Fighting AIDS Discrimination Helps Stop the Disease’s Spread

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Today we observe UNAIDS’ first Zero Discrimination Day. Unfair or unjust treatment, either by action or omission and based on real or perceived HIV status, exacerbates the risks of infection and its progression to AIDS.

Do you think children living with HIV should be able to attend school with children who are HIV-negative? 

pediatric hiv and aids graphicIt’s mainly a hypothetical question here in the United States, but nine out of 10 HIV-positive children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine Mozambique, where one in 12 female youth and one in 50 children are HIV-positive. 

Worldwide, one in seven people infected with HIV is between the ages of 10 and 24; nearly 15 million children are AIDS orphans — they’ve lost one or both parents to the disease — and four-fifths of those orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda, almost every child has a loved one with HIV or AIDS within their extended family. At a community meeting I attended in Mozambique last April, many more grandmothers than mothers arrived, carrying babies in their arms, struggling to raise the youngest generation. 

Would you buy fresh vegetables from a shopkeeper if you knew she had the AIDS virus? 

Imagine a dilapidated, open-air market in Busia, a town on Uganda’s border with Kenya. Rough wooden tables, weathered through years of use, define the makeshift stalls. Neat pyramids of tomatoes, sour green oranges, carrots and potatoes alternate with bowls of finely shredded cabbage, large smooth-skinned avocados and hands of sugar bananas. Shallots, their shoots still intact, and small spicy peppers lay all around. Some of the women minding shop call out their prices and specials; others recline beneath tattered woven mats that shelter them from the merciless sun. 

memory books in Zambia

Zambians make memory books, which give children of parents with HIV and AIDS valuable stories about their personal histories.

Selling fresh vegetables is one of the few occupations available to women suffering from HIV and AIDS in this town. No longer strong enough to work in the fields, carry water on their heads, cook meals in heavy steel kettles over open fires, or scrub laundry against the rocks in a stream, they can still garden and sell their vegetables in the market. Many of these women discovered their HIV status only after their husbands died of AIDS. Most learned about their children’s infections at the same time. The young ones were infected in the womb, during delivery or from breastfeeding. 

My questions — about children and school, vegetables and vendors — are ways to consider the stigma of AIDS and how discrimination occurs to this day.

Although nearly half of all new HIV infections occur in those aged 15 to 24, the proportion of young people requesting HIV counseling and testing is still quite low, due to stigma and fear of discrimination. Even those eligible for treatment may find it difficult to stay on their medication regimen, or they may refuse the social services they’re entitled to.

One bright spot: Girls who finish high school are less likely to become infected with HIV. So, if you sponsor a girl, encourage her in her studies. Ask about her hopes and dreams, and praise her academic accomplishments. Show her what education means to you. And, by all means, erase discrimination and stigma wherever you encounter it.

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: John F. Schultz, 1999-2007

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first six executive directors: Dr. Calvitt ClarkeVerbon E. Kemp, Dr. Verent MillsDr. James MacCracken, Dr. Paul McCleary and Dr. Margaret McCullough.

Dr. John Schultz joined Christian Children’s Fund in 1990 and served as sponsor services director before being elected president. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister, a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria and formerly worked for Church World Services.

John Schultz in Sri Lanka

Dr. John Schultz in Sri Lanka, 2004.

The beginning of the 21st century was an extremely busy time for CCF. Among our many projects during Dr. Schultz’s era were mass immunizations in India and Sierra Leone, training for home-based care for AIDS patients in Uganda, the establishment of a guide mothers program in Honduras, the addition of Afghanistan to our program countries, and malaria prevention in India, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia.  

In 2002, CCF joined 10 other countries’ child-focused aid organizations to form what would become ChildFund Alliance, which now has 12 member organizations that assist children and families in 58 countries.

“I am certainly deeply moved by the circumstances that I see children living in,” Dr. Schultz said in a 2002 Style Weekly interview. “Many of the places I go, children not only don’t have toys, they don’t have shoes on their feet. I think sometimes it’s very hard for Americans to even fathom there are places in the world where the majority of the population lives like this.

