31 in 31

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: From Refugee to Afghanistan Aid Worker

by Jacqui Ooi, ChildFund Australia

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 meet Ahmadullah Zahid, who was forced to flee his native Afghanistan at age 13. Now 28, Ahmadullah is working for ChildFund Afghanistan, assisting other returnee families and their children.

I was 13 when we fled to Pakistan. At this time, the security situation in Afghanistan was very bad. There was fighting everywhere. I remember when I was a kid, every night suddenly a fight would start between two commanders – very huge fighting around our houses and we were unable to sleep.

Several times at school, we were busy studying and suddenly the fighting started, and everybody started jumping from the windows and running out the doors, running toward home.

Then slowly, slowly the school was closed and there was no school to go to, and it was also difficult to work. So that’s why we decided to go to another country. At least we could study and we could live safely.

We returned to Afghanistan in 2005. I came back first to repair our house – the doors, windows, everything was broken. Of course, we were happy to return, very excited. After such a long time, we were returning to our home country and the situation was completely different. We were seeing the changes in the faces of the people – good changes, happy changes.

Two men discuss field

Ahmadullah (center) talks to a school authority about a ChildFund project in Badakhshan.

I first started working as a monitoring officer for a ChildFund project in my home province of Kunduz. When the project was completed, I was promoted to operations officer. Now I work at the head office in Kabul as the program support manager. I love my role because I go to the field and talk to the people who are served by ChildFund and see the happiness on their faces, and I really feel that ChildFund is doing something for them.

Community meeting

ChildFund meets with community to assess needs.

The situation now for children in Afghanistan depends on where they live. In some places, it’s still very hard, especially in areas where the security’s not good and the government and NGOs still don’t have access to these places. So you can imagine there’s no school for the children. Most of them are helping their fathers with the farm work. From the age of 7, they are taking their cows and goats to pasture in the morning and returning in the evening, without any break.

The children would prefer to go to school but they also feel, “If I don’t do this, who will? I have to support my father. He’s all alone feeding our family.” In Afghanistan, it is typical to have a big family – the average number of children is seven – with only the father earning income.

In other areas, where the security is good, children still support their fathers but also go to school part-time – girls included. In most areas, especially in the north where ChildFund is working, there is access to school.

I recently started working on a new project – the Resettlement Support for Afghan Returnee Families – in Nangarhar Province, bordering Pakistan. The Afghanistan government has established a special camp for these returning families. Currently, around 3,500 families are living there, but there is capacity for 10,000 families.

staff  talking with children

Visiting an ECD Center in Nangarhar Province.

ChildFund is building five early child care centers, especially for 3- to 5-year-olds. These centers offer three-hour sessions twice a day, preparing the children for school. We also offer parenting sessions for approximately 1,000 mothers of 1,200 young children.

The other priority in this community is drinking water. It’s a mountainous area, so we are building seven solar-powered water systems. As a result, we’ll be able to provide water for around 1,400 families.

ChildFund has also provided resources for Afghanistan children through the Gifts of Love & Hope, including water mugs and jugs. These are especially needed so that children can carry water with them when they’re going to school. The weather is extremely hot during summer, up to 47 degrees centigrade (116 Fahrenheit). We have also distributed football equipment so children have an opportunity to play again.

Girl receiving blanket

ChildFund distributes winterization kits to families.

In addition, we are establishing Child Well-Being Committees to provide children with training on issues such as child protection, child rights and domestic violence. Recently, we provided 750 of the most vulnerable families in the community with winterization kits, blankets and other items for the cold weather.

Overall conditions have improved for the children who returned to Afghanistan in the last few years. They tell me: “Before we returned, we were very much afraid that we wouldn’t have a place to live, that we would not have any income.” But when they returned, the government provided land. Then UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) came and built houses. And now many of these children are going to school and receiving assistance through ChildFund. A pathway has opened for them.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Afghanistan. And if you’d like to help with ChildFund’s winterization project, please visit our Fund a Project site.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Visit with Genito in Mozambique

Reporting by Arcenio Matimbe, ChildFund Mozambique

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 Mozambique for a birthday celebration.

Mozambique is one of the least developed countries in the world, with 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. With most rural families relying on subsistence farming for a livelihood, it’s rare for Mozambique children to receive treats.

boy with birthday cakeBefore Genito was matched with a ChildFund sponsor in 2009, he admits that he didn’t know about birthday celebrations.

But when his U.S. sponsor began to send him cards, stickers and other small gifts, he soon caught on that a birthday was meant to be a happy occasion.

Now he knows when his birthday is and how to mark the day. “I like to celebrate my birthday. My sponsor always sends me gifts, and on this day I eat cake, biscuits and soft drink,” he exclaims.

boy with birthday card and stickersAt Genito’s home there is a broken freezer where he pastes the stickers received from his sponsor. The front panel is now a menagerie.

How to celebrate birthdays is just one of the things, Genito has learned from his sponsor in the last few years. “I like my sponsor because she teaches me to grow as a good boy.”

It’s encouragement that Genito carries with him every day of the year. “I love you my sponsor,” he says, flashing a shy smile.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Uganda Is My Home

by Mercy, a youth enrolled in ChildFund International’s Uganda programs

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. a youth in our Uganda programs describes her home.

My name is Mercy, and I am a Muganda girl — a member of Baganda ethnic group. I live and go to school in Uganda’s Kampala District, in the Rubaga Divison. The neighbouring areas are Kasubi, Namungoona and Makerere.

girl washing dishes

One of Mercy's chores at home is to wash dishes.

I live in the city and the main business here is trading. We have many small shops that we call “duukas.” They sell all sorts of things like rice, sugar, posho [maize], biscuits … many things. We also have people who sell things by the roadside like Irish potatoes, bananas, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. There are many cars that pass by.

My community is part of the Baganda Kingdom, which is a principality of Uganda. We have a king called Muwenda Mutebi II and a queen called Sylvia Nagginda. She is very nice. We also have a princess called Ssangalyambogo. She has won many swimming medals, yet she is a young girl.

The king has many palaces but the main one is the Lubiri. He also has an office in a place called Bulange. It is big and has many rooms. My uncle took me there one day.

When there are important functions in Buganda, the king attends. Every year we have a big celebration on the king’s birthday. We have regalia like drums and spears. We used to have royal tombs where our passed kings were buried, but they were burned last year. That day I cried very much.

In Uganda, we have many clans like the Elephant clan, the Grasshopper clan, the Lion clan, the Edible Rat clan. I can’t remember the rest of the clans but there are more than 50. Each clan has a leader. My mother told me that someone cannot marry another person from their clan.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Hopeful Future for Students on Sri Lanka’s Tea Estates

by Sumudu Perera, ChildFund Sri Lanka Communications 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. In Sri Lanka, ChildFund and its local partner T-Field Federation are working to increase educational opportunities for children who live on tea-growing estates in Nuwara Eliya.

Sajeewani is excited. Today she is at school with her father to check her grade five scholarship exam results. Standing beside her father, her eyes follow his finger going down the results sheet. In front of her name is the figure 165 out of 200. A wide smile lights up her face. She has attained her goal of scoring high enough to attend a better school next year.

Sri Lankan studentEnrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Nuwara Eliya district, known for its tea-growing estates, Sajeewani has been taking supplementary classes. An eager student, she made noticeable improvement day by day.

The majority of students who live on Sri Lanka’s tea estates have low academic achievement. In fact, this region has the highest drop-out rate in the country. There are myriad reasons: extreme poverty, parents who are focused on survival, low value placed on education and a common expectation that children work to help support the family.

To better inform the community about the value of education for its children, ChildFund began working with the Parents’ Federation. We recognize that a child’s willingness to learn and a parent’s willingness to support that child often depend on the availability of quality learning opportunities and educational programming.

