By Danielle Roth, ChildFund Program Officer-Youth Programs
There is one issue on the minds of many Americans these days (myself included). In one word, it’s the economy. Many of us are trying to make it work in this difficult financial climate. Some of us are looking for jobs, others are working two and everyone is hoping for some forthcoming solutions to our financial woes.
During my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I learned that those same worries are weighing on youth in the beautiful island nation. Youth account for approximately 26 percent of Sri Lanka’s populace, and those who are old enough, and out of school, are looking for work. The unemployment rate among youth in Sri Lanka is 17 percent. If you’re a woman there, that number goes up 11 points to 28 percent. Youth employment has become a focus area for the government of Sri Lanka, and ChildFund is providing support programs in this area.
There is significant breadth and depth to ChildFund Sri Lanka’s work around youth employment. Career guidance centers are serving as focal points for youth to learn about job opportunities. We’re also facilitating visits to places of employment so that young men and women gain exposure to different work environments.
Vision camps are helping youth develop a plan for their future that integrates their work and personal preferences. Youth are also learning entrepreneurial skills, participating in job placement programs and gaining practical life skills training that will serve them well as productive members of the workforce. Youth clubs are providing young people with hands-on leadership skills as they develop and administer projects that benefit their communities.
ChildFund is working to educate and empower youth in Sri Lanka to make decisions that ultimately will improve their futures, enabling them to contribute positively and productively to their country.
As humans sharing the globe, we are all connected in some way. Sri Lankans and Americans are both experiencing feelings of frustration in the job market and tentative excitement about new opportunities. We’re all looking to make a difference for ourselves, our families and society.
Today, as people around the world celebrate the 2012 International Day of Peace, ChildFund Afghanistan’s national director, Palwasha Hassan, reflects on the importance of caring for children during wartime.
War turns everyone’s life upside down, but none more so than a child’s. At ChildFund International, we strive to create environments in Afghanistan where children can learn, play and grow. We want them to have a safe, stable, normal childhood and to grow up in communities where they can become leaders of positive, enduring change that will help bring peace and security to the country.
Children in Afghanistan currently face many issues that impact their future. The mortality rates of infants, children under 5 and mothers are among the world’s highest. Stunted growth due to malnutrition affects more than half of our children. Much of the country’s population lacks access to safe drinking water, which leads to diseases that threaten public health. Child marriage and child labor are particularly prevalent. The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 48 years, compared to 78 in the U.S. Only one in five girls aged 15-24 can read and write.
ChildFund International understands the plight of Afghan children. We are working in this country to help fight these problems so that children can have a brighter future. We’ve trained parents, community leaders and government staff to recognize child protection issues; we’ve supported community-based literacy classes for children and trained their teachers. We’ve provided children with recreational areas in which to play, and we’ve developed health services that include training health workers in how to diagnose and treat illnesses. We’ve helped returnee families rebuild their lives. All told, we have assisted more than half a million children and family members with the support they need to take greater control of their lives and their future.
While many news reports focus on war, we must not forget about the children there. It is time for them to get back on their feet and move in a positive direction. It is the children who will determine Afghanistan’s future.
By Dirce Sarmento
It was her first midwife training session in more than 10 years, but Maria de Fatima Moniz made it clear she was up for the challenge. She seized a valuable opportunity this past June and participated in a two-week midwife training facilitated by ChildFund Timor-Leste and Instituto Nacional de Saude (National Institute of Health) in the Covalima district.
During her first week, Maria, 38, learned the “55 Steps” — guidelines used by midwives to ensure the safe delivery of newborns and appropriate care for pregnant women. The second week of training, based in Dili’s National Hospital, gave the group of 17 midwives the opportunity to use their practical skills while under close supervision.
“During this training, I felt very fortunate to be able to learn new knowledge about the 55 steps and safe deliveries,” Maria says.
With more than 15 years of experience caring for mothers and newborns, Maria will use the information she learned to improve the delivery process she practices in her community. She is the only midwife for five sucos (villages) in Covalima — a community of approximately 7,500 people — and works at the Tilomar clinic. Tilomar has no running water, so she has to ask families to bring their own to use during and after delivery.
“The problem we have now in our community is that we don’t have any materials for delivery, like baby napkins, and no sterile delivery set,” Maria says. Despite these challenges, Maria has successfully delivered countless babies at the clinic. She hopes that conditions will improve.
As a mother of four children, Maria understands how important it is to support pregnant women at each stage of their delivery. “After this training, I hope what I learned will help local women have clean and safe deliveries and that [maternal and infant] mortality in Timor-Leste will be reduced.” Since she began working at the clinic in 2000, she says, eight women have been taken to Suai hospital for caesareans, and two babies have died.
