Reporting and Photos from ChildFund staff in Mozambique, Sierra Leone and The Gambia
Although ChildFund’s Dream Bikes campaign began with a focus on India and Sri Lanka, children in several African countries also have expressed their desire for bicycles so they, too, can travel safely to and from school. Fanta, a 9-year-old girl from northern Sierra Leone, received a bike recently after her ChildFund sponsor sent the funds necessary for her family to purchase one.
“I have been dreaming about this every day, especially when I see my friends going to school on their bicycles,” said Fanta on the day she received her bicycle. “Now I can go to school early and return home early. I will now have time to study at home because I am not exhausted.” In the slideshow below are children from Mozambique and The Gambia with their bikes. More girls in Africa need bicycles so they can get to school efficiently and avoid danger along the roads. Learn more about Dream Bikes and how you can make a difference in a girl’s life.
By Janella Nelson, ChildFund Education Technical Advisor
This blog post was originally published by the Global Campaign for Education’s United States chapter.
As many children return to school this month, it is an exciting time for parents and students. There is an assumption by many that school is a safe place, but there are children around the world, including in the United States, who will be returning to school and wondering if their school is really safe.
Children have the right to learn in a physically and emotionally safe environment that is conducive to learning. When we think about “safe environments,” there are several things we consider, but usually physical safety is at the top of our minds. Globally, children are exposed to several forms of violence in the classroom, on school grounds and on the way to or from school. They include corporal punishment, bullying, sexual gender-based violence, gangs and political unrest.
These forms of violence, which can be physical or psychological, can prevent children from learning and staying in school. Evidence shows that corporal punishment by educators increases dropout rates and perpetuates a cycle of violence. Bullying is linked to poor mental and physical health, school absenteeism, lower test scores and higher crime rates (bullies are four times more likely to engage in serious crime, according to a study in 28 countries published by the American Psychological Association in 2013). Sexual violence based on gender has a detrimental effect on girls’ attendance and completion of basic education, which contributes to the large gender gap in secondary school. Gang-related and political violence prevents children from even attending school, causing schools to close and teachers to resign.
ChildFund International and our partners in the ChildFund Alliance are committed to contributing to a world where every child is free from violence and exploitation. We support children in exercising their rights and work to create environments where children can not only participate as advocates against violence but also lead efforts.
In Timor-Leste, ChildFund’s Children Against Violence program has prioritized the push for a legal framework prohibiting violence against children in schools, as well as community-based awareness activities. Students have created Child Advocacy Groups, which have conducted research on violence against children; group members have used this research to advocate for a national policy forbidding corporal punishment in school. A cadre of young advocates has grown out of the groups, and they promote the protection of children’s rights, as well as the education of teachers and parents about positive discipline practices.
Students, parents and teachers need to work together to tackle all types of violence in schools, and one essential step is to provide support to children so they can raise their voices about this issue and make schools truly safe.
Interviews and Photography by Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Last week, we heard from Aisyah, a 12-year-old girl from Jakarta, Indonesia, who had just received a Dream Bike from ChildFund. Today, Nurul and Selfila, two more girls from Jakarta’s slums, talk about their lives before and after receiving bikes. You can help girls achieve full educations and escape everyday hazards by making a donation to ChildFund’s Dream Bike campaign.
Nurul is quite a shy one. She is 12 years old and in third grade, behind where she should be in school. Because she has dyslexia, Nurul finds it difficult to read and retain information. She has repeated grades several times and even moved to another school. Her mother always accompanies her to school to protect Nurul from bullying. Nurul doesn’t talk much, and looks to her mother to answer questions.
“She always wanted to have a bicycle,” Nurul’s mother explains. “She saw her friends with bikes. One time, she wanted to ride a bike and tried to borrow it from a friend, but the friend wouldn’t let her. Nurul asked, ‘Mama, when can I get a bike?’ ”
But the family didn’t have the money to buy a bicycle.
“We need to pay about US$8 per month for the school fee, which I haven’t paid for four months. I don’t know how much a bicycle costs, but I guess it is about US$100. We can’t afford it. It is way too much for us. I only work as a daily laborer, and my husband works as a security guard,” Nurul’s mother said. “What we earn is only enough for food and to pay the electricity bill. Before she received the Dream Bike, it took her about 45 minutes to walk to school. She often arrived late, and it was quite tiring for her. I am really happy now that Nurul has been given the bicycle from ChildFund. Praise the Lord!”
“I ride the bike to school,” Nurul says shyly. “I am really happy I don’t have to walk to school anymore! It is much faster for me to get to school than walking. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I am going to be a dentist!”
