To 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 start in the beginning — the beginning of civilization, that is, on the continent of Africa. Your destination: Angola.
Most 5- to 14-year-old children are in school in the U.S. But in Angola, 30 percent of children are in the classroom, but working jobs that would tax even the strongest and healthiest adult. Angola is the second largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa. Many children in Angola transport fuel cans, which are often too heavy for their small frames. They work long hours on plantations, and are exposed to harmful dust and chemicals. Most of the child laborers are orphans and are subjected to exploitation, including transporting illegal substances.
ChildFund’s answer to this problem is building schools so children can be children – spending their days learning and out of harm’s way. In 2007, ChildFund partnered with World Learning for Educational Development, with nearly $3.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and $1.25 million from ChildFund, to reduce the incidence of exploitative child labor by providing educational services for children and youth in Benguela province and in Luanda. The program withdraws or prevents 7,000 children from participating in exploitative child labor.
Discover more about Angola and view a slideshow.
Given the chaos on the ground in Haiti, it is critical that organizations collaborate to meet the needs of vulnerable children.
Because ChildFund does not operate in Haiti, we are partnering with Christian Blind Mission (CBM), which has operated in Haiti for 30 years. This supports an established on-the-ground organization with staff and resources already in place to immediately begin addressing the needs of vulnerable children.
Funds provided to CBM through ChildFund will be earmarked specifically for children.
“ChildFund will use its vast experience on how best to meet the needs of children in crisis to ensure funds are used for child-focused efforts with great impact,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO. “Having worked in emergencies, I know how critical it is to coordinate assistance to provide the greatest impact. We are not operating in Haiti but we are using our experience to partner with those on the ground to meet the needs of children.”
CBM is the world’s largest international nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and people with disabilities. Funds raised by ChildFund will be used by CBM specifically to meet the needs of the most vulnerable – children with disabilities. CBM estimates that the number of injured children demanding hospital services because of the Haiti earthquake has increased tenfold.
Three of CBM’s projects in Port-au-Prince are dedicated to children. One, Grace Children’s Hospital, sustained damage. Patients are sleeping in the streets.
CBM has sent emergency relief specialists to assess needs, meet with partner agencies and determine immediate and long-term responses.
“Thanks to our partnerships with organizations such as ChildFund, our efforts will make sure that disabled children, often the most vulnerable after a crisis, aren’t at the back of the line for assistance,” said Ron Nabors, CEO of CBM-US.
We will provide periodic updates on the recovery efforts and rebuilding from our partners on the ground in Haiti.
For more information and to donate, click here.
By Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
We’re looking forward to “unpacking our bags” and taking a short breather before we return with more blogs about the ChildFund experience.
We hope that you have enjoyed the stories from the countries where we work and hearing from guest bloggers. Our photos and videos were our postcards —the best part is that they required no postage.
What’s great about the Internet era is that even when you are traveling you can still keep in touch. We loved reading your comments and hearing from you as well.
We hope that the past 31 days provided you with a better understanding of the work that ChildFund does and how your support and contributions make a difference. And for those who aren’t currently a supporter, we hope that the series sparked something in you to help change a child’s life.
I’d also like to thank David Hylton, who originated the idea for this series and put it together. You can think of him as our travel guide.
Our final stop on the 31-countries-in-31-days tour is Ecuador, where children have been given an outlet to express themselves while making a difference in the community. It’s been a whirlwind trip around the globe in October. Thanks for joining us.
By Virginia Sowers
The voices of children and youth are telling vivid stories of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Province in a new pilot web site initiative now in development by ChildFund International and its offices in the Americas Region and Ecuador.
“The idea for this project is to explore creative and innovative ways to share information with sponsors and engage them in our work,” explains Mike Raikovitz, director of Sponsorship at ChildFund. “Our goal was to better share what we’re doing in the field.”
The concept for the web site originated at a ChildFund Alliance meeting last year to facilitate a strategic goal of cohesively sharing and accessing information in each area where ChildFund works. Alliance members envisioned that the web site would spotlight children, featuring video and content they developed.
