Guest post by Samuel A. Worthington, InterAction President and CEO
This blog was first published Dec. 20 as a news release by InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based nongovernmental international organizations, of which ChildFund International is a member.
As Congress debates the upcoming fiscal cliff, charitable tax deductions are at risk.
Yet, during these difficult economic times, we must remain focused on helping our world’s poorest and most vulnerable. I am deeply concerned that eliminating or limiting the charitable tax deduction would harm the very people who need the most help.
The more than 200 organizations that make up InterAction are out in the world every day – feeding the poor and helping them to build better futures for themselves and their families. However, these organizations cannot do this work without the generosity of the American people. By harming the organizations designed to help those in need, people will suffer.
While the charitable deduction does reduce government income, it does so in a way that actually triples its effectiveness: For every dollar that does not go to the U.S. government because of the charitable deduction, nearly $3 goes to a charity that helps the poor and the vulnerable. By continuing the deduction in its current form, the U.S. government gets a three-to-one investment in poverty-reduction.
The tradition of charitable giving is American to its core. We should not deter this custom.
By Christa Nedergaard Rasmussen, National Director BØRNEfonden Togo
Last month, BØRNEfonden — ChildFund’s Alliance partner in Denmark — celebrated its 20th anniversary in Togo. Government representatives thanked BØRNEfonden for its work in the east African nation, and two former sponsored children spoke about their experiences.
As in the other program countries where BØRNEfonden and ChildFund work, development activities in Togo are aimed at creating a better future for children and youth. The focus is on health, education, income-generating activities and early childhood development.
Approximately 12,000 children in Togo are supported by a sponsor, including many from the United States.
The anniversary was celebrated in the Togolese capital of Lome with 170 guests, including representatives from the federal government, Danish companies, international and national NGOs. BØRNEfonden’s CEO, Bolette Christensen, was also present.
“It’s great to see how collaboration between BØRNEfonden and local authorities, national and international NGOs give positive results,” Christensen said.
During the past 20 years, local partners working with BØRNEfonden have built 256 schools, 80 kindergartens and 18 libraries in 28 rural communities.
But particularly in the health sector, where the focus has been to give more people access to clean drinking water, the results are remarkable. Within just the past five years, 75,000 Togolese people gained access to potable water. Working with local partners, BØRNEfonden, with the support of sponsors, helped drill 40 wells, repair 110 existing wells and supported 238 local water committees to maintain the pumps and manage consumers’ fees.
Minister of Development Djossou Semodji, speaking on behalf of the federal government, thanked BØRNEfonden for its work and many achievements. He emphasized that he looks forward to many years of future cooperation.
Also, formerly sponsored children who have become successful adults spoke about what BØRNEfonden had meant to them. “After I left school, I came to a technical school and became a carpenter,” said Abdoulaye Issaka. “Today I have my own carpenter’s shop and trains apprentices.”
“I come from a poor family from the country,” said Adjoa Adjimon, “but at one of BØRNEfonden’s summer camps, it dawned on me that all men are worth something. I got enough confidence to get an education. I have a B.A. in economics and am now employed by the Togo Post Office.”
A group of youth from impoverished rural areas who advocate for young people’s rights came to the celebration to speak about their goals, including establishing the right to go to school, protection from violence and better hygienic conditions at school.
Christenson noted about the youth’s presentation: “It is an important task they have undertaken to fight for their own and other children’s rights.”
Discover more about ChildFund’s work in Togo.
By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.”
What do I mean by ChildFund green? If you look at any of our communications materials, you’ll see a good splash of green. We use a palette of colors, but our primary green (Pantone 348) and our secondary green (Pantone 376) dominate.
We chose the colors because they are bright and cheery. They’re hopeful. And that’s what we bring to our work – a sense of hope that we will make a difference in the life of a child.
If you ask me what color is our green, I’m stumped to describe it. Is it malachite? Jade? Shamrock? Kelly?
In the end, it doesn’t matter because everyone who works here now refers to it as ChildFund green. And that’s good enough for our brand.
Turns out it is easy being green.
By Abraham Marca and Ana Vacas, ChildFund Bolivia
It’s common to hear older Bolivians describing adolescents and children as being in their “donkey’s age” because they can be bull-headed.
But this perception of youth is now changing in the city of Tarija in Bolivia, where eight local partners, assisted by ChildFund Bolivia, have given children and youths the opportunity to put forward their own solutions for community problems like alcoholism, garbage and poor-quality playgrounds.
“We might be small, but we can do big things” is the slogan of one of the youth clubs.
Forming Youth Clubs
This dream started with small steps. With support from ChildFund, young people created clubs by choosing their own names, designing logos and writing club constitutions with rules about honesty, punctuality, teamwork and more.
Next, the clubs participated in various educational modules, starting with leadership skills and photography. The children and youth started to identify problems and strengths in their community, often using photography. They then developed a project to address a community issue.
One of the main problems the children identified was pollution in their neighborhoods, as well as a lack of good recreational spaces. The few playgrounds were in poor condition. The youth also recognized that a lack of street lighting and persistent alcoholism made their neighborhoods more dangerous. These concerns echoed what we heard during our area strategic program with the Tarija communities.
After forming a club, the children in Guadalquivir planted 12 trees — which they bought themselves — during a clean-up campaign. In Nueva Esperanza, the club members started a campaign to prevent alcoholism and also purchased new lights for the community’s soccer field. A youth leader, studying architecture, designed a new playground and coordinated the project in Moto Mendez. One of Tarija’s rural partners had problems with the speed of traffic near a school so the children consulted the mayor. As a result, speed bumps were put in place. In the same area, the youth raised awareness among adults to use the garbage collection services that passed through the community once a week, instead of tossing trash out on the streets or burning it.
These are just a few examples of how children and youth can reach out, because as they tell us, “There are more ideas and, of course, a lot of energy.” Money is often short, so the club members have made alliances with local authorities and parents’ groups. Municipal governments have helped the children’s groups buy trees to plant in their neighborhoods.
Adults have been pleasantly surprised with the children’s drive, and now they are paying more attention to the young voices.
Guest Post by Pete Olson
Pete Olson is an American Formula car racer in the Asia Formula Renault Series. Olson’s Race for Children campaign is to raise awareness around the issue of child poverty while encouraging fans to become child sponsors. Olson shares his recent trip to meet sponsored child Trang.
After a decade of sponsoring various children through ChildFund, I finally made the decision to meet my sponsored child, Trang, and it was so worth it. Beyond the pictures and the letters from half a world away, my trip to Vietnam made my sponsorship experience that much more tangible. For the first time, I saw, in person, what my sponsorship had done for the little girl I’ve been communicating with over these past years.
To put it simply, meeting Trang is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.
My visit made me realize, more than ever, just how privileged I’ve been in my life. I have been very lucky to have so many opportunities, many of which I’ve taken for granted. The benefits my sponsorship are helping provide to Trang are things I’ve always been accustomed to having.
For instance, I saw how ChildFund has helped build a medical center in the village to provide basic health care; they’ve built a fresh water system so the community doesn’t have to walk to a stream to collect drinking and cooking water; and they’ve installed toilet facilities in the village to provide access to basic sanitation. It was eye-opening to realize these standard amenities were previously nonexistent in this community. But I was more shocked to learn from a ChildFund representative that some children have to walk over the surrounding hills to get to and from school each day. That’s probably an hour hike over – and we complain about the Stairmaster!
We gripe so much about trivial things when so many of our basic needs are met. We only have to do a little comparison with those who lack those conveniences to realize how thankful we should all be for what we have and often take for granted.
It is a shame that there are so many inequalities in the world, but I know that I can do my part, no matter how small, to help children like Trang to improve their lives. I sincerely hope that through the Racing for Children program and my own personal efforts, we can find many more sponsors for children like Trang. If more people were moved in the way that I was last month in Vietnam, I have no doubt they would contribute.
I’m already looking forward to going back to visit Trang and her community. I am so glad I made the effort. To think that I have been able to help so much with what we Americans think of as so little – it is really something.
Formula One World Champion race driver, Aytron Senna said it best, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”
Indeed it is our duty, and yet our privilege – we should all do our part. Help a child in need by becoming a sponsor through ChildFund International.
By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer
When I sat down with Alan Sader, ChildFund’s TV spokesperson, I’ll admit I was a tad star struck. When I was younger, I’d seen him on countless commercials—sitting on a stoop in a developing country, arm wrapped gently around a small child. His posture was strong, his voice was both kind and commanding and his message was always clear – by giving a little each month, I had the opportunity to help change a child’s life.
For the last 20 years, Sader has spoken on behalf of children around the world. By sharing their stories and encouraging a U.S. audience to become sponsors, Sader has helped many children escape poverty. In our conversation, he recalled several trips to ChildFund program areas and shared how each child he meets reminds him why his work is so important.
“I do plays, I do commercials for lawyers and furniture stores and that’s great for providing food for my family but there is a legacy involved in this work [with ChildFund],” he says. “Making the lives of children better is the most important and rewarding work I can ever do. There are a lot of children whose lives have been changed because of this and I am happy talking to people about that.”
