ChildFund International Blog

Ebola Update for West Africa

Liberia Ebola supplies

Supplies to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus enroute to Voinjama, Liberia.

 

ChildFund’s emergency management unit provided a status report late last week on the spread of the Ebola virus in our program areas in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, which has reported only one case so far. Read more here about Guinea, too. To help, you can make a gift to our Ebola Response Fund, which will help ChildFund support local efforts to control the virus’ spread and provide information and resources to communities.

Ebola, Guinea and ChildFund

Guinea Ebola prevention

A woman talks to her community in Guinea about preventing the spread of the Ebola virus.

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

Ebola has sickened an estimated 4,200 people in Africa, and as of Sept. 9, 2,288 people have died from the virus, according to the World Health Organization. The spread of Ebola remains most serious in Liberia, where there have been the most deaths. Also affected are Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Senegal reported its first Ebola case last week, and officials in The Gambia are keeping close watch for cases, although none had been reported as of Sept. 9.

In Guinea, the situation appears to be stabilizing. As part of its strategy to fight the deadly Ebola virus, ChildFund Guinea identified and engaged community leaders to convey information to the public in three of Guinea’s affected communities.

Guinea healers and hunters

Traditional healers and hunters, who are helping the awareness-raising effort.

These 108 leaders include imams, priests, a pastor, traditional healers and hunters — all of whom are respected and have influence within their communities. In March, as the outbreak began, ChildFund Guinea’s office held training workshops on conducting outreach campaigns, as well as identifying and referring people with suspected cases of Ebola to health facilities.

As a result, community members have received important information about good hygiene and preventive measures from people they know and trust. The training has concluded, but information sharing continues through local groups and one-on-one discussions at Guineans’ homes and houses of worship.

To date, 35 traditional healers (10 in Kindia and 25 in Dabola) and 28 hunters involved in the project are actively continuing the efforts to contain the spread of Ebola in Guinea. These men are part of indigenous peoples, who trust them as caregivers of the land and of people. Because of their roles and influence, healers and hunters are critical to public awareness efforts.

This community-centered approach has created widespread trust and increased public support for the use of preventive measures.

The outreach campaign has yielded concrete results, as three people suspected of having the virus were referred to the Regional Hospital of Dabola. Unfortunately, these three patients died a few days later, but this intervention helped prevent further spread of the virus.

Since the end of March, no new cases have been reported in any of the communities where ChildFund works in Guinea. Nevertheless, community members continue to be vigilant and prepared to take action if they see anyone who has a suspected case of Ebola.

Read more about ChildFund’s efforts to prevent and contain Ebola in Guinea and other western African countries.

Guinea outreach on Ebola

Outreach efforts take many forms in Guinea.

Goats Contribute to a Brighter Future

Fernanda and her goat

Fernanda and her family’s goat.

By Silvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Nine-year-old Fernanda’s family tends a garden in Manatuto, Timor-Leste, with corn, long beans, bananas and cassava that feed Fernanda and her four siblings, with enough left over to sell and make a small income. Now, they have a goat too, which they received earlier this year.

“We don’t have a rice field, as most people do, but only a small plot of land for vegetables,” says Fernando, Fernanda’s father. “We only do farming in which the production is very low and not enough to sustain family needs. We really wanted to do some other things in order to support family’s income, like buy goats, but we have no money. So we are lucky and happy to receive the goat.”

Fernando’s family is one of 10 families who received a goat this past spring. Fernanda and her siblings enjoy taking care of the 10 goats, which are kept in the same field. “After school I pull out the goats, feed and give them drink and let them eat the grass,” says Fernanda, who wants to become a teacher.

“Once our goat has multiplied, then I will sell some to buy my children’s school materials — such as books, pens, uniforms, et cetera,” says Fernando.  “Moreover, we will also have some for family consumption.”

It is quite rare for families in Manatuto to include meat in their meals, as it is too expensive and in limited supply. “We can only eat goat’s meat when there is a cultural event or ceremony, which probably happens about two to five times a year,” Fernando says.

“With respect and happiness, I want to thank the donors who provide us goats,” he adds. “We will take care of them.”

Fernando hopes his children will have a promising future. “I want them to have a good education and later to have a job, so they can have a better life. I will keep supporting them with my own efforts to help them realize their dreams.”

A Fresh Start

School is starting this week for many children in the United States. Children and youth in many of the 30 countries where ChildFund works have limited access to school, whether it’s because their families can’t afford to pay fees for uniforms, or the children are relied upon to fetch water or work to contribute to a family’s livelihood. Sponsorship helps many children attend school longer and have a better chance to break the generational cycle of poverty. Here are some pictures of students from communities where we work:

 

Kenya classroom

A classroom in Kenya.

 

girls going to school in Mexico

Girls going to school in Mexico.

