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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine