31 in 31

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Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Growing up Strong in Brazil

Reporting by ChildFund Brasil

31 in 31 logoDuring January’s 31 days, we’ve made a blog stop in all 31 countries where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. On our final day, we meet Wagner Oliveira, an accomplished teacher who attributes his success to sponsorship and ChildFund Brasil.

From the age of 4 until age 20, Wagner Oliveira was enrolled in ChildFund Brasil’s Projeto União. “Today, I have a broader vision of the world, and I owe this to the project,” he says. “Here is where I started. The project contributed to my formation because it encouraged me to study…. “I learned to value my friends and interact with people.”

Now 37, Wagner teaches at several schools in the city of Fortaleza/Ceara, Brazil. “If I grew up with education, I must give education,” he says. He counsels children to grab hold of education and do their best to overcome adversity. “You’re much stronger than you think,” he advises young people. “You have no idea how strong you are. Be stronger than your problems.”

Wagner also has a message for ChildFund sponsors: “You have the privilege of being part of the group that will build a better future.”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Brazil and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Recovery from Typhoon Washi Continues in the Philippines

Reporting by ChildFund Philippines

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we check in on recovery efforts in the Philippines following a deadly typhoon last December.

a couple trying to salvage some house materialsIt’s been more than six weeks since Typhoon Washi (known locally as Sendong) struck the Philippines Dec. 16, 2011, bringing severe flooding that damaged or destroyed nearly 52,000 houses around the island of Mindanao. More than 1,200 people lost their lives in the storm, according to the Philippines government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. An outbreak of leptospirosis (a severe bacterial infection) has claimed additional lives in the aftermath of the flooding.

Group of children

Children make cards during a CCS session.

During emergencies like these, ChildFund invests in psychosocial interventions for children through child-centered spaces (CCS). The intention is to mitigate the traumatic impact among children by providing normalizing and expressive activities like playing, singing, and simple arts and crafts activities.

ChildFund operated CCS activities at two storm-evacuation locations for the first two weeks following the typhoon. The response grew to six locations that are continuing to operate. More than 900 children have received support. In addition, ChildFund distributed 2,000 packs of emergency food as well as 2,000 nonfood kits (blanket, detergent, eating utensils).

Teen girl leads activities

Youth facilitators play a key role in assisting younger children.

Youth facilitators have been a virtual force multiplier for ChildFund’s staff operating the child-centered spaces. Twenty-six youth, already enrolled in ChildFund’s programs in the Philippines, volunteered their time over the Christmas break to lead activities for younger children.

Christine, 14, hails from a community not largely affected by Typhoon Washi. She had started enjoying the Christmas break when ChildFund’s local partner, Kaabag sa Kalumban Pinaagi sa Kabtangan sa Katilingban, came to her community inviting youth to volunteer. She signed up without a second thought. ChildFund staff oriented her and her peers as youth facilitators before taking them to the child-centered spaces.

Jam, a 13-year-old youth facilitator, says, “I wanted to spend time with the [displaced] kids, especially after what happened to them.”

Both Jam and Christine agree it was difficult at first. Many of the younger children misbehaved, but the teens stuck to their commitment of volunteering every day, even on Christmas Eve.

“We feel we’ve returned the smiles and laughs they lost, along with their homes and even loved ones, in the flood,” Christine says. “Some of them were in terror, when we first started CCS,” she adds. At the end of her volunteer time, Christine says she could see how much the children improved. “Their faces glow with sincere happiness and laughter now,” she says.

After spending their holidays as youth facilitators, Christine, Jam and their fellow volunteers returned to school in early January. To carry on CCS activities, ChildFund trained additional youth and parent volunteers who had survived the storm but were living in shelters. Training sessions began with participants processing their own survival experiences and continued with training in stress debriefing, gender-based violence concerns, games and use of other tools for child-centered spaces.

Now efforts in the Philippines are focused on the temporary or permanent relocation of the 36,000 people who remain in the 56 evacuation centers, most of which are public schools. Those who lost their homes are moving into new relocation camps. Children also are returning to school, thanks to a Department of Education mandate that allows displaced children to transfer schools without paperwork. Some adults have noted, however, that the camps are far from their former livelihoods.

ChildFund Philippines plans to conduct community-based child protection training sessions to ensure children’s needs are not overlooked during the recovery phase. In addition, ChildFund is helping families recover their livelihoods, which will be key factor in rebuilding their lives.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in the Philippines and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Nurturing Children and Teen Mothers in St. Vincent

Reporting by Gelina Fontaine, ChildFund Caribbean

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we learn about ChildFund’s programs in St. Vincent, which, along with Dominica, are under the umbrella of ChildFund Caribbean.