In Maudemo suco, where Tilomar clinic is located, 48.7 percent of births from 2005 to 2010 were assisted by a skilled health provider. Comparing this to Timor-Leste’s countrywide average of 33.5 percent highlights how Maria’s hard work is making a real difference to women and children in her community.
With new skills and support through ChildFund Timor-Leste’s project, Improving Health Outcomes for Children in Covalima District, Maria can improve the level of care for pregnant women and newborns in Tilomar. “I am grateful for ChildFund helping us in Covalima. I hope we can improve the future of this cooperation, because we still confront problems implementing the safe delivery,” says Maria. “I hope next year ChildFund can support us to give us refresher training on safe motherhood and supervision.”
By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
In ChildFund Bolivia, sports are used as a tool to teach children discipline, boost their self-confidence and promote integration. These days, one game in particular seems to be on everyone’s mind — soccer.
When Davide Tibaldi, a well-known trainer at the Italian Juventus Soccer School, visited one of our local partner organizations in Oruro, Bolivia, he created quite the buzz. He shared his coaching experiences with local trainers and spent time teaching soccer techniques to children enrolled in the Niño Quirquincho Feliz Project.
“Bolivia is a country with great human value,” Tibaldi says. “Children are educated, respectful, and they want to learn. They show great enthusiasm towards sports, and that’s a strength we must work with.”
Tibaldi left Bolivia with a strong belief that children have enormous potential when given access to physical, team activities such as sports. He sees soccer as a huge motivator and promised to send study materials about the game to both children and their teachers. His contribution will mean so much to the students who participate in the program.
“I never thought this could happen to me,” says Alex, 17. “He is the coach that works with champions! It makes me feel important, respected and linked to my family. They all like soccer. We all play at home, even my mom!”
Tibaldi’s workshop taught Ruben, 13, new tactics to use in the neighborhood league he plays in after school. For Ruben, the league is a fun and positive way to spend his free time. “If you want to play soccer you must have a healthy body,” he says. “Soccer is healthy and fun and much better than hanging out with gangs or learning bad habits.”
By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer
In the 30 seconds it took him to watch the ChildFund commercial, Pete Olson, Formula car racer, knew he wanted to sponsor a child. The decision was quick, but he was no stranger to speed.
Fast forward more than a decade later and, today, Olson is supporting his third sponsored child and racing in the name of children in need. Behind the wheel, he is in control but admits that compassion is really what drives him.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience,” he says. “You can change a child’s life and give them opportunities that many of us take for granted.”
Opportunities like getting a quality education and receiving proper nutrition are among those Olson knew as a small child, adopted into a loving family. He credits his own success to his adopted parents’ support and saw sponsorship as a way to share his good fortune. He began sponsoring as a student at Boston University.
“I felt that many of us there were privileged and lucky to have the opportunities that we did,” he says. “It was a point in my life where I started to feel it was important to give something back for all that I have been so grateful to have in my life.”
Olson maintained child sponsorships while earning two degrees, a regional racing license and pursuing his passion for speed. He excelled from motorcycles to professional karting and eventually found himself racing in China – thousands of miles from U.S. tracks but only a few hundred from his sponsored child, Trang.
“She writes a lot about her schooling, which she really seems to enjoy,” he says. “That makes me very happy as I think education is something that we tend to take for granted back home. In many other countries, children don’t have the same opportunities for education.”
Trang, 11, lives in Vietnam. In some rural areas of the country, children are discouraged from attending school because their classrooms are too far away. Other areas of the region lack clean drinking water and have inadequate sanitation facilities. With Olson’s support, Trang is able to attend school regularly and benefits from the various ChildFund health and nutrition programs in her community.
With a desire to help more children like Trang, Olson now races in the Asia Formula Renault Series and does so for children in extreme poverty. The ChildFund logo that shines from the side of his red Formula car is an invitation to all of his fans – sponsor a child. And although he aspires to be the first American to win the series this year, he knows this is much bigger than winning.
“I’ve stopped keeping track of the wins,” he says. “No matter what’s going on in my own life, I know without a doubt that in another part of the world I am bringing joy and happiness to a child in need, enriching their life and providing them with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Olson plans to visit Trang soon to learn more about her family, community and where she goes to school. In the meantime, he continues his race for children.
Are you a racing fan? Catch Pete Olson September 15-16, October 20-21 and December 8-9. Check your local listings to find out how you can watch the races. Or stay updated on Facebook or www.peteolson.com. To learn more about sponsoring a child, speed over to the ChildFund website.
By Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
Esther Ndungu in our finance department and Eunice Kilundo in programs were good sports and agreed to share their stories.
