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Celebrate!

Video by Kate Andrews

We want to wish you a happy, fulfilling and meaningful new year. Here’s a video of children and youth joyfully dancing in a rural community center in Brazil, which your generosity helps support. Thank you!

Our Top 5 Posts from 2016

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In Zambia, two girls help prepare a meal. Photo by Jake Lyell.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

I think most of us can agree that 2016 has been an eventful year, both here in the United States and around the world. If you are a sponsor, you can take heart in the fact that your presence and support has helped a child and his or her family. If you’ve contributed to one of ChildFund’s other campaigns, like the one in Uganda that helps reunite families torn apart by AIDS, you’ve made an important impact, too. Your generosity matters in large and small ways.

Here are this year’s most popular blog posts (judged by the number of views as of mid-December). They cover many interests and multiple continents. Thank you for your support of children and families in need.

5. On the Migrants’ Trail

Julien Anseau, our global communications manager, wrote three pieces about refugees and migrants he met while on an assessment trip through Europe in January 2016. With the chaos and death toll in Aleppo making headlines now, Julien’s story is just as relevant today as it was in February.

4. Sarah’s Doll

Jake Lyell, who shoots videos and takes photos for ChildFund all over the world, met 11-year-old Sarah while interviewing families in Uganda who are part of the USAID-funded project DOVCU, which is keeping families together and reuniting other families struggling to support their children. In Jake’s video, Sarah, whose father is disabled and was considering giving his children to an orphanage, shows us how she makes her own doll. It’s a lighthearted moment, but it also shows children’s resilience in the midst of serious circumstances.

3. The Drought in Ethiopia

Jake also spent time in Ethiopia earlier this year to document the food shortage in the region of Oromia. This post shares the words of Halko, a mother whose four children were suffering from malnutrition — particularly her 3-month-old baby son, Fentale. At the end of 2016, the situation in Ethiopia is improving, but families still need help.

2. A Child’s View of Peace 

In a report by the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood about children’s opinions on creating peace, we learned a lot. If nothing else, we hope your connection to ChildFund produces admiration and interest for the thoughts and voices of children. In some cases, they’re wiser than their elders. ChildFund writer Rachel Ringgold found some especially interesting quotes from children in Timor-Leste. Take a look!

1. ChildFund’s Community Video Contest

This is one of my favorite new traditions: Local partner organizations and children around the world submit videos each year for our Community Video Contest. Everyone wins — the amateur videographers, the children in the videos and all the viewers. In this post, Meg Carter, sponsorship communications specialist, explains how she and her team of judges chose the winner of 2015’s contest. You can see the videos from 2016 and 2015 on YouTube.

Finally, here’s a slideshow of my favorite photos this year. Thank you to Jake Lyell and all of the ChildFund staff members and local partner staffers who took these pictures!

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This will be the last blog post for 2016 and likely my final one, as well, since I’ll be leaving ChildFund in early January. Thanks for reading, and have a super 2017. Kate

Season’s Greetings from Honduras!

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Our Honduras staff asked 13-year-old Elizandro what he likes the most about Christmas. “The joy and the fun I have with my family,” he says, “and of course the tamales on Christmas Eve!”

Best wishes from ChildFund during the holiday season, and come back Dec. 28 to see our five most popular blog posts for 2016. Some of them may surprise you!

 

Your Christmas Cards — in Ethiopia

Photos from ChildFund Ethiopia staff

In Ethiopia, sponsored children received their Christmas cards recently. Mail means a lot to them, and we encourage you to correspond with your sponsored child, which helps build a significant relationship across the oceans and continents. Here are some tips on writing letters to your child, and please enjoy these pictures of Ethiopian children showing their Christmas cards!

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Their Favorite Things

Video from ChildFund Mexico

This time of year, many of us take stock of our lives and think about our blessings, our goals and our challenges. This fall, our Mexico staff asked children what they love about their lives. These kids face obstacles to a full education and promising careers, but they still have things they’re thankful for. Please enjoy this video, and may it bring pleasant thoughts of your own blessings.

Sarah’s Burden — and Ours

Sarah in Uganda

Sarah (not her real name) is 9 years old and was born HIV-positive. 

In Uganda, approximately 96,000 children under the age of 14 are HIV-positive. Sarah is one of them. My colleague Christine Ennulat met 9-year-old Sarah (not her real name, to protect her privacy) during a visit earlier this year to Gulu, Uganda. The meeting was emotionally overwhelming, because Sarah wasn’t eating enough nutritious food for her antiretroviral medications to take effect. The little girl, who had lost her parents and a younger sister to the disease, was in the care of her grandmother, Irene, who makes a living by selling small fish in the market. They were eating one meal a day.

This is just one facet of the complex HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Antiretroviral medications can prevent pregnant women from passing on the virus to their unborn children, and they help keep positive children healthier. But only if they have access to these medications, and only if they have healthy food and clean water. ChildFund and others are working to reach the United Nations’ goal to end HIV infections by 2030, but it is an uphill battle, even in places like Gulu, where there is help for families.