“When we met with the Ecuador office last year, we set up the challenge of building a web site that contained descriptive information about ChildFund and ChildFund Alliance programs, yet developed in a way that engages children and youth,” says Raikovitz. “What’s interesting about this initiative is that it’s real information about the work ChildFund is doing in communities. It will allow sponsors to see how their money is being used, and better understand our programming and priorities that help children thrive in the Cotopaxi area.”
ChildFund Ecuador, which was already working with youth to do community reporting and radio spots, accepted the challenge. “It was a natural extension to add this new component,” says Raikovitz.
Through the web site, children are using their training in multimedia technology to capture stories about their community and integrate video, photographs and music. ChildFund is training community mobilizers to help the children develop web content.
Given this outlet to share their voices and their perspectives, youth in the Cotopaxi area are bubbling with ideas and energy. They’ve already produced a number of videos, including the story of a long-dreamed-about reservoir for the community, and how fresh water is improving sanitation for families and aiding the environment. They’re also documenting the success stories of individuals aided by ChildFund Ecuador.
Once the web site is up and running, it will likely be a model for other regions and countries to consider. In Ecuador, the expectation is that children and youth will maintain the web site, keeping it continually refreshed with new information, program updates and child and youth contributions.
There’s no shortage of stories to tell
For more information on Ecuador, click here.
More on Ecuador
Population: 13.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 264,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The province contains the Cotopaxi volcano, an intermittently active volcano, with a summit height of 19,388 feet.
By Anne Scott
Vice President, Global Programs
At ChildFund, we are always looking for new ways to enhance the experience of sponsorship, for both sponsor and child. For this reason, I have travelled to Katachka, a remote village in the central highland district of Huambo, Angola, to see a promising new approach to sponsorship. (See video here.)
Huambo is one of the districts most affected by the prolonged civil war in Angola, a time when many children witnessed firsthand the killing of close family members, were taken captive by soldiers or were forced to march long hours carrying army supplies. The lucky ones survived by hiding in the bushes or beside river banks. School, play and doing chores around the home, in the company of family members, became distant luxuries.
Today, the war is over. But the destroyed remains of bullet-riddled buildings in the provincial city of Huambo, and its surrounding villages like Katachka, stand as an important reminder that the people of Angola carry inside them less visible war wounds. They are still healing.
To play a part in that healing process, ChildFund and its local partner organization have carefully designed the sponsorship event that I am attending today. More than 200 sponsored children and youth, with their family and community members, gather under a large tree. They are drawn in by the sounds of a young woman volunteer leading children in song and dance. The youth perform a funny and sad skit about the considerable problems they encounter at school. Despite the humor, its message rings true, as many in the audience nod their heads.
The children then go off to another area to draw pictures and play games, under the guidance of community volunteers. Before the start of a soccer game, the youth meet to discuss plans to form a soccer league in their area. ChildFund has given the orange-and-white uniforms worn by today’s teams.
I walk over to an area where volunteers, trained by ChildFund, are helping some sponsored children write letters to their sponsors. The volunteer makes the most of this task by facilitating discussion among the children about important things going on in their lives and their community. The children learn how to process their life experiences, verbally, intellectually and emotionally. The end result is richer letters, through which each sponsor can more deeply understand and appreciate his or her child’s experience.
On one level, the event is designed to accomplish important administrative tasks, such as enrolling children to be sponsored or writing letters. The recreational activities are what one might expect at a child and youth event anywhere in the world.
But for those who can vividly place today’s activities against the horrific memory of war, their deeper meaning emerges. For a child to draw — and talk about — pictures of their now relatively peaceful surroundings records a renewed sense of security and builds skills, long suppressed, in identifying and expressing feelings.
For youth to engage together in constructive play through sports builds a sense of hope and belonging, alongside leadership skills and experiences of fun and positive challenge. The adults, still sitting under the tree, can spend some time thinking about how they want the future of their children and youth to be, and make plans to realize their vision.
Today, ChildFund provides a venue that makes new things possible for sponsors and children, and for their families and communities.
For more information about our work in Angola, click here.
More on Angola
Population: 12.2 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 220,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for half of Angola’s population, but half of the country’s food must still be imported.
