Why should I donate to Shine instead of any other charity?

Shine is a small charity with no UK staff and very low administrative costs, and the trustees donate their time freely as well as donating money to cover the minimal admin costs. This means that almost every penny donated to Shine goes to the people who need help – the children of Zambia. Being small, we have a limited focus for our work, which means that it’s clear how donations will be spent.

What makes Shine unique?

Although there are many charities that are involved with literacy, there are few that focus on improving literacy rates in Africa and specifically in Zambia. Few of these charities also run and manage their own projects as opposed to acting as an umbrella to distribute funds. Shine has constructed its own literacy school in a poor township in Zambia and actively manages it, in partnership with the local people, on a day-to-day basis.

The trustees of Shine, although UK based, have spent years in Zambia working on establishing and growing the school and other projects, and are therefore close to the work and very passionate about it.

What exactly is the donated money spent on?

Around 95% of our costs are incurred in running our literacy school in Zambia. Of those costs, around 60% go towards paying the local teachers who work at the school. Other significant costs are the pupil feeding programme (each pupil at our school receives a daily meal at lunch time), maintenance of the school infrastructure, hygiene/sanitation supplies and learning resources.

What percentage of my donated money goes directly to help the children of Shine?

In our last annual report and accounts, we reported that less than 1% of our total expenses were ‘administrative’ i.e. bank charges, annual fees/subscriptions, etc. The rest of our expenditure goes towards running the school. Some money is also spent on projects, such as setting up a new income-generating/sustainability venture.

What made you set up Shine and who runs it on a daily basis?

Vineet Bhatnagar, the founder of Shine, set up the charity after the life-changing experience of volunteering in a community school in Lusaka for 6 months in 2005. He set up his own remedial literacy programme for over 100 pupils in the school across Grades 1 to 7 who could not read. Vineet used phonics to help the pupils learn how to read and therefore become empowered to understand what they were being taught in their lessons.

The success of the programme and the experience of seeing the impact it had on children’s lives drove Vineet to set up Shine, with a vision of using local teachers to help Zambian children on a wider scale to become literate.

Can I volunteer to help Shine? Or how do I get involved?

Volunteering for Shine could mean raising money for the charity – many individuals have participated in organised sporting events, such as a bike ride or run, to raise money for us. Others have held cake bakes, coffee mornings or summer barbeques to generate funds to help us run the school.

Alternatively, we are often interested in receiving learning materials such as books (especially those aimed at teaching young children how to read). Stationery such as pens and pencils are of less benefit as they can be bought easily and Zambia and the cost of shipping from Europe may negate the benefit of the donation.

We have also received a small number of volunteers who have visited the school and given their time, for as little as 2 days or as long as 3 months. We do not have an official package for arranging volunteers, but are delighted when individuals are willing to arrange their own trip to Zambia and visit the school, which often forms part of a longer trip. In these cases, we work closely with the volunteer and our local staff to ensure they are picked up at the airport, accommodated in safe areas (either in guest houses or with Shine friends/staff) and safely transported to/from the school every day. Our teachers are always happy to receive visitors and we often involve volunteers in activities such as reading with children in our school library, running a club or games, assisting in lessons or simply spending time with our pupils.

How many children does Shine help?

Shine currently has around 200 pupils enrolled at its school in Lusaka. The nature of our programme means that pupils move on to formal education once they have become literate at Shine. This means that there are many pupils – several hundred – who have passed through the programme since its inception in 2007.

Does Shine provide additional support to these children?

Our pupils receive lunch at the school on a daily basis. Based on what we can currently afford, we provide all 200 pupils with a nutritious meal of nshima with fish, vegetables or beans twice per week. On other days, we give them a porridge made of maize meal.

What happens to the children once they leave Shine? Do Shine follow their progress after they leave and support them if required?

Pupils who pass our final exams at Shine (which are heavily focused on reading and comprehension skills), are placed by Shine in mainstream schools. Shine has established relationships with a number of state schools not far from our township, who are happy to receive our pupils annually. Since we teach our pupils a number of subjects up to Grade 4 level (in addition to focussed literacy instruction), the receiving state schools take our pupils directly into Grade 5 or sometimes higher. This means that the Shine programme acts as a bridge for pupils to enter formal education where they may not have otherwise had the chance.

We make every effort to follow our former pupils’ progress after they leave Shine, but due to the nature of life in Zambia, it is not always possible and pupils easily disappear from our ‘radar’! In terms of providing support to our pupils post-Shine, it is not our policy to financially support them once they leave our programme. However, we try our best to find sponsors through our partner organisations or through our trustees’ network, who will put the brightest of our former pupils through the later stages of school. Schools in Zambia are free up to Grade 7, but Grades 8 to 12 (which is almost the equivalent of A Level standard in the UK) are fee-paying and most of our pupils are unable to afford to stay in school at that level.