ChildFund International Blog

Millions Flee Conflict and Violence

Many people escaping violence in Syria and other countries come through the Serbia-Croatia border, where Terre des Hommes-Lausanne has set up tents where families can rest. Photos from TDH-Lausanne.

Many people escaping violence in Syria and other countries come through the Serbia-Croatia border, where Swedish children’s aid organization Terre des Hommes-Lausanne has set up tents where families can rest. Photo from TDH-Lausanne.

By Lynda Perry, ChildFund Staff Writer

Many of us have seen the headlines coming from Europe and the Middle East, as millions of people seek refuge from violence. Families and children have left everything they know to face an uncertain future, often traveling by night on rough roads, facing armed guards and rebel gunfire. More than half of the nearly 60 million people displaced by war today are children, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. They come from Syria more than any other country; more than 200,000 people have died in civil war there.

As of Nov. 23, 3,519 people have perished this year alone trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to safety in Europe. Their numbers grow every day, according to the International Organization for Migration.

As winter approaches and the plight of exhausted families on the road worsens, ChildFund is supporting a Swiss children’s aid organization, Terre des Hommes-Lausanne, to provide respite to families on the run. Now on the ground in Serbia and Macedonia, TDH offers families support and protection at all hours of the day or night, greeting them with warm clothes and blankets, personal hygiene supplies, maps, reliable information and help in connecting with families and friends. For mothers, there’s a private place to feed their children; for children, a safe place to play and, perhaps, feel like children again. Distressed families can also receive psychological support as well as health assessments and referrals.

Donate and help make fleeing children and their family members more comfortable and safe as they face a winter of uncertainty.

For more information about the refugee crisis:

BBC: Background on the conflict in Syria

BBC: Experience the dilemmas of those fleeing Syria.

International Organization for Migration: Missing Migrants Project tracks casualties in the Mediterranean with frequent updates.

New York Times: “I met several children who had arrived in Europe on their own. The youngest of them, Reza Mohammadi, was just 7 at the time. He was separated from his parents in a forest in Macedonia,” writes Katrin Bennhold.


Small Voices, Big Thoughts

La Paz, Bolivia

Nestor, 11, lives in La Paz, Bolivia. “I think it is important to listen to children’s voices,” he says. “Boys without love grow to be aggressive. Parents’ love is important for children. It gives them more security and self-confidence.”

Reporting by ChildFund International staff members

Today is Universal Children’s Day, when ChildFund Alliance releases its annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey. Almost 6,000 children in 44 countries (in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia) answered questions about what their fears are, what they’d do if they were their country’s leader and what they consider their rights. Here are some memorable responses from children in countries where ChildFund works.

Hoan of Vietnam

Hoan, 12, of Vietnam:

Adults mistreat children who are alone. Because some children do not have anyone who cares for them and protects them, adults mistreat them. I will create a safe environment for children so they can live safely and happily. I will open a free school for orphaned children who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school before.


Teresa of Mexico

Teresa with her younger siblings.

Teresa, 12, of Mexico:

There are parents who always tell their kids that they are not capable of doing certain things, and I think that is really wrong because we feel a lot of pressure, and over time, we’ll be afraid of expressing ourselves.





Jeferino of Timor-Leste

Jeferino, 12, of Timor-Leste:

We are children. We also have the right to play, but most of the adults limit us. When we play, they come to chase us away because they are adults, and we are children. And we can’t do anything.

Agnes, 12, of Zambia:

If I become a leader, I will make sure everyone knows and protects children’s rights.

Agnes gathers maize for her family.

Agnes gathers maize for her family.


Jonathan of Mexico

Jonathan, outside his home.

Jonathan, 11, of Mexico:

I think it is really important to listen to children’s opinions because people shouldn’t make decisions for them or force them to do anything.

Today Is World Toilet Day

Did you know that 2.4 billion people do not have access to basic toilets? That number includes some of the children and family members ChildFund works with in Africa, Asia and the Americas. When families don’t have clean and safe bathroom facilities, children become vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day, and we’re asking for your help in sharing information about the lack of good sanitation in communities around the world. This video from Cambodia shows how a simple latrine has made a dramatic difference in 11-year-old Romduol’s life. If you share the video with your circle of friends and loved ones, use the World Toilet Day hashtag, #WeCantWait.


Sponsorship and Raquel’s Silver Lining

Reporting by Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia

Raquel, 19, is an up-and-coming jewelry artist in Bolivia.

