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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.

A Family’s Just Reward

On the ChildFund website, we have a story by Martin Nanawa (our communications officer at ChildFund Philippines) about a family from Manila, the nation’s capital. These six children have had a hard life, losing their father several years ago to a heart attack. Rachel, their mother, works as a laundrywoman, and until 2014, they lived in a shack under a highway bridge. Despite all of these trials, Rachel and her four eldest children have volunteered with ChildFund’s local partner, Families and Children for Education and Development. After losing their home and having few options, a friend who works at FCED nominated Rachel’s family for an award from a corporate foundation. They won, and the prize money has helped them move to a new, stable home.

“We never expected any reward for helping other people like ourselves,” Rachel says. “We volunteer because it’s fulfilling. Poverty doesn’t mean you have nothing to give.”

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Staying Safe in Sri Lanka

Reporting and photos from Himangi Jayasundere and local partners in Sri Lanka

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Since May 16, heavy rains from Cyclone Roanu have caused massive flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka. More than 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes, and 200 people are either reported dead or missing. Fortunately, no ChildFund-enrolled or sponsored children and their family members were reported hurt or killed in the disaster, but some have had to leave their homes.

We are working with Sri Lanka’s government and other nongovernmental organizations to assist people in need, and in Puttalam District, we have set up two Child-Centered Spaces (you can see photos in the slideshow above) to help keep children safe. They also receive psychosocial counseling and opportunities to talk about their fears. Read more about the emergency response in Sri Lanka on our website.

Young Faces of Sao Geraldo, Brazil

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

On the last day of my trip to northeastern Brazil, my colleagues and I (an intrepid group of five, including my translator) went to a small community called Sao Geraldo. After driving all over creation the day before — through rain and mud, past itinerant donkeys — it was a relief to have just a 15-minute drive on paved roads in the sun.

After visiting a well-stocked playroom for children ages 5 and under at a community center supported by ChildFund, we walked to nearby homes to visit sponsored and enrolled children and their families.

Sao Geraldo is a brightly colored place, with yellow, turquoise, coral and white homes lining steep streets. Nearly every home was decorated with children’s artwork and family photos. But serious problems lie beneath the cheery exterior. Neglect and abandonment of children, as well as drug abuse and prostitution, are common here, we learned from our local partner’s staff. Parents, mainly mothers, are doing the best they can, but this is a community that relies on sponsorship and ChildFund’s support of the community center, which serves children and youth.

You can read more about Sao Geraldo on our website, but I wanted to share a few photos of the children we met. Many face an uphill climb because of poverty and few job opportunities in this region, but sponsorship and other kinds of support do make a difference in their lives, offering them hope.

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Marching to Their Own Beat

Video and text by Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

During my trip to northeastern Brazil in March, I visited many families of sponsored children and the community centers where neighborhood kids go after school. The centers are supported by ChildFund and run by our local partner organizations, and offer arts and crafts classes, music lessons, dancing, martial arts and much more for children and youth.

In Crato, a midsize city in the state of Ceara (which has been deeply affected by the Zika virus outbreak), a troupe of young drummers — boys and girls, ages 5 to 13 — played for our small group of visiting ChildFund staff members from Brazil and the United States.

After watching the children perform, we visited 13-year-old Poliana’s home and met her parents and siblings, who told us about their great experience with sponsorship. You’ll see Poliana in the video around :28; she’s the girl with the springy curls. Aside from drumming, she also takes ballet and likes to draw.

Brazil, as you may know, is a large country both in land mass and in population, and the northeast has just as many cultural traditions as the southern part of the nation. But because of Rio’s international fame (especially for its samba and bossa nova music), people in the U.S. usually know more about southern Brazil. The children in the drum troupe, however, are keeping northeastern culture alive by learning to play rhythms that are part of local musical styles baião, axé and forro.

“We’ve learned to play many different instruments,” says 13-year-old Francisco, who’s been drumming since 2013. “We’ve also made new friends, and our parents are proud of us.”

The late performer Luiz Gonzaga is the prime example of the northeast’s musical tradition, with decades of songs featuring accordion, drums and prominent vocals. You may recognize a few similarities between his music and what the children are playing. Give him a listen!

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