We recently interviewed Americas Regional Director Paul Bode about his three years at ChildFund and what he sees in our organization’s future.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am from the Netherlands. I am the youngest of the family of six, and all my brothers and my sister continue to live there, and my three children have moved there also.
How did you become involved in this field?
When I was in high school, I had a keen interest in development issues, and my career choices were directed at this. I studied anthropology with specialization on rural development of Latin America and a minor in development economics. During my study, I did field work in Colombia, living in a small rural village. I returned there after graduation, working on monitoring and evaluation for a rural development project. In 1989, through an advertisement in a Colombian newspaper, I came to Plan International and worked 21 years for that great organization, most of that in Latin America and a couple of years as program director at their international headquarters in the U.K. I left Plan in 2009 and then came to ChildFund.
What are the most significant changes you have seen in your time here?
We are making good progress on the changes we set out in our global strategy. Most importantly, we are making advances in building a high-quality, high-impact program. Through our partnership initiative, we are really changing our communication with our local partners [i.e., the organizations that help ChildFund implement our programs in communities] and targeting their sustainability, and we have created a financial mechanism to support our work with them. On the resource mobilization side, we have made good progress in building new income sources in the regions we are targeting, especially the corporate sector.
What is your favorite place you have visited?
I am very lucky — I get to travel a lot and experience some beautiful places. Once, I visited a project site in Ecuador in the Andes and got this really beautiful view of the snowcapped Cotopaxi volcano. I put the picture on my Facebook with the words “another day at the office…”
What is your favorite quote and why?
I think about the great legacy that Nelson Mandela has left us and especially his words, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.” That guides us in our work, and the need to emphasize that it is about realizing the rights of all children.
Which world issue would you would like to see solved in your lifetime?
Poverty, without doubt.
What’s your best ChildFund story or memory?
When visiting the field, you come across some amazing young people who are really having a different perspective on the issues affecting their lives. Once, I participated in a community planning exercise in Guatemala. The facilitators were young people who worked with groups of adults. One of the groups was formed by adult men, farmers, rough guys accustomed to the hard work on the field to bring in the daily income for their families, guys to be respected.
The group was facilitated by a boy, a kid really, about 13 years old, and as they discussed the priorities for their communities, the men would come up with things like building a community center, improving the road and building a water system, all very valid and important things to do. However, the little fellow spoke to them and asked them if the issues of violence and abuse against boys and girls within the family, schools and wider community were not more important to be addressed.
It was amazing to see the confidence with which he spoke and how the men really listened to him and took his views on board. That was a great example of youth participation in practice.
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Ireland.
September 2013 marked my 10th year as chief executive officer of ChildFund Ireland. Throughout the past decade I have been lucky enough to witness immensely positive changes throughout both our own organisation and the wider ChildFund Alliance. This piece is far too short to mention them all, so I will share highlights from the past decade.
On the sponsorship front, we worked hard to streamline sponsorship funds and focus on 11 countries, as compared to 27 in 2003. This means we now can really see an impact that Irish sponsorship funds have on ChildFund work in the field. I have always been a great believer in child sponsorship. On a personal level, I am proud to have helped form the Sponsor Relations Network, which brings even greater efficiencies for the Alliance, our national offices and our sponsors.
In terms of grants, ChildFund Ireland received its first grant of €95,000 from Irish Aid in 2003 for a 12-month project in Kenya. In the intervening years, our relationship with Irish Aid has grown, and we now have a four-year multiannual funding agreement that focusses on early childhood development in three countries in Africa, building on the sponsorship-funded programme in the same areas.
Our first forays into the online world came in 2004 with the launch of our first website. This year, we carried out a major overhaul of the site. Visual appeal and navigability have been greatly improved through extensive use of colour, animation and a more intuitive layout, and a whole host of new features have been added. Our social media presence has progressed from limited use of a single platform (Facebook) in 2010 to daily updates on Twitter, photo-sharing on Pinterest and engaging an active community on Facebook.
In just the last few months, we have introduced a digital newsletter to share our favourite articles with supporters on our email database and created our first Facebook advertising campaign in aid of the ChildFund Alliance Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign. The combination of all of these efforts has meant that traffic to our website has roughly tripled, and readership of articles has multiplied from a few hundred to several thousand per article.