Cooperating with educational authorities in Nuwara Eliya, ChildFund began to support additional training for teachers. These trainings equip teachers with knowledge and modern methodologies to encourage student participation in the classroom. Instead of using only a traditional teacher-centered approach, teachers are empowered to implement student-centered learning activities.

“The trainings were very useful,” says Sonali, a teacher in Nuwara Eliya. “We understood how important it is to encourage children to participate in classroom activities. Now I practice what I learned in the classroom. The students show a lot of interest in lessons now.”

ChildFund also identified that remedial education was needed to help students who have fallen behind in the regular classroom. Working with its local partner, ChildFund began offering supplementary classes to help students improve their math and language skills, which are compulsory subjects. For average and low-performing students, the supplementary classes give ample time to interact with the teacher and reinforce what they have learned at school.

Special classes for slow learners are another initiative targeting students who perform at a low level in the classroom. A special curriculum was developed working with educational specialists and the educational authority in the area.

“ChildFund’s focus on slow learners is unprecedented in this area,” says Mr. Rajasekaram, Additional Zonal Education director. “Children attending the classes show improvements. The curriculum developed by ChildFund is now being used in other areas.”

Within the Nuwara Eliya district, ChildFund’s educational programs now serve 315 students at 11 locations in the estates. “After ChildFund started their education programs in the estates, we can see children scoring better marks at term tests,” reports Mr. Rajasekaram.

And once children experience success in the classroom, parents become more interested in supporting the child’s ongoing education.

“I got this many marks because I attended supplementary classes. Now I can attend the school in the town. I am very happy”, says Sajeewani.

Meanwhile, ChildFund and the T-Field Federation will continue to work to promote educational opportunities for children in the tea estates for years to come. We are committed to building a hopeful future for the children in the estates.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Belarus Youth with Disabilities Discover Their Voices

Reporting by ChildFund Belarus

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. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

Kristina, 10, was born in Belarus with a congenital disability that required her to use a wheelchair since early childhood.

Because her wheelchair was not an active model, Kristina needed assistance everywhere she went. Her mom was usually the one pushing Kristina’s chair. But since her mom couldn’t be with her all day, Kristina’s participation in school activities was limited.

girl dancing in wheelchairMore than anything, Kristina wanted to take dance classes. Yet without a wheelchair that she could maneuver, that dream was out of reach. In fact, Belarus government safety regulations prohibited children under 14 from using active wheelchairs. The rule presented serious barriers for Kristina and 5,000 other teenagers using wheelchairs in Belarus. These young people could not fully participate in educational and cultural activities or sports. Being dependent on others to move them from place to place also had a negative impact on the children’s physical development.

In September 2010, ChildFund, which has worked in Belarus since 1993, helped organize a roundtable to address the inclusion of children with disabilities. The issues forum was one of several activities ChildFund was implementing through its USAID-funded Community Services to Vulnerable Groups project, with the aim of expanding participation of people with disabilities.

The unavailability of active wheelchairs for children quickly surfaced as a hot topic at the roundtable. Youth participants pointed out that in addition to the regulatory barrier, the only manufacturer of active wheelchairs in Belarus did not produce a model for children under age 14.

In the months following the roundtable, ChildFund continued to provide youth participants with advocacy training, helping them improve their leadership skills and knowledge of the issues that impact them. Armed with new tools and tactics, youth leaders, working with community members, began to advocate for changes in Belarus regulations that prohibited teenagers from using active wheelchairs. Ultimately, their advocacy work resulted in regulatory relaxation, clearing the way for the manufacturer to start production of active wheelchairs for children under 14.

In May 2011, Kristina got her first active wheelchair: “Now I am happy that I have independence,” she says. “I can meet with my friends and go to dancing classes without my mom. I am going to participate in the [International Paralympic Committee] Wheelchair Dance Sport competition next year. There are no more barriers to my sports career and my life!”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs  in Belarus.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Christmas to Remember for Oklahoma Foster Children

by Linda Ehrhardt, U.S. Southern Plains Area Manager

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. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

Most people think of Christmas as a time to spend with family. Unfortunately, children who reside in foster homes do not have that luxury. To brighten the holidays for the foster-care children who reside in Adair County, Okla., ChildFund’s Southern Plains Area Office partnered with several local civic organizations to host a Christmas party in the children’s honor.