What’s next: Our 31-in-31 series concludes with a visit to Ecuador.
By Julia White
Grants-M&E Manager, ChildFund Senegal
I step onto the stage and see in front of me through the bright lights, a sea of thousands of screaming Senegalese fans. Youssou Ndour, the famous Senegalese, Grammy-winning singer and activist stands in front of me as his fans try to get his attention. His voice is full of passion as he talks to the crowd, urging every single one of them, rich and poor, young and old, to stand-up against malaria.
I stand among several key partners who have been asked to go on stage at this concert in Guediwaye, Senegal, to be recognized for their collaboration with Malaria No More and the Fondation Youssou Ndour in making the first step of the Surround Sound: Senegal campaign a reality. I feel very proud to work for ChildFund Senegal as I hear Youssou Ndour call out our name and personally thank us.
The idea behind Surround Sound: Senegal is to mix multiple communication channels with the best local marketers from the worlds of entertainment, sport, faith and business to create a 360-degree malaria education and advocacy campaign in Senegal that reaches everyone at every level. The first step of the campaign has been the use of Senegal fan-favorite Youssou Ndour to develop a song promoting malaria prevention.
The song is called Xeex Sibbiru, which in English means “fight malaria.” The song challenges Senegalese to see the impact malaria has on all aspects of their lives and to see that they need to choose to take action and take responsibility to prevent malaria in their families and their communities.
ChildFund Senegal and Malaria No More share the objective of promoting malaria prevention in Senegal. ChildFund Senegal leads a consortium of NGOs (ChildFund Senegal, Africare, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, Plan and World Vision) in the implementation of the USAID-funded Community Health Project.
The project includes two components: an integrated package of community-based maternal and child health services, and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) community malaria component. Both components are community-based prevention and treatment efforts that involve significant mass-distribution of drugs and information/education/communication via community Health Huts. The PMI component is implemented in more than 1,370 health huts and covers an estimated 4 million people, including children under age 5 and pregnant women.
Through this USAID-funded Project, ChildFund Senegal and the consortium of NGOs distributed the song at the community level in 13 out of the 14 regions of Senegal and now continue to conduct awareness-raising sessions in conjunction with the song. Different target groups, such as grandmothers, heads-of-households, mothers, children and community leaders, are organized to listen to the song and either discuss it or create their own songs, skits or stories related to what they heard.
This approach ensures that all the different decision-makers and target groups at the community level are getting the same messages and are processing the information in a way that is meaningful to them. The song was also distributed at the community level via community radio and continues to be aired.
In the program region of Mbour alone, the community activities, not including the local radio, have already been able to reach 18,339 with the song and its powerful malaria-prevention message.
ChildFund Senegal and the consortium are helping to ensure the bottom-up coverage of the Surround Sound: Senegal campaign. Malaria No More and the Fondation Youssou NDour are ensuring the top-down coverage with mass media such as the launch concert, and national and regional radio diffusion. The different local marketers from sports, entertainment, business and religion that join the campaign will ensure the side coverage.
Having been involved in malaria prevention in Senegal since 1998, ChildFund Senegal is interested to see the impact this 360 degree approach will have and is hopeful that this is just the push Senegal needs to take malaria prevention to the next level.
For more information about our work in Senegal, click here.
More on Senegal
Population: 12.5 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 4.6 million children and families
Did You Know?: About 75% of Senegal’s population lives in rural areas. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language, of which Wolof has the largest usage.
What’s next: An update from Angola
By Anne Edgerton
Disaster Management Team Leader
Guatemala is a cool, mountainous country with one of the largest — if not the largest capital cities in Central America. Yet, as I traveled to one of the rural areas where ChildFund has worked for many years, it is more than anything else a trip back in time. Once you leave behind the Pan-American Highway, there are fewer vehicles as you reach these higher mountainous destinations.
Despite our steep ascent into Huehuetenango, a municipality where ChildFund has worked for many years, we actually still looked up to a peak known locally as “El Mirador,” the highest point in Guatemala. The climate in these areas is gentle, even at such high altitudes, but eking out an existence from farming is tough work. The sparse rains over the past few years have not helped matters, and crops tend to be mostly subsistence — beans and high-altitude corn.