The economic situation in Ireland is well-publicised and has impacted ChildFund’s supporter base. However, perhaps due to the nature of child sponsorship, our cancellation rate has been well below what might have been expected. We are embracing the challenge, and I am indebted to the hard work of my team and the loyalty of our supporters during this difficult time.
Moreover, our increasing public profile means we are well placed to take advantage of the coming improvement in national economic fortunes. I, myself, have enjoyed every year of my time at ChildFund Ireland, and I look forward to many more.
Slán go foill … (good-bye for now).
Henry and Judi Ferstl began sponsoring two 5-year-old Brazilian children, Jovino and Suely, through ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) in 1981. Henry was a dairy farmer living 45 miles west of Madison, Wisc., where he still lives. He hadn’t been to Brazil before, but he was curious about other cultures, and helping children appealed to him and his wife.
“They’re so grateful to have somebody care about them,” he says. As the years passed and their sponsored children aged out of the program, the Ferstls kept sponsoring; they have helped 10 children in all, and in the past decade, they took on two more sponsorships. Today, they assist four children and write letters every two months on average. The Ferstls’ son is continuing the tradition by sponsoring a child in Timor-Leste.
“I’m a big gardener,” Henry says. Just sharing ordinary details about weather or the vegetables he grows in the garden are interesting to the children. “The kids are amazed,” he notes, especially when he sends a picture of snow or, say, a moving truck in the neighborhood.
Henry says that he likes sponsoring through ChildFund because he knows where his donations go, and his assistance contributes toward children’s dreams.
“One girl wrote one time, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to sponsor a child, just like you sponsored me,’ ” Henry says.
Lidiane has a special place in the Ferstls’ heart; they started sponsoring her in 1995, and she’d aged out in 2006, but they maintain contact today, often through email. Lidiane attended college and started a clothing business in Brazil. She and her husband now have a daughter, and the Ferstls had the honor of choosing her name, Emily.
“She’s just a wonderful young woman,” Henry says of Lidiane. “It’s one of the great satisfactions. I learn as much or more as the children do. And that’s probably how it should be.”
I’ve been in the Philippines nearly a month now, supporting our emergency response to Super Typhoon Haiyan. I’ve learned a lot on this trip, but one thing I will carry with me is being able to count to eight in Cebuano. I did not learn it because I read it in a book or used language-learning software. I learned it by placing eight bags of dried noodles into larger plastic bags – hundreds and hundreds of times: Ousa, duha, tolo, opat, lima, unum, pito, walo.
The eight bags of noodles, combined with other food items, were enough to feed a family of five for five days.
The other day, I went to Sacred Heart Church here in Cebu, where staff and volunteers have been packing food and non-food items nearly every day for the last month. I’ve stopped in before, but this time I wanted to thank them and help with packing, to experience what they were doing for us. Of course, I had no idea what I was in for. The labor – packing and moving combined food items weighing about 90 kilos (200 lb.) – is especially tough here, where the temperature and humidity are high. Sheets of sweat ran down my face within minutes.
My colleagues, Joel and Martin, were with me that day, and after an hour or so of heavy lifting, we settled into other work: packing rice, sardines or noodles into the bags. Eventually we found our niche, taking noodles from boxes (thousands of boxes!) and placing eight bags into a small plastic bag. Joel and I worked as a team – as a machine, really – while Martin packed canned sardines into other bags. We were moving quickly, so we counted aloud to make sure we were putting the right number in each bag.
Joel soon fell into his native Cebuano, and a game of sorts was afoot. Soon enough, I would learn to count in Cebuano, but only to eight. There were many laughs as I tried to first remember, then sound the words out and slowly develop mastery. After a couple of hours, Martin said it was time for me to go; the others had already worked well past quitting time but would not leave as long as I was there.
Sorry and a bit embarrassed, I got up slowly. The work was harder and more monotonous and dirtier than I had thought. But now I can count to eight in Cebuano, and the story of how I learned to do it is one more memory that helps restore me when the work of providing relief gets me down.
In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’re talking with several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries where we work in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Virginia Vargas, national director of ChildFund Mexico, has been with our organization for 13 years and also served as Kenya’s interim national director for two months last year.
What is your favorite thing about working at ChildFund?
I work for ChildFund because I am convinced that by developing capacities in children and youth, they will be able to break the generational cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential.
I also appreciate that we reach the most vulnerable and deprived children; we try to help those children meet their potential. I like to be part of a global organization known as a child development and protection agency.