Selfila, at 14 years old, is in her second year of junior high school. She is the oldest of three children. Her father supports them with daily construction work. Her mother is a housewife.
“I used to walk to school for about half an hour each way, starting early — at 5:30 a.m.,” she explains. “I walked by myself, as my friends don’t live in the same neighborhood. When I was younger, I was a little scared to walk on the big roads, because there were many cars. Sometimes I arrived at school late because I had to wait for the rain to end. It was quite hard when I returned home too, because the sun was so hot, and I carried so many books. So sometimes I felt too tired to help my mom at home. But now I have the bike, and I get home faster, so I can help her more. I also have more time to do my homework!”
The MasterCard Foundation recently produced a video about our e-learning program to train nurses in Zambia. The $7.6 million program, launched last June as a collaboration between ChildFund, The MasterCard Foundation and the African Medical and Research Foundation, is helping young men and women find employment in a country where there are few job opportunities, while also addressing a critical shortage of health care workers. Zambia has only one nurse for every 1,500 people, far below the World Health Organization’s recommended nurse-population ratio of 1 to 700. The Zambia Nurse and Life Skills Training program is expected to train 6,000 students to be nurses and midwives. Please enjoy the video.
Reporting and Photography by Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Many children who benefit from ChildFund’s Dream Bikes program are in isolated communities and face long journeys across rough rural terrain. It’s a little different in south and east Jakarta, the huge capital city of Indonesia. Children there live in dense, crowded slums, and to get to school, they have to walk or take the public bus or a motorbike, a big daily expense for families living in poverty.
Because their homes also are small, 125 children in Jakarta’s slums received foldable bicycles from ChildFund’s local partner organization, Perkumpulan Marga Sejahtera, which hosts after-school activities.
“When they fold the bike, it won’t take up as much space,” explains the organization’s director, Liest Pranowo. “These children walk every day to school, and also when they join some activities out of school. Having a bike hopefully will help them to get to school easier, get in on time and be more active as well in out-of-school activities. It would save their parents some costs too. Usually, it takes about US$2 for a rental motorbike. It is just too much for them. As children are very active, we also provided them with helmets. If they fell, their heads would be protected.”
Let’s meet Aisyah, a 12-year-old girl who likes watching the news and hopes to be a doctor one day. She received a bike and helmet, and it’s making a difference already. These are her words:
I walked to school and back every day with my younger brother. He’s in the second grade. I leave home around 5 a.m. and get to school by 5:30 a.m. Often I came late to school, especially on Mondays and Fridays. On Mondays, we have a morning ceremony where we need to be ready a bit early, and on Friday we have group study and exercise that I need to come early for too. On those days, often I came late.
Once, there were other kids in the street from another school who made fun of me. They would say something bad, like “Oh, you are a hobo! Even your school is the school for hobos!” They were boys, four of them. I would tell them to please not to say something like that, as they wouldn’t want other people to say something bad in return, right?
Another time, when I came home from school, these boys said something bad to me again. One of them pulled my hair from the back and pushed me down. I fell down and cried. A taxi driver stopped them. When I got home, I told my mom, and she then went to their house, but they still didn’t want to say sorry.
I am not afraid of them, though, but I try holding myself hard to just ignore them. My brother always says to ignore them.
Since I am in the sixth grade now, there are days where I stay longer in school for extra classes. That’s fine, as I need to be prepared for the exams. I take extra classes in math, science and Indonesian language. But sometimes when I got home, I was too tired from walking under the hot sun to study again or do my homework.
When I finish school, I am going to be a doctor! I want to help people who are sick. But if they don’t have money, I will do it for free. It’s all right. Even though our government has health insurance, it is not enough to cover everything.
One day I saw in the news that a mother had just given birth. The hospital kept the baby longer as the baby was born premature, and the family couldn’t afford the cost for the treatment. That’s why I want to be a doctor, to help people in need like that.
I really am happy I was given the bicycle by ChildFund. I will ride the bike to school. The bicycle lets me get to school on time, and now I have more time to do my homework. I will even take my brother in the back saddle!
You can help girls like Aisyah by donating a Dream Bike. One bicycle costs $100, and its value is priceless. Stay tuned for more Dream Bike stories from Jakarta, coming soon.
This week, the World Health Organization declared that for the first time in a year, Sierra Leone had no confirmed, active cases of the Ebola virus. If none are reported between now and Oct. 5, 42 days after the last case, the country will be considered free of Ebola.