“If that were all I saw as I traveled around the world for CCF, I might get disheartened. What I see, of course, are the successes as well. I see teenagers who are sitting in front of a computer doing what teenagers do all around the world. I see children sitting in a safe nursery school with caring teachers. It really is as equally invigorating as it is challenging.”

Our current president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, succeeded Dr. Schultz in 2007. At the beginning of our 75th anniversary blog series, she wrote this post, and you can read more of her thoughts on her Tumblr blog.

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Margaret E. McCullough, 1995-1999

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first five executive directors: Dr. Calvitt ClarkeVerbon E. Kemp, Dr. Verent MillsDr. James MacCracken and Dr. Paul McCleary.

Dr. Margaret McCullough, Christian Children’s Fund’s sixth executive director and the first woman to hold the top job, served as our sponsor services director for seven years in the 1980s before becoming the organization’s deputy executive director during her predecessor Dr. McCleary’s tenure. She began working with CCF in 1974, first sitting on the board of directors. She earned degrees in child development, family social science and family social psychology at Kansas State University and the University of Minnesota.

Margaret McCullough in Brazil

Dr. Margaret McCullough in Brazil in 1995.

The end of the 20th century was a time of refining CCF’s policies and procedures, including updating technology in our organization to improve communications, monitoring and evaluating our work, and affirming CCF as a child development agency — a shift from being known solely as a sponsorship organization. During this time, we also began working more with children who’d been through wars and other traumatic experiences, employing psychologists to help children express their feelings through artwork and other means.

Despite the broadening of CCF’s mission, Dr. McCullough still recognized the continuing importance of sponsorship within our organization. She and her husband sponsored five children when she became executive director.

“I think it is so rewarding to work with people when they are still very young and open and ready to learn,” she said in a Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star article in 1995. “You can help them develop themselves so they can have exciting and meaningful lives.”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Paul F. McCleary, 1988-1994

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first four executive directors: Dr. Calvitt Clarke, Verbon E. Kemp, Dr. Verent Mills and Dr. James MacCracken.

Dr. Paul F. McCleary, Christian Children’s Fund’s fifth executive director, came from Save the Children, where his predecessor Dr. MacCracken was employed. Dr. McCleary served as a missionary in Bolivia for 12 years while working for the United Methodist Church and the National Council of Churches. He brought a global worldview and approached his leadership at CCF with an eye toward political shifts in the eroding Soviet Union, Germany, Iraq, Poland and South Africa, as well as population growth, debt and changing economies.

Dr. McCleary in Lithuania

Dr. Paul McCleary with children in Lithuania.

Dr. McCleary was the first leader of our organization with considerable hands-on experience in developing countries since the tenure of Dr. Mills, who was overseas director before becoming our third executive director.

“Working among the poorest, we were exposed to the full spectrum of problems that poverty breeds — high infant mortality, annual pregnancies, malnutrition, low productivity, low income, as well as the repetition of the poverty cycle from one generation to the next,” Dr. McCleary said in 1991 of his time in Bolivia, according to Larry E. Tise’s A Book about Children. “So, for me, it’s not at all difficult to know what people must be experiencing in Brazil or India or the Philippines, and to have a strong, empathetic relationship with the staff who are attempting to change things.”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: James MacCracken, 1981-1988

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first three executive directors: Dr. Calvitt Clarke, Verbon E. Kemp and Dr. Verent Mills. Stay tuned for more this week.

James MacCracken in Brazil

Dr. James MacCracken and a Brazilian infant.

Dr. James MacCracken, our fourth executive director, oversaw huge growth in the number of sponsors and children served. In an 18-month period ending in 1983, he led a successful campaign to increase the number of assisted children from 260,000 to 325,000. Also, Christian Children’s Fund’s annual budget doubled during the seven years of his tenure. He was the first head of CCF who came from outside the organization; Dr. MacCracken was the vice president of programs for Save the Children Federation before arriving here.

Dr. MacCracken said upon his retirement in 1988 that he was pleased with the “sense of joy” and the “common vision” at CCF during his years here. “That’s the thing I feel proudest of,” he said. “If we can’t care for each other, how can we care for a child halfway round the world?”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Verbon Kemp, 1964-1970

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Historical information comes from A Book About Children by Larry E. Tise and ChildFund archives. Please visit earlier posts about our founder and first executive director Dr. Calvitt Clarke, and Dr. Verent Mills, our third executive director.