Where did you work before ChildFund?
I worked for a cerebral palsy foundation as the director for its education programs.
What is the most difficult situation you have encountered in your job?
The wonderful thing about the national director job is that every day is a different one. I always have to solve different problems, to make decisions, sometimes strategic and some operational. I always have in mind the communities and children we serve.
One of the most difficult tasks is to keep the “balance” among national office, local partners, the international office and the Mexican Board of Directors. As the leader of the organization in Mexico, I have the responsibility to take everybody in the same boat and to roll in the same direction.
What successes have you had in your national office?
Looking at the potential market for sponsorship in Mexico, during 2005, we started our fundraising. Today we have almost 7,000 Mexican sponsors. We developed a five-year business plan, and our goal is to have 15,000 sponsors by 2017.
What motivates you in life?
My motivation in life is to be able to support more vulnerable children; to give them hope, to help them to reach their dreams.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read and go to the gym.
Who is your role model?
Gandhi, because he made a revolution in his country with no violence.
What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
“I want to end my life with empty hands, not because I have nothing to give, but because I have given everything.”
In Ecuador, children under 5 make up 10 percent of the total population, and 23 percent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition.
But in a small community north of Pichincha, we find Samira, a cheerful and lively 2-year-old girl who lives with her mother, Diana, and her grandparents, Maria and Miguel.
Maria and Diana participate in ChildFund’s early childhood development programs in their community. Diana has participated since she was pregnant, and when her baby girl was born, she already knew Samira needed the right kind of food. Maria tells us that Samira is the family’s “guinea pig” because they put into practice everything they have learned in raising her.
“My daughter does not get sick as other children do,” says Diana. “When the other children have had strong flu, she didn’t get it. She is a very healthy girl. She likes to eat soup. She really likes beans and corn, and she eats all kinds of fruits.”
Samira has access to this healthy diet thanks to another ChildFund-supported effort: Maria’s family garden. In her 30-square-meter plot, Maria cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables. These form the basis of the family’s diet.
We hope to provide this opportunity to 70 more families in Pichincha through our Ecuador gardens Fund a Project. These endeavors assist communities with specific needs like treated mosquito nets or winterization kits.
With your help, the garden project will provide these families with a sustainable source of nutrition, helping to address health challenges common to this region. Each family will receive fruit and vegetable seedlings with supplies and training for growing their own gardens. Using recyclable materials and avoiding pesticides, families will create their gardens in a sustainable, safe way.
As a result, children will have better access to vitamin-rich produce, which will protect them from malnutrition and illness. And the sale of surplus fruits and vegetables will boost each family’s income by as much as $40 per month. We need about $5,000 to reach our goal to start these families on a healthier path. Please consider making a donation.
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of the 12 ChildFund Alliance groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from France.
Un Enfant par la Main was founded in 1990 by ChildFund International. Today, through sponsorships, we are supporting more than 7,000 children and almost 100 projects in 16 countries.
After 23 years of work and engagement to help children who are impoverished, 2012 saw a dramatic change in our global strategy. We interviewed hundreds of sponsors, donors, volunteers, team members and other stakeholders in our organization to arrive at our key objectives of increasing sponsorships and funding, and to accurately measure the effects of our actions to promote children’s rights.
These objectives are based on our organizational values:
The first outcome of our strategy was the launching of a communication campaign called Aider un enfant, si ça compte pour moi, imaginez comme c’est concret pour lui. (Helping a child: If this matters to me, imagine how concrete it is for him.) The campaign focuses on the relationships between children and sponsors, highlighting the concrete effects of sponsorship on children’s lives. As the campaign launched, we also increased our digital presence with a new website, newsletter and increased social network engagement to reach our supporters.
As our organization makes strategic shifts, it is always with the desire to help more and more children to grow up and thrive in the best conditions and environment possible through sponsorship.
As you may have noticed during the past few months, we have encouraged ChildFund supporters to purchase bikes as part of our Dream Bikes program. Girls in Sri Lanka and India face long walks to school, as well as attendant danger and exhaustion. Bicycles make a real difference.
And now, 1,000 girls will have their wheels, thanks to the generosity of our donors. We cannot thank you enough. We could not be prouder of everyone that contributed to this campaign, which began in September. Together, we raised enough money to provide 1,000 girls with bikes in less than 140 days. That’s about seven bikes a day!
