Children for Health is a culmination of my career and my work. I started as a teacher and I was working in Kenya and in the Ear East. And then I became interested in international development. Throughout this time, my instinct as a teacher was about focusing on the child and the competence and agency of the child.
My special subject was drama and so a lot of what I was doing was getting children to actually problem-solve themselves.
When I got interested in the international development I met somebody who’d done a lot of work in health education and curiously enough they were using drama as one of the main ways in which the children were to problem solve and communicate what they knew in health to others, and so this was a very aligned approach for me. This was a person I met at the University of London and what happened, to cut a long story short, is that he got me involved in his charity.
A lot of my work then was in training other teachers and in motivating people to build this child-centred approach to health education into their programmes and I worked with UNICEF, with Save the Children and with a lot of other government agencies.
And then the years went on and I worked as a charity director, I did some further academic work and then around about 2008 I became really interested in the area of mobile and digital technology and how to use mobile and digital to jump over a lot of the complexity of delivering information to children and their families. I wanted to think of ways to get more directly to parents, to teachers and to others with messages, health messages for children and other content and other activities.
I tried to persuade other organisations to embed these ideas of health education using digital and mobile. Their reluctance, suggests to me that I might have been I was a little bit ahead of the curve as it were but I was based in Cambridge (a centre for technology) and I started to discuss these ideas with other people in Cambridge. By chance really, I got in front of ARM, the big technology company in Cambridge, and explained particularly this idea that I was distilling 100 messages for children to learn and share. They just loved the idea. I was talking to them about how I wanted to integrate this whole thing within other agencies, and they said, “No, we think you should be an organisation on your own”. I’d run a charity in previous years and I knew what a big piece of work that was but he said that ARM could provide the seed funding for the organisation.
And that’s how Children for Health was born.