Verbon Kemp

Verbon E. Kemp

Verbon Kemp, our second executive director, took over the reins of Christian Children’s Fund following Dr. Clarke’s retirement after 25 years as founder and executive director. Before, Kemp was a member of our board of directors, and he was a close friend of Dr. Clarke. Also, he served as executive secretary of Virginia’s State Chamber of Commerce before stepping down in 1963.

It came as a surprise to many that Kemp made major changes right away at CCF, including hiring staff members with backgrounds in development and child care, making record-keeping and financial accountability high priorities, and also updating technology, including bringing in computers for the first time.

“If anyone was a hero [in the transition], it was Kemp,” said Jerald Huntsinger, CCF’s public relations director at the time. “Kemp made the board an active, participating body with social welfare expertise. And he brought a new version of business management techniques to CCF. He equipped CCF to deal with the realities and complexities of the modern world.”

ChildFund Joins Other World Agencies in U.N. Anti-Violence Effort

By Andrew Johnson, ChildFund Alliance Deputy Secretary General

Every child has the right to live and thrive in a safe and caring family environment, free from all forms of violence. That’s what the ChildFund Alliance and our other peers believe.

Earlier this month, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted six child-focused agencies — ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, UNICEF and World Vision International — at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss violence against children and ways to prevent it. The goal is to make sure children’s rights are a high priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is set to be agreed upon by United Nations member states in September 2015.


freedom from violence group

A World without Violence against Children panel, including ChildFund’s Jim Emerson (far left).

Millions of children experience abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence on a daily basis at home, at school, at work and in their communities. The consequences can be life-long and also spread to other generations; in the worst cases, violence can lead to a child’s death. Violence can also cause economic disadvantages: lost productivity, and a reduced quality of life. Most broadly, it has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.

During the eighth session of the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted A World without Violence against Children, along with coordination from the six agencies. ChildFund Alliance, for one, has taken a stand to advocate for children’s issues — particularly freedom from violence and exploitation — to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the prevention and responses to violence against children to the debate about the U.N.’s future priorities, which affect its work in the countries where ChildFund and other agencies work.

Jim Emerson, secretary general of the Alliance, thanked the co-hosts, participating children and the speakers. He highlighted the pervasive presence of violence against children, and the importance of the post-2015 development agenda addressing this issue.

“But it’s not just our organizations saying this,” Emerson noted. “Most importantly, this is a call from children all over the world. Children are asking for an end to physical and humiliating punishment; sexual violence and abuse; harmful child work and child marriage; trafficking and other harmful practices.”

Migena, an Albanian girl who participated in a post-2015 consultation in her home country, organized by SOS Children’s Villages International, also joined the meeting via Skype. She highlighted the need for the next generation of development goals to address the different forms of violence, exploitation and abuse against children, as well as the importance of children’s participation in the process. Raising awareness in communities and getting state agencies more involved in regions where violence occurs are equally important, Migena said. “Children are going to rule the world in the future,” she concluded.

Canada’s and Paraguay’s U.N. ambassadors, Guillermo Rishchynski and José Antonio Dos Santos, both spoke about their countries’ work to bring children’s issues to the attention of the U.N. work group, and their speeches were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Al Jazeera English journalist Femi Oke. The panelists also answered questions from the audience in New York and online.

Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives.

The panelists, among them UNICEF’s chief of child protection, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on violence against children and the World Health Organization representative to the U.N., discussed many aspects of this issue. Susan Bissell of UNICEF noted that it’s important to communicate the fact that violence against children is preventable and that there are concrete solutions to the problem, drawing on successful programs from around the world. She also pointed out that the reduction of child mortality rates could be offset in the future by violence against children.

Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives. Werner Obermeyer of WHO called attention to links between violence against children and other types of violence, which often lead to risk-taking attitudes that cause declines in health. 

ChildFund’s Emerson highlighted the importance of this issue for development and remarked that violence against children has a series of economic implications that transcend the direct costs of responding to it. Evidence shows that prevention is much more cost-effective than response.