Raquel, 19, is an up-and-coming jewelry artist in Bolivia.

Raquel, 19, is a young leader in her Bolivian community. We asked her to tell us about her sponsorship experience, what she’s up to now and her career plans. 

How would you describe your friendship with your sponsor?

I have a beautiful relationship with my sponsor. She tells me about her country and sends me pictures with beautiful landscapes, places where she goes with her family. She also tells me about her daily life and how she worries about me and my family. I love when she sends postcards.

What have you learned from your sponsor?

My sponsor is consistent about writing; we keep in touch often, and we know what is going on in each other’s lives. I learned a lot about the value of friendship with her. I think she is my best friend because she has taught me a lot about other places, about respect for the family. Her letters are written in a simple way but tell me a lot. I know she thinks about me all the time.

Tell me about the new activity you’re doing now.

The local partner in my community started a silversmith training program, and I was curious about how to work with silver and make a ring myself. The day I made my first ring, I was very happy and proud. I continued making other small pieces of jewelry, first during my free time, and now I am part of a small association.

Now that you have learned this skill, do you have future plans?

I would like to own a business, making jewelry with my own style. I would also like to teach other youth to make rings, earrings and many more things. Of course, I would also like to learn more about this art.

I understand you are the association’s president. How do you feel about holding this position?

Well, all of my friends and partners elected me. They told me I am a responsible, dynamic and good friend, and they trusted me.

Now we run our association by ourselves. All of us are youth, and we learn something new every day. I know this is a big responsibility. All of us want to strengthen our small association.

What is your biggest challenge and biggest triumph?

My biggest challenge is to find the time to keep up with this new responsibility and stay on time. We want to build our own brand — not only a logo but an identity. We would like to be known in Oruro and throughout Bolivia.

My main satisfaction is to see us grow as people, both as silversmiths and as friends. Being at the silversmith workshop is fun. We all are friends and take care each other.

Lighting Up the Future of Children in India


ChildFund India distributed solar-powered lanterns to children. Here, Aarathi reads by its light.

By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India

In parts of India, literacy rates are very low for a variety of reasons. One problem is a lack of electricity. When you are in the dark at home, it’s not easy to read.

In June, ChildFund India distributed nearly 40,000 solar-powered lamps to children in homes without electricity, as phase two of a national literacy campaign called Books, My Friends. In December 2014, our India staff members, with the help of local partner organizations and others, distributed 40,000 tote bags full of age-appropriate books in several languages. About 115,000 children have benefited from the program, which aims to make reading fun and also help them improve their literacy skills.

According to India’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2014, many children are behind grade level in their reading skills. Among eighth-graders, about 75 percent can read at second-grade level, and 32.5 percent of second-graders can’t even recognize letters.

We used to use wax or kerosene candles. With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out.

In this campaign phase, called Toward a Brighter Future, children have received solar-powered lamps that allow them to read, do homework or other activities after the sun goes down.

“For me, my education is very important,” says Aarathi, who got a lamp. “I don’t like missing school even for a single day. Now that I have my own solar lamp, I can study anytime and anywhere. It’s so convenient and easy to use these solar lamps. We also use these lamps for doing group studies outside our houses.”

Although the lamps’ primary purpose is to help children study after dark, they also make it easier for family members to do household chores. “Earlier we used to use wax or kerosene candles,” recalls Jayamma. “With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out. We also used to feel hot while using them. Having a solar lamp is great. We don’t face any of those problems with this. My mother finds it very convenient to cook using this lamp.”

And for some, the solar lamp has a totally different benefit. “Now we can also play after dark outside our houses using these lamps,” say Prathibha and Swathi.

After the successful implementation of this second phase, ChildFund India plans to open two solar-powered model schools, more than 100 libraries in rural schools in 14 states and introduce mobile libraries, which will provide access to high-quality reading material and dedicated reading space for children and other community members.

Welcome From Uganda!

Video by Christina Becherer, ChildFund Senior Manager, Corporate Strategic Alliances

Yesterday, Christina and her ChildFund colleague, content manager Christine Ennulat, met the Laroo Mothers’ Group, in the Gulu district of Uganda. In this video, they sing a song of welcome to their visitors. The mothers are proud of contributing to their new village savings and loan association, which allows them to take out small loans to start new businesses, pay school fees, cope with illnesses, or even come together to help another group member in need. We’ll be hearing more from them later, but for now, hear this!