In 1993, one year after his first appearance in a ChildFund commercial, Sader traveled to Kenya to work on a second TV spot. He met numerous children whose stories he would share with the world but one child in particular helped reaffirm his decision to work as ChildFund’s spokesperson.
“At the time, my youngest daughter was 6-weeks old,” he says. “During this particular trip, they placed a small child in my arms. I can remember thinking, a baby feels like a baby and that baby felt like my baby; and I knew they had the same needs. It felt so good to communicate that need to the camera, to share that with whoever could see the commercial and encourage them to react by helping a child.”
Although Sader realized that all children around the world had the same basic needs, he was exposed to a level of poverty unlike anything he had seen in the U.S. “There was a shocking quality of poverty in these places. I saw communities where entire families lived in shacks made of tin and paper to keep the weather out,” he says. “I had never seen up close and personal poverty. Although I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I knew that my family came from poor mountain folk on my mother’s side, I don’t think my people were ever starving, malnourished or lived in places where it was dangerous to drink the water.”
He explains that his firsthand experiences in some of the most impoverished countries have been humbling and serve as a continuous reminder to help those who are less fortunate. So he has taken his own message to heart. Since 1992, Sader has sponsored two children through ChildFund – a girl from Brazil and a boy from Kenya. Both youth are approaching an age where they will complete ChildFund’s program, but Sader knows his support will have a long-lasting effect.
“I’ve met them both,” he says. “The young woman has special needs but is able to do things that make her feel included and worthwhile – when I hear from her (most letters come from her family), she is very happy. And Arnold started a business at a young age because he was able to buy rabbits using a monetary gift I sent him – so he tells me about his rabbits in his letters. I keep in touch with his father as well.”
Parents, especially mothers, play an important role in the communities Sader has visited. “ChildFund projects depend on the involvement of the local people,” he says. “I’ve seen them involve the whole community. It is amazing to see the mothers cook, clean, and make money at the markets and then volunteer to help their children have a better life.”
It’s this behind-the-scenes perspective that has motivated Sader to continue his role as ChildFund’s TV spokesperson. “I am continually impressed by this organization,” he says. “ChildFund is not run by some expert sitting back making all the decisions. It is a collaborative effort between the country, who knows what is best for their people and folks who want to help here at the home office.”
Home is Richmond, Va., to both ChildFund and Sader. And when he’s not dropping into headquarters to plan his next filming schedule, you can find him doing what he does best. “I’ve been acting since I was a child,” he says. “It wasn’t until much later I decided to make a career of it.”
Sader is well known in Richmond theater circles. Last year he played King Lear, a role that won him best actor from Richmond Critics’ Circle and also played the role of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His latest work was on the motion picture, Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg
“I will continue to do theater and movies as opportunities present themselves,” he says. “And I hope to continue to do commercials and represent ChildFund as well. My wife is an artist, my oldest daughter is married and my youngest is a junior at Virginia Tech – so life is good.”
I expected to hear nothing less from a man who uses his talents to change lives around the world.
Visit our website to sponsor a child.
By Mauricio Bianco, ChildFund Brasil
Mauricio Bianco, marketing and fundraising manager for ChildFund Brasil, recently traveled to Ecuador. Today, he shares his impressions in the second of a two-part series. See part one.
After visiting with teenagers in ChildFund programs who produce a newspaper column and a radio show, we traveled to the community of Misquilli, an indigenous community of Quechua origin. We visited an Early Child Development (ECD) center built and maintained by ChildFund Ecuador with child sponsorship resources and government funding. The center serves children under 5.
Many activities strengthen the emotional bond between children and caregivers, and many mothers in the ECD program receive guidance on the importance of breastfeeding. That advice is delivered by “madres-guias” (mother-guides) who visit mothers in the community weekly to discuss health, hygiene and nutrition of young children.
Toward the end of the day we traveled to the province of Cotopaxi, bookended at one side by a snowy hill and the other, a volcano.
We went straight to the community of Patutan, which lies about 10 km (6 miles) from the highway leading to Quito. We talked with leaders of six local associations that have partnered with ChildFund since 1995, supporting the work of ChildFund Ecuador, the national government and local social organizations.
Some communities from the federation are “graduating,” meaning that they will no longer rely on funding from ChildFund Ecuador.
