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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

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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!

 

 

Friends in Deed

Photo and reporting by Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka

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“I am thankful to have Darshika, who is my very good friend,” says Sasivini, 13, of Sri Lanka (at right). “Darshika is also 13 years old and studies with me in school. When something goes wrong at school, sometimes I quarrel with my classmates. When that happens, I feel lonely and isolated. But I am thankful for having a friend like Darshika, who intervenes and settles matters peacefully.”

Stay tuned for more stories about what children are thankful for.

It’s Goat Season!

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Annet,13, holds a goat her family keeps in Kamuli, Uganda. Photo by Jake Lyell.

Each fall, the pictures of children with their goats show up. They are adorable, without fail. Look at Annet, holding her baby goat in the picture above!

Of course, goats mean a great deal to many families ChildFund works with. Goats produce milk, which can become cheese, and they reproduce quickly. A small herd of goats can help keep children well nourished and provide families with extra income when they sell surplus milk and cheese.

Just before the holidays, we release our Real Gifts Catalog, offering items requested by families in countries around the world. Goats are a perennial favorite, both of families and donors.

My colleague in Kenya, Maureen Siele, interviewed a man whose family received a goat through ChildFund’s catalog (which you can find online here). Daniel says, “Before we received the goat, we were not as healthy as we are today. We rarely drank milk. Occasionally, we would buy milk, but it is very expensive. We could not afford even to make proper tea. We also struggled to buy other household items like sugar and flour, because I did not have the money that I am currently making from selling the surplus milk.”

And today, they have four goats. It’s a great start for a family in need.

Emergency Support in the Philippines

Photos from ChildFund Philippines staff

Last week, a Category 4 typhoon struck the northern Philippines, including Apayao Province, where ChildFund recently began working with 514 children enrolled in our programs. Fortunately, the local government had prepared evacuation facilities, so there were few human casualties, but homes, farmlands and roads suffered damage during Typhoon Haima.

ChildFund Philippines sent an assessment team into the region, where they are working to provide food, shelter, school kits for children who lost their school supplies, livelihood support for families reliant on the agricultural economy, and educational and recreational activities until schools reopen.

You can read more here and donate to help families in the northern Philippines. Below are photos taken by the emergency assessment team members.

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Learning a Better Way to Fight

Photo by Jéssica Takato, ChildFund Brazil

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Thirteen-year-old Camilly of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

When I visited ChildFund’s programs in Brazil earlier this year, girls and boys at a community center in Belo Horizonte were kicking and punching — while led by a teacher. They were learning basic moves in a martial arts class, and the teacher told me something interesting: Learning this ancient pugilistic art actually keeps kids from fighting.

And interest is growing. As more children learn Muay Thai and other martial arts, the center has begun offering a class at night for adults.

Camilly, 13, is one of several girls who take Muay Thai at the community center, and she is living proof that martial arts help people of all ages become more secure and confident, and less volatile. She’s practiced Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, since she was 10.

“I was very nervous and fought with everybody,” Camilly says, “but now that I do martial arts and play soccer, I’m getting better. In Muay Thai, we learn to have respect for others and not hit people outside of the fight. I changed a lot. I can settle things calmly, and I’m more patient.

“Now when something happens, I drink a glass of water, calm down, and everything is fine.”

Giving Haitians a Hand

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In Jeremie, Haiti, service members from Joint Task Force Matthew and representatives from the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) deliver relief supplies to people affected by Hurricane Matthew. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Tyler Hopkins.

People in Haiti, many of whom were just recently recovering from the devastating earthquake of 2010, are now confronted with a second natural disaster: Hurricane Matthew. The Category 4 storm struck the island Oct. 4, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Right now, the USAID and nongovernmental organizations are working to bring aid to more than a million people affected by the hurricane, but some communities have been cut off by floodwaters, mudslides and other debris blocking roads.

Meanwhile, concerns are mounting that there will be a cholera epidemic caused by the quick spread of highly contagious bacteria. As of Oct. 10, 13 people in Haiti had reportedly died from the illness. ChildFund is working with our Alliance partner in Canada to provide funds to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International, which is on the ground in Haiti, distributing hygiene kits, water purification tablets and food.

You can help children and their family members in Haiti by supporting this cooperative relief effort, and also stay up to date about what is happening on the island as we receive more information.

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