 

Indian schoolgirls

On the way to school in rural Pimpalgaon, Pune, India.

 

mozambique

Parents help build a school for their children in Zavala, Mozambique. Photo by Jake Lyell.

 

Ecuador girl

A girl from Ecuador participates in after-school activities.

 

Vietnam school

Children at a Vietnamese primary school.

Fight Against Ebola Continues With Airlift of Supplies

Ebola supplies in Liberia

Supplies arrived in Liberia on Aug. 27 to help protect medical workers from Ebola.

Yesterday, ChildFund participated in an airlift of 15,000 pounds of emergency medical supplies for Liberia, one of the countries where health care professionals are working hard to contain the deadly Ebola virus. Thanks to a collaboration among other nonprofit organizations, corporations (including longtime ChildFund partner Procter & Gamble) and many individuals, Liberian hospital staff members are receiving personal protection items, including rubber gloves, face masks and fluid-resistant gowns, as well as soap and other hygiene supplies. ChildFund Liberia is delivering these supplies through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Read more about the airlift.

 

 

Banking on Garbage to Transform Communities

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

“People here littered everywhere, without thought,” says Sulastri, a preschool teacher in Indonesia. “Our neighborhood looked dirty and unhealthy.”

As in many developing countries, garbage is a highly visible part of Indonesia’s landscape. With one of the world’s largest populations, waste management there is an ongoing challenge, even in affluent areas. In neighborhoods where poverty has a stronghold, public services like garbage removal are at best inconsistent and often absent. So, families dispose of garbage wherever they can or even burn it by the roadside. The environment becomes not only unpleasant but downright dangerous.

This was how things were in Tandang village, Semarang, Central Java, until community members set out to make changes.

Responding to residents’ concern about their neighborhood, ChildFund worked through its local partner organization in Semarang, KOMPASS, to adapt an initiative that Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment had pioneered in other cities: garbage banks, which encourage communities to make the most of household garbage.

sorting garbage

Sulastri (right) sorts through plastic waste at the garbage bank.

Garbage banks decrease environmental pollution, especially inorganic waste, by providing community members with incentives to sort garbage by type and value, and to ensure that each type arrives at the appropriate destination for recycling. (Organic garbage is collected by the environmental city services and processed into compost.) Garbage banks usually run in public buildings as neighborhood centers for waste management.

To launch the program in Tandang, staff from KOMPASS met with village heads and community members to introduce the concept and then to form volunteer garbage bank committees. Through KOMPASS, ChildFund provided the volunteers with training on how to handle and process inorganic waste, especially plastics, which are sold to plastics manufacturers.

Participants have garbage bank accounts. KOMPASS provided seed money on behalf of the 351 sponsored children in the area, so each child has USD $1 as his or her first deposit on an account at one of Tandang’s two garbage banks.

So, how do garbage banks work?

Using collection bags provided by the program, people bring plastic bottles, used newspapers and many other things they don’t use any more. Each type of waste is assigned monetary value. This money is then deposited into the individuals’ accounts at the garbage bank, later available to be withdrawn as cash.

“When we did our first training for the mothers’ groups, some of them were quite stressed,” says Agus, the head of one of the banks. “They thought they would need to sort the garbage in a dirty place. When they saw that the garbage bank is actually run in a clean house with windows for air circulation, they felt relieved.”

“I knew about the garbage bank from my wife,” says Wadi, a community member. “We used to just throw away anything. Now, we learn to sort it all. People also took initiative by making their own bags to deposit the waste to the bank.”

Indonesia garbage bank

Wadi and his daughter sort garbage at home.

That’s not all they have made. The ChildFund-supported garbage banks have taken the program a step further: Community members turn garbage into creative, sellable products — for example, bags made from plastic detergent sachets. With training from KOMPASS (and with a sewing machine KOMPASS also provided), people are transforming garbage into economic gain. As community members have learned to be more creative in processing waste, they have come to see waste as a resource.

“The neighborhood automatically becomes cleaner too,” Agus adds. “If we have the garbage bank but the surroundings are still dirty, it’s very contradictory. The neighborhood is also becoming greener now, because people are also encouraged to plant trees in pots made from vegetable oil plastic bags. ChildFund provided us with the seeds.”

“People are more aware that the environment is very connected to their own health,” says preschool teacher Sulastri, who is also a member of the garbage bank committee. “They used to just litter everywhere and did not understand the impact of waste, so they would just throw away everything. Now they know that we can sort inorganic waste and make it into creative products.”

The garbage bank initiative not only brings extra cash, but it also helps communities become cleaner, nicer and healthier places to live, which is exactly what children need. “There were many flies and mosquitoes in the gutters as people just threw garbage into them,” says Sulastri. “When we litter, we create a breeding space for mosquitoes. The garbage bank promotes a healthy lifestyle, and it reduces the risk of dengue and diarrhea too.”

