Ensuring children are safe, in school, and learning

06 February 2024 | Zoe Pannenborg
Zoe, our 7th Programme Associate, shares her experiences having settled into her placement in Uganda with JOA partner charity, Street Child.

As I sit down to reflect on the past nine months, it's crazy to realise how much has happened since I wrapped up my time at the JOA office back in April. The journey led me from London's Street Child headquarters, where I joined the Programmes Funding team, to my current role in the Street Child of Uganda (SCoU) office, based in Kampala, Uganda for 6 months. Brace yourself; this might be a bit of a lengthy one, but trust me, there's a lot to catch up on!

Joining Street Child has been an absolute pleasure, and the learning experience has been beyond rewarding, thanks to the incredible people and teams I've had the privilege to work with. Let me share a bit about the organisation itself; Street Child is a rapidly expanding international children's charity with a remarkable journey that began in Makeni, Sierra Leone, in 2008. Starting with a project supporting 100 street-connected children, the organisation has now made a meaningful impact on the lives of over 950,000 individuals across 27 countries. Street Child is dedicated to education, protection, and sustainable livelihoods, priding itself on a rich tradition of delivering transformative projects through a network of talented local staff and exceptional partners.

Their vision? A world where every child is safe, in school, and learning, no matter the circumstances. They operate in the toughest places, prioritising low-cost and scalable approaches, implementing innovative and culturally relevant solutions.

In my role within the Programmes Funding Team, I had the opportunity of contributing to Street Child's impactful work by scoping and submitting applications across trusts, foundations, and institutional donors. From small grants to multi-million pound projects, the team is committed to securing the necessary funding to make a lasting difference in the lives of vulnerable children worldwide.

During my six months with the Programmes Funding Team, I gained invaluable insights into the intricate funding mechanisms of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). I witnessed the complex layers of fundraising that Street Child navigates to implement crucial interventions in areas of acute need. Securing financial support for NGOs is a proactive effort, involving teams dedicated to sourcing funds from public, private, and corporate sectors. The reality is that funding rarely comes effortlessly; organisations frequently grapple with the challenge of meeting match funding requirements while striving to secure sufficient and sustained financial support. This task is further complicated by potential shifts in donor priorities and the impact of geopolitical events that draw attention away from long-standing crises like prolonged droughts and decades of instability, often rooted in colonial legacies. In this competitive landscape, smaller organisations, less prominently known than major entities such as Save the Children and UNICEF, face an ongoing battle for funding opportunities to sustain their vital interventions and advocacy work.

Prospecting for funding opportunities became a daily adventure – identifying trusts and foundations aligned with Street Child's strategic priorities. Crafting applications involved collaboration with the team, ensuring a comprehensive approach before submission. Other activities included prospecting for institutional funding opportunities, compiling donor reports of the successes and impact of supported projects, and representing Street Child at various fundraising and networking events.


Moving from the little island of Jersey to central London took some time to get used to. London is busy and chaotic but also vibrant and the never-ending possibilities of what to do with my spare time, whether it be pubs, food markets, live gigs, or strolling round parks, made it far from a boring place to live. A highlight of my daily routine whilst living in London was definitely my journey into the office in the morning. I was fortunate enough to be able to walk to work. A brisk 30-minute walk took me across London Bridge, as I looked across to Tower Bridge which had the rising sun beaming behind it. As I neared the office I passed the likes of Monument and the infamous ‘Gherkin’.  

Whilst in the London office I also joined Street Child’s Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) working group. The working group strives for equal access and inclusion in its programmes, transcending barriers of age, gender, and class. Active members engage in regular meetings, discussions, and resource-sharing, exploring themes from gender-based violence to policy reviews. Long-term goals include refining policies, implementing staff training, and integrating gender analysis for a more inclusive organisational culture at Street Child. 

I was fortunate to attend Street Child’s annual Programmes Week, uniting international Programmes Staff, Global Programmes Funding teams, the global Advisory Team, and the Senior Leadership Team. This experience immersed me in enlightening discussions spanning critical areas of the organisation's mission. Day one discussions focused on some of Street Child’s key thematic areas including SAFE (Child Protection), addressing comprehensive approaches to children's safety and educational outcomes. Insights from Mozambique and Nigeria highlighted strategies against armed conflict and early marriage. The session discussed Primary Prevention Framework, interventions, and the socio-ecological model. The IN SCHOOL session focused on sustaining education in low-resource environments, showcasing successful approaches from Uganda, Mozambique, and Syria. The LEARNING session emphasised Street Child's commitment to children's right to quality education, presenting initiatives from Afghanistan, Ghana, and Ukraine. Discussions covered challenges in evidence gathering, balancing tangible and intangible interventions, and tailoring programs to diverse contexts. 

