By Anne Scott
Vice President, Global Programs
At ChildFund, we are always looking for new ways to enhance the experience of sponsorship, for both sponsor and child. For this reason, I have travelled to Katachka, a remote village in the central highland district of Huambo, Angola, to see a promising new approach to sponsorship. (See video here.)
Huambo is one of the districts most affected by the prolonged civil war in Angola, a time when many children witnessed firsthand the killing of close family members, were taken captive by soldiers or were forced to march long hours carrying army supplies. The lucky ones survived by hiding in the bushes or beside river banks. School, play and doing chores around the home, in the company of family members, became distant luxuries.
Today, the war is over. But the destroyed remains of bullet-riddled buildings in the provincial city of Huambo, and its surrounding villages like Katachka, stand as an important reminder that the people of Angola carry inside them less visible war wounds. They are still healing.
To play a part in that healing process, ChildFund and its local partner organization have carefully designed the sponsorship event that I am attending today. More than 200 sponsored children and youth, with their family and community members, gather under a large tree. They are drawn in by the sounds of a young woman volunteer leading children in song and dance. The youth perform a funny and sad skit about the considerable problems they encounter at school. Despite the humor, its message rings true, as many in the audience nod their heads.
The children then go off to another area to draw pictures and play games, under the guidance of community volunteers. Before the start of a soccer game, the youth meet to discuss plans to form a soccer league in their area. ChildFund has given the orange-and-white uniforms worn by today’s teams.
I walk over to an area where volunteers, trained by ChildFund, are helping some sponsored children write letters to their sponsors. The volunteer makes the most of this task by facilitating discussion among the children about important things going on in their lives and their community. The children learn how to process their life experiences, verbally, intellectually and emotionally. The end result is richer letters, through which each sponsor can more deeply understand and appreciate his or her child’s experience.
On one level, the event is designed to accomplish important administrative tasks, such as enrolling children to be sponsored or writing letters. The recreational activities are what one might expect at a child and youth event anywhere in the world.
But for those who can vividly place today’s activities against the horrific memory of war, their deeper meaning emerges. For a child to draw — and talk about — pictures of their now relatively peaceful surroundings records a renewed sense of security and builds skills, long suppressed, in identifying and expressing feelings.
For youth to engage together in constructive play through sports builds a sense of hope and belonging, alongside leadership skills and experiences of fun and positive challenge. The adults, still sitting under the tree, can spend some time thinking about how they want the future of their children and youth to be, and make plans to realize their vision.
Today, ChildFund provides a venue that makes new things possible for sponsors and children, and for their families and communities.
For more information about our work in Angola, click here.
More on Angola
Population: 12.2 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 220,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for half of Angola’s population, but half of the country’s food must still be imported.
What’s next: Our 31-in-31 series concludes with a visit to Ecuador.