Off the rails
Our London office chose Railway Children, which works with runaway children, as the focus of its first chosen charity program.
Children run away from homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect. In the UK, 100,000 children under 16 years of age run away from home every year—the equivalent of one child every five minutes. Andy McCullough, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Railway Children, understands these issues better than most.
When Andy was seven years old his father committed suicide. Andy spent much of his youth in a state-run children's home and living on the streets, exposed to violence, sexual exploitation and substance abuse. In his early 20s, following several positive influences, Andy changed the direction of his life, went back to school and began a career in community service.
I now work for Railway Children, which embraces my inner rebel and provides me with a platform to fight for street children in a very real and impactful way.
Andy Mccullough, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Railway Children
Andy's experience makes him passionate about ensuring that there are safety nets in place for those who feel out of options. "I carry my history with me every day," said Andy. "I recognize that I am one of the lucky ones. I was frustrated, always getting in trouble with the police, and found I enjoyed working with people and helping them. I now work for Railway Children, which embraces my inner rebel and provides me with a platform to fight for street children in a very real and impactful way."
Railway Children began its work in India, in response to its founder's horror at the sheer number of children arriving unaccompanied by train on a daily basis in Mumbai. They now work in India, East Africa and the UK. Railway Children supports research, raises awareness of the issues, and funds projects promoting activities such as outreach to children about the realities of living on the streets, providing safe spaces for children to go, family therapy and other programs to help bring families out of poverty.
But as Andy comments, "This is not a zero cost option. Local authorities have hard choices about where to spend their money. To be effective all the resources out there need to pull together." Andy chairs the English Coalition for Runaway Children, a group collaborating and working tactically to take campaigns to government, which he said is having an effect in the UK. "Representatives from the Home Office and the Department of Education now attend our meetings and are listening to our recommendations."
Railway Children's corporate partners generate 45 percent of the income needed to keep their work going, helping them reach more than 28,000 children every year.
"White & Case has a long history of charitable contributions but we felt if we were strategic we could do more and make more of an impact. By choosing one charity on which to focus our efforts, we can make our fundraising go further," said Mark Goodrich, partner and chair of the London office's Charity Partnership Committee. "We wanted our people to feel involved and invested in the charity we chose, so we asked them to nominate a charity they felt strongly about. From there the committee drew up a shortlist and asked the London office to vote. Railway Children won over 70 percent of the vote."
Lawyers and staff from the London office have been involved in a number of fundraising activities for Railway Children, including half marathon races, a climbing event to the three highest peaks in the UK and bake sales, raising more than £36,000.
"We have also taken our involvement with Railway Children beyond fundraising. We are delighted with our fundraising efforts and look forward to raising more next year; however, we also wanted to utilize our skills to help in a practical way," said Mark. In collaboration with Railway Children, the London office recently included four young people from New Horizons in its Employability Program, which offers an introduction to the work environment. New Horizons is a youth center in London whose outreach work is funded by Railway Children.
As Andy McCullough knows, these young people are some of the lucky ones. "Without these programs, who knows where those young people would be now. But today their futures are positive. We just need to keep working to ensure that's the same for all young people."
In the UK, 100,000 children under 16 years of age run away from home every year.