ChildFund International Blog

Riding Toward a Dream

By Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka 

Today, which is known as Black Friday in the United States, is a great opportunity to think about sharing our good fortune with children in need. Dream Bikes allow children — especially girls — to get to school safely and quickly. 

Piyumi on her Dream Bike

Piyumi rides in her Sri Lankan village.

An impatient Piyumi, waiting for her father to take her to school, used to be a regular sight. Her teacher scolded her many times for being late, which she often was: Her long trek from home to school was more than two miles each way, on foot unless she could catch a ride on her father’s bicycle. Some days she stayed home because it was too difficult to get to school.

But today, she no longer has to catch a bicycle ride with her father or walk down village paths in Mahakalugolle, Sri Lanka. Piyumi, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student, has her own bike, thanks to a ChildFund donor.

Piyumi has been in ChildFund’s sponsorship program for more than five years. Last year, she sat for Sri Lanka’s Year 5 scholarship exam and passed with high marks, which made her school proud.

So, along with the bicycle, Piyumi also received school materials, a school bag and shoes from ChildFund donors, to recognize her hard work and achievements.

“Some days, I had to wait till my father finished his work to come to school,” Piyumi says. “But now soon as I get ready, I can come to school on my own. My brother also likes my new bicycle.” Sometimes he rides with her.

“I feel better knowing that Piyumi is on a bike on the journey back home,” her mother says. “I feel that she is safer.”

 

A Father’s Memory Book

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. Although many advancements have been made to treat HIV and prevent AIDS-related deaths, it still remains a major public health issue, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This video, featuring a father in Zambia, shows the toll the disease takes on families, including many who live in communities supported by ChildFund. He speaks about creating a memory book for his children, showing what he has experienced during his life. They’re his memories, but the book is meant to preserve his memory as well, in the case of his death. Take a moment and watch, and find out more about HIV and AIDS, as well as what you can do to help.

Early Childhood Development: Spotlight on Honduras

One of ChildFund’s signature programs is Early Childhood Development, which focuses on children’s first five years. It’s the most important time in a person’s life, determining what a child will accomplish in school, in his or her career and what these children will pass on to their own children. Before turning 5, a child’s motor skills, problem-solving ability, language and self-control are all well-defined. ECD centers help give children who are living in poverty a better chance to reach their potential. In Honduras, ChildFund’s Lylli Moya took some photos at two ECD centers so you can see what happens inside.

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Children Have the Right to Be Free From Violence

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Violence against children remains a terrible problem, according to children themselves. Today — on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child — hundreds of children say their right to be protected from violence is not being upheld.

Gangs, political strife and child labor are issues in many developing countries, where only 30 percent of children polled say they are always or often protected from doing harmful work.

ChildFund Alliance released the fifth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams report today, a survey of 6,040 children ages 10 to 12 in 44 countries. Poor access to education also is a concern among children in developing countries.

This year, as the United Nations prepares to decide on its post-2015 global agenda, the Alliance, a network of 12 international development organizations (including ChildFund International), has launched a campaign called Free From Violence to motivate world leaders to prioritize the protection of children against violence and exploitation.

“A quarter century ago, leaders across the globe made a commitment to the world’s children, that we would help them reach their full potential by protecting, educating and nurturing them. While much progress has been made, it is abundantly clear that we still have a long way to go. Harming even one child is one child too many,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.

Below, see a slideshow of children holding signs that spell out their rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Things to Know on World Toilet Day

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Today is World Toilet Day. OK, get the giggles out of your system. We do indeed have a world day for just about everything! Despite the funny name, World Toilet Day draws attention to an important problem: the lack of proper sanitation in many communities around the world.

Consider these facts:

Last year, more than 1,000 children died each day from diarrheal diseases contracted through poor sanitation.

One billion people — 15 percent of the world’s population — practice open defecation, which spreads disease.

And 2.5 billion people do not have safe, private toilets.

This year, World Toilet Day (designated Nov. 19 by the United Nations General Assembly) is calling attention to the special challenges women and girls face when they don’t have safe toilets. School attendance decreases among girls, especially once they reach puberty. According to a 2012 study published by WaterAid, more than 50 percent of Ethiopian girls reported that they missed school one to four days a month due to their menstrual cycles, often out of embarrassment from a lack of privacy. Women also are more vulnerable to violent attack if they must leave their homes to use the toilet. One of the ChildFund Alliance’s primary goals is to promote child protection worldwide, through our Free From Violence initiative.

Nongovernmental organizations including WaterAid and the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council are advocating for the following goals to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 agenda:

No one practices open defecation.

Everyone has safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home.

All schools and health facilities have safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are sustainable, and inequalities in access have been progressively eliminated.

Below, see pictures of some of the latrines children in ChildFund-supported communities use, and consider sharing this information today on your social media networks (use #wecantwait on Twitter or Facebook). World Toilet Day may have a funny name, but it addresses a serious topic.

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An Opportunity to Learn

By Janat Totakhail, ChildFund Afghanistan

Janana

Janana

Janana is 15 and the oldest of four sisters. They live in a village in northern Afghanistan near the border of Tajikistan, where few children — especially girls — have the opportunity to get an education. Janana, too, had never been allowed by her mother and father to attend school.

Her father works as a shopkeeper and sometimes as a hired farmer, while her mother takes care of the household. As the oldest sister, Janana also has many responsibilities at home. But she always hoped to go to school. Today, that goal has become a strong possibility.

