Your generosity has been inspiring - now it's time to put the money to good use

The success of The Independent's fundraising appeal for child soldiers exceeded all our expectations, here's how your money will be spent...

Share

It is only two months now since my Air France flight touched down at the steamy, ramshackle airport in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.

But so much has happened since that start of The Independent's campaign to save child soldiers there, that it seems like an age ago.

I was invited to visit by Unicef, to witness for myself their work, from negotiating the children's release by the militia generals to rehabilitating them back into their villages.

It was a trip I shall never forget: the brave Unicef women doggedly standing their ground in talks with the cold-eyed generals; the rebel soldier with the rocket-propelled grenades walking through a playground of laughing kids; the joy on the liberated children's faces when they safely arrived at the Unicef base, and the dancing celebrations held for every new arrival at the camp.

Over the following weeks, we ran a series of articles explaining how and why children have been so abused in this conflict. We described how Unicef persuades the rebel groups to relinquish their youngest fighters. We explained the complexities of undoing the brainwashing done to them and described the process of preparing their villages and families for their return.

And, of course, we asked you to donate.

This we did with a certain amount of trepidation. Fundraising experts warned us that this was not an issue to which the British public would respond: nobody had ever heard of the CAR, child soldiers were too controversial an issue, Brits would not give to a foreign campaign when the economy is so bad back home.

But we were confident that Independent readers would "get it", were sophisticated enough to recognise that Unicef's work was making a real difference to children's lives.

And my, how you proved us right.

We reckoned we could call it a great success if we raised £100,000.

But, as the campaign closed last night, the total was topping a spectacular £234,000, with further pledges in the pipeline.

That is by far the most this newspaper has ever raised for a single charity.

As the thousands poured in, your generosity completely dazzled me. As I kept saying to my colleagues here: what other country would be so generous to people so far away? Surely, I keep saying, this must be the most charitable nation in the world!

So, where will your money now be spent?

As we have reported, shortly after I left the remote bushland where the Unicef camp was, the 64 children who at that time were being cared for there had to be evacuated to the capital, Bangui, due to a sweeping surge through the area by the rebels.

Some of your donations will be employed keeping these children safe and completing their rehabilitation. When the military situation calms, Unicef will, thanks to your money, return to continue its work in the bush, liberating children, providing them with food, shelter and healing for their physical and mental battle wounds.

The money will also go into schooling or vocational training, giving them the skills to make a peaceful life. It will also go towards the laborious task of tracing the youngsters' families and carrying out the counselling both they and their brutalised children often need to bring them back together again.

In this land where it is so dangerous to be a child, you have made a real difference. Thank you.

Evgeny Lebedev is the owner of 'The Independent' and 'Evening Standard' newspapers. Follow him on @mrevgenylebedev. Although the campaign has now finished, donations can still be made to: www.unicef.org.uk/independent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

Amanda Hess
Armed RCMP officers approach Centre Block on Parliament Hilll  

Ottawa shooting: A shock attack in a peaceful nation

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?