assist children living in hard-to-reach areas and disaster-affected states gain access to education.
It costs just £30 to send a child to school for a year, and as Founder Patron, Sarah, the Duchess of York tirelessly promotes the charity’s fundraising campaigns. Since 2008, Street Child has helped more than 200,000 children to go to school, and more than 15,000 families set up businesses so they can afford the cost of educating their children long-term.
Carol Flint, Street Child’s Head of Marketing, spoke with Royal Central about the organisation, their Schools for Tomorrow campaign, and how a royal patron has helped them to spread the word about their mission.
Kristin Contino: Street Child and Children in Crisis, the charity started by Sarah, Duchess of York, merged last spring. How did Street Child’s relationship with the Duchess of York begin, and what prompted the two organisations to merge?
Carol Flint: “Street Child and Children in Crisis had worked together on projects in Africa and had a strong mutual respect. In conversations between the two CEOs, they came to realise that there were significant synergies between the two organisations but that we were competing for the same resources and duplicating efforts in the field. Over time, the discussions progressed, and the two boards of trustees agreed that by joining together the combined organisation would be more responsive and effective, allowing the scale and scope of our impact to be greatly strengthened.
Through the process, Street Child CEO, Tom Dannatt, met with Sarah, Duchess of York on various occasions and the Duchess was very much on board with the new organisation keeping the name Street Child. Writing in the Evening Standard as she announced that the two organisations were uniting, Sarah, Duchess of York said, ‘I love Street Child’s ambition. Children in Crisis has been like a third child to me over the past 25 years. Now it’s time to let it do something new and better. We agreed with Street Child that together we can pack a bigger punch’.”
Have you seen an increase in the number of donations coming in to Street Child since the Duchess has become involved? What about press coverage?
“Working with Sarah, Duchess of York has undoubtedly helped us raise the profile of Street Child amongst the British public. The Duchess has generously given her time to do press interviews and attend events in support of Street Child, notably for our recent ‘Count Me In’ appeal which the Duchess also talked about extensively on her social media channels. Tom Dannatt, our CEO, and the Duchess have also appeared together on the BBC’s The One Show and ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Talking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the Duchess asked viewers to support our Count Me In appeal, and immediately online donations came flooding in. We are hugely grateful for the extra visibility that the charity has gained thanks to Sarah, Duchess of York’s willingness to talk about Street Child. Our work is all about helping children into education in the world’s toughest places – there are 121m children around the world who don’t have the chance to go to school which most people find hugely shocking – the Duchess is helping us spread that message and to communicate that with relatively small amounts of money, Street Child can remove the barriers to education and really make a difference to children’s lives.”
The Duchess recently made a trip to Sierra Leone to launch your Schools For Tomorrow campaign, which we covered here at Royal Central. Can you give us an update on that project?
“Our Schools for Tomorrow project aims to bring education to 1000 villages in rural Sierra Leone where illiteracy rates stand at 70% due to a lack of good quality schools and teachers. Whilst the Sierra Leonean Government is making great progress with education, there is still a huge amount of support required, especially in rural areas. Working in partnership with rural communities, the project is supporting the development of schools, teaching and resources for children who otherwise would have no access to education.
Thanks to the support of the British public who we invited to sponsor a school, we are now in a position to support 329 schools in Sierra Leone which is fantastic progress, but there is still so much more to do! There are more details on how people can get involved on our website: www.street-child.co.uk.”
The Duchess’s daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, are global ambassadors for Street Child. What has it been like working with the whole family?
“The Duchess and her daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie are such an amazingly strong family unit. The Princesses are incredibly supportive of their mother and her charity work. We were delighted to welcome Princess Eugenie to our 10th birthday party at Kensington Palace last November and Princess Beatrice to our ‘Education in Emergencies’ event at the House of Lords in February.”
What can we expect next from Sarah, Duchess of York and Street Child?
“We’re currently working on plans for our next big appeal to launch later this year and looking forward to sharing those plans with the Duchess and hearing her ideas on how she would like to be involved. Going back to the article the Duchess wrote last year about Street Child and Children in Crisis joining forces, she said, ‘I will do all I can to encourage Street Child to transform children’s lives, and I hope you will support it too.’ Accordingly, she always brings huge enthusiasm, passion, and energy to our planning meetings and we look forward to working on the ideas that this generates.”