At Free the label, we're on a mission to be a force for good in our local community as well as the fashion industry at large. And what better way to do this than to help equip the younger generation with the resources and skills to fill their potential.
This month's partner charity is the incredible, 'Classrooms of Hope', who are creating outstanding changes for communities around Asia. With a mission to help children living in poverty gain access to education, COH has been creating better lives for children in developing countries since 2012.
FTL: Tell us about your charity, how did it begin and what were the beginning stages?
COH: COH was founded in 2012 by my husband, Duncan Ward. I joined him in building the organization in 2013. How we have done this has changed over the years. In the beginning, we followed the UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools model to create Child-Friendly Schools in Cambodia. We've supported students through scholarship programs both at the primary and tertiary levels. Over time we started our Building Schools program and have built schools in Rwanda, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Indonesia. We also built temporary Pop-Up Schools in Lombok after the earthquakes. Now, our main focus is our Eco-Block Schools program. Our programs have changed and evolved, but our core mission has always stayed the same and we have always partnered with local NGOs to implement projects.
FTL: How would you describe your mission for the organization?
COH: Classroom of Hope (COH) is a for-purpose organization on a mission to end the global education and plastic crisis. We provide access to quality education to children in developing countries. We partner with best-practice local NGOs to build sustainable schools that are safe and secure for students in rural and disaster-stricken communities.
FTL: What impact has your charity had in the last two years during the worldwide pandemic?
COH: In response to COVID-19, we supported a food and water relief program in partnership with Scholars of Sustenance and Social Impakt in Bali, Indonesia. We also launched our Eco-Block Schools Program and built the first Eco-Block School in the world using Block Solutions technology in Lombok Indonesia.
FTL: Can you define your short-term and long-term goals within the charity?
COH: Short-Term we've recently completed the second Eco-Block School in Lombok. We completed a concept home using this technology to showcase to the government of Indonesia as a potential solution to rebuilding homes for people across Lombok who lost their homes in the 2018 earthquakes. Over the coming months, we will build seven more schools in Lombok using Eco-Blocks which will be imported from Finland. A big focus over the next year is to build a factory in Lombok to produce the blocks locally.
Long-Term we plan to build 200 schools across Lombok using Eco-Block technology over the next five years. Once the factory is built in Lombok, we will be able to use locally produced blocks (made from plastic sourced in Indonesia) to build these schools. We also plan to build libraries and toilets using this technology. We will also develop a training facility to train and build capacity for local building contractors.
Give me your best example of the way you've seen your organization's work make a difference?
COH: 'In terms of numbers, we have built 75 schools, distributed 967 scholarships, and served over 21000 students
But to give a more concrete example….
We used to support a program called STEM4Women - a tertiary level scholarship program in which young women received scholarships to study in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. All the young women who went through this program came from very rural areas of Cambodia and they all came from poor families. All of the women graduated and went on to work in their field of study. When we received reports about how these women excelled in their jobs after graduation, we observed a similar theme among the women. They all want to succeed, not only for themselves but for their families. Each of these women expressed a deep desire to support their families and to help their siblings also gain access to education. Once they have been lifted, they want to help lift others too'.
FTL: Is there anything that you wish more people knew about your organization or the issues you are trying to solve?
COH: It's not just about building schools for students and focusing on the education crisis. Our mission has expanded to include a focus on the plastic crisis and the climate crisis. The product we are delivering with Eco-Blocks is creating an impact towards 11 of the 17 UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (https://classroomofhope.org/eco-block-schools - you can see which ones here) – building sustainably has now become a part of our core mission.
What are the most critical results you expect your organization to produce?
To rebuild all the schools (200) that were destroyed by the 2018 earthquakes on Lombok using Eco-Blocks.
Classroom's Of Hope's inspiring core mission is to make sure that future generations get the education and development opportunities they will need to thrive, delivering brighter prospects for future generations. To find out more about the incredible work they are doing and to donate to the cause follow the link below.