The grand opening has taken place of a new charity shop where bargain hunters can help fund a hi-tech teaching programme for underprivileged children.
Computers Are Free For Everyone (CAFFE) opened on Thursday, May 29 in Clair Court, off Lime Street, Bedford, after years of success in a smaller retail unit.
Charity founder Luke Doyle is working to improve literacy and numeracy among Bangladeshi children living in poverty after working in Dhaka as a volunteer teacher from 2004 to 2007.
He said: “We use technology to bridge the gap between rich and poor, rather than try to open more schools.
“It started an after-school computer club and, three years later, we are running sessions seven days a week that offer children something they would not normally have access to, even if they attend school.”
CAFFE is also developing an app which helps pre-schoolers learn how to read and write Bangla, which Luke says is a difficult language to master.
He added: “Smart phones are becoming increasingly affordable in Bangladesh and we hope to share the app with parents. We will also put 50 tablets into slum homes with pre-school children to see how it makes a difference.”
One of the first donations to the project came from the parents of students Luke taught in China after his first stint in Bangladesh.
After visiting Luke in Bangladesh his parents, Danny and Iris Doyle, joined in the fundraising efforts by setting up stalls at car boot sales. This grew to a small unit selling donated goods at The Olde Watermill, in Barton-le-Clay.
Building on their sales success, the couple have taken on the shop in Clair Court.
He said: “Unlike other charity shops, this one is run entirely by volunteers, so our only overheads are rent and bills. All the profits go to fund the CAFFE project.”
Among the usual donated items, the shop is also selling a book written and illustrated by one of the project’s volunteers. Written for primary age children, the book, entitled Selim, follows a day in the life of a 10-year-old Bangladeshi school boy and highlights the similarities and differences between his routine, and children in the West.