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Welcome From Uganda!

Video by Christina Becherer, ChildFund Senior Manager, Corporate Strategic Alliances

Yesterday, Christina and her ChildFund colleague, content manager Christine Ennulat, met the Laroo Mothers’ Group, in the Gulu district of Uganda. In this video, they sing a song of welcome to their visitors. The mothers are proud of contributing to their new village savings and loan association, which allows them to take out small loans to start new businesses, pay school fees, cope with illnesses, or even come together to help another group member in need. We’ll be hearing more from them later, but for now, hear this!

From Virginia to The Gambia

 

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Photography by Ron Wolfe, ChildFund Senior Project Manager

Ron Wolfe, who has worked in ChildFund’s Information Technology department since 2010, got to visit his 11-year-old sponsored child, Aminata, when he was in The Gambia earlier this year for work. As anyone who has met their sponsored child can tell you, it’s a magical event that helps families from different continents create close bonds. Read here about Ron’s trip and how he and his family are staying in touch with Aminata.

Postcards From Abroad

Clarita of Timor-Leste

Clarita, 17, of Timor-Leste, regularly receives postcards from her sponsor. One of the most memorable postcards she received is the one with high buildings and long bridges of the city of Melbourne, Australia.

“I like this card because it’s like a memory from my sponsor,” she says. Photo by Kim Bomi of ChildFund Timor-Leste.

What Sponsorship Means to Children in Guinea

Mariame, a sponsored child.

Mariame, a 15-year-old sponsored girl in Guinea, has cattle thanks to her sponsor.

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

We asked three girls from Guinea to share how being sponsored has changed their lives. The answers may surprise you. Learn more about corresponding with your sponsored child and what they think about your letters.

Aminata, 14

Aminata with her books.

Aminata with her books.

I am Aminata, and I am in grade 4 in elementary school. I live with my parents, my elder sister, elder brother and my two little brothers. In the photo, I am holding the books that my sponsor sent me that I love so much. They contain drawings and pictures of people and fish and a rainbow. At home, I take my time to color these drawings in my books. I am very happy to have a sponsor, because since I started attending school, she has always sent me gifts. Thanks to her, I am among the best students in my school.

Also, my sponsor has contributed funds for my village to get clean water. Before, the people of my village had to walk a long distance to fetch drinking water from the creek. But thanks to her, today my village has a well.

 

Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Mariame, 15

I consider my sponsor as a father who loves and watches over his family. My sponsor is very straightforward and rigorous; he often asks for details of all he sent me. I appreciate it this way. Thanks to him, I have cows, a family latrine and a rice farm.

For me, sponsorship is a way to help the poor families have better futures.

 

Aissatou, 14

In the photo he sent me, my sponsor looks handsome with his family and his dog. One thing he often does in his letters is to encourage me to study well at school. But on the other hand, he surprised me by saying he was very attached to his dog, Emma, and that his dog had turned 7. That’s something we are not used to in my family.

My sponsor taught me to love, and to be generous and loyal to others. Through him, I learned about the celebration of Thanksgiving in his country, which resembles the way we celebrate the New Year of the lunar month in my country.

Sponsorship means a lot to me because it helps children have a better future through education.

A Childhood Full of Letters

Maria Elena of Mexico

Reporting by Paloma Gonzalez, ChildFund Mexico

Maria Elena (above) was enrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Mexico when she was an infant, and at age 2, she was sponsored by an American man, Hugh. Through the next 20 years, he wrote letters and sent financial gifts that her family used for clothes, shoes and food. Today, she holds a college degree in biology. Here are her words about corresponding with her sponsor.

Since I was an infant when I was assigned my sponsor, I wasn’t able to respond to his first letters, and my sisters wrote the answers for me! As time went by, I was able to write him directly, and we wrote every two months. He sent me letters, sweets, postcards and Christmas cards.

He always sent me words like “Yes, you can!” or “Go on!” and that helped me to keep going.

When I was going through elementary school, he would always send me letters to cheer me up. Despite the distance, he never forgot us and in his letters always asked about my family and how I was doing in school. It was very exciting for me because though we had never met, it felt great to have somebody showing such interest in me.

When I started high school, we kept exchanging a lot of letters, and he started to ask me about my future plans. At that time he told me that he was going to keep on sponsoring me for as long as I was engaged in the local partner organization’s activities and in my studies, as far as I wanted to go. That excited me so much, because since I was a little girl, my dream was to have a career. He always sent me words like “Yes, you can!” or “Go on!” and that helped me to keep going, because each letter encouraged me to go one step further.

