It seems to me unbelievable that EdUKaid is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, but this is partly because I am in complete denial about the fact that my youngest child turns forty in a few months’ time.

My Chris met Tim Dench, the founder of EdUKaid, at King’s College, London, where they were both reading War Studies (combined in Tim’s case, I believe, with theology?). They hit it off, I think, because they have a very similar sense of humour as well as a desire to get stuck in and do something practical to help the world, rather than just bewailing it.

Practical things included some rather grotesque publicity videos for the charity (I do hope they still exist in an archive somewhere!) based on the then craze for Japanese television game-shows which involved doing painful and potentially dangerous things in competition with each other. One, I faintly recall, was inspired by Indiana Jones escaping by rolling under a descending door and just managing to keep hold of his hat.

Chris went out to Tanzania with Tim on one trip: his equipment included all the half-used pencils which I could beg, borrow or steal from colleagues at my workplace, which could be tucked in among the luggage and handed over to the school pupils. I also remember them doing the Three Peaks Challenge for sponsorship, during which Chris’s knees were worn raw by the family tartan kilt that he insisted on wearing.

The Three Peaks Challenge support team!

I started sponsoring a child very early on, and several of my friends kindly did likewise: I am beyond proud that ‘my’ original child was Daudi, now known to us all as a qualified medical doctor. The great advantage of setting a up a regular payment – if you are in a position to do so – is that you don’t have to keep remembering to make donations, and that the charity knows that your gift can be relied upon to turn up regularly, which greatly helps it in planning.

'My' Daudi, now a doctor

My other fundraising activities have included giving away plants in return for a donation at my workplace in the summer – this worked out very well for me, as my garden is tiny, and I usually need five plants only of a variety which comes in packets of 25 seeds. So for many years, from March to May, a large portion of the kitchen floor (something which Him Indoors could never quite get used to when staggering downstairs in the morning to make coffee) as well as the whole of the patio outside was covered in seed trays and pots.

It usually took me three car trips to get everything across to work, and then kind friends helped me to lay the offerings out and collect the money. The event always took place on the Friday of Chelsea Week, and people were hugely generous with their donations, which in some years I was fortunate to have doubled by the generosity of my workplace, which would choose a charity supported by a staff member to top up in this way. Sadly, I had to stop doing the plant sale a couple of years before I retired, as I could no longer do all the bending and stretching necessary to supply enough plants. (I plant very few seeds these days, alas.)

I also make one knitted patchwork quilt/throw/blanket every year, which EdUKaid sells to the highest bidder. But my best (in the sense of most fun as well as most profitable) fundraising activity is undoubtedly the legendary ‘Professor Hedgehog’s Christmas’ stall at Mill Road Winter Fair in Cambridge, on the first Saturday of each December (Covid permitting).

A few of my creations

I have always knitted and crafted in a small way, and used to have a table at the ‘Christmas Fair’ at my workplace, at which I sold Christmas decorations and knitted hedgehogs. When I retired from work, I decided to go for the Big One: Mill Road Winter Fair is a Cambridge institution dating back to 2005. The whole length of the road is closed, and there are stalls along its length selling everything from coffee to sculptures and beigels to hand-made jewellery.

So I bought a folding table and a red gazebo (which nearly blew down on its very first outing in 2015, when the weather was horrible). With the help of friends and hot drinks, I made a respectable sum of money, and have had a stall every year since (except for 2020, when it was cancelled altogether). The timing is excellent because it falls within the period of the Big Give, which matches individual donations.

Last December was my best ever effort. It was the first time for two years that the Fair had been back at full strength after Covid, and with the help of Him Indoors, Chris, his wife and their dog, and many other friends, I astonished myself by raising over £400 and almost selling out of my stock. (All the 100-odd hedgehogs had gone by lunchtime, so for 2023 I am making at least three per week, having started just after Christmas.) It was a lovely social occasion too: the weather wasn’t too bad, and many people from years back came wanting additional hedgehogs as their former ones had been eaten by the dog or the children or whatever.

Fundraising success at Mill Road

There are two things that I have always thought were EdUKaid’s great strengths. The first is that education is the silver bullet, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: an educated child anywhere in the world has better chances in life than one who has never had the opportunity to go to school. The second is that EdUKaid is run by a very small number of very dedicated people, and so does not have the overheads in the UK of many of our bigger charities: like most people, I want my donations to go straight to the cause.

I must now get back to knitting hedgehogs, but I hope this gives you an idea of why I am so happy to support EdUKaid – and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Dench family again, and meeting face-to-face with some of the people who are my email friends, at the Anniversary Ball in July! But I hope my musings will perhaps inspire some people to make a regular donation to this wonderful charity. 

Find out more about the importance of regular giving here

Written by Caroline Murray