Ludovic Cottier is a One Young World Ambassador from France who recently created ‘The Other You’, a non-profit organisation that aims to connect children around the world through toys. Ludo founded the project with Ana Seco Diaz, another young leader passionate about creating positive change in the world.
They are currently raising funds on Indiegogo to launch their first project: http://igg.me/at/the-other-you/x/10355199
Making a difference for children in need of care
Did you know that 24 million children around the world grow up deprived of parental care - or that 8 million of them live in institutions? Did you know that in Eastern Europe and Central Asia approximately two young children are separated from their parents every hour, amounting to more than 15,000 every year? Or that in some countries in South Asia, over 80% of children living in institutions have at least one living parent? Did you know that children with disabilities represent more than a third of all children in institutions globally? Did you know that all these figures are very likely to be underestimates?
When Ana and I decided that we wanted to make a change in our lives, we didn’t know any of that. We just knew that we wanted to take a year to make a positive change in the world. We always loved working with children, so we started looking for ways to make a difference.
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We decided to focus our efforts on finding a way to really help children without parental care, living in institutions. And this is how our initiative emerged: The Other You (TOY) helps children in institutions by bringing them school supplies and toys, but it doesn’t stop there. TOY also aims to make a connection between children from different cultures, and to raise awareness about the situation of children without parental care.
So how does it work?
1) We collect used toys in schools whilst raising awareness of the situation of children without parental care.
2) We will then fix the used toys, wrap them nicely, and place them into a care package with schools supplies and other equipment.
3) We distribute the care packages at institutions across the world.
4) We will exchange photos between the child who gives a present and the one who receives it, creating a first connection between them.
This journey will cover up to 42 countries, across Europe, Asia and Latin America. We will travel for one year with the objective of reaching 80 institutions.
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What happens next?
We expect TOY to bring long-term benefits to the children in many ways. We aim to increase the values of sharing and culture understanding amongst children in schools. In institutions, we believe that creating this connection between children from very different environments will help them to feel less isolated.
Both children in schools and in institutions will remember this experience, and hopefully apply it as adults, leading to a more peaceful and inclusive world. Ultimately, we will work closely with schools to raise long term sponsorship commitments by publicising our project.
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The problem with "volontourism"
Our first idea was, unsurprisingly, to volunteer in orphanages in a few countries, staying for two or three months in each of them. When we researched this possibility, we found out there is a lot of criticism around the concept of ‘voluntourism’, which refers to the growing trend amongst young people to include a short stay in an orphanage in a developing country in their travel itineraries. Even though they have the best intentions, in most cases they inadvertently do more harm than good.
And the growing critics are valid: staying in an orphanage for a short time without proper training can have harmful consequences not only for the institutions, but also for the children. Children form emotional attachments to the volunteers who will soon leave them, leading to attachment disorders. And in some cases, this trend fuels the appearance of an increased number of institutions which can even lead to child abuse, and the abandonment or even abduction of children from their parents for profit. On the other hand, children without parental care and those living in institutions still desperately need support, as a large majority of institutions lack many essential resources, both human and material.
Our project will produce sustainable change for children across 42 countries. This journey is only a beginning of providing these children with better life prospects; we hope you believe in it as much as we do. Please spread the word about Project TOY to as many people as possible.
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