These communities now have numerous entrepreneurs who started businesses selling flowers, tomatoes, chickens and pigs. The federation of community groups has a credit union that was formed in 2000 with US$120 and now handles more than US$600,000 in loans to local producers (with interest of 18 percent per year). Carnations and roses are exported to the United States, Europe, Russia and parts of Latin America.
More than 400 families are involved in the flower industry. The Patutan community leaders eloquently discussed sustainability, transparency, income generation, empowerment, water sanitation, family farming, marketing and foreign trade. It was amazing and gave me a sense that things really can be fixed!
All of the community leaders, including women, seem fully aware of their rights in society and are increasingly improving their communities through sustainable growth. Next year, ChildFund Ecuador will end the subsidy for more than 25,000 people in these communities after providing a great deal of training in education, health and community participation.
Guest post by Robert Patrovic
As ChildFund recognizes #GivingTuesday today, we are sharing the inspiring story of a father watching his daughter work hard – to give. Through ChildFund, Kara sponsors Mijael, a 6-year-old boy from Bolivia, and this year she raised funds to visit him.
My wife, Mary, and I have always tried to teach our children the value of their place in the world. We instilled in them a need to make the world a better place. Although we believe we’ve provided a comfortable home and life, we have always been sure not to focus on the attainment of personal possessions. There are almost no video games in our house (except for educational ones), no smartphones when they were kids, and we’ve always stressed reading, playing outside and giving.
Each of our three children, Jess, 23; Bobby, 20; and Kara, 15, is different, but they share that same value system. They have always volunteered for many causes both in and out of school. We have encouraged them to seek their dreams and have always taught them that hard work gets results. When they have truly wanted something, we have shown them paths to get it – always involving work on their part.
Kara, in particular, has always been one of the most giving people we know, even as a younger child. When, at 9 years old, she came to us with the idea of sponsoring a child, we were very encouraging (how could a parent not be?!). I helped her do the research on which organization operated the most efficiently, as she is conscientious about things like that. We decided on ChildFund. We helped supplement her monthly sponsorship payment and she did her best to keep in touch with Mijael over the years. At the time, he was 6 months old; Mijael is now 6 years old.
When she came up with the idea to actually visit Mijael, we saw this as an excellent learning opportunity and told her we would accompany her if she raised the money to go. This was in late January, a time where her schoolwork was especially heating up. Kara is a dedicated student and athlete. She played high school soccer and track and field and played for a club soccer team, as well – quite the demanding schedule.
Once Kara realized what it would take to put this trip together, she decided she wanted to invest more time, ultimately leaving the club soccer team. She used the extra time to really begin planning her big trip to Bolivia. She first placed a letter in our church’s bulletin and got a good response, which encouraged her further. She sent more letters and emails, developed budgets, researched flights, hosted fundraisers and even got some media coverage. The trip began taking on a life of its own, and Kara was at the forefront. How proud we were!
As the project grew in scope with more and more fundraisers, increased amounts of time and planning were required. At this time, Kara was given a “gift” of sorts. While playing soccer, she took a serious fall. She suffered a pretty serious concussion and broke her wrist. Kara could not participate in her normal activities. She was discouraged, understandably so, but this gave her the gift of time to spend on fundraising and planning her trip. Kara was making a hug jug of lemonade out of a large batch of lemons – a gift from God. Talk about getting inspiration from your own child!
Ultimately, Kara was successful; so successful in fact that she raised about $850 more than she planned. With the extra money she was able to provide gifts for 55 additional children and donate to two health care fundraisers in Tarija [Mijael’s community]. Although, I only went to accompany Kara, my own life was changed dramatically as well.
Kara has been, is, and continues to be a God-given gift and inspiration in our lives. I was moved by the impact that Kara had. At one point, she was honored as a Chapaca (resident of Tarija), which is an incredible tribute. In addition, the Tarija people called her a role model for their children because of her motivation to give. Imagine that, a child who comes from a wealthy country like the U.S., who is accustomed to living comfortably, being honored as a role model for children that have very little.
Kara has decided to continue to raise funds for Mijael, ChildFund Bolivia, and the various communities of Tarija. We are so proud of and inspired by our daughter.
Learn more about Kara’s trip to Bolivia.
By Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
For the past few years, the ChildFund Alliance (a 12-member organization that includes ChildFund International) has been asking children to tell us what they would do if they were president or the leader of their country. As you can imagine, 11- to 12-year-olds have some definite ideas.
As U.S. voters go to the polls today to elect the next president of the United States, we wanted to share with you some very good ideas for changing the world offered up by children who have a lot of important things to say when asked.
If I Were President…
To help these children and others like them achieve their dreams, and maybe one day grow up to be president, consider sponsoring a child.