My sponsor always motivated me to not give up, despite the many obstacles I crossed, and this is how I fulfilled my dream, and I can proudly say I have a degree in biology. It is the best thing that ever happened in my life, so I appreciate his trust in me and support without expecting anything in return.

This is why I invite all sponsors to write to their sponsored child, because a simple letter or photograph is exciting for us as children and brings us the best feelings and joy, and also motivation to keep going.

Read more about writing letters to your sponsored child.

Flavia Crosses the Gorge

Photos and reporting from Gelina Fontaine, ChildFund Caribbean

As you may have read in her two-part diary, Flavia Lanuedoc was scared of crossing the 250-foot river gorge near her home in Boetica, Dominica, where flooding has caused great damage. Late this week, we heard that she crossed the gorge. Here are a few pictures. We wish Flavia and her neighbors well, as they recover from Tropical Storm Erika.

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Moving People by Helicopter and Pulley in Dominica

Photos and story by Flavia Lanuedoc, ChildFund Caribbean

Flavia Lanuedoc works as a sponsor relations officer for one of ChildFund’s local partner organizations in Dominica. She lives in Boetica, a village that was cut off from help after flooding from Tropical Storm Erika in late August. This is the second of two parts of her story. Read part one here

 

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Having filled some of the most basic needs, village leaders soon decided that we needed an emergency route in case someone needed to be taken out of the village for medical reasons.

More than 50 years ago, people had built a path across a 250-foot gorge with rocks and dirt, connecting Boetica and Laplaine. Now, it needed to be tackled and tamed once more. Villagers placed a rope over one side of the cliff, then scaled the cliff and climbed up the other side.

During the next few days, helicopters brought in much-needed supplies, and we decided at a meeting that we needed to get the sick and elderly out. Eight people were airlifted, and soon, children and youth who attended school and college in town were airlifted too. Firefighters helped us bring in supplies with a pulley over the gorge once helicopters were no longer available.

A century-old villager died, and his coffin was pulled across the gorge to its resting place. Electricity returned almost two weeks after the storm, so I was able to receive and send emails. I visited several of the ChildFund-enrolled children’s families in Delices (though the road remained dangerous, especially when wet), helped in village cleanups, distributed relief supplies and assisted in any other way I could.

Getting out of the northern section of Boetica to the rest of the island is no easy feat; neither is it for the weak nor faint-hearted. I dared not climb the ladder or crawl down a cliff using a rope, and I didn’t walk along cliff edges or on the deserted beach, either.

However, with families to serve and community mobilizers to support, my task would have been impossible without the village heroes. I am able to function effectively as a sponsor relations officer (despite being cut off) because villagers climb the ladder and ropes and help me carry letters and other documents from the area offices to ChildFund Caribbean’s national office.  Thanks also to the staff members who supported me in so many ways.

My experience is overwhelming evidence that the local people are the first responders. They have the skills and experience of traversing this terrain and, most importantly, the resolve to create the means of survival in times of disaster.

Read more about Dominica’s flooding and support ChildFund’s Emergency Action Fund, which helps us react quickly to disasters and provide help to children and families in the immediate aftermath.

Community Support Makes a Difference in Flooded Dominica

Damage from Tropical Storm Erika.

Damage from Tropical Storm Erika.

By Flavia Lanuedoc, ChildFund Caribbean

Flavia Lanuedoc works as a sponsor relations officer for one of ChildFund’s local partner organizations in Dominica. She lives in Boetica, a village that was cut off from help after flooding from Tropical Storm Erika in late August. Despite spending her whole life in the area, Flavia had never seen anything approaching a disaster of this magnitude. Here’s part one of her story. We’ll post the second part tomorrow.

Flavia's yard became a river.

Flavia’s yard became a river.

The early hours of Aug. 27 had brought with it torrential rains, so I peeped outside to survey what damage had been done. To my disbelief, the yard of the house where I had lived all my life had turned into a raging river.

As I turned from the window, I saw that water and mud were rushing in through the other door. I screamed and ran to wake up my children. Within a split second, water was gushing into the house, bringing with it thick mud. It soon became obvious that our efforts to prevent the water from entering were futile. We gave up, and our focus now turned to saving the items that were at floor level.

Soon, seven men barged into our yard. Every community has “village champions” who carry out search-and-rescue efforts, even if they have little or no training.

These men were bearing news of hope as well as horror. Their tidings still resonate as if it was yesterday: “Give thanks, all of you. Say praises to the Lord, because if that road in the corner did not break, all of you would be dead.” And without even pausing, they entered the house and began assisting us. It took all of us over an hour to clear the mud from inside the house and then pour buckets of water to clean it off. They quickly moved on in search of another family in trouble.