Sarah’s family is one of many that benefit from ChildFund’s USAID-funded project, Deinstitutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Uganda (DOVCU). Their roof was repaired, and her brother has received carpentry training. Irene was able to purchase a pair of geese. But there are many children in similar situations as Sarah. Some succeed and flourish, while others continue to struggle. At least Sarah is still smiling.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. Read more here, and learn how to take action

‘This Is My Family in Uganda.’

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Linda Williamson, a sponsor for 16 years, reunites with her sponsored child, Erie (in white polo shirt), and his family in Jinja, Uganda.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

In the rural region of Jinja in eastern Uganda, the lands are green and lush. “It’s beautiful,” says Linda Williamson, who has been there twice to visit her sponsored child. “Their roads are rough. They’re dirt roads, and they’re hard to get by. The homes are very modest, and they’re mostly brick with tin roofs.”

The water is clean, but there is no electricity in the small community where 24-year-old Erie and his family live. Cell phones work occasionally.

A drawing Erie sent Linda.

A drawing Erie sent Linda.

The town of Jinja is a commercial center on the shores of Lake Victoria and the Nile River’s headwaters, but Erie’s family lives in a remote community where subsistence farming is a normal way of life. HIV and AIDS have had a devastating impact on families, as well as other health problems such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea. In Uganda, an estimated 2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Floods and droughts affect everyone’s ability to grow crops and maintain food security.

“They are really concerned about climate change,” Linda says of Erie’s family and others who live in his village. “They can’t anticipate the seasons’ changes the way they could before.” This can lead to food shortages, but as many other sponsors have noted after their visits, families often serve their visitors entire banquets to show their hospitality.

It was the same for Linda, who spent a day with Erie’s family and community leaders earlier this year. “There were so many people there who were trying to make this day special. There was so much food!”

Erie himself is shy and a delayed learner, Linda says, but during this visit, “he’d come and hold my hand and sit next to me.” His mother, in contrast, is very gregarious.

Sixteen years ago, Linda received a financial gift from a relative for Christmas, and she decided after seeing a ChildFund commercial (then Christian Children’s Fund) that she would use the money to sponsor a child. Her first visit to see Erie and his family was in 2008, and since then, they’ve become even closer. Now that Erie is close to aging out of sponsorship, Linda is planning to sponsor one of his younger siblings.

“I’m very bonded not only to Erie, but to his younger siblings and the whole family,” she says. “This is like my family in Uganda. This is a big part of my life, having this relationship for the past 16 years. My friends and family know about my family in Uganda. When I go to Uganda or do something for Erie, I’m the one who’s blessed.”

 

Anista, Five Years Later

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By Rachel Ringgold, ChildFund Staff Writer

It’s been five years since we met Anista. She’s a sponsored child who lives in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, and we took a peek into her daily routine when she was 9. Some things in her life haven’t changed much since then.

Anista still brushes her teeth in the morning to get ready for the day. Her sister, Stella, still washes up with her, out in front of the same robin’s-egg-blue house. To get to school, they still walk half an hour to school, down and then back up the sides of the same misty mountains covered with tea bushes.

But a lot has changed in the last five years, too. Anista is 14 years old now, and she’s at the top of her ninth-grade class. On this visit with the family, the kids were on summer break, so they were home from school. Anista drinks tea, washes up and plays with her sisters — their favorite game is jump rope.

rs38394_dsc_0364Anista also helps her mother, Slatemary, do chores around the house. Five years ago, Slatemary wasn’t at home. In fact, she wasn’t even in the country. She worked abroad for years as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. But last November, after not receiving a paycheck for several months, Slatemary returned to Sri Lanka — and she says she won’t leave again. “I want to be here,” she says. “I want to be home with my children.”

Slatemary, along with Anista’s father, has worked hard to give her family all she possibly can. Five years ago, Anista and her siblings didn’t have electricity or running water in their house, but now they do. And they have a TV, which is something else Anista and her siblings enjoy on days off from school — but they’re allowed to watch only educational shows, Slatemary says.

 

 

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And Anista has gone from being one of the little sisters to being the oldest child at home, as her two older sisters have jobs hours away in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Watching the siblings, it’s clear Anista takes her role seriously — she keeps a watchful eye when her younger sister, Princey, climbs a tree, and she holds brother Kabilash’s hand as they descend the steep stairs from their village.

Slatemary says that what she truly wants from ChildFund is not physical or tangible. What she wants for her daughter is “good knowledge, a good attitude and to learn to be a good human being.” And, she says, “I don’t want my daughter to be like me — a tea plucker.”

It seems that Anista’s mother’s dreams are well on their way to coming true. Five years ago, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Anista said she wanted to be a teacher. And her dream has grown since then. “I want to teach dance,” she says with a quiet determination.

We can’t wait to see it.

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Unpleasant Facts (and Hope!) on World Toilet Day

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A health extension worker talks to community members about sanitation and hygiene in Gulele, Ethiopia.

