Lively Minds founder: ‘I saw a need for a charity in Africa when travelling so I started one’

After travelling to Ghana and volunteering for 2 months, Alison Naftalin knew she wanted to do more to help. She has now given up her job as a lawyer and is the founder of charity Lively Minds. Building play schemes to help children in their early development, the charity helps hundreds of people over in Africa.

We spoke to Alison to find out her advice for making a difference and how she started her charity. Next week Lively Minds will be hosting a charity comedy event to raise money, so find out how you can get involved.

1. How did you go about founding the Lively Minds charity?

I did a lot of youth work growing up but I was actually working as a lawyer in the government before I founded Lively Minds. I decided to take a career break and I went to volunteer in a school in Ghana. I soon realised that there was no focus on early childhood development there. It was a real problem; schools weren’t catering for the needs of young children. Parents hadn’t experienced that kind of education themselves, many were farmers that had never been to school, so the need wasn’t realised. I wanted to find a way to give these children the opportunity and education that are crucial for their early development. I wanted to help the communities by training mums to set up play schemes for children aged 3-6 – a crucial time in childhood development. I quit my job and returned to Ghana to try and make this happen.

2. Tell us about your team

We now have a small team here in the UK that are providing children over there with the resources they need, and parents with the knowledge and skills. Other than the play schemes we also provide children’s books to primary schools, which  otherwise have no reading material. Another area we work on is we promote good child healthcare, particularly teaching hand washing and nutrition advice to parents.

Image Credit: Alison Naftalin

Image Credit: Alison Naftalin

2. Tell us about your fundraising event

Our charity comedy event came about in March when one of my friends from university volunteered to help organise it. The event was a huge success and now we are launching another on the 16th. Comedians performing include Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe, Shaun Keaveny, Brett Goldstein, Jasper Cromwell-Jones and Tom Allen.

3. What would your advice be to someone wanting to start up a charity?

Starting up a charity is really challenging. But if nobody else is doing it and you see a need and a demand, then you should go for it. The thing about extreme poverty, as terrible as it is, is that there is a huge scope to really make a big difference. What you do can make a real impact. I would say though that you should focus on sustainability. A lot of people want to help, for sure, but development isn’t about giving handouts. Our aim is to empower people to be their own source of support.

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Funds raised from the first comedy night were able to set up 2 new Play Schemes. The organisation trained 72 mothers to run the two Schemes and over 350 children now benefit each week, free of charge. To find out more visit www.livelyminds.org.

Laugh Out Loud For Lively Minds

Reg’d charity 1125512

Monday 16th November 2015

Doors 6:30pm, Start 8pm

The Comedy Store, 1A Oxendon St, London SW1Y 4EE. Tickets £20 from www.livelyminds.org/comedy

Hosted by Tom Allen.

Featuring Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Shaun Keaveny, Brett Goldstein and Jasper Cromwell-Jones.

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