How was it growing up using your left hand?
Esther: People used to imitate me; some would get very mad and say my parents failed to teach me how to use my right hand.
Eunice: Throughout my school life, including college, my classmates teased and made fun of me by imitating me as I wrote and as I played (throwing a ball with “the hand”). They found it funny as I tried to write while seated at a right-hand desk. I could even catch some of them staring as I ate! I guess they thought I would miss my mouth or something.
What have you heard about left-handedness?
Esther: Left-handed are bright people and they are lucky. They think with both sides of the brain…that they are very smart. They die early….
Eunice: I grew up feeling different, strange. My unsuccessful attempt to “change my hand” frustrated me. By and by, my perception changed. I now find it humorous when people get surprised that I am a leftie! I try teaching them the “art” of throwing a ball, eating without missing my mouth. It’s nice to tickle people once in a while by doing something so natural to me… being me.
Any thoughts you have about being left-handed?
Esther: We are unique people in our own way.
Eunice: They can do anything and everything. Just try and find us the left (not right) scissors, enough lecture room seats and allow us to be. To my fellow lefties: Guys, take it easy and go for anything including the presidency: George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama did!
Happy Left-Handers Day!
By Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
In the spirit of this year’s International Youth Day theme, Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth, ChildFund Kenya invited its team of interns to share their thoughts on working with ChildFund this summer. The Kenya office provided various hands-on learning opportunities to help prepare these young people for future employment. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences.
Magdalene works with the APHIA Plus Program (AIDS Population and Health Integrated Assistance Plus) and has gained a new sense of professional confidence. “I have enjoyed the opportunity. The team has much trust and confidence in me. My supervisor has guided me well, and I am able to take up new challenges. It makes me feel so proud to be associated with ChildFund.”
Sammy felt like a part of the ChildFund team from the very start. “The welcome was awesome! There’s awesome teamwork and the facilities are great. Being in ChildFund makes you grow in all aspects and my experience has been nothing but splendid.”
Elton enjoys the learning opportunities offered by colleagues in the SR department. “The first time I came here, there was a lot of work; being new at it, I wondered if I could perform. I was immediately trained, supported and encouraged. I enjoy the different lunch treats and our many health talks.”
Eric, from the IT department, sees beyond the technical side of his job and realizes the importance of philanthropic work. “ChildFund is an organization that touches lots of lives out there in a very positive way. I have always had a heart to help the needy in whatever way possible, even as a student. I think with the great support from local and international well-wishers, ChildFund can continue to greatly increase the realization of Kenya’s vision.”
Daphine was able to get a behind-the-scenes look while working in the finance department. “When we had a finance meeting, chaired by our finance director, it was so engaging and interactive. I had never attended such a meeting. It felt really good to be included, and I learned a lot regarding my job and building relationships with colleagues.”
When asked her thoughts on organizations partnering with young people, she said, “Youths should be given the opportunity in organizations that nurture their skills and talents. They should be involved in social activities that allow free interaction with their peers to help improve their self-esteem and desire to change their lives.”
And we agree.
As we get ready to celebrate International Youth Day, ChildFund Kenya will continue to motivate our young people in our office and in our programs to join conversations relevant to their daily lives, contribute to ideas that will solve global youth issues and celebrate the power of global collaboration.
by Mark Robinson, Communications Intern
I came to ChildFund unsure of what to expect from my first internship. We’ve all heard horror stories of interns who spent their summer filing papers and picking up packages. I didn’t want the best professional relationship I forged to be with the baristas at the nearest Starbucks. I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone. I wanted a chance to grow.
I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to come to work for 10 weeks as a respected member of the ChildFund communications team. Every project I’ve worked on has been purposeful. And aside from a now infamous assignment my mentor Cynthia Price gave me, I have been spared from doing too many “interny” tasks.
From day one, my mentors, Community Manager Virginia Sowers and Director of Communications Cynthia Price, took my goals into consideration and tailored my assignments to help me accomplish them. Because of their flexibility, I was able to focus on improving my multimedia skills. I researched podcasts and edited raw footage from Uganda into a video that was featured on ChildFund’s blog, Facebook and Twitter pages. My work has been showcased, not hidden away. But with all that said, I doubt when I look back at ChildFund that I’ll remember the work.
I’ll remember poking my head over ChildFund writer Christine Ennulat’s cubicle to chat about my most recent journalistic pursuits.
I’ll remember the shock I felt when I learned KISS front man Gene Simmons sponsors more than 140 children through ChildFund and the subsequent buzz around the communications pod after the episode of his reality show filmed in Zambia debuted.