Many of the 36 children attending had never had a chance to meet Santa or sit on his lap. Most have never had a party given just for them or received presents wrapped with pretty paper and bows.

As families gathered in the Westville Pentecostal Church meeting hall, there were bright smiles as far as you could see. Foster parents and the children sat and visited before lining up to fill their plates. The delicious meal was donated and prepared by Matthew 25 House, Adair County Foster Care Association, Little Debbie’s Corp. and Harps Grocery. Adair County Child Welfare staff members served the families.

child with SantaWhile the foster parents enjoyed a meal that they, for once, did not have to cook, the children squirmed and wiggled in their seats. They would take bites here and there, but it was hard to think about eating with all the excitement and buzz that a special guest was expected to soon arrive. Community members and a few of the older foster children attempted to keep the younger ones entertained by painting characters on faces and hands.

A noise was heard outside…. What was that? A fire engine? Surely not a fire on this special evening! The children raced to the door just in time to see – to their surprise – Santa and Mrs. Claus climbing down from the big Westville Fire Department fire engine.

The noise level went high, with shrill giggles and laughter. “It’s Santa Claus…it really is him!” With awe on his face, one little blond boy walked right up to Santa, reached out and touched his ample belly. He turned back to his friends, grinning from ear to ear. Apparently, a belly that shook like jelly was confirmation that Santa really was real.

We managed to get the children seated on the carpet and Santa in his chair. The Jolly Elf then called the children up one by one to receive gifts and a stocking filled with goodies. The local Vo-Tech center’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) nursing group donated the presents. The student group hosted fundraisers throughout the year so they could buy gifts for the children. ChildFund’s Southern Plains Area Office provided the stockings and goodies.

boy with SantaEveryone went home happy that December night. I left humbled by the magic of the evening. Our community had come together to honor the dedicated foster parents in our area and to celebrate children who are too often overlooked.

Although the thought saddened me that these children would not be able to spend Christmas with their own parents, I was overjoyed to see the love these children receive from their foster families. That evening, our community ensured that these children were not excluded from the magic of giving – not just presents, but unconditional love, affection and acceptance.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Walking to School with Estu in Indonesia

Reporting by Dhina Mutiara, ChildFund Indonesia, and Bertho Pitono, ChildFund’s partner in Central Java

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

boy with friends walking to school

Estu walks to school with friends.

My name is Estu. I am 14 years old. I live with both of my parents in a hilly area called Giripurwo village in Central Java, Indonesia. I live in a remote area that is really hard to reach by any vehicle. That is why people in my village have to walk to go in and out of the village. I am one of them.

Currently, I am studying on second level at Islamic Public Junior High School, which is located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from my house. Every morning, my friends and I will walk approximately one and a half hours to reach the school. We usually go out at 5:30 a.m., because my school starts at 7 a.m. I don’t want to be tardy.

boys take in view

A five-minute rest before the trek continues.

The first 3 kilometers, we have to walk through the hilly part of the area. This part is really hard to go through, and it gets worse in rainy season. My friends and I usually take a 5-minute break from our long walk and enjoy the beautiful view from the mountaintop. The last 1 kilometer is easier to get through because it is not as hilly, and there is a road that leads to my school.

Estu walks to school

It takes Estu 1.5 hours to walk to school.

If you ask me whether I’m tired or not, of course I’m tired. But that route is the shortest route to get to my school. I have been doing it all of my life, so I am used to it. I mostly forget how far my school is because I always go to school with my friends. We tell stories and pranks to keep ourselves entertained along the long walk.

One day I want to be a doctor and make my parents happy. Those are the reasons why I stay in school. I hope I can have a scholarship to be a doctor.

