Matt Bishop, fundraising manager for COCO, poses as George the Giraffe alongside Team COCO members at the Great North Run
International children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) has recruited a new team member in response to the growing appetite of its supporters for adventurous challenges.

Matt Bishop has joined COCO’s team as fundraising manager, based in Newcastle in the North East of England, and he will be responsible for expanding the charity’s programme of events in the UK and abroad, that help raise the funds to improve the quality of education available to children living in extreme poverty in East Africa.

Co-founded in 2000 by Steve Cram CBE and British Army Major Jim Panton, COCO has grown into one of the North East’s most dynamic and well-loved charities, working in partnership with remote communities across East Africa to provide access to the quality education that is essential for a good start in life. Since its inception, the charity has raised over £4.5 million to fund small, community-led programmes. COCO and its partners have now undertaken 66 transformational projects in 16 countries, positively impacting on the lives of over 200,000 people.

Matt Bishop, fundraising manager for COCO (right) reaches The Equator with his co-driver during his sidecar adventure

Over the years, COCO has become renowned for organising adventurous fundraising challenges. The charity’s supporters have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, climbed Kilimanjaro, and cycled across the UK and through Maasailand in Kenya. Later this year, a group led by Steve Cram and Look North presenter Jeff Brown will tackle the new Victoria Cycle Challenge, cycling across Kenya to raise money for COCO and also visiting one of the projects that the charity helps fund. As fundraising manager, Matt Bishop will be aiming to expand the programme of challenges that COCO organises and encourage more people to get involved in the vital work that the charity undertakes.

Matt Bishop, fundraising manager for COCO, in Egypt during his sidecar adventure

Matt, from Tynemouth, is well-equipped for the new role, having previously worked in fundraising, business development and events roles for other charities, including his most recent position of business development officer at Carers UK. Outside of work, he has gained significant experience in coming up with fun and unusual ways to raise money for good causes, having spent almost two years circumnavigating the globe on a scooter with a sidecar. The successful Guinness World Record attempt saw Matt and his co-drivers rack up 34,000 miles, through 35 countries, across five continents, while raising funds for 10 anti-slavery and human trafficking charities in the process.

Matt was compelled to apply for the role at COCO after witnessing first-hand the challenges faced by some communities in East Africa.

Matt Bishop, fundraising manager for COCO, dressed as George the Giraffe at the Great North Run

Matt said:

“In 2018 I drove from London to Cape Town via East Africa. The highlight of the trip was riding through Kenya and Tanzania. As I travelled, I learned about life in the region and how hard it can be for people living in poverty – it was heart-breaking to see the struggles that they faced. When I saw the position advertised at COCO, I thought that it would be the ideal fit for me, so jumped at the chance to join an organisation that helps children like those I met.

“I’m already getting stuck into organising and participating in all of COCO’s amazing fundraising events. I’ve just completed the Great North Run, which was no easy feat dressed as our mascot, George the Giraffe! In the coming months, I will help to organise hikes in the Atlas mountains, treks to the rooftop of Africa and cycle rides around part of Lake Victoria, all of which will help COCO make an even greater positive impact for the communities that we work with in East Africa.”

One of the first events that Matt will co-ordinate will be the Victoria Cycle Challenge in November. As well as taking charge of the logistics for the trip and the fundraising campaign that accompanies it, he will arrange for the participants to find out more about a COCO project during their ride. They will visit COCO School for Life Mercy Primary, where they will meet some of the young people who have benefited from the charity’s work. COCO’s Schools for Life programme helps children to access sustainable education in a safe environment and covers six key elements: shelter; power; water and sanitation; food; sports and recreation; and entrepreneurship.

Lucy Kendall, CEO of COCO, said:

“We are thrilled to welcome Matt to the team. COCO deserves its reputation for being a really dynamic and adventurous charity – that’s very important to us and we are determined to develop it even more. Our challenges have played a huge role in inspiring many people to get actively involved in our work and in some cases witness first-hand the impact of our projects. Matt shares our passion for adventure and I am really excited about some of the plans that we have in the pipeline for COCO as we head towards our 20th anniversary next year.”

To find out more about the work of COCO visit www.coco.org.uk, find the charity on Facebook or follow @COCO_Charity on Twitter.