Each One Teach One
Sean Sales visits rapper Plan B’s charity to find out how they roll!
It seemed apt that the weather should be so bright and positive as we approached the offices of urban rap artist Plan B’s highly regarded charity Each One Teach One (EOTO).
Also known as the University of Alternative Learning, the project was born out of a need highlighted by the riots in 2011: to empower young people to realise their self worth and, as Plan B (aka Ben Drew) said, “get out of negative environments and help put them in a place where they feel they can express themselves.”
However, rather than trying to set up projects itself, EOTO looks to the countless non-profits already working in communities with great ideas, but which struggle to satisfy the demands of out-of-touch or fickle funders.
And unlike traditional funders, EOTO doesn’t just hand the money over and wait for a tick-box evaluation form at the end, it gets involved with the groups it funds meaning bureaucratic applications and stringent criteria can be ditched and replaced with genuine support to help achieve their aims.
EOTO’s director Sarah McLoughlin said: “Regular meetings with projects we fund enables us to monitor their progress: coaching sessions, reports and feedback on what’s happening collectively and as individuals really gets results.”
EOTO now works with and funds organisations providing hair dressing courses, boxing training, drama lessons, and music and media workshops; all geared to giving marginalised and disadvantaged 14- to 25-year-olds the confidence and opportunity to enter the workplace and stay there.
McLouglin is passionate about EOTO’s work and wants to see the organisation expand and diversify into new areas to help as broad a range of young people as possible. The charity is currently in the process of establishing a football project and an environmental studies course.
Its official launch last April at Chats Palace, in Hackney, saw over 200 people attend, where Drew’s enthusiasm and dedication for the project was demonstrated with a scheduled one hour slot running over by an hour and a half. He’s also not shy in taking advantage of his celebrity friends’ generosity reeling in Elton John and Rio Ferdinand to help raise money and awareness for his project.
However, Drew is more than just the face of EOTO. The singer takes a hands-on approach and helps develop strategies and ideas. Before Christmas he visited each of its projects watching workshops and talking to young students and trainees. He even invited a group to help out on his film Ill Manors seeing first hand the positive impact of providing genuine opportunities on young people.
A number of projects Answers from the Big Issue has spoken to have praised EOTO for its forward thinking no-nonsense approach. One of those is The Hair Project, in Hackney, East London, which offers 12-month paid training contracts for aspiring hairstylists with many of the trainees going on to work in established salons.
McLoughlin said they checked them out after someone recommended them. She said: “They were spending a lot more time than they were getting paid for. We really liked their ethos and decided to help.”
However, there are far more projects in need of their help than they have the resources for. EOTO was originally funded by Drew, but as it expands it has sought other sources of revenue. Last year he got his record company Warner to donate £50,000 to a pupil referral unit in Plaistow, East London.
“Funding is always a constant struggle,” McLoughlin said. “I think there are many young people who are just kind of abandoned by the government. The government lacks awareness of the problems going on. They are not doing the right things to help those that need it most.”
Despite the limitations, McLoughlin knows they’re on to a good thing and is proud of “seeing the impact that we have on people, actually seeing their development and how they improve over time.”