In Afghanistan, ChildFund supports Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) where children and teens can study and play. In Janana’s village and four more, we started 10 CFSs in 2013: one for boys and one for girls in each community, and 1,001 children have taken part in the program. Many have experienced war-related trauma and are still at risk of violence, abuse and neglect, so the spaces don’t just serve educational needs. They help keep children safe and also let community members plan for emergencies, particularly how to protect their children. Once ChildFund’s direct supervision ended in January, community members have stepped in to run the programs.

The CFSs for girls have eased some of the stigma attached to education for young women. Janana persuaded her parents to let her attend.

Now, it is her second home, giving her a place to learn and spend time with girls from her neighborhood. Janana is able to read and write names and short sentences, and she’s about a year away from mastering primary school-level literacy and numeracy. One of her sisters has joined her at the CFS.

Child-Friendly Space in Afghanistan

A community volunteer leads an orientation session at one of Afghanistan’s Child-Friendly Spaces.

“I like learning the Pashto language,” Janana says, “and I feel proud and empowered while reading a letter for my parents and helping my little sister to read and write.”

If she had not attended the CFS, she adds, “my life would be different. I would be busy all day with housework, with no opportunity to interact with peers, make friends, play, and learn to read and write.”

Janana’s parents also are happy to see their daughter progressing in her studies.

“An illiterate person is like a blind person,” her father says. “My daughter helps me to learn Islamic principles; she reads for me the letters, invitations and wedding cards; takes note of money that I lend to people, and she helps me understand the details of the electricity bill. She helps her mother and sisters in understanding personal hygiene and health issues. I am proud having Janana as a helping hand.”

Kochai, who facilitates the CFS, also has noticed her progress: “Janana has been very active participating in learning activities. She learned to respect parents and elders, gained awareness in health and hygiene, and, more importantly, is progressing well in literacy and numeracy. I am hopeful that one day she will join school with children of her age.”

Her family, too, is encouraging Janana to continue her education at a school close to her village. She has a big dream for the future:  “I want to be a teacher, to help all school-age girls in my village to go to school and learn to make their future and help others.”

Children’s Rights: An Enduring Conversation

This gem of a video was created by ChildFund Australia five years ago to honor of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With their kind permission, we’re sharing it in these last few days before the Convention’s 25th anniversary Nov. 20 because we think it’s every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The rights that are set forth in the treaty are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. The language is a bit of a mouthful for children themselves. But they get it, as you’ll see in the video. Enjoy!

Businesses Recovering After the Typhoon

Martin Nañawa of ChildFund Philippines has been traveling through the Visayas, the region most severely affected a year ago by Super Typhoon Haiyan, recording its current status. Despite dramatic loss of life and property last November, communities are rebounding, with businesses and homes having been rebuilt over the past several months. Here, you can see how your gifts, along with the elbow grease of residents and ChildFund’s local partners, have made a difference in Tacloban. Martin notes: “You may have noticed the signage says ‘Tindog Negosyo.’ Tindog is the verb for standing up, or getting to your feet, and Negosyo stands for business.”

Read more about the binagol makers here.

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Light a Candle

Martin Nañawa of ChildFund Philippines took these pictures in Tacloban, one of the worst-hit localities during Super Typhoon Haiyan, a year after the storm struck the central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013. Community members lit candles to commemorate the people lost in the disaster.

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The Experience Gap in Science Education

Today is World Science Day for Peace and Development.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

I remember teaching at Guinea’s national polytechnic university a few years ago. Most of my first-year students had never seen a computer. They’d earned the highest marks in the country in science and math on their Baccalauréat (Guinea’s high-school leaving exam), yet had never examined water under a microscope, created a chemical volcano or even stuck balloons to the wall with static electricity.

But they could list waterborne illnesses, recite the periodic table of elements, and define induction. My students had learned theory without practical experience because Guinea, like many low-income countries, lacks the resources for proper science education. Scientific research there usually consists of literature review and retrospective study, not original experiments.

students in Guinea

Students in Guinea are interested in learning, but they often must do so without necessary resources.

Imagine MIT, Caltech or Virginia Tech without electricity, running water, refrigeration or internet access — and no books, maps, posters, calculators, CDs or DVDs on campus. Guinea’s only bookstore was located five hours away. Lab materials and scientific instruments are expensive and hard to come by. You barely have enough chalk.

“Why,” my students asked when I introduced myself on their first day of class, “did you leave your comfortable life in America for us?”

I’d come to teach technical English but ended up team-teaching introductory information technology classes, too. Each semester, my Guinean counterpart covered IT basics, while I observed and assisted with computer labs. Then we traded: I taught the advanced content and he ran interference.

I believe all children, regardless of where they are born, deserve as good an education as my daughter received in the United States. And the experience gap prevents these children and youth from solving new problems or thinking as creatively and critically as they could. Like DNA, a lack of practical experience passes down to subsequent generations.

I remember the moment I realized my students knew nothing about non-decimal number systems, including binary codes, on which information technology is based. While I reviewed my Energy Technology students’ course evaluations, one young man wrote that he hadn’t known you could generate electricity without pollution. Another wrote that the class wanted to learn more: “Show us photographs and diagrams of solar, wind, biomass, fuel cell, geothermal,” he wrote, “all these energy sources you told us of. And explain in French, please.”

The enthusiasm is there. I remember the sea of faces greeting me each semester. More than 100 students sat four to a desk. Although three in 10 scientists worldwide are women, fewer than one in 10 students at Guinea’s national polytechnic university were female when I taught there. Nearly all were already married with children.

Imagine the difference in the Ebola outbreak if the quality of science education in West Africa were equal to our own.

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