The following days continued to cover lots of pertinent topics such as inclusion and localisation. Sessions on inclusion stressed the importance of meaningful policies and programs for the most marginalised children, while discussions on localisation showcased Uganda's success in working with local partners to tackle the high rates of out-of-school refugees and host community children. Additionally, the week covered pressing issues like climate change, exploring the intersection of rapid response and environmental challenges, and strategies to integrate climate action into Street Child’s programmes globally. The week not only broadened my understanding of Street Child's diverse initiatives but also underscored the importance of addressing multifaceted challenges in the realm of child protection and education. 

As I progressed through my time at Street Child headquarters I got to learn about the incredible projects that are being conducted across the globe. In the relentless pursuit of breaking barriers to education, Street Child unveils transformative initiatives that go beyond conventional solutions. The groundbreaking 'Family Business for Education' scheme confronts the pervasive grip of household poverty, empowering families to establish or expand small businesses, ensuring sustainable funding for their children's education.

Discovering the transformative impact that these programs have on the lives of thousands of children and families only heightened my eagerness to kick off my in-country placement. I was excited to witness firsthand how the teams at Street Child are rolling out these initiatives on the ground, actively engaging with communities to ensure their needs are met.

As September rolled around and summer began to come to a close, as did my time in London. At the beginning of September, I was informed of my country placement, which would take place in the beautiful East African country, Uganda. I was delighted with my placement as I had learnt about the work being done in Uganda at programmes week and was immediately captured by their commitment to localisation.

September flew by with intensive planning for my move, goodbyes to my wonderful team in the London office and friends and family in Jersey.  Before I knew it, I was on a plane beginning my travels out to Uganda where I’d be based for the final 6 months of my placement. Since my arrival in the vibrant capital city of Kampala I have received nothing but warm welcomes and helpful spirit from the locals. Uganda is a beautiful country which very quickly captures your heart with its breath-taking scenery, friendly people and energetic social life. 


Uganda, often known as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, radiates a spirit of warmth and kindness that extends far beyond its borders. One remarkable testament to this compassionate spirit is the nation's open-door policy towards refugees, setting an inspiring example of humanitarianism on the global stage. The country's approach is rooted in the principle that those fleeing conflict and persecution deserve a chance at a better life. Uganda not only provides a safe haven for refugees but also grants them the right to work and access education, fostering self-reliance and integration into local communities. 

As a result of this policy Uganda has experienced a huge influx of refugees and asylum seekers – more than 1.5 million (UNHCR, November 2023) – from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Burundi and Rwanda. South Sudanese refugees account for the largest number fleeing, where people face violence, food insecurity, and a lack of access to basic services such as health and education. Refugees from the DRC make up the second largest proportion, where Congolese are escaping from inter-ethnic violence and attacks on civilians. 

While Uganda's generosity is commendable, the challenges brought about by external factors cannot be overlooked. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its widespread impact, led to the closure of schools for a staggering 83 weeks. This hiatus had a devastating effect on children's education and well-being in Uganda, with an estimated 30% of children not returning to education post-lockdown. Particularly alarming was the disproportionate impact on girls and refugee learners, who often found themselves overlooked by state-led learning interventions. In Uganda, Street Child has been heavily invested in driving localisation through its partnerships and support for local partners to implement multi-sectoral programmes in both development and refugee response contexts since 2018, ensuring that children remain safe, in school and learning.

However, I believe a dedicated post about the work that Street Child is doing in Uganda, and the support I am providing, is warranted, so I will address this in another post. For now, I have enjoyed settling into life in Uganda and have already witnessed firsthand how it earned its title of 'the Pearl of Africa.' Weekends provide opportunities to explore all that Uganda has to offer, and I have definitely been taking every opportunity that arises. I joined 'Mountain Club Uganda,' which hosts a variety of outdoor activities and adventures.

I regularly visit the quarry to rock climb with locals and expats. Additionally, I participated in a group trip to Jinja, where we went kayaking at the source of the Nile, camping, and mountain biking along the riverside. Apart from this, I have become an avid bird watcher, visiting lakeside swamps to catch a glimpse of the famous 'shoebill,' and have embarked on a 'booze cruise' across Lake Victoria, the third-largest lake in the world. I feel extremely fortunate to be gaining such vital experience in the development and humanitarian sector, learning from an incredible team in Uganda, while also enjoying a vibrant social life and getting to experience all the wonders that Uganda has to offer. 

Applications are now open for our next Programme Associate internship beginning in May, so if gaining programmatic experience like this – which is so vital to getting your first job in international development – appeals to you, read more about the role here.

2024 Programme Associate Internship