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A year to remember: how we unlocked big change for children in 2022

As we celebrated Theirworld’s 20th anniversary, our campaigns, projects and research continued to innovate and deliver hope to young people around the world.


Our 20th anniversary year 

It’s been a memorable year for Theirworld – 20 years since founder Sarah Brown (now our Chair) launched the charity. Throughout 2022, we have marked the anniversary with special events, films and podcasts. 

Last month we released a film that shows some of the highlights of Theirworld’s journey from small beginnings to a global organisation unlocking big change for children and youth. It looks at our unique mix of projects, campaigns, research and youth activism. 

As Sarah put it: “We’ve grown faster and further than we ever thought we would.” 

It all began in 2002 with the creation of the Jennifer Brown Research Fund to invest in the best medical research for safe pregnancy and premature birth. The fund in turn supported the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory, launched in 2004 in Edinburgh. 

To mark our official 20th birthday in June, this film revealed the heart-breaking loss that led to the laboratory and the Edinburgh Birth Cohort, and featured parents and specialists involved in this vital work. 

Global Youth Ambassadors 

Our Global Youth Ambassadors (GYAs) are an international network of more than 2,000 young education campaigners in 124 countries. Half of our current cohort came on board during 2022. 

In our 20th anniversary year, our GYAs led the way in campaigns on early years learning, safe schools and skills for the future. For our #LetMeLearn campaign (see more below), more than 60 video messages from 35 countries told world leaders of GYAs’ education experiences, challenges and demands for change. GYAs went to New York to appear at events during the Transforming Education Summit at the United Nations. 

Their voices were amplified through Facebook Live conversations, TikTok and the Better Angels podcast. We held events in Paris and New York to help them prepare for appearing on panels, interviews, moderator roles and speeches. A projects meet-up was held in Kenya and GYAs appeared at international virtual events.  

Watch our film showcasing the GYAs in 2022.

#LetMeLearn campaign 

When the historic Transforming Education Summit was announced for September 2022, we knew young people had to be at the heart of campaigning for change. Theirworld created a a ground-breaking survey of 10,000 young people in 10 countries which gave us the insights and mandate to share their views.  

We launched the #LetMeLearn campaign in July and it quickly won backing from the UN and other high-profile organisations. The summit opened with a Theirworld film showing young people demanding #LetMeLearn and GYA Yuv Sungkur sitting on the platform alongside UN Secretary-General António Guterres. 

Our GYAs appeared at the summit’s special youth day, as well as at events hosted by the UN and Theirworld. #LetMeLearn also generated more than 30,000 social media posts from more than 180 countries, resulting in two billion potential impressions. 

The summit saw the launch of the International Finance Facility for Education and a commitment by the UN that youth voices are vital in transforming global education. In his vision statement, Guterres said: “Young people will be the heartbeat of this effort, leveraging their voices, experiences, knowledge and agency.” 

Ukraine laptops 

One story has dominated world headlines this year – the war in Ukraine. Knowing that children were struggling to learn without access to laptops, the Digital Equity for Ukraine initiative was launched in July. 

It is a $30 million partnership and device donation by HP to the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), an initiative of Theirworld, with Microsoft providing software for the devices.  

Margerita Boichuk, 11, uses one of the laptops from the Digital Equity for Ukraine initiative (Theirworld/Robert Wilk)

GBC-Education is working in co-operation with local charities to distribute 78,000 laptops to schools, teachers and other people in need, both inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. 

Margerita Boichuk, 11 – whose family fled to Poland – is now using one of the laptops to learn remotely and keep in touch with her friends in Ukraine. She said: “I can’t imagine my life without a computer. I communicate, do my homework, play cartoons for my sister.” 

Early years campaigning 

Theirworld has been campaigning for years for 10% of education budgets to be devoted to early years learning. It’s crucial to children’s development but has been chronically underfunded.  

