ChildFund International Blog

Yolanda: Overcoming Disability

Ecuador girl

Yolanda, 10, was seriously injured in a house fire when she was 2 years old, but today she is succeeding in school.

Photos and reporting from ChildFund Ecuador staff

Yolanda writes a letter to her sponsor.

Yolanda writes a letter to her sponsor.

In many places where we work, it’s not unusual to see people cooking over open flames or on antiquated stoves. That can lead to a lot of harm, especially for young children. Many suffer from respiratory diseases from exposure to smoke, and some are hurt when hot water or food spills. Yolanda, a little girl in Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Province, suffered an unimaginable injury when she was 2. Her family’s wood stove caused a fire that engulfed their home at night, when everyone was asleep. She almost didn’t get out in time, and 80 percent of her body was burned. Yolanda lost her hands as a result.

Her parents were worried that she’d be mocked at school, so they didn’t enroll her, until ChildFund and our local partner staff members convinced her family that Yolanda would be better off in school. That turned out to be a good thing for Yolanda. Learn more about how she’s succeeding in a new story on our website!

Kindness Goes a Long Way in Sri Lanka

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Reporting and photos from ChildFund Sri Lanka

Usually on the ChildFund emergencies page, it’s grim news. But this week, we heard from our staff in Sri Lanka that they had distributed relief packages (full of kitchen equipment, paper products and other needs) to more than 600 families affected by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Roanu in May. Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Sri Lanka, with funding from ADRA China, donated these packages, which go a long way toward helping families recover. Many lost their belongings and saw great damage to their homes, but there are bright spots here and there.

We’ve also heard good things from the two Child-Centered Spaces we set up in Puttalam, an area hit hard by flooding. As we’ve seen time and time again, children want and need to play. They just need a safe place to do it. We hope you enjoy these pictures from Sri Lanka, where families are on the long road to recovery.

In Pursuit of Excellence

Brazilian girl

Maria Antônia, at the community center run by our local partner in Crato, Brazil. 

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Getting ready to watch the games in Rio? I sure am. To mark this special occasion, I’ve got a few pictures from my side-trip to southern Brazil (see below, in the slideshow), which followed a wonderful visit to ChildFund’s programs in northeastern Brazil. One of my favorite moments was meeting Maria Antônia, whom we featured last year on the blog. She’s the girl who spoke about violence against children at a side-event organized by ChildFund and other international nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations headquarters in New York City in March 2015.

One of my hopes was to meet Maria Antônia in person while visiting her hometown, Crato, to find out what she had done in the year after her trip to New York. With the help of my ChildFund Brazil colleagues and our local partner staff, she and I were able to meet. She’s now about to turn 16, and as you’ll read, she’s doing well in and outside of school. No surprise there. Maria Antônia is a young woman destined for great things.

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Take a Tour of Honduras

From our office in Honduras, we recently received this video travelogue. Your tour guide is Darwin! If you want to see ChildFund’s videos, which span the globe, check out our YouTube channel. You can even subscribe to the channel with your Google account and receive notice every time a video is uploaded (we promise, it won’t overwhelm your email).

Sponsors Fulfill Special Needs

RS34212_Belinda taking water from a cup

Five-year-old Belinda, of Kenya, holds a cup – a task she has been working to accomplish. Like her sponsor, Belinda has cerebral palsy.

Many of you are sponsors already — or are considering sponsoring a child. Because our organization has been fostering sponsorship around the world for many decades, we’ve heard a lot of heartwarming stories about these unusual and often close relationships: the meetings in person between child and sponsor, multiple generations of families sponsoring children and many more.

This week on the website, we have a story that takes a slightly different angle: Tracy, who sponsors several children living with physical or mental disabilities. She has cerebral palsy herself and has a unique understanding of their challenges, as well as the importance of giving the children encouragement. Over the years, Tracy has made a point to ask her sponsored children what they can do, rather than what limitations they face.

Belinda can hold a cup and drink from it. Stacy can write the words “cat” and “dog.” Millicent can stand with both feet flat on the ground.

 

 

Not Exactly Child’s Play

Uganda children's game

In Kafue, Zambia, 15-year-old Grace jumps over a rope strung between two trees, in a game called waida. She and her friend are competing to see who can jump higher.