Many of the children lucky enough to go to school must walk huge distances, sometimes all downhill one way, all uphill on the return. Government health clinics make the rounds to a central village only one day per month. We are currently working with ChildFund Guatemala staff, local partner Nueva Esperanza, international partner International Medical Corps and children and youth themselves to discover the issues they are most concerned about.
Initial learnings from both adults and youth reveal that the lack of activities and opportunities weighs most on their minds. These factors, combined with violence in their homes and hopelessness, seem to be some of the influences driving youth into gang activity. Focus group and interview work with these children has revealed that younger teenagers have many unaddressed problems that are likely direct contributors to their engagement in violence and conflict in their teen years and beyond.
ChildFund is working with its partners and the children to address these issues through programming requested by the children themselves. We are attempting to address some of the violence issues through the formation of groups, activities and places to play.
Children are suggesting to our researchers that they would like to see and contribute to the education of their parents on how to raise children. They also want more talking groups. Our interviews were the first time for many to talk with adults about these issues, and they expressed a strong desire for more sharing opportunities, combined with education, counseling and advice-giving. Girls in particular asked for girl-only talking groups, where they could share experiences and give each other advice.
We are working now to create more opportunities for expression among Guatemala’s children.
For more information about our work in Guatemala, click here.
More on Guatemala
Population: 12.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: Nearly 250,000 children and families
Did You Know?: More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan peoples. The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages.
What’s next: Fighting malaria with star power in Senegal
Editor’s note: We will bringing you a post from Guatemala later this week. Today, we explore Sierra Leone with Mick Foley.
By Ellie Whinnery
Public Relations Manager
Mick Foley, a well-known figure in the world of professional wrestling, would just as soon be known as a “Champion for Children.” Since 1992, Foley has been supporting deprived children through ChildFund International, both as a sponsor of eight children and as a major donor.
Over the last few years, he has contributed more than $290,000 for early-childhood-development centers, community centers, health clinics and for the building of seven schools in war-torn Sierra Leone.
Foley recently visited Sierra Leone to tour one of the schools and meet one of the children he sponsors. On arrival at the new school, he heard children chanting his name—not for his wrestling fame but because of his generous heart.
The new Child Friendly School built through Foley’s generosity now bears his name.
Foley shared with the community members and children gathered to greet him, “For me it’s about establishing relationships with children in need, and I understand that almost 59% of school-age children do not attend school in Sierra Leone.”
Foley hopes that building seven schools in closer proximity to the communities in need will help drop this statistic significantly.
While in Sierra Leone, Foley also met the child he sponsors. Describing the sponsorship experience, he says, “It’s about letting children with very little in their lives, through no fault of their own, know that someone out there cares.”
Foley explains that sponsorship provides the opportunity to have a personal relationship with a child through the sharing of letters and photographs and, in his case, the chance to meet in person.
Foley, who has four children of his own, has written three successful children’s books, earning a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. He has also donated book sales proceeds to ChildFund.
To honor this generosity, ChildFund International has named Foley and his wife as Stewardship Patrons in the Champions for Children Society.
For more information about ChildFund’s work in Sierra Leone, click here.
More on Sierra Leone
Population: 6.1 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 147,000 children and families
Did you know?: In Sierra Leone, 70.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 59% percent of school-age children do not attend school.
By Bill Cavender
Assistant Director, Interactive Communications
While in Thailand for a workshop at our regional office in Bangkok, I visited several program areas run by our ChildFund Alliance partner, CCF Foundation in Thailand.
ChildFund Alliance is a group of 12 global, developmental child-sponsorship organizations that implement lasting and meaningful changes in the lives of impoverished children and families worldwide. ChildFund Alliance assures the highest standards in program work, governance, fundraising and financial management.
Accompanying me on the visit were Thawee Suphophark from CCF Foundation in Thailand and Tutiya Buabuttra from our Asia regional office. We travelled to Sa Kaeo Province, located in the east of Thailand along the border with Cambodia. This area is known for some spectacular scenery and natural beauty (plus the annual Cantaloupe Day held every April!). Yet, it is also a region that suffers from high unemployment and poverty rates.