Maybe you clicked onto our website and saw the video of Hirabai on her bicycle. Or you were scanning through Facebook and saw our posts about Dream Bikes on Giving Tuesday in December. However you found out about our Dream Bike campaign, we are so happy that you did — and that you took action to help a girl stay in school.
Thank you to everyone who helped us to reach our goal in record time, but more importantly, thank you for changing 1,000 girls’ lives and giving them the opportunity to finish their education, which they might have had to otherwise forego.
If you missed our Dream Bikes campaign, don’t worry. You can still contribute $100 and help change a life. Because you know what’s better than giving 1,000 bicycles? Giving 2,000!
It was a cloudy Sunday morning in La Paz, Bolivia, and at 6 a.m., all you wanted to do was to stay in bed with hot chocolate and watch TV. But that Sunday, Dec. 8, we had something special in mind, and we had to wake up early and start moving.
We were not just running for ourselves but were running to promote the campaign, too.
Four staff members from ChildFund Bolivia’s office — Katerina Poppe, Ana Vacas, Fernando Arduz and I — and our pal HyeWon Lee from ChildFund Korea ran 21 kilometers (13.1 miles, or a half-marathon) that day. Aside from the pursuit of good fitness, our goal was to share awareness of the “Free From Violence” campaign, a global advocacy campaign by ChildFund Alliance asking governments to ensure that children are free from violence and exploitation.
“It was a very exciting, tiring but fruitful experience,” HyeWon notes. “We had a long, hard run of 21 kilometers ahead of us, but it felt really nice to be with the co-workers, one next to each other, cheering each other on and sharing the exciting moment together.
“We were wearing ChildFund T-shirts with the phrase ´Libre de violencia´ [Free from Violence] printed on the back, and this short phrase really made our running much more meaningful. We were not just running for ourselves but were running to promote the campaign, too. It made it much harder to give up, and as a result, we all met at the finish line.”
Ana also shared her thoughts: “I have run quite a few races before but never for a specific cause. However, this time was different. The race took on a whole new meaning for me; I was no longer there as another participant just hoping to cross the finish line but as someone who was actively participating in efforts to create a world where children are free from violence.”
Katerina added: “To be part of this competition was a wonderful experience for me because I believe in this cause. I believe that we all together can do something to raise our voices and share our commitment to fight violence against children, especially girls.”
That Sunday will be in our memories forever; if we can overcome this challenge, others in life can be defeated with an effort.
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Japan.
Love reaches beyond national borders, as we know. In 1948, 65 years ago, when our grandparents were in their youth, Christian Children’s Fund (then known as China’s Children Fund) began assisting children in Japan, where postwar confusion continued. The situation of child-care institutions in Japan at that time was desperately severe. Most of the institutions could not provide children with nutritious food or clothes.
From Postwar Beginnings
The 1940s was a very difficult decade for Japan. There was World War II, and at its end in 1945, the country was in ruins. Many children lost their guardians and relatives. They were literally children living in the streets. CCF brought the love of people in the United States to these destitute Japanese children. CCF demonstrated that love can reach beyond international borders and save suffering children.
The Christian Child Welfare Association was established in 1952 with management assistance from CCF. One piece in a book called “Love Beyond the Frontier” about CCWA’s history attracted my attention. It was written by the director of a child care institution taking care of war orphans after World War II:
“In September of 1949, I received a notice that my institution would soon receive the first subsidy from CCF. Under the very difficult situation which we were in, this was a blessing shower from God. All the workers together with children, remembering sponsors of U.S., offered thanks giving prayers to God. With this donation, we were able to provide children with supplemental food, additional clothes and educational materials.”
Assistance for Japan Meaningful in Several Ways
Japan was among the first recipients of CCF’s assistance. Moreover, ChildFund Japan is the first country office that became independent from Christian Children’s Fund in 1974, and in 1975, we started assisting marginalized children in the Philippines.
In 2005, we made an important decision to disunite from the Christian Child Welfare Association to focus on international development cooperation, although CCWA continues to serve children here in Japan. At that time, we joined the ChildFund Alliance as the 12th member organization. We were able to expand our assistance to children in Sri Lanka in 2006 in collaboration with ChildFund International, and in 2010, we began assisting children in Nepal through the sponsorship program.
As I look back, ChildFund Japan indeed demonstrates love beyond frontiers. Love that reaches beyond national borders is essential for assisting children in need around the world.