By Karifa Kamara, ChildFund Sierra Leone
At the peak of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, ChildFund started Interim Care Centers throughout Sierra Leone to help children who found themselves at risk, living in households where they had been exposed to the virus. Often, they had lost parents to the disease and did not have reliable care or protection. Ultimately, ChildFund set up seven centers nationwide and served 343 children.
We checked in recently with some of the children and volunteer workers at the centers to see how they were doing.
Of the 343 children served between July 2014 and this past July, 75 percent are orphaned, 15 percent have one parent, and 10 percent were reunited with both parents. In recent months, 330 children have been reunited with parents or other family members.
ChildFund’s assistance, supported by donors to the Ebola emergency response fund, didn’t end there. We provided clothes and bedding to children whose belongings had to be burned to avoid spreading the virus.
We’ve also provided Cash Grant Livelihood Support packages of $300 each to 120 families, who used the funds for school uniforms, books and writing materials, or for household expenses. Staff members at ChildFund Sierra Leone’s national office also continue to visit children who have been reunited with their parents or caregivers, giving them further financial and emotional support as they cope with the trauma of losing loved ones to Ebola. We expect to stay in contact with these families well into the future.
Children were not the only people who suffered in the outbreak.
About 90 percent of the volunteer staffers at interim care centers are Ebola survivors who initially suffered some form of stigmatization from relatives or the general public. Due to ignorance of the disease, people were scared to come near Ebola survivors, despite the fact that they were no longer contagious or even vulnerable to catching the disease a second time. Survivors lost their jobs and homes as a result, and many have shared their sad stories with ChildFund staff members.
Even children who survived Ebola or were merely under observation for symptoms were not welcome in relatives’ homes after leaving the interim care centers. It took many appeals and negotiations for some of these children to be accepted in their communities.
According to an Ebola survivor, Theresa, whose two sons also fell sick and recovered, “When I was discharged from the clinic, I used to feel very ashamed. My neighbors’ attitude made things worse for me. I could not even use the apartment building’s toilet without fearing that someone would attack or abuse me.” Ultimately, the family left their apartment and now live elsewhere.
But people in Sierra Leone are becoming more aware of the truth about Ebola through an anti-stigmatization publicity campaign led by the federal government and assisted by ChildFund. Also, community members in areas with interim care centers have seen with their own eyes how Ebola survivors have helped many children.
“When the ICCs were established, survivors were still being stigmatized,” says Ebola survivor and center volunteer Mohamed Swarray, who helped track down exposed children’s family members so they could be reunited. “Since the centers were dealing with children from quarantined homes, it was difficult for them to get nurses and caregivers. It was decided that it is us — the survivors — who can do the job well. So, that is how my status as a survivor actually gave me a job.”
Community members started to view survivors differently and appreciate their work. Many of the volunteers, who received stipends for their work, say they’re grateful for ChildFund’s support and are proud of working with children affected by Ebola. Today, they stand by, ready to work if they’re needed again.
By ChildFund Vietnam Staff (first used on ChildFund Australia’s blog)
Bui Thi Nhu grew up in a remote village in Hoa Binh, a rural province in northern Vietnam. Her parents were both farmers who worked hard to provide for the now 28-year-old Nhu and her two siblings.
“I was born into a poor family,” Nhu remembers. “Like many other people living in the same village, we relied on agricultural activities for our living. Life was difficult, and the local economy was weak. I still remember the image of my parents working and sweating in the paddy fields on hot summer days.”
When Nhu was 13, she was sponsored through ChildFund by an Australian sponsor, Brendan, and his family. Nhu felt like she had another person watching over her. “I was very motivated by my sponsor through our letter exchange,” she says. “From my perspective, the most important benefit of being an enrolled child was the huge encouragement I received that encouraged me to strive for my future.”
As a child, Nhu dreamed of treating the sick. Today she is turning that dream into a reality. After graduating from a medical college in 2008, she now works as a health-care worker in the community where she grew up.
I want to express my deepest appreciation to my sponsors. They made me what I am today.
“I feel proud of what I can do as a health officer,” Nhu says. “I love to give treatment to children and take care of them. Children are the most vulnerable and need proper care. This is my passion.”
Nhu has watched her community in Hoa Binh transform over the past 20 years, when ChildFund began its work there. “Sponsorship has made community development programs possible,” she says. “There have been big positive changes in our communities. Schools have been rebuilt with sufficient facilities so children have better access to basic education. Today, 100 percent of the children in my community are able to go to school and receive a good education.