Yesterday we visited ChildFund’s programs in Dominica, next-door neighbor to
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where ChildFund began operations in the early 1980s. Through the years, ChildFund Caribbean has provided a wide variety of services ranging from supporting the establishment of preschool centers, providing health support for infant immunization and proper nutrition and ensuring students enrolled in our programs have school supplies, uniforms, books, bus fare and hot meals.

Young women learn to cook

Teens participate in skills training.

In addition, ChildFund offerings for youth and their parents include skills training such as weaving, basketry, typing, carpentry, electrical wiring, sewing and home management. We’ve also worked to improve the housing status of families enrolled in ChildFund programs.

In 2011, ChildFund held consultations with children and youth and communities as part of a strategic planning process. Those consultations revealed that the top issues affecting children and youth in St. Vincent are drug abuse, crime and violence, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and lack of a father’s support. Poor parenting practices, poor quality education, unemployment, insufficient awareness of children’s rights and limited support services emerged as the underlying causes of these social ills affecting children, youth and their families.

While continuing support for infant health, early childhood education, ChildFund is now directing additional attention to literacy and a program for teen mothers.

Child and mother

A young mother practices parenting skills.

Many teen girls are becoming mothers at an age where they should be in high school and college, furthering their self-development and improving their potential to secure a job. ChildFund, working through the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Children’s Federation Inc., is supporting the Teen Mothers Program to improve the standard of care and security for infants born to teen parents. The program also nurtures and mobilizes teen moms, helping them adopt good parenting practices all the while improving their own literacy and entrepreneurial skills.

“Working with the teen mothers at St. Vincent and the Grenadines gives us at ChildFund and our partners a great opportunity to reach the hearts and minds of young parents,” says Ana Maria Locsin, national director of ChildFund Caribbean. “It is always heartwarming to interact with these young women as they experience and learn through this engagement that they have better options in life, even while facing the daunting fears and challenges of early pregnancy.”

Son and father

Teen fathers are encouraged to take a hands-on role with their children.

In addition to the goal of reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies, the Teen Mothers Program also encourages teen fathers to become involved in caring for their infant and toddler children, thus reducing the number of cases of absent fathers. Parents and grandparents of these teens also are invited to participate in various programs since it takes a community to raise a child.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in St. Vincent and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Supporting Youth in Dominica

Reporting by ChildFund Caribbean

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today and tomorrow, we visit ChildFund’s programs in Dominica and St. Vincent, which are under the umbrella of ChildFund Caribbean.

Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, just north of Venezuela, you’ll find the two small island nations of Dominica and St. Vincent. Although these islands are beautiful tourist destinations, both are battling serious social and economic challenges including high unemployment, a teen pregnancy epidemic, domestic violence and low education levels among the population.

Youth, in particular, are at high risk in Dominica. With few employment opportunities, many teens lose faith in the future and become involved in gangs or drugs. Young women who become pregnant are typically banned from school, losing their opportunity to complete their education.

ChildFund is working to give Dominica’s youth an alternate, positive view of the future by supporting youth groups that empower young people and provide them with leadership and communication skills. Once youth gain confidence among their peers, they typically perform better in school and begin to engage in community improvements.

Domincia youth gather for drama coaching

During a drama workshop, youth learn to use their words, bodies and emotions to make a statement about teen pregnancy, drug abuse and domestic violence.

Last fall, several youth groups in Dominica helped paint Early Childhood Development centers in ChildFund project areas and contributed to other beautification projects on Community Day of Service. One youth group staged a skit to call the community’s attention to domestic violence. Another youth group focused activities on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Students in Dominica

Jack and Barbara Clarke lead a three-week photography course for Dominica students.

Dominica’s youth have also benefitted from access to creative outlets. ChildFund supporters Jack and Barbara Clarke conducted their third photography workshop in October 2011 at the Pierre-Charles Secondary School. During the three-week program, 18 students, age 12 to 16, learned to operate a camera and gained new perspective on their own lives as well as insights into their families and communities.