My school ends at 1:30 p.m., and I have to go through the same route to get home.

Once I get to my house, I help my parents. I will help my mother wash the dishes. After that, I will help my father feed our livestock. We have two goats at our house. In the afternoon, I will go to the hilly forest to cut some grass and bring the grass home for my goats.

On weekends, I will go to the art center that ChildFund supports not far from my house, where I learn how to dance, play some music and meet my friends from other villages.

I enjoy all of my daily routine, even though it is tiring. I have learned how to be grateful and responsible for everything that I have.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Indonesia and sponsoring a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Protecting Children in Guinea

31 in 31 logoTo celebrate the New Year, we’re taking you on a tour of all 31 countries where ChildFund works. Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

Located in western Africa on the North Atlantic Ocean between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, Guinea is smaller than the state of Oregon. The children who live here suffer from a lack of safe water and preventable diseases as well as exploitation.
Many children in Guinea are not in school, and for younger children, there is often no foundation for later learning. ChildFund is implementing Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs, including building and equipping facilities.

Working with the Ministry of Health, we’re delivering health education programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, to local health workers. We’ve also trained more than 125 community volunteers to educate the community about disease prevention and proper hygiene. To provide access to safe water and sanitation facilities, we have provided 29 water systems in Guinea.

In addition, ChildFund Guinea has teamed with Lelano Andre Flamy, a young Guinean artist, to record a song about the importance of child protection. He sings about the fight against child exploitation, HIV/AIDS and other concerns. The video was prepared as part of ChildFund Guinea’s health education activities supported by the Irish Aide Project.

The video is played over the national television station at least once every week to increase the population’s awareness of issues that impact children in Guinea. Here’s a clip.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Guinea.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Art Project in India Helps Children Heal

by Sanjana Das, Technical Specialist, ChildFund India

31 in 31 logoTo celebrate the New Year, we’re taking you on a tour of all 31 countries where ChildFund works. Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

Today, we visit India, where ChildFund has operated programs for children since 1951.

In India, the reality of violence against children is often not known or spoken about. Why? Is it because children are afraid to talk about or report violence because they consider it “normal” adult behavior or because they belong to a particular caste, class or gender? Perhaps it’s because they are children, and are more often than not unheard.

The fact is violence against children is as real as they are. It takes place everywhere – right within the domains of their families, schools, institutions, workplaces and communities. The abuse of power results in violence against children. It affects their overall well-being and hinders their normal developmental process. Ultimately, it takes away their childhood and prevents them from growing into healthy adults.

book coverTo create a collaborative dialogue around questions that matter to children, ChildFund India initiated a 60-day process of intense listening to children across the country, inviting them to present their ideas, views, aspirations and fears. Twenty-eight ChildFund India staff members and partners were trained on interacting with children and capturing their voices using World Café and Appreciative Enquiry processes. They hosted 60 children’s cafés in their area, with 1,789 children participating from nine states in India: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Drawing of girl pouring teaWe listened to children … to their spoken and unspoken words. We let them express themselves in various ways. They are hurt, humiliated, isolated and ignored. They are unable to trust, since they are harmed by parents, family, peers and relatives, teachers and community. They have suffered physical violence and psychological violence including utter neglect, discrimination, humiliation and maltreatment, which has a damaging impact on their overall well-being. Many circumstances, depending upon the severity of the violence, have left them scarred for a lifetime.

drawing of globe with injured birdHowever, having experienced deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability, it does not deter children from appreciating what they have: their families, their homes, their friends, their teachers, their schools, their community and the gift of life itself.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in India and sponsoring a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Ecuador

31 in 31 logoTo celebrate the New Year, we’re taking you on a tour of all 31 countries where ChildFund works. Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.

Today, we visit Ecuador, where ChildFund is helping communities in the Cotopaxi Province organize reforestation projects to protect water sources and avoid droughts. Youth in our Cotopaxi programs created this video to demonstrate the reforestation efforts.

Discover more about Ecuador and how to sponsor a child in this country.

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