Clare Hanbury – Former CIS teacher & Philanthropist

Clare qualified as a teacher in the UK and began her career teaching 6-13 year old children in schools in Kenya, before joining CIS as a Primary 3 teacher in 1986.  Since leaving CIS, she has started her own NGO, Children for Health in the UK and recently won the “Small Charity Big Achiever!” award. Clare shares with us her memories of teaching at CIS and what it takes to run your own charity…

  • Name: Clare Hanbury
  • Profession at CIS: Teacher P 3 (86/87) and P6 (87/88)
  • Years at CIS: 86-88
  • College & Degree: University of Cambridge Bed Hons, University of London MA MSc
  • Current city of residence: Cambridge
  • Places lived before: Kenya, Hong Kong

Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?

I qualified as a teacher from Homerton College, Cambridge in 1983 and began my career teaching 6-13 year old children in schools in Kenya and then joined CIS. Alongside my teaching in Hong Kong I worked as a volunteer English teacher in the refugee camps where many Vietnamese people were living at that time.

Immediately after leaving the CIS, I did a Masters Degree in Education in Developing Countries and then for many years, worked for The Child-to-Child Trust based at the University of London’s Institute of Education where I worked on an approach to health education that involves children’s participation into health into government and non-government child health and education programmes in numerous countries. In 1988/89 I did an MSc in Maternal and Child Health and then I became a freelance adviser and trainer while having my own family!

In my international development career I have worked in East, West and Southern Africa, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Yemen. In 2008, I founded a website to promote lifeskills work with children and young people and to promote a lifeskills approach to health education.  In 2013, I founded and now work full time for

Tell us more about your time as a teacher at CIS? When did you join CIS? Which subject did you teach?

I came to Hong Kong after teaching in an international school in Kenya and travelling in Africa. I had kept in touch with Christopher Stuart-Clark during this time. I had met Chris in Cambridge just after my graduation and before he left for Hong Kong to start up CIS and to be its first head. He encouraged me to apply for a position at the school.

Initially, I had come to Hong Kong to stay with a friend and to work with the Vietnamese people living in refugee camps. I had an interest in their story since I was a child.  While doing this volunteering, I got in touch with Chris who invited me to tea! At the end of our informal chat – he offered me a position as a class teacher of P3! I had to be checked out by Rosemary Bovino too – who was wonderful! I trained to teach 9-13 year olds but I loved teaching P3 and the other teachers helped me so much too. It was a very happy family! The children in P3 were so cute and I remember marking 3+3=7 as ‘correct’ as Calvin was threatening to cry. I think I was a better teacher of P6 in my second year with CIS. I taught ‘general subjects’ and I used drama a lot in my methods (even to teach maths). I remember being asked to take on a notoriously ‘difficult’ class – who of course I loved and we knocked each other into shape. In this second year I also created and directed The Pied Piper of Peking a musical adaptation of The Pied Piper, starring Tony Sabine! To get all the children who wanted to act onto the stage I created two gangs of rats modelled on the gangs from the musical Westside Story,  the Jets and Sharks. It was a lot of fun! I returned to Hong Kong in 2011 to celebrate my 50th and I met up with a handful of my former pupils who I had last seen when they were 10! It was incredible that they remembered me and of course I remembered so much about them too.  I keep in touch with some of them because of glorious Facebook! Teaching is an incredible thing.

Do you have a favourite lasting memory from CIS?

There are SOOOOOO many! But the most profound has to be when I was a class teacher for P3. One of my pupils, 6-year-old Winston F. was so shy that he did not speak. One day he came to school with something for our ‘show and tell’ session. Winston climbed onto the little chair with all his classmates sitting on a carpet in front of him. You could hear a pin drop. I felt every one of his classmates willing him to ‘tell’ as well as ‘show’. And he did! As soon as he started to speak, his classmates started to jump about and cheer and clap. They just knew how momentous and brave this was for him to do. Winston smiled a huge smile and I doubt he has ever had a silent day again. His parents were beside themselves with gratitude. It makes me cry every time I think of it. This story is at the heart of what I still do. Children can do so much to help and support each other! Winston, where are you now?

How did you get involved in the charity sector?

Before joining CIS, I was involved with the work in the refugee camps in Hong Kong. It was this that sparked my interested in development. After my two years at CIS and having become politically active on this issue, I felt I needed some time to process the many issues I faced during that time and the Masters degree was the perfect way to do this. I subsequently worked in refugee camps in the Yemen, Ethiopia and Kenya – as part of the work I did for Child–to-Child.

Can you tell us about your own charity, Children for Health?

Children for Health (CfH) is a Cambridge-based, British Registered Charity established in July 2013. It builds upon my work at Child-to-Child. Using high quality content and activities and a unique approach and alongside educators and others, we seek to mobilise children and young adolescents (10-14 years) in the Global South to become health activists in their schools, families and communities. Our 100 messages programme helps children to become agents of change and communicators of essential health messages in their families and communities. This reimagining of health and life skills education is a low-risk, high-return approach that improves health in places where preventable diseases still cause too many early deaths.

CfH works in partnership with government programmes and donors, with major charities such as Save the Children, with United Nations partners and with research institutions. Our partners share our commitment and passion to involve and support children as ambassadors and communicators of essential health messages. This is based on two key insights:

  1. That children in most countries in the world play a vital role in their communities, looking after their siblings and friends, often without adult presence or supervision; and
  2. That providing health information to these children in a relevant, fun and compelling way delivers immediate and lasting benefits in disease prevention and treatment in their communities.

We contribute towards enabling healthier, empowered communities in the Global South.

What is your advice for any alumni looking to start their own Charity?

Prepare to spend at least half of your time on fundraising and admin of various kinds – at least at the beginning until you have grown big enough to pay others to do it! There are a lot of rules! Also get a great team of Trustees to support you. It’s actually very like setting up a small business or a ‘start-up’. I love what we call the ‘technical work’ in my sector – the writing, training and advisory work but I’m not a natural administrator or fundraiser. I find it hard to spend my time persuading people to contribute to the work I love to do. Even when I know that the organisation is lean and efficient and that the work is useful and saves children’s lives! Most big charities have fundraising and marketing teams and it’s very hard to compete with them for funding. It’s still a struggle.

What are your plans for the future?

I will always continue to do what I’m doing now – even if I’m not getting paid for it! I’d love to return to teaching in some capacity too – this is part of my retirement plan! Surprising as this may sound I found classroom teaching more exciting than international development.

Please read the following questions and write down the first answer to pop into your mind (3-second limit):

  • What is your favourite movie/production: I love everything written by Shakespeare – yes really!
  • What do you have for dinner on a weekday: I eat early and usually a salad or a huge plate of veg with rice.
  • What would be your last meal on death row: Cha-Sui-Bau
  • If you could have a one-hour conversation with anyone – historical or current – who would that be and why: Jesus – I am no longer a Christian but the impact he had on the world has been incredible. I’d like to meet the man who got it all started.

If anyone would like to hear ‘Miss Hanbury’s voice again! You can listen to a podcast on which she is a guest – talking about her work. Click the link here!

236 | Clare Hanbury: Own It! Goes to Africa

Do get in touch with Clare if you’d like to find out more or just reconnect!