Students honed their photography skills through field assignments in the Grand Bay community and at the Creole in the Park, a national week-long cultural event held in Dominica’s Botanical Gardens. The festival draws local and international artists in celebration of Dominica’s independence. The photography students were able to take shots of the artists, visitors, the cultural scenery and the busy street scenes of the capital. Students then displayed their photographic work at a grand exhibition to mark the conclusion of the course.
Now, Dominica’s youth are forming visual arts groups to keep the creative momentum going. Although much work remains to be in this island nation, youth are discovering that they can have an impact on the future.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Dominica and how you can sponsor a child.

Tomorrow: We visit ChildFund’s programs in neighboring St. Vincent.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: New Shoes for Children in Liberia

Reporting by Emmanuel Ford, ChildFund Liberia, and Marcia Roeder, ChildFund Corporate Relations Officer

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we travel to Liberia, where TOMS just gave new shoes to children in a ChildFund-supported community.

The west African nation of Liberia is struggling to rebuild after 14 years of civil war. Still dependent on foreign aid, Liberia has the third highest unemployment rate in the world. Infant mortality rates are also high, and many children suffer from malnutrition, which can have life-long impact.

Although the civil war ended in 2003, it took a heavy toll on the education sector. School enrollment and retention rates are low. One reason for this is that students are required to wear uniforms and shoes to school. Without shoes, they can’t attend. A lack of shoes also means children’s feet are exposed to diseases, infections and cuts.

Liberians gather at building

Community members await shoe distribution.

Earlier this month, ChildFund and TOMS delivered new shoes to three Liberian communities. The shoes were provided by TOMS. Its One for One™ program gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. And TOMS plans to send shoes for the children not just one time but repeatedly, as they grow.

children waving

Excitement builds as the shoes arrive.

The day was truly amazing! As ChildFund and TOMS staff approached our first destination for shoe distribution – Bopolu Central High School – we could barely contain our excitement.

Children were lined up as far as the eye could see. Local education officers and representatives from the Liberian government were waiting for us to express their appreciation. After a few speeches and a whole lot of thank-you’s, we began the fun part – fitting shoes on the feet of eager children.

A child tries on new shoes

ChildFund staff check to ensure a good fit.

“I use to wear sandals to school,” one child told us. “My friends will not laugh at me again.”

With their old shoes in hand and new ones on their feet, children at Bopolu public school did an impromptu “TOMS Walk” in their TOMS shoes.

Girl with new shoes

All set with her new pair.

“I like my shoes. I also like the black color,” another child exclaimed. “I used to wear slippers to school. Thanks to TOMS, I got a new pair of shoes.”

Parents also voiced their appreciation. “ChildFund is doing a lot for our children. This will help retain our children in schools. Most parents are unable to buy a pair of shoes for their children,” one parent told us.

Another parent remembered that ChildFund’s President Anne Goddard visited Liberia in February 2011 to inaugurate the school built by ChildFund. “Now they have come with TOMS shoes,” he noted.

Children with new shoes

Celebrating their new shoes.

“This is a boost to our efforts in working with the children of Liberia,” said Oliver Fallah, a ChildFund staff member based in Bopolu, a community in Gbarpolu County. “It will help to increase the retention of children in schools. Having shoes from TOMS will also reduce the number of foot diseases children suffer from,” he pointed out. “The children sometimes walk to farms, schools and even on playgrounds barefooted. Parents with four, five and six children are unable to pay for copybooks [school workbooks], not to mention a pair of shoes. TOMS came at the right time to the right place.”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Liberia.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Delivering Community Health Care in Senegal

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we learn about ChildFund’s community health grant in Senegal.

When ChildFund began working in Senegal in 1985, much of the country lacked access to adequate health care, particularly mothers and children under age 5. As a result, many young mothers were dying in childbirth and children were succumbing to malaria, diarrhea and undernutrition – all preventable conditions.

In most cases, doctors and health posts are miles and miles away, out of reach. Although the country has a rich resource in its traditional medicine practitioners (often the village grandmothers), these lay health care providers worked outside of the state health care system, with no formal training. If a mother or child’s health condition became life-threatening, the family and the community would have nowhere else to turn for help.

ChildFund Senegal leaders

ChildFund Senegal national office staff Mamadou Diagne (left) and Emile Namesemon N'Koa on a recent visit to the U.S.

Today, health care access in Senegal is vastly improved, says Emile Namesemon N’Koa, ChildFund’s national director in Senegal. With grant funding from the U.S. International Development Agency (USAID) and a consortium of partners, ChildFund is implementing a large-scale community health project. Mamadou Diagne, ChildFund Senegal’s national health coordinator, is overseeing operations. He points out that by 2016, Programme Santé Santé Communautaire (PSSC) will have reached 12.3 million people (almost the entire country), providing community-based health huts and outreach sites to both rural and urban populations.

