Chariots for Children
Nizma Scoffield was born in Java Indonesia, and has been living in the UK for over 36 years. She began her work with Indonesian orphans through the organization she founded in 2002, called Indonesian Children’s Relief (ICR). Carrying on the work of ICR, Scoffield began Chariots for Children which is now a registered charity in the UK.
Her work began in response to the conflict in Eastern Indonesia at the turn of the century. She saw the devastation and misery and wanted to help the orphans. The conflict had affected every group in Indonesia, including people living in Banda Aceh.
Before the conflict started these groups had been living in peace. Scoffield recollects, “It was politics that sparked the conflict. In January 1999 we used to celebrate together and there was peace.” She went there in 2001 to see what she could do for the orphans and it was very dangerous. “I saw thousands of orphans; Christians and Muslims. Chariots for Children helps everyone.”
Helping people is a part of her personality. “I always urge people to give and remind them how a small amount of money can mean so much to people living in other places.” Scoffield came back to the UK and started talking about what she had seen in Indonesia. She spoke to representatives of the Muslim community in London and asked Muslims for just one pound a day. She organized events and invited people then showed them photos highlighting the lives of vulnerable people. She recalls, “I started this myself but I try to inform others who will feel compelled to help too. I could just give the money to another charity organization but I found that many of them focus on other areas and there are very few who are working with Indonesian orphans, so I decided to do it myself.”
Why ‘Chariots for Children’? Scoffield remarks, “We thought of many names but we wanted something different. I wanted something that specifically refers to children. Then I thought of a chariot which is something that moves fast, carrying and transporting things.” It took nine months for Chariots for Children to be registered in the UK and it is now an internationally recognized charity organization. “It is important that our charity is registered because people always ask about this and it gives them more confidence that the money will get through to where it is needed,” she says.
Chariots for Children has two hundred and forty-five orphans throughout the east of Indonesia and about 100 in Banda Aceh. “We built an orphanage for them from money given by the Muslims in the UK,” recalls Scoffield.
What Do Orphans Need? “The orphans need basic things like clothing, school fees, and food that costs about twenty British pounds a month. This small amount would give them a healthy diet, a carer to look after them and education,” says Scoffield. Most of these children have lost both parents, either from the conflict or from the Tsunami. It is often the case that during the conflict the father died and in the Tsunami the mother died. “Now the children are much better psychologically. When I first went there, the children did not want to go to the sea but now they call me ‘mother’ and take me to the sea,” she recalls with a smile.
“We need to employ carers to look after the orphans. These people would be like parents to them; tell them a story at night, and read Quran with them. We would like to have couples who have children and these people would take on a group of the orphans in the orphanage,” she says.
Indonesian society accepts orphans in their area. There is no problem for the orphans to get married into the wider community. “We look after them until they are eighteen years old so they can be independent and work and give back to society. We look at what they are interested in and do our best to help them fulfill their dreams,” observes Scoffield. Some of the children want to be doctors because they are aware that during the conflict and the Tsunami there were not enough doctors.
Fundraising in the UK Fundraising in the UK takes place through word of mouth, organizing charity dinners, and giving talks in mosques. “We show pictures and talk about the situation the orphans are facing. We would like to expand to South-East Asia. Also, Thailand has a lot of poor children and nobody really cares. We would like to support them,” says Scoffield. However, all this is still on the drawing board as Chariots for Children is in need of sponsors. “We need money so we can fly there and assess the situation and see what we can do. We need a company to sponsor our work. In the past I spent my own money to get the work going, but as things are expanding there is need for sponsors and more support,” says Scoffield.
Reward for Caring for Orphans There is so much reward for looking after orphans. “The British Muslims have been amazingly generous. The more awareness people have, the more they want to give and help. Everyone remembers the Tsunami. It is easy for people living in the West to enjoy life but everyone remembers the pictures of those gigantic waves that swept away the happiness of many people, including little children,” says Scoffield. The children need to be loved and to feel safe. “They are really alert and intelligent and have so much potential,” remarks Scoffield, who genuinely feels like a mother to them all.