by Selamawit Yilma, Communications Officer, ChildFund Ethiopia
Un Enfant par la Main, based in France, is a member of the ChildFund Alliance. The 12-member global organization, which includes ChildFund International, provides assistance to children in 59 countries. Chairman of the Board Pierre Jablon recently led a sponsor visit to Ethiopia.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Would you please tell us a little about your organization?
Pierre Jablon: Un Enfant par la Main is a member of ChildFund Alliance and is based in France. The name Un Enfant par la Main refers to the linkage between the mother and child, and it has an English translation of “holding a child’s hand.” Established in 1990, the organization is involved in about 15 countries including Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the third [largest] country with regard to the number of sponsored children we have, next to Mali and Senegal.
ChildFund Ethiopia: What is your impression of Ethiopia in general?
Jablon: I am impressed very much by the people I see on the street and have met on our field visits. The people are so kind, smiling. They also have sense of dedication to welcome others.
ChildFund Ethiopia: What is the purpose of organizing the group of sponsors from France to visit Ethiopia?
Jablon: The first objective was to better understand what ChildFund Ethiopia is doing and how you are organized — to learn more about the system of sponsorship and financing and to know what challenges you are facing. The second objective was to be a witness to the event while sponsors meet their children and share their feeling.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Did anything strike you differently than you expected?
Jablon: I was not completely aware of the development of the association and the system used to organize the communities, which encourages them to take over the responsibility and be engaged more in the community work. Other countries also work closely with the community, but the system I noticed here is very impressive.
ChildFund Ethiopia: What was the feeling of the sponsors while they visited their sponsored children and learned about some of the interventions of our partners? Was it interesting for them?
Jablon: It was an important moment in their lives. For most of them, it was their first time to meet their sponsored children so it was a very significant event for them. They were very happy, emotional and positive. We would like to organize similar visits at least once a year but one of our barriers to sending sponsors to Ethiopia was the language problem. Most of our sponsors speak only French so they need a translator. But this time, they were happy because they were able to converse with their children and their families with the help of the team and the translator.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Is there any other expectation from the sponsors that we need to improve more in the future?
Jablon: Some of the concerns mentioned by the sponsors were to receive pictures of their sponsored children more frequently to see their physical change and growth. It is also important to have up-to-date information of the children as well as news flashes on what activities are successful for the children, families and community. Strengthening communication is important to all sponsors, and most sponsors had positive feedback on ChildFund’s sponsor activities.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Un Enfant par la Main delegated you to lead the team to visit ChildFund Ethiopia. Can you share with us a few thoughts on how your board members, and you as a chairman, are actively involved in supporting the organization and what motivates you to work on behalf of children?
Jablon: Let me start with myself. I joined Un Enfant par la Main in 2006. Before I came to this organization, I used to work with UNICEF France. I was involved in many similar activities there, like talking with children in school and doing promotional and communication work. However, I was looking for an organization that has international collaboration and is smaller in size, enabling me to understand how the donated resources reach the children and to see the impact at the individual level. I found all this in Un Enfant par la Main. The important moment for me is being here, and in other countries, is to meet ChildFund staff, introduce our organization and meet children supported through Un Enfant par la Main. Though we are small organization, we want to be closest with our partners.
Regarding to the board activity, most of them are very active and have different responsibilities such as fundraising, coordination of regional volunteer workers and raising the profile of Un Enfant par la Main through various meetings and other opportunities.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Currently Un Enfant par la Main has about 450 sponsored children in Ethiopia. Is there any plan to increase this number or enhance the partnership between Un Enfant par la Main and ChildFund Ethiopia to help children in Ethiopia?
Jablon: I have discussed this issue with the national director and agreed that if there is room to increase the number of sponsored children, we would like to do that. In addition, we would like to strengthen our partnership by starting micro projects in communities where Un Enfant par la Main sponsored children live. As I observed from my visit, micro–enterprise opportunities exist and have a positive impact of increasing family income.
ChildFund Ethiopia: Do you want to add any more?
Jablon: I would like to thank the team from ChildFund Ethiopia. It was a really fantastic welcome and excellent cooperation. I hope we could also do more to inform and motivate the sponsors from France. In the future, we may also prepare another trip since this trip has been so successful.