Health hut building

A ChildFund-supported health hut.

In addition to providing day-to-day maternal and child health care, the project will also address neglected tropical diseases and work to educate communities about the health dangers inherent in the cultural practice of female genital cutting.

Community meeting

A local health committee meets.

ChildFund has long recognized the vital role of grandmothers and godmothers who assist and mentor younger women in their communities. Another key component in ChildFund’s strategy is involving and training community health volunteers and traditional birth attendants. By providing these caregivers with additional health information and formal linkages to a growing network of health posts, ChildFund Senegal is seeking to weave them – and the entire community – into the very fabric of the country’s health care system.

As Mamadou notes, “Through the synergy of cooperation with the community and other organizations at work in Senegal, we’re finding solutions to the problems we face.”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Senegal and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Supporting Youth Volunteers in Togo

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we visit Togo.

Togo, a small country on Africa’s west coast, is rebuilding after years of political instability and isolation.

Like many other African countries it was threatened by an HIV/AIDS epidemic, but it was stemmed in part because of the voluntary work of hundreds of enthusiastic Togolese youth. Because it is often the young who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and STDs, the youth are often the best ones to address the problem in their communities.

youth group

Peer educators (Photo: Mario Travaini)

With ChildFund’s support, youth in 22 municipalities collaborated with adult supervisors and health workers to educate themselves and their peers about safe health practices. In the past, traditional laws often prohibited young people from talking with adults. The youth built a bridge by entering into dialogue with village and religious leaders to win their trust and cooperation.

As a result, today’s Togolese youth have a brighter future. They know they can influence others and be heard.

Other changes in this tiny country include access to quality education. ChildFund has built new schools and libraries, providing opportunities for learning that did not previously exist. Students now have access to maps, dictionaries and books. And for those students who struggle with learning in a formal setting, hands-on apprenticeship opportunities now exist in areas such as mechanics, carpentry and sewing.

ChildFund is also providing training opportunities to parents to help improve their income-generating potential. Farmers are trained in agricultural techniques, while others have access to loans to start and expand small businesses.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Togo.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Fire Brings Heartbreak to Mukuru, Kenya

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we travel with Missions in Action to ChildFund’s programs Kenya.

More than 400 people perished when fire erupted in a large urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2011. The fire added an extra layer of hardship to an already difficult living environment.

Alex Boylan, the host of the web reality series Missions in Action (MIA), travels to the Mukuru community to check in with children and families who are recovering from the fire. Many children like Steven are receiving assistance from ChildFund programs made possible through sponsorship support.

Watch the video on MIAtv.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Kenya and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Little Dancer’s Dream in Thailand

by Dhina Mutiara on assignment from ChildFund Indonesia

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. In the urban slums of Thailand, we meet an aspiring dancer.

“I want to be a dancer,” says Poon, a cheery and energetic 10-year-old Thai girl, responding to the question of what she wants to do when she grows up. “But, I miss my mother,” she adds wistfully.

For more than a year Poon’s grandmother, Kruewan, has been taking care of Poon and other family members. They live in a slum area located in central Bangkok, where ChildFund is working to improve conditions for children. It is a dense packed neighborhood with more than 400 families residing above a garbage dump.

girl from Thailand

Poon

Poon shares a single room with her grandmother, her little brother and sister, her father, grandfather, two aunts and three uncles. “When I dance,” says Poon, “I forget about everything.”

Poon’s mother was arrested a year ago for drug dealing. She is currently serving a five-year sentence, and Poon hasn’t seen her mother once in all that time. Her grandmother won’t allow her to visit. “I don’t want her copying what her mother did,” Kruewan says.

Slum areas in Thailand are plagued with problems. Drugs like methamphetamines are readily available. They are often an escape from the grinding poverty and unemployment that characterize these neighborhoods. As a result, there are a large number of children who are taken away from their parents because of this, including Poon.

The drug trafficking is one of the biggest social problems in Thailand. To combat the problem, the Thai government has sought to strengthen its cooperation and partnership with the international community, particularly with neighboring countries. Slum areas, like Poon’s community, are highly vulnerable to drug use and trafficking. In recent years, the Thai government has turned its attention to these communities, welcoming support from ChildFund and other organizations to improve educational and health services for children and families.

brother and sister

Poon and her brother.