Santos Pais also read a statement of support from the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, urging governments “to make the protection of children from all forms of violence a high priority goal on the post-2015 agenda, as an issue of utmost international as well as national importance.”

Recognizing International Mother Language Day

Today, Feb. 21, is International Mother Language Day, so we’re looking at some of Africa’s linguistic traditions. Did you know that a child you sponsor in Africa may speak as many as five languages?

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

In July 1975, I began a training program for Peace Corps volunteers in Dakar, Senegal. The volunteers were immersed in French and Wolof in the classroom and in field settings. We practiced our bargaining language while speeding along in cars rapides — large, open vehicles painted bright blue and crammed with women, children, chickens and goats — on our way to Dakar’s open-air markets.

Speaking a mixture of Wolof and French, we sometimes saw English phrases painted lopsidedly on cars and walls: “It is forbidden to spit,” for instance.

Tea in different languages

Tea entered most languages from the Chinese in the mid-17th century.

“Spit” is one of about two dozen words common to many cultures that have remained highly stable over time, so they’re useful for understanding language dispersion. In French, to spit is cracher, and spit itself is crachat; Wolof uses tufli and tuflit. Both languages make use of onomatopoeia — the words sound like what they mean — even though English and French are members of the Indo-European cluster, and Wolof belongs to the world’s largest language family, the Niger-Congo.  

As an English speaker, it was easier for me to learn French than Wolof. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute agrees. French, Portuguese and Spanish are relatively straightforward for native English speakers to learn, with their many cognates, similar alphabets and common grammatical structures. It’s tougher for us to achieve proficiency in Hindi, Vietnamese or Thai; Arabic is among the most difficult of languages for Americans.

West Africans move effortlessly between four or five languages.

Yet many of the children in ChildFund’s programs speak three or more languages fluently before the age of 15: First they learn their mother tongue, then a regional or national language — Wolof, in Senegal — and, in school, an international language like Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.  

In Senegal, I lived in a Pular-speaking district. Wolof and Pular are siblings: Tuttugol (to spit) is clearly related to tufli. My high-school students had already mastered Pular, Wolof, Arabic (the language of Islam) and French (Senegal’s official language). I taught them their fifth language: English.

English is often hard for non-native speakers to learn. Our vocabulary borrows from two sources — Romance (tricky, difficult, arduous) and Anglo-Saxon (tough, hard, thorny). Decades later, I taught English to university students in neighboring Guinea. Guineans also speak Pular, along with Malinké, Soussou and Kissi.

Senegalese children

Children in Senegal show posters in French. Many speak three or more languages fluently before the age of 15 and may learn another in high school.

Just as Romance languages (French, Portuguese and Spanish) all derive from a Latin root, Malinké,  Soussou and the Sierra Leonean Mende dialect belong to the same cluster as Senegalese and Gambian languages such as Mandinke, Bambara, Soninke and Serahuli. Its influence is felt in Liberia and Sierra Leone too. Niger-Congo languages blanket the West African coast, from the Sahara Desert to the River Congo.

West Africans move effortlessly between four or five languages. Not surprisingly, linguistic research suggests language itself originated there. As our African ancestors explored and settled the rest of the globe between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago, these expert language learners took their abstract communications and distinct cultures with them.

Our original mother tongue was an African language. Why not celebrate International Mother Language Day by sponsoring a child in West Africa? Explore one of the 1,500 living languages spoken by nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

The World Through Children’s Artwork

A few decades ago, ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) organized art exhibits of work by children in our programs throughout the world. The events were called competitions, because only the best pieces were displayed. While doing research for our 75th anniversary celebration, we found black-and-white photos of drawings from the 1981 exhibit. Many drawings are of typical scenes from their home communities. Please enjoy this slideshow!


75 Years, by the Numbers

Seventy-five years is a long time, and ChildFund International has touched many lives over the years. Here are some of the numbers associated with our work, both current and historical. To pin this graphic, check out our Pinterest page. Click on the graphic to make it larger.



The Mama Effect

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 755 other subscribers

Follow me on Twitter