In August on the website, we’ll be featuring stories and videos about playing, which has been called the job of children. Play helps them learn social skills like sharing and cooperation, and gain abilities like hand-eye coordination, motor skills, language and spatial awareness. In other words, kids need to play, but poverty constructs barriers that are hard to surmount.

This week on Huffington Post, ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard writes about poverty’s effects on children’s freedom to play: “In many developing countries, the time for play is often displaced by the chores and responsibilities that are so familiar to children growing up in poverty.”

Learn more about what play means to children.

Get on the Dance Floor!

Brazilian children dancing

Forró dancing is a long-time tradition in northeastern Brazil, where it originated. Photo by Danielle Freire, ChildFund Brazil. 

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

I wrote in May about children learning how to play traditional northeastern Brazilian rhythms on drums, but another important piece of the musical tradition there is forró dancing. My colleagues and I had a magical night in Oròs City, at a community center run by ChildFund’s local partner. Girls and boys from age 5 to young adulthood sang, played music and danced while wearing brilliant costumes they sew themselves, just like the ones you see in the picture above. On our website, take a look at our video, which captures some of the performances. Below are more pictures taken by Danielle Freire, who works for ChildFund in Crato, Brazil.

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Celebrating Our Own Heroes

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

As usual, July 4 is the United States’ Independence Day, but this year, it’s also Zambia’s Heroes Day, which falls on the first Monday of July. Many countries celebrate holidays dedicated to heroes, whether military, political or humanitarian. Who are your heroes? They may be people you’ve never met or someone you’re related to. Maybe you have multiple heroes.

patricia capAt ChildFund, we hear from time to time about children and adults who take stands for someone else’s rights — a person who needs protection or could use extra support as he or she fights for what is right. It can be a lonely and scary feeling to be a hero, but we are thankful for people doing what they can to improve the world, despite personal risk.

In honor of Heroes Day in Zambia, please watch Jake Lyell’s video about Patricia, who was married at age 15. She is a hero in my eyes, and so are the people who helped her escape her marriage, which had already led to abuse and the end of her formal education. Questioning long-held traditions and creating awareness of early marriage’s harmful effects are bold stands in Zambia and many other countries. We need heroes willing to speak out for the rights of girls and women.

Day of the African Child — and Their Families

Zambian mother and baby

Mavis, a 29-year-old Zambian woman, was married and had her first child at age 13. She now has five children and hopes for a brighter future for them. 

Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Ethiopia, and Christine Ennulat, ChildFund staff writer

Each year on June 16, along with many other organizations, ChildFund recognizes the Day of the African Child. Across the continent, children and adults affiliated with our programs will perform songs, skits and other presentations to call attention to children’s rights.

Despite the festivities, the Day of the African Child marks a tragic anniversary, when at least 176 children and youth were killed during a massive protest in Soweto, South Africa in 1976. Forty years later, African children still face many trials, including hunger, illiteracy, terrorism, civil warfare and gender-based violence.

The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children’s Rights,” which focuses on child protection in regions where there is civil conflict. There are many well-known cases now, such as the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls, ongoing civil war in Sudan and the rebel insurgency in northern Mali. Other countries are still tending to wounds from previous decades.

ChildFund works in Liberia, which suffered destructive civil warfare from 1989 to 2003, with a brief respite from 1997 to 1999. The impact of war, particularly the use of child soldiers, still echoes today as its government works to rebuild schools, infrastructure and a fractured society.

Armed conflicts, we’ve seen, make children less safe and more likely to be hurt, killed or exploited. Even in peaceful nations, though, children’s basic rights can be in jeopardy. Early marriage, forced labor and other corrosive practices cause harm all over Africa.

On our website, we have a photo story of 29-year-old Zambian mother Mavis, who was married and had her first child at age 13. Zambia’s child marriage rate is one of the world’s worst: 42 percent of Zambian women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before age 18. As we well know, many girls who marry and become mothers early lose out on a lot of things that make life worth living: education, leisure, civic participation, fulfilling work and self-determination.

Their dreams for themselves often transfer to their children.

Mavis told us, “I want my children to be educated. I don’t want my children to experience what I went through. Because I don’t know many things — I don’t know how to read or write my name. I don’t want my children to earn a living by selling tomatoes like me.”

On the Day of the African Child, we need to consider Mavis and all of the girls and young women in similar positions. We owe it to them and their children.

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