by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
We awakened to a lovely, tropical day here in Kampala, Uganda, after arriving late last night following 30-plus hours of traveling.
David Levis, the Experience of a Lifetime winner, started out in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, and I began the journey from Richmond, Va. We met for the first time in Amsterdam, but after months of emailing and chatting by phone, it was like connecting with an old friend. David marveled at seeing three sunrises and two sunsets in a 31-hour period. I marveled that I was still awake!
We wanted to share with you what’s on tap for our week in Uganda. Today, we’ll be visiting the ChildFund Uganda office and meeting with National Director Simba Machingaidze and Sponsorship and Communications Manager Josephine Bazira-Muhereza. They’ll be briefing us on ChildFund’s work and the projects we’ll be visiting this week. We’re looking forward to having Josephine travel with us this week.
Tuesday, we’ll set out on a four-hour drive to Lango, Tela and Lira, essentially heading north. We’ll stop to visit two of David’s sponsored children, Robinah and Sarah. It’s going to be so amazing to see the children’s reactions when they get to meet David.
After overnighting in Lira, we’ll travel to Akani on Wednesday to visit Margaret and tour her community. We’re also hoping for a quick visit to Amunda, where David’s sister-in-law’s family sponsor a child, Brenda. We’ll end the day in Busia.
Wednesday morning, our first stop is the Buyengo Primary School. David’s middle school class in Sacramento has been corresponding with the seventh graders at Buyengo. Then, it’s on to Jinga for visit with 9-year-old Dixon. We’re so looking forward to seeing Dixon, who’s been ill recently, so we want to check on him.
We’ll arrive back in Kampala Thursday night and catch a bit of rest that evening. On our final day, Friday, we’ll travel outside the city a short distance to meet Shafik, age 6, and his family.
It’s going to be a whirlwind week. We’re psyched and we’ll keep you posted as we go along. Thanks for following the Experience of a Lifetime!
by Christine Ennulat, ChildFund International
Liberia’s 13 years of civil war ended in 2003. Nine years later the effects of war linger. In post-conflict societies, children are the ones who suffer the most as their parents struggle to rebuild shattered homes and livelihoods. Often, children come to be viewed as burdens, or even commodities. They became at risk for exploitative child labor, domestic violence and other abuses.
Healing has been slow. Liberia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy of 2008 includes a statement that speaks volumes: “A whole generation of Liberians has spent more time at war than in the classroom.”
Some years after ChildFund began work in Liberia in 2003, staff began to realize that, despite the ongoing rebuilding of Liberia’s decimated education system, young children ages 5 to 8 were not enrolling at the rate they should, and those who did were not staying in school.
In May 2010, ChildFund began a program called Participatory Research and Learning (PARLER) to identify the obstacles to school attendance in 25 communities and try to remove them. The program is funded by the Union de Banques Suisses.
The centerpiece of PARLER is training older teens to facilitate participatory exercises (e.g., fun, animated games) with 5- to 8-year-olds to learn what keeps them from school. The exercises help children identify problems in their communities, prioritize them, analyze solutions and plan for the future.
Martin Hayes, ChildFund’s child protection specialist who helped launch the program, says, “In the long run, this helps build skills and leadership of the youth.” And it inspires older children to look out for the younger ones.
What kept the younger children from school, the youth learned, included bullying and harsh corporal punishment in the classroom. Girls faced the additional obstacle of parents keeping them home to do housework or prioritizing their brothers’ educations over theirs. Some of the children also would go to the nearby Nigerian peacekeepers’ base to beg instead of going to school.
Acting as advocates for the younger children, the youth brought these concerns to special committees focused on children’s needs. ChildFund has trained adult members of the committees to respond as appropriate, whether counseling parents or calling in authorities.
By July 2011, according to an external evaluation commissioned by the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, 1,234 5- to 8-year-olds had been involved in PARLER sessions.
School enrolment in PARLER communities is moderately higher than in communities without the program, and retention also is higher. Children from PARLER communities also miss fewer school days and spend less time on household chores or jobs outside the house and more time on homework. In schools connected with the PARLER program, children suffer less corporal punishment; their parents are more likely to discipline their children verbally than physically. Children involved with PARLER even get sick less often.
The gains are modest, but they are consistent across many types of child-protection risks. Again, healing is slow. But this work is moving it forward.
These improvements flow from giving children and youth tools to improve their own lives. “We’re providing them with skills to protect themselves,” says Hayes, “but also life skills for when they get older.”
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Uganda is once again in the news, and the focus is on children. Overall, that’s a good thing. There can never be enough attention heaped on this nation’s children, who endured 20 years of civil war from the 1980s to the mid-2000s. Yet, it’s important to distinguish between the Uganda of the early years of this century and the Uganda of today.
It is estimated that as many as 26,000 children in northern and eastern Uganda were abducted, raped and forced into servitude and military combat during the war. During the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) crisis, ChildFund responded with programs in some of the worst affected districts of Pader, Gulu, Lira and Soroti in Northern Uganda. We provided child protection and psychosocial support to thousands of children in the large camps of internally displaced people (IDPs).
Joseph Kony, who led the LRA, fled the country. Widely believed to now be in hiding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kony remains a wanted man for the terrible atrocities committed on Uganda’s people and its children. And he continues to exploit children who come into his reach in central Africa.