From Virginia to The Gambia


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photography by Ron Wolfe, ChildFund Senior Project Manager

Ron Wolfe, who has worked in ChildFund’s Information Technology department since 2010, got to visit his 11-year-old sponsored child, Aminata, when he was in The Gambia earlier this year for work. As anyone who has met their sponsored child can tell you, it’s a magical event that helps families from different continents create close bonds. Read here about Ron’s trip and how he and his family are staying in touch with Aminata.

Postcards From Abroad

Clarita of Timor-Leste

Clarita, 17, of Timor-Leste, regularly receives postcards from her sponsor. One of the most memorable postcards she received is the one with high buildings and long bridges of the city of Melbourne, Australia.

“I like this card because it’s like a memory from my sponsor,” she says. Photo by Kim Bomi of ChildFund Timor-Leste.

What Sponsorship Means to Children in Guinea

Mariame, a sponsored child.

Mariame, a 15-year-old sponsored girl in Guinea, has cattle thanks to her sponsor.

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

We asked three girls from Guinea to share how being sponsored has changed their lives. The answers may surprise you. Learn more about corresponding with your sponsored child and what they think about your letters.

Aminata, 14

Aminata with her books.

Aminata with her books.

I am Aminata, and I am in grade 4 in elementary school. I live with my parents, my elder sister, elder brother and my two little brothers. In the photo, I am holding the books that my sponsor sent me that I love so much. They contain drawings and pictures of people and fish and a rainbow. At home, I take my time to color these drawings in my books. I am very happy to have a sponsor, because since I started attending school, she has always sent me gifts. Thanks to her, I am among the best students in my school.

Also, my sponsor has contributed funds for my village to get clean water. Before, the people of my village had to walk a long distance to fetch drinking water from the creek. But thanks to her, today my village has a well.


Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Mariame, 15

I consider my sponsor as a father who loves and watches over his family. My sponsor is very straightforward and rigorous; he often asks for details of all he sent me. I appreciate it this way. Thanks to him, I have cows, a family latrine and a rice farm.

For me, sponsorship is a way to help the poor families have better futures.


Aissatou, 14

In the photo he sent me, my sponsor looks handsome with his family and his dog. One thing he often does in his letters is to encourage me to study well at school. But on the other hand, he surprised me by saying he was very attached to his dog, Emma, and that his dog had turned 7. That’s something we are not used to in my family.

My sponsor taught me to love, and to be generous and loyal to others. Through him, I learned about the celebration of Thanksgiving in his country, which resembles the way we celebrate the New Year of the lunar month in my country.

Sponsorship means a lot to me because it helps children have a better future through education.

A Childhood Full of Letters

Maria Elena of Mexico

Reporting by Paloma Gonzalez, ChildFund Mexico

Maria Elena (above) was enrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Mexico when she was an infant, and at age 2, she was sponsored by an American man, Hugh. Through the next 20 years, he wrote letters and sent financial gifts that her family used for clothes, shoes and food. Today, she holds a college degree in biology. Here are her words about corresponding with her sponsor.

Since I was an infant when I was assigned my sponsor, I wasn’t able to respond to his first letters, and my sisters wrote the answers for me! As time went by, I was able to write him directly, and we wrote every two months. He sent me letters, sweets, postcards and Christmas cards.

He always sent me words like “Yes, you can!” or “Go on!” and that helped me to keep going.

When I was going through elementary school, he would always send me letters to cheer me up. Despite the distance, he never forgot us and in his letters always asked about my family and how I was doing in school. It was very exciting for me because though we had never met, it felt great to have somebody showing such interest in me.

When I started high school, we kept exchanging a lot of letters, and he started to ask me about my future plans. At that time he told me that he was going to keep on sponsoring me for as long as I was engaged in the local partner organization’s activities and in my studies, as far as I wanted to go. That excited me so much, because since I was a little girl, my dream was to have a career. He always sent me words like “Yes, you can!” or “Go on!” and that helped me to keep going, because each letter encouraged me to go one step further.

My sponsor always motivated me to not give up, despite the many obstacles I crossed, and this is how I fulfilled my dream, and I can proudly say I have a degree in biology. It is the best thing that ever happened in my life, so I appreciate his trust in me and support without expecting anything in return.

This is why I invite all sponsors to write to their sponsored child, because a simple letter or photograph is exciting for us as children and brings us the best feelings and joy, and also motivation to keep going.

Read more about writing letters to your sponsored child.

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