Meet Jeff Miller, Our LIVE! Manager

Interview by Erin Nicholson, ChildFund Staff Writer

Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller joined ChildFund two years ago to manage our then brand-new LIVE! Artists program. Jeff recruits musical performers to partner with ChildFund, allowing us (along with volunteers) to promote sponsorship at concerts around the United States. (Find out how you can volunteer.) We asked him a few questions about his love of music and helping children.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I’m an Iowa boy who somehow escaped the alluring clutches of the Midwest. I’ve lived in five states, including Pennsylvania, where I currently reside with my wife and my poodle, Ozzy.

Have you always worked in music?

This is my 25th year actually earning a living from some aspect of the music industry. However, there have been a few respites along the way where I have veered off the path, working in book publishing and serving on the senior staff as communications director for a U.S. congressman.

What brought you to ChildFund, and when?

I’ve been with ChildFund almost two years now. Prior to ChildFund, I worked at a similar organization – Food for the Hungry in Phoenix. About three years ago, my former boss had come to ChildFund. He dropped me a line asking if I’d be interested in helping launch LIVE! It took almost a year for everything to fall into place, but voila, here we are.

I signed up to sponsor my first child at a concert some 33 years ago when I was in high school. I’ve been sponsoring kids ever since. I’ve seen firsthand how sponsorship can impact the lives of the children and families in developing nations. It’s my passion. I’m a complete music nerd. To be able to combine my passion about sponsoring children with my interest and experience in music is truly a dream gig for me.

What’s your favorite artist and/or the best concert you’ve ever been to?

Oh, now you’re hitting the music nerd side of me on all cylinders! Paul McCartney, Dec. 3, 1989, at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. He hadn’t toured the United States since 1976, and my mom wouldn’t let me go see him that year, given that I was 12. I’ve never forgiven her. During the ’76 tour he mostly avoided his Beatles’ roots, attempting to establish his own identity as an artist. But when he returned in ’89, he embraced his heritage full on. The Beatles quit touring in 1966, so a good 50 percent of their catalog was never performed live by the band. So I sat in the stands with goose bumps hearing songs like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the closing medley from Abbey Road being performed live for the first time ever. It was like watching my generation’s Mozart perform live. Yup…I’m definitely a music nerd.

What has been your proudest accomplishment working for ChildFund so far?

3,098 children sponsored from July 2013 through June 2014! Bands are fun. Concerts are fun. Music is fun. But bringing hope and opportunities to the lives of children and their families is the true meaning behind all the fun. It’s the motivation and purpose of the work that we do. In the end the music fades, but these children will have impact on their communities for generations to come.

Soap and Water Keep Children Healthier

 

hand-washing activity

Children at a Sri Lankan school learn the best way to wash their hands during a demonstration.

By Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka

“Soap and water, scrub, scrub, scrub,” hums Sashini as she washes her hands.

Like many of her friends, the 11-year-old did not bother too much with washing her hands properly before. Sometimes she and her friends would come home after playing outside or helping with paddy cultivation and wash their hands a little with water to get the mud and dust off. But now things have changed with a program organized by ChildFund Sri Lanka to promote proper hand washing, especially before meals.

Sashini was among 90 children age 6 to 14 who participated in the hand-washing program conducted at Mayurapada Kanishta Vidyalaya, a school in the Polonnaruwa district in north central Sri Lanka.

“We teach children about the importance of washing their hands, especially before meals,” says K.M. Chandralatha, a teacher. “But it happens within the classroom. This program was a practical experience in correct hand washing, and I think many of them got first-hand experience on the proper way to do it.”

Access to clean water is crucial for hand washing and other good hygienic practices.

The program commenced with an introduction to hand-washing day, followed by a practical demonstration by a science teacher, illustrating how harmful bacteria can be neutralized with the use of soap and water.

A midwife who works in public health taught the children good hand-washing techniques. “We talk regularly with parents on this subject, but we rarely get an opportunity to talk to children about the importance of hand washing,” says H.M. Chamali Piyaratne, the midwife. “It was a good experience, and I look forward to doing more sessions with children.”

Sashini adds that the program has helped many of her friends, who have in turn taught their younger siblings about proper hand-washing techniques.

“We were never taught to wash our hands like this before,” she says. “The experience of doing it with clear instructions has taught us how important it is.”

To further assist and promote hand washing and good hygiene among children, ChildFund Sri Lanka also provided two sinks to Sashini’s school.

 

Helping Families Build a Future Beyond HIV

By Christine Ennulat, with reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya

Halima greets Nadzua

Halima shakes the hand of Nadzua, one of the mothers she works with.

On any given day, Halima has her work cut out for her. As a community health volunteer in a rural area outside of Mombasa, she makes one or two home visits per day, checking in on families participating in ChildFund’s program to help children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Kenya’s Coast and Nairobi provinces. Halima has 50 children on her list.