The visit was a great opportunity to see firsthand how collaboration allows Alliance members to share methods, expertise and fundraising resources to benefit more children around the world.
My visit happened to coincide with a major national holiday in Thailand, the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Children around the country were performing in her honor, and I watched a traditional dance performance at one of the schools. The preservation of traditional arts, dance and handicrafts is an important part of the education in these schools.
Also of note is the patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Her support for CCF Foundation in Thailand is certainly part of a special relationship. The Princess is an accomplished musician. She also is often referred to as the “Princess of Information Technology,” due to her strong interest and efforts to apply science and technology to enhance the development of the country.
During my tour of the facilities, I found engaged teachers and students, refurbished classrooms with new supplies and safe, comfortable surroundings. The laughs and smiles of the children combined with their focus and attention to learning made a positive impression.
Continuing to build this relationship with Thailand through the ChildFund Alliance will ensure more programs to help children grow and thrive.
For more information on Thailand, click here.
More on Thailand
Population: 65 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 686,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Thailand’s southern peninsula, between the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea, offers safari expeditions on foot, by elephant and in canoes.
Next in our “31 in 31” series: A field report from Guatemala
Earlier this summer, Vice President of Global Programs Anne Scott paid a visit to Timor Leste, a small country that only this decade became an independent nation. As our blog series visits this country today, we take a look back at one of Anne’s blog entries from early August.
In the central district of Bobonaro, we are driving into the “redlands,” a description owing to the unfertile red soil and the red wood of the eucalyptus trees, among the few kinds of trees that grow here. It is a hot, dry and dusty plain — an unyielding landscape, surrounded by a ring of mountains, also dry in this season, regardless of altitude. The river bed is completely exposed to pebbles and rock.
Supplying food and water for families in this area is difficult, always, and especially so in this dry season. Electricity has yet to reach here, as even light in the nearest town center comes from generators, and only at night time.
And yet, against all odds in this remote rural area, I visit an early childhood development center — built, equipped and staffed thanks to ChildFund — where sponsored and enrolled children ages 3 to 5 take their turn to recite poems they have written, or, following the new government curriculum, sing songs of hope for this second youngest country in the world.
I inaugurate a new water pipe, funded by the Australian Aid Agency and installed by ChildFund and its local partner Hamutuk, which means “together” in Tetum, the local language, in a community where 40 children are sponsored. The pipe saves the children — usually girls — from having to walk two miles each way, twice a day, to gather water. This leaves them with extra energy to concentrate on their studies. And their parents are using the water to grow nutritious vegetables, otherwise sold at high prices in the town center some 10 miles away, a trip usually made by foot or infrequent motorbike.
Young and old alike have clean water to drink and wash, sparing them from a host of waterborne infections, for which there is no medical care readily available. Everybody, each in their own way, relishes the water now flowing from the village tap.
On the way home, in a coastal community over the mountains from the plain, we visit a house, newly built of sturdy cement and rattan, thanks to a generous Gifts of Hope and Love catalog donor. We receive the gratitude of the mother of six children, two of whom are sponsored. She can now proudly accommodate her children.
Despite it all, traditions are strong and continue to give strength. The women of the village insist to dress me in the traditional Timorese costume. In doing so, I feel further acceptance of the relationship between ChildFund and the community. While children throw locally gathered flower petals over me, this strikes me as an important connection.
I’ve been to a lot of countries — 48 and counting. But in only a few, including Timor Leste, is daily survival so critical. If you are a sponsor of or a donor to a child in Timor Leste, you are truly a special person. Your support is paving the way for the children’s future, and for the future of this young nation. We need more like you.
I have also seen that the ChildFund team realizes and appreciates your generosity, and is working hard to make your gift make a difference to children and youth in Timor Leste.
For more information on Timor Leste, click here.
More on Timor Leste
Population: 1.1 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 170,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Timor Leste’s linguistic diversity is acknowledged in the country’s constitution, which designates Portuguese and Tetum as official languages and English and Bahasa Indonesia as working languages.