Our charitable responses have become Pavlovian. You hear the tin rattling and you put your hand in your pocket. That makes for a lean picking during a recession – just one of the reasons why the two latest faces on the charity scene, Sonal Kadchha and Sapna Sisodia from Hounslow decided to do things differently."I have every sympathy with people who are cash-strapped and just can't keep giving money," says Kadchha. "So we don't ask for money. Instead we want teachers – from the newly qualified to the retired – who fancy a three- to four-month adventure working in Kenya's Masai Mara."
A stint with their charity, Etc! (shorthand for Educating the Children) promises to be quite an adventure. The idea's roots are in Kadchha's own experience. Two years ago she was a young City trader, a "high flyer". In fact, she did so much flying that her air miles qualified her for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with Richard Branson's charitable arm, Virgin Unite. They helped to give something back by working on renovations on the Sekenani primary school in the Masai Mara. While she was working on the dormitory for the school (to prevent children making unnecessary trips home and being attacked by wild animals on the way) Kadchha, who has Kenyan heritage, noticed that the class sizes were huge, with only one teacher per 100 kids. She explains: "The second Millennium Development goal [one of the international development goals ratified by the UN in 2000] is the universal provision of primary education, which is a great thing. The Kenyan government has interpreted this by abolishing fees to send your kids to primary school, which means kids are flooding in, but I saw a problem: who's going to teach them?" Simultaneously, the recession in the UK means increased numbers of professionals training to be teachers. Etc!, then, is based less on tin rattling and more on that age-old formula of supply and demand.
"We did get some funny comments," admits 28-year-old Sisodia. "We felt there was a perception among our friends and colleagues that starting a new charity is something that you do when you're retired, not when you're in the full throes of your career. But we think now is the time, not least because you need a lot of energy and enthusiasm."