“With ChildFund’s support, many roads were reconstructed using concrete. This has made traveling more convenient. Canal systems have been improved to enhance agricultural production. Clean water supply systems and sanitation facilities have also been constructed.”
As if her job as a health worker didn’t keep her busy enough, Nhu also has also worked with ChildFund Vietnam as a sponsor relations volunteer for the past five years. It is her role to deliver letters from sponsors to the children in her area and help them write letters back, as well as encourage all of the children to get involved in ChildFund-supported activities.
“To me, volunteering for ChildFund is very meaningful since I can make a significant contribution to child development,” Nhu says. “I see this volunteer job as a way that I can help other children to enjoy the same opportunities I had when I was small.”
Although she has aged out of sponsorship, Nhu continues to feel motivated by her friends in Australia. “I want to express my deepest appreciation to my sponsors,” she says. “Thanks to them, I received a good education and had the will to strive for success in my study and my work. They made me what I am today. As a grown-up, I am trying to devote my little effort to help the local community and children, just as my sponsor helped me before.”
You can learn more about ChildFund’s work in Vietnam over the past 20 years and read about sponsor and race car driver Pete Olson’s efforts to help a community in Hanoi.
Reporting by Karifa Kamara, ChildFund Sierra Leone
My name is Ibrahim. I am lucky to have a goat from ChildFund through Daindemben Federation [ChildFund’s local partner organization in his community]. I named my goat Susie. We have lived together for more than a year. She likes to stay and walk around with me at all times. She cries sometimes when she feels like seeing me, especially in the morning before breakfast and when I have gone to school. I love her because she is very fond of me and always comes to me when I call her to play.
My mother takes her to the farm every day to feed. When she comes home, I give her cassava and orange peels. My friends always come around to see and admire her and play with her. Playing with Susie has made me love animals more than before.
Reporting by Emmanuel Ford of ChildFund Liberia, Karifa Kamara of ChildFund Sierra Leone and Arthur Tokpah of ChildFund Guinea
We are taking a look back at the height of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Read about a young man who survived Ebola in Guinea, and stay tuned for more stories.
Last year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa was a frightening time for everyone in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where more than 11,000 people died from the virus. There are still some isolated cases in all three countries, but the numbers are much lower than last fall — thanks in part to young volunteers who helped spread the word around their communities about stopping the outbreak.
ChildFund’s offices in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone trained teens about Ebola prevention — including regular hand washing and avoidance of burial practices that lead to infection — and they took the message to village markets, homes, schools and other places where the public congregates. Although many of the activities started when the infection rate was higher, young volunteers still are spreading the word in their communities.
“We sometimes went over to villages where the degree of reluctance is high, to let them know that Ebola is real,” says Naby, president of a youth club in Guinea. “We showed people how to use hand-washing kits and told them to report any case of illness to the nearest health post, to avoid unsafe contacts and dangerous burial preparations.”
In another ChildFund-supported club, this one based in a Guinean school, about 30 students in grades 7 through 10 spent a few days last fall receiving training about how the disease is spread. They discussed ways to publicize the prevention techniques, and then set upon their task.
“No room for Ebola here” was the school’s slogan during the outbreak, according to the president of that club. “On the top of our priority list was raising awareness among students to wash their hands in a bleach solution and avoid all contact with sick people and dead bodies. We also targeted environmental hygiene. Though people may wash their hands regularly, if the environment is not clean, there is a high risk of being infected.”
In Liberia, ChildFund trained more than 100 youth volunteers in Lofa, where Liberia saw its first cases. Today, they still conduct door-to-door outreach to prevent another epidemic. They often attend local markets to reach people from many towns and villages, and they distribute posters and T-shirts with prevention messages, plus detergent and disinfectants.
As a result, community members are more aware of how to avoid the virus and are less afraid of reporting possible cases of Ebola, according to ChildFund staff members in Liberia.
In Sierra Leone, during the height of the epidemic last year, ChildFund’s local partner organizations saw the need for a door-to-door campaign to inform community members about Ebola. Teens involved in ChildFund’s activities attended training and then went out to their communities armed with signs and megaphones, an action that created much wider awareness of the disease.
In the northern part of the country, youths even assisted in monitoring the border Sierra Leone shares with Guinea, where some infected people were crossing and spreading the disease from one country to the other.
Because the young volunteers in all three countries are trusted members of their communities, their voices carried the ring of authority, ChildFund President and CEO Anne Goddard noted recently.
“Rumors were a serious problem, including the belief that the government was making up the disease and, early on, that thermometers were spreading the virus,” Goddard said. “Youth educators were effective in helping to dispel such rumors.”