Despite her family’s challenging situation, Poon still has a big dream in her head. She is adamant about it, too. Asked to show some of her dance moves, Poon jumps up, runs to the television set at her friend’s house and turns up the volume. She and her 3-year-old brother, Pee Mai, then dance to the beat of the music on TV.

“That’s Poon. She will dance every time there is music coming on,” jokes her grandmother, flashing a toothy grin. Poon, who also loves sports and the Hula-Hoop, regularly entertains her family and friends. She dances in a weekly neighborhood get-together.

Poon’s family clearly recognizes how important education is for her. “I want her to have a better future,” Poon’s father Weerayuth, 26, remarks, fidgeting in his seat, bowing his head a little. He works as a freelance security guard on Bangkok’s outskirts. With an income of approximately $4 to $6 per day, it is challenging for him to cover all the needs of his three children. Poon’s grandmother sells flower garlands to help make ends meet, while her husband, Poon’s grandfather, is the one who takes Poon to and from her school each day, using his old motorcycle.

As she grows up, Poon must overcome many obstacles – poverty, peer pressure and the lure of drugs. “I will help to make sure that all of my grandchildren get a proper education,” says Kruewan. With support from her family and ChildFund, there is hope for Poon, “the little dancer,” to fulfill her dream.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Thailand.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Exploring Possibilities with Mexico’s Children

Reporting by ChildFund Mexico

Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we spend time with children and youth in Mexico.

Although Mexico boasts the 12th largest of the world’s economies, the country’s income disparity keeps millions below the poverty level. Where ChildFund works, predominantly in the southern part of the country, only 6 percent of people have sufficient income to support their families.

Since ChildFund began operations in Mexico in 1955, much of our work has focused on safe water, health care and malnutrition. In addition, we’ve worked to improve educational opportunities for children.

Let’s listen in as children and youth in ChildFund Mexico programs share insights into their daily lives and their dreams.

boy in community

Edwin

My name is Edwin, I’m 9 years old and I’m in fourth grade elementary school in Tepelmeme (state of Oaxaca). Every day I go to school; I like to study and want to be a doctor to give financial aid to my family and get help for my friends and all of those children who are sick. I like to help others and I’d like to have my own medical clinic and a football team.

girl hanging clothes on line

Nadia

I am Nadia and I am 12. I live with my parents and I like my community because I go to the games and church. I like so much the traditions. At home I help my mother to wash dishes, and I wash my own clothes. I like school, I’m in sixth grade elementary school, and I want to keep studying to become a physical education teacher.

girl washing dishes

Gloria

I’m Gloria. I like to live in my community; what I don’t like is violence, robbers and pollution. I study in fourth grade elementary school and go to the shelter in the community where I eat. The fruit I like most is the strawberry. At home I do housework. I wash dishes, make the bed and keep the clothes. When I grow up I’d like to become a singer and people will recognize me, that’s why I have to be prepared and practice a lot.

boy at computer

Leonel

Hello! My name is Leonel. I attend to the Tizaac program of ChildFund Mexico and have a sponsor who writes and I write back. From when I was a baby, my parents give me encouragement to move forward in life. The [ChildFund] program helps my education and gives me values to be better child and citizen. During the year, I weigh and measure to check if I’m healthy. And what I like most are the football tournaments and the computation classes because they teach me to use programs, and I create images, posters and my most beautiful works of the school. I want to be a lawyer and defend good people.

girl studying

Emma

My name is Emma and I’m 15 years old and in high school. I belong to Tizaac ChildFund Mexico Program since I was younger. I like to participate in the workshops with psychologists because they have helped me to be stronger and understand better the important things in life. In ChildFund Mexico’s program I have received so many supports like a bed, and ecological oven for my home and some birthday and Christmas presents. I dream about going to college, graduating in psychology and then going back to work in my community. In the future, I’d like to work and serve in the community organization to help those children as I was helped.

boy in music ensemble

Brando

My name is Brando. I study in the third grade of junior high school in my community. My passion is music. From an early age I wanted to learn to play the trombone. Now through the Tizaac program of ChildFund Mexico, I have registered with the centro de estudios de banda. Children from different communities who took classes in music come together in the ensemble. I’m very happy because in CECAMBA they gave us new instruments to learn. I’m now learning to play the trombone, and I’m also taking vocational training. My dream is to study for a great degree but never leave the music.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Mexico and how you can sponsor a child.

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