Flavia sweeps mud out of her home.

Flavia sweeps mud out of her home.

After the rain ceased, it was time to survey the village. I was amazed at the devastation. We were blocked from the nearby village of Delices, on the southern end, and the main bridge on the northern end linking us to the rest of the island was gone. There was rubble and debris all over.  We were trapped in the village without water, electricity and means of communication.

Dominica has been identified as the island in the Caribbean with the highest number of cell phones per capita, but that meant little for our village and our ability to reach the outside world at a time when it mattered most. Going from one village to another was dangerous, as one had to go through huge mudslides, boulders and rocks. Before long, a villager discovered one little spot with cell reception, and it became the meeting place where villagers would gather to contact their loved ones and transact business via phone. Those from the neighboring village who were cut off by a landslide braved the dangerous journey to that little spot to communicate with the outside world as well.

With no electricity in the village, it was hard to keep phones charged. But as luck would have it, a shopkeeper had a small generator, so villagers were able to recharge their cell phones there.  Meanwhile, the owner of the village shop had to begin rationing his stock to ensure that everyone was able to have some food and drinking water.

The days that followed were hard on my children. My 17-year-old son refused to sleep in the bedroom and chose rather to sleep on a chair so he could keep an eye on the door to see if water was again coming in.

Tomorrow, making contact with the outside world.

Catch up with Momodou

Momodou and his sponsor

Momodou Bah, accompanied by his sister Sunkaru, meets his sponsor, Debbie Gautreau, in person for the first time. Photo by Alena Kuzub.

As you may recall, we met a ChildFund alumnus from The Gambia, Momodou Bah, this summer when he was a Mandela Washington Fellow, an honor bestowed annually by the White House on 500 young African leaders. After going to Washington, D.C., for the fellows’ week-long summit — and meeting President Obama — he and his sister went to Boston to meet Momodou’s sponsor, Debbie Gautreau. It was a very special meeting, and you can read all about it. Today, Momodou is back in The Gambia, employing the ideas he learned during his stay in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, and Debbie hopes to visit him next time in Africa!

Selamawit Is Not a Cliché

Ethiopia food crisisSelamawit, 5, is suffering in Ethiopia’s food crisis. She and her brother have kwashiorkor, a protein-energy malnutrition disorder.

By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Content Manager

Happy World Food Day! There are starving children in Africa.

At how many dinner tables in how many homes have finicky children been scolded that way to get them to eat their dinners?

Or maybe it was India — “There are starving children in India. Eat your meatloaf.”

And how many children have rolled their eyes at their admonishing parents? How many of those parents really were speaking from a place of gut knowledge about what it means for a child to starve?

Clichés come to be clichés because they’re true. There are, and ever have been, starving children in Asia and in Africa. They are also in South America and in North America — right here in our back yard. All over the world.

A truth devolves into a cliché through overuse. We become numb to the idea.

The whole world has become numb to the idea of starving children. That’s why fundraising for a slow-onset crisis like a drought is so challenging, much more so than for a splashy, sudden typhoon or a devastating earthquake.

But 5-year-old Selamawit is not a cliché. She’s a little girl who lives in Ethiopia, where 8.2 million people right now are suffering through a food crisis.

Selamawit became so malnourished that her condition tipped into kwashiorkor, or protein-energy malnutrition, which causes loss of muscle mass, irritation, fatigue, skin issues, diarrhea, liver damage, failure to grow and more. Kwashiorkor is behind the round bellies we see in the now-clichéd photos of starving children in developing countries; the lack of protein causes fluid to collect in the abdomen and elsewhere.

Selamawit is in treatment now, but she will likely never reach her full height. Her brain development may have been irreparably disrupted — time will tell. (Another cliché.)

And time will tell for Ethiopia, but we know what to expect for the coming months: The drought that has decimated the harvest nationwide is expected to continue well into 2016, thanks to what some are calling the strongest El Niño event on record. In a country where 86 percent of the population depends on subsistence farming, the failed harvest means that families must instead purchase all their food, and prices are rising. Poorer families can’t afford the food they need, so they reduce their intake dangerously.

It happens slowly and quietly. And it silences children.

You can help by donating to our Ethiopia food crisis response here.

And you can take the opportunity of this World Food Day to tell your friends and networks what’s happening in Ethiopia. Tell them about Selamawit, and about her brother, 7-year-old Temesgen.

Every day after that, keep an eye on the crisis, and encourage those around you to do so, too. You’ll have to look for it in the media, because it’s not a typhoon or an earthquake. We’ll keep you posted here.

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