I’ll remember the disbelief I felt when I found out my colleague and longtime ChildFund employee Alison Abbitt passed away following reconstructive knee surgery. We had spoken only days before.
While the extremes stand out, the small lessons I’ve learned here will not be forgotten and this, my first formal foray into the professional world, has prepared me in some ways for my next adventure: Botswana.
My next four and a half months will be spent studying journalism at the University of Botswana in Gaborone. It’ll be my first trip abroad, so my feelings about it fluctuate between giddy excitement and crippling nervousness on a day-to-day basis. I do now, however, have the comfort of knowing that a network of sympathetic world travelers is only an email away.
While I’m in Africa, I plan to freelance in pursuit of my career as a foreign correspondent. Who knows? Maybe one of my stories will find its way into ChildWorld.
By Christine Ennulat
The high school dropout is a familiar phenomenon. But an elementary school dropout? In developing countries, it’s a common problem.
“Your first-grade classroom may have 135 kids in it,” says Mary Moran, ChildFund senior specialist in Early Childhood Development. “Your second-grade classroom has 60, and by the time you get to fifth grade, you may be in a class of 10 or 12.”
ChildFund’s Stepping Stones program, in Zambia’s Mumbwa region since 2009, eases the transition between early childhood and primary school environments, helping more children stay in school.
For a child who is moving to primary school, whether from home or one of ChildFund’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers, the change is often a shock. A typical primary school is a teacher-centered, highly structured setting with little individual attention and few to no materials with which to work or play.
The primary school teacher usually has little training in child development or in education methods for young children. Parents may have had no school experience at all, which means no understanding of the school process or how to support their children in it.
Stepping Stones connects teachers, parents and children. Teachers from ECD classes and first-grade classes collaborate on a plan for understanding each other’s practices and expectations. Groups of children and teachers may visit classrooms, or parents may take their children individually. Teachers from both settings spend time in each other’s classrooms. They’re also trained in how to engage with parents and families.
Likewise, parents receive coaching on how to engage and interact with teachers, as well as to recognize when their children are under stress or having other difficulty. All adults work in concert on behalf of the children.
The Stepping Stones program supports children as they learn lifelong skills: resiliency, adaptation to change and how to recognize the differing expectations of people and environments. To help them, teachers are trained in social-emotional learning strategies, from understanding different learning styles to new ways to structure classrooms and schedules that help children prepare for change and provide them with a sense of control.
“We now know how to ask questions of children,” said one teacher who has participated in Stepping Stones. “I thought my role was to make sure the children know the information.” As they learned their new role as guides rather than givers of information, teachers also noted that children were more apt to both ask for help and share their enthusiasm for learning. The level of parents’ engagement was another pleasant surprise.
When the time came for a graduation ceremony to honor the transition, some of the preschool teachers literally handed the children over to the primary teachers as parents looked on. “In one case, a child told us that graduation was really important because he had his first taste of cake,” Moran laughs. “Another told us that what was so important to her was that her community gave them a book to write in, and it was the first time she had ever had a book.”
On the first day of primary school, only one of the 143 children cried. But both the teachers and the parent were prepared to support the child. It took only a handful of days for him to find his footing.
by Patricia Toquica, Regional Communications Manager, ChildFund Americas
As a member of the Global Movement for Children, ChildFund is actively participating this week in the Sub-Regional Meeting for Follow-up on the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children in the Caribbean, taking place in Kingston, Jamaica, May 14-15.
Marta Santos Pais, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on Violence against Children, and the Honorable Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture, are among the 150 delegates from CARICOM (Caribbean community) member-states, civil society groups and adolescents participating in the meeting.
The initial U.N. study— the most comprehensive global report on violence against children—was presented to the U.N. General Assembly in 2006. It includes several recommendations to protect children against all forms of violence. Sub-regional meetings are being held to monitor and assess progress.
Gelina Fontaine, ChildFund Caribbean program manager, presented on ChildFund’s life stages approach and programs to combat violence against children in Dominica and St. Vincent, as well as our active child advocacy work in the region.
Paul Bode, ChildFund’s regional director for the Americas, is moderating the discussion on information systems and research needed to support public policy strategies and plans to prevent violence against children.
For more than 10 years, ChildFund, as a member of the National Early Child Development Council and the Child Rights Committee, has been contributing to national policy discussion in the Caribbean. Our approach and experience in partnership with local public and private organizations has continuously influenced the National School Crisis Management Policy and the National Child Friendly Schools Approach in both Dominica and St. Vincent.
ChildFund Caribbean is also currently conducting a study on Family, Community and Gender-Based Violence in cooperation with the government of Dominica. We believe the results will contribute to improved public policy and prevention programs that address many forms and effects of violence against children.