By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Senior Manager for Content

Happy World Toilet Day! Let’s talk about open defecation.

Sorry if that’s disturbing, but here’s an unpleasant fact: Defecating outdoors, with no privacy, is what “normal” is for one in seven of the world’s people.

According to UNICEF, in 2015, 2.4 billion people did not have access to adequate sanitation facilities, including 946 million people without any facilities at all. What are their options?

Another fact: As a much-beloved children’s book title declares, everybody poops.

And another: Each year, 760,000 children under age 5 die from diarrheal disease, the second-leading cause of death and a leading cause of malnutrition for this age group.

That’s a reason why one of the United Nation’s Global Goals for 2030, number 6, is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

A community in Ethiopia has just inched the world closer to achieving that goal.

More than 200 community members helped clean up their neighborhood.

More than 200 community members helped clean up their neighborhood.

Until recently, woreda (district) 7 of Gulele city, just outside of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was a mess. With no formal garbage disposal system, litter lined its streets and contaminated local water sources, which were unprotected — the community had no access to potable water. With few functioning latrines, children and family members were regularly exposed to human waste, which has its own dangers. On occasion, devastating diseases like typhoid, hepatitis and polio have spread throughout woreda 7. Last year alone, 697 children there had diarrhea, and 185 were diagnosed with pneumonia.

Those two diseases are the leading causes of death in Ethiopia among people of all ages. And they are preventable diseases.

Because clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene are key to children’s ability to be safe in (and from) their environment, ChildFund collaborated with local authorities and our local partner organization there in a special project, funded by a generous individual donor, to address all three in woreda 7.

First, we identified a dozen communal latrines that needed repairing. The ones selected were in such bad shape — collapsing walls, broken doors, damaged roofs — that they were neither sanitary nor safe to use. The team reinforced or rebuilt walls, replaced leaky roofs and upgraded the “doors” (corrugated iron sheets) to actual doors. More than 25,000 people now use these latrines.

The new latrines are humble, but they are in much better shape than before.

The new latrines are humble, but they are in much better shape than before.

We also identified 502 families with young children, whose immune systems are still developing, and provided them with safe water storage containers and treatment chemicals that purify water and protect the children from waterborne diseases. We held workshops, attended by all these families, to ensure that they fully understood how to use the tools, as well as proper hygiene and sanitation practices and how important they are.

To spread this knowledge among the broader community, ChildFund and the Woreda Health Office led a three-day training of 16 community volunteers and 25 health extension workers to provide education and assistance on hygiene and sanitation, as well as other health-related issues, throughout the community.

This part of the initiative was especially timely: Part of their work during those three days was to develop a health education plan tailored to the specific needs of the community itself, starting with educating families about acute watery diarrhea and its transmission, symptoms and prevention.

As it happened, the community was on the brink of an acute watery diarrhea epidemic that had already gripped parts of Addis Ababa. But the volunteers and extension workers were able to reach 4,261 households with the message of prevention, and woreda 7 escaped the outbreak.

Gulele community members learn how to purify water so it is safer to drink and use for washing.

Gulele community members learn how to purify water so it is safer to drink and use for washing.

ChildFund, the volunteers and health extension workers and the Woreda Health Office also launched two community-wide hygiene and sanitation campaigns centered on community clean-up, with 200 participants.

We know that latrines and water purification supplies by themselves don’t make for a sustainable solution to a community’s water, sanitation and hygiene-related needs; sharing knowledge and support are integral to making the practices stick.

But the experience of living in a clean and safe environment — and the fact that they avoided a potentially deadly disease that swept through neighboring communities — will most likely keep the families of woreda 7 on the path to a healthier (and more pleasant) future.

Want to help a community get access to clean water? Check out our Real Gifts Catalog for several options at different prices. 

Small Voices Rise Up

Mexican girl coming home from school

Diana is 10 and lives in Mexico. She likes to climb trees and has a cat named Manchas (“Spots” in Spanish).

Video by Jake Lyell

Each November, ChildFund Alliance releases its Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, reporting the views of children around the world. In previous years, we’ve asked what children would do to make their communities safer and which rights are the most important to them. This year, more than 6,000 children in 41 countries told us about education and its impact on their future, as well as if they feel safe at school.

Tamilarasu, 11, in his classroom with a friend.

Tamilarasu, 11, in his classroom with a friend.

You can read more here (and the entire report in our Knowledge Center). Here are some of the children’s words.

Diana, 10, lives in Mexico. When asked what it means to be safe in school, she said, “It means that, for example, if I’m here at home and I get scolded and feel bad because of what I did, at my school I can forget about what happened here, and think about mathematics, Spanish and science. And I like it a lot because I can learn new things there.”

Tamilarasu, 11, is in seventh grade in India. He loves to play cricket, and his favorite food is curd rice. “Education is our right,” he says. “All children should get education.”

Finally, we checked in with several schoolchildren in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya. You can hear their answers in this video. Thanks to all of the children and local partner staff members who conducted the survey. They took the first step, and now it’s up to us to listen to the small voices and act!

 

 

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