Launched in 2011 and run by ChildFund and several other partner organizations, the USAID-funded program takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring that these children and their caregivers have a safety net so they can build toward a more hopeful future. The program works to ensure that basic needs are met, including:

  • Health: Families have improved access to health care. Trained community health volunteers provide prevention education during home visits. Increased access to safe drinking water and improved hygiene and sanitation help protect children’s and families’ health.
  • Protection: When a caregiver dies, the children left behind are often vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and other risks. ChildFund works to protect children and help families stay together.
  • Psychosocial support: Through home visits, trained volunteers monitor families and educate them about stress management. Support groups for both children and caregivers help them cope with the stigma of HIV and AIDS and learn how to stay healthy.
  • Food and nutrition: Families receive nutritious food to supplement their diets and sustain their fragile health.
  • Education: Families receive help with school expenses, and schools are supported to become more child-friendly, with training for teachers. Schools also offer support groups, child rights clubs, financial literacy education and hygiene training.
  • Economic empowerment: Hundreds of savings and loan groups help thousands of adults grow their small businesses so they can support their families and overcome financial barriers that keep many HIV and AIDS patients from receiving care. Training and support for income-generating enterprises help families improve the circumstances.

Today, Halima’s first visit is with Nadzua, age 35, mother of 11; she is a second wife, married into a family who lost their mother to HIV. In her packed-dirt front yard, she greets Halima warmly, a sleepy toddler balanced on her hip. Her 2-year-old son, Mbega, is the only one of Nadzua’s children home this morning — the others are at school, and her husband is in town.

The women sit outside, facing each other, and begin. Before moving on to today’s subject — how Nadzua can gain skills to improve her family’s income — there’s a lot to talk about: the children’s health and immunizations, how things are going at school, how their improved hygiene practices are working out, whether the family is getting the nutrition they need, how Nadzua is doing in the literacy classes Halima encouraged her to take.

How You Can Help

These programs are possible thanks to a $3.5 million matching grant. To meet its terms, ChildFund must raise $321,000. Because of this arrangement, every dollar you donate will be matched by $4.35. Help now.

It’s all hard with 11 children to care for, but life has improved since Halima’s visits began. “I have gained a lot from Halima,” Nadzua says. “I am more educated, more informed on how to take care of my children and my household.”

And she’s especially proud of herself on this day: She just harvested and sold 10 bags of green lentils, which meant she could cover her oldest son’s high school fees.

Nadzua and son

Nadzua and her 2-year-old son, Mbega.

As Halima leaves a little later, she breathes a happy sigh: She loves her work. She loves seeing families thrive despite the devastation of HIV and AIDS. Because she knows exactly how hard it is.

Halima, a single mother of four, has taken in the three children left behind by her two sisters, whom she lost to AIDS. All three children are HIV-positive.

And, thanks to Halima and all she’s learned, all seven children are thriving.

On her way to her next appointment, Halima passes a school she visits nearly every week, educating parents about children’s needs, sanitation and more. “I’m proud to see that the parents in the village understand the importance of growth monitoring, and that they’re interested in their children’s school performance and attendance,” she says.

She’s also had a hand in one important improvement to the facility itself: Until recently, the toilets were dirty, spilling human waste outside — a biohazard. Halima contacted the local public health officer, who ordered the school administrator to either fix the latrines or close the school.

Halima’s next client, Mwau, is a widowed father of four, and he’s waiting. His wife died four years ago. “When one parent dies, it gets even more difficult to take care of the family,” he says. His children are a girl, 16, and three boys, 8, 12 and 14.

Mwau has participated in several of ChildFund’s workshops — on child rights, nutrition, health and economic empowerment. With other farmers, he’s a member of one of ChildFund’s village savings-and-loan groups. The men are also working together to find better markets for their wares. Thanks to what he’s learned and earned through the overall program, Mwau has been able to move his family from a rickety mud hut into a stone house.

Still, he worries about his children — especially his daughter.

Mwau of Kenya

Mwau points out his old home as he stands next to his sturdy, new stone house.

“My daughter was most affected when her mother died,” he says. When the 16-year-old began coming home late after school, he wanted to yell at her, but he didn’t — in the workshops and from his talks with Halima, he knew there were better ways to handle teenagers. But this was really a job for a mother … and his children’s mother was gone. So, at his request, Halima stepped in.

“I explained that while she may want to enjoy the company of friends, some will not have good intentions toward her,” Halima remembers. “There are risks such as rape, and the consequences can be unwanted pregnancies and dropping out of school.”

And HIV.

Halima also encouraged the girl to help out at home — her family needs her. They all need each other.

It’s moments like this that keep her moving forward. “My drive is that people in the community listen to me,” she says. “I have a deep desire to see them grow and lead better lives.”

 

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