Gradually others came on board and November finally saw a major breakthrough. At the UNESCO World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education in Uzbekistan, member countries committed to spending 10% of their education funding on pre-primary education. 

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet said: “It’s now a target countries are going to strive towards, which means billions of new resources could be directed to hundreds of millions of children to give them the best start in life.” 

An early childhood education class at the Kyaka refugee settlement in Uganda, provided by Children on the Edge – one of the winners of the Theirworld Education Innovation Awards (Theirworld/Mara Mambo Media)

Education Innovation Awards 

Five non-profits were named as winners of the first Theirworld Education Innovation Awards in 2021. We worked closely with them over the months and by the summer of 2022 the organisations in Africa and the Middle East were on course to reach TWO MILLION vulnerable children this year.    

Each winner received £50,000 grants, masterclasses and mentoring to help them clarify their vision and be ready to scale up their ideas and learning programmes to reach even more vulnerable children and youth. Their projects ranged from supporting teacher training in refugee settlements to publishing content on a reading app. 

Angela Solomon, Theirworld’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, Projects and Research, said: “Innovators described our programme as crucial and even mind-blowing. What’s really mind-blowing is that our awardees are all on track to reach their goals.” 

The winning projects from the Theirworld Education Innovation Awards

Our projects and partners 

We work with project partners around the world in our mission to ensure that every child has the best start in life, a safe place to learn and skills for the future. 

Throughout 2022, we’ve been reporting on their achievements. In Lebanon, our MyBestStart project, run in partnership with Alfanar, Ana Aqra and Lebanese Alternative Learning, is helping young girls and boys get the early education they deserve. This film for International Day of the Girl in October featured sisters Sham and Fatima. 

In April, we marked International Girls in ICT Day by spotlighting our digital technology skills programme at schools in Tanzania. Skills for Their Future works to empower girls and young women by helping them gain digital, coding and entrepreneurship skills. 

In Kenya, the LEAP Together project supports street-connected children in Kenya. To mark World Teachers Day in October, this film looked at the role of a specialist Learning Support Assistant. 

Education unlocks climate action, helping people to learn about the causes and impacts of climate change. That’s why Theirworld has joined forces with the education technology company Earth Warriors to deliver climate education to children at rural schools in Zambia and Botswana. 

A range of other work 

This film for World Refugee Day in June showcased one year of All Children in Education (ACE) in Greece. Based on a plan put to the Greek government by Theirworld in 2020, it helps refugee children to integrate and learn. 

In October, we launched the Theirworld Schools Hub – a one-stop shop to provide a wide range of resources, created especially for students and teachers to help them learn about the education emergency. A new, in-depth student resources section complemented our existing, award-winning teaching resources. 

Theirworld’s Small Grants Programme has been running since 2004 – assisting charities and non-profits that help disadvantaged and overlooked young people in the UK and globally. In November, we looked at the grant recipients for 2022-23 and how they are making a big difference in the lives of young people. 

STEMXX Nigeria – one of the Small Grants Programme beneficiaries – is run by The Sapphires Development Initiative and supported by Theirworld

In 2020, fully-funded scholarships were given to 20 Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and vulnerable Lebanese citizens. They were selected for the Lebanese Refugee Scholarship, which is delivered by the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University and Theirworld. The first graduates spoke about their achievements earlier this month. The programme has also won a prestigious global award. 

4m+ Theirworld is affecting the lives of more than four million parents, teachers and children.

Better Angels podcast 

Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown launched the Better Angels podcast six years ago and in November it celebrated its 100th episode. The show featured a rare joint chat with her husband Gordon, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, in which they shared their vision of a quality education for every child. 

Better Angels also ran a special 20th anniversary series, in which Sarah looked at the birth and growth of Theirworld and spoke to GYAs and others about creating a movement and forging strong partnerships. Other recent episodes focused on the #LetMeLearn campaign and the growing need for climate education. 

Check out the episodes here.