“In the early years following the crisis, ChildFund Uganda focused on reintegrating formerly abducted children with their families and communities, as well as promoting the protection and psychosocial well-being of many other children who were not abducted but still were affected by the crisis,” says Martin Hayes, child protection specialist. “By 2006, the northern Ugandan city of Gulu no longer had ‘night commuters’— children on the run from the LRA abductors and who were afraid to sleep in their own rural homes,” Hayes notes. “Today, Gulu is a bustling town.”
The last 10 years have also seen the return of tens of thousands of the IDPs from camps back to their homes and a gradual return to normalcy. “ChildFund’s work has shifted to helping the Ugandan people get on with their lives,” Hayes says. ‘We’re working with our community partners to promote children and youth’s protection and healthy development – tangible support that is making their lives better.”
Since 1980, ChildFund has worked with community-based partners across Uganda to support the needs of children. ChildFund’s programs currently benefit approximately 784,000 children and family members through establishment of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers and parental outreach programs, school construction and teacher training, youth leadership and job training. “We also have been working with communities and families to support the needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS, which is a tremendous problem in Uganda,” Hayes notes.
“Child protection is at the forefront of all of our programs,” says Hayes. “ChildFund is working closely in partnership with the Ugandan government, the national university, international and national organizations and community residents to collectively improve the protective environments for children. Together, our goal is to strengthen Uganda’s national child protection system.”
by Tasha Chambers, Communications Associate
Under the direction of Rory Anderson, ChildFund’s external relations director, three ChildFund staff members met with the legislative aides representing the senators who will vote on the budget. Our mission was to encourage support of FY2013 International Affairs Budget and to oppose further cuts to development and diplomacy programs.
It was a great opportunity for ChildFund to explain its programs and how they make a measurable difference in the lives of children around the world. We also discussed how U.S. development and humanitarian programs, leveraged with private donors’ financial contributions, help provide lifesaving treatments for disease. All of these outreach efforts reinforce the compassion of the United States.
The good thing is that many senators get the importance of this budget. The not-so-good thing is that senators are struggling to decide exactly where to make cuts to preserve America’s legacy as a leading global power, despite the current financial climate.
While making cuts is a necessary action, the reality is that only 1 percent of government funding goes to humanitarian efforts; even though many Americans believe the percentage is much higher (most guess 25 percent). Ironically, surveys show that Americans believe our foreign assistance should be around 10 percent.
The International Affairs Budget has already been disproportionately cut by 15 percent in the past two years. We cannot let the small percentage that remains get any smaller.
If you agree, then please contact your member of Congress and voice your support for the preservation of U.S. humanitarian aid.
by Virginia Sowers, Community Manager
ChildFund’s Live! concert series picks up in March with Thompson Square, the husband-and-wife duo of Shawna and Keifer Thompson.
Working with various performing artists, our LIVE! concert series seeks to introduce new audiences to ChildFund’s work in 31 countries and the life-changing impact of child sponsorship.
Soon after their 2010 signing with Stoney Creek Records, Thompson Square, also known as T2, released their self-titled debut album, which included the platinum-selling, Billboard number 1 country single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” a triple winner at the 2011 American Country Awards.
With two GRAMMY nominations and a growing fan base, Thompson Square is fast on the rise. Throughout the coming months, Thompson Square will perform nationwide, including many appearances with Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker on Lady A’s “Own the Night” tour.
With their wide appeal, T2 is sure to reach diverse audiences, presenting a great opportunity to share the message and experience of sponsoring a child.
At each concert, Thompson Square will be telling fans about ChildFund’s mission. ChildFund is also seeking current ChildFund sponsors to volunteer at the concert venues. See the tour schedule for a concert near you. Volunteers will be asked to share their own experiences of sponsoring a child and assist with signing up new sponsors at the events.
Volunteers are needed over the next several months. Learn more by downloading the LIVE! Volunteer FAQs. To volunteer, call 800-458-0555 or send email to Questions@ChildFund.org.
by LaTasha Chambers, Communications Associate
2012 is a Leap Year. That means today, Feb. 29, is a bonus. For many of us, the extra 24 hours will go unnoticed, but for children across the globe this means another day of hunger, exploitation or even death from a preventable disease.
Your involvement can help change that.
A hop is a one-time donation to our Children’s Greatest Needs fund, which delivers programs to help children with everyday and emergency situations. Whatever dollar amount you give is combined with other donors’ gifts to provide essential services that children lack.
Perhaps you have a special interest in nutrition, water or health care projects? If so, then jump into monthly giving, with options for directing your gift amount and its end result.
Or, you can take the leap and sponsor a child into young adulthood.
A sponsorship of $28 each month ($35 for a child in our U.S. programs) changes children’s lives by giving them an opportunity to thrive and break the cycle of poverty. Sponsors have the unique opportunity to connect with a child through letters and photos.
Let’s not wait another four years to make even the smallest step toward ending child poverty. Take a leap toward positive change today!
by LaTasha Chambers, Communications Associate
Respect for different cultures is so important, and it’s a value I constantly teach to my son. Working in a diverse environment is important to me because it’s challenging to “fit in” to a one-size-fits-all organization — our hair textures are different, our religious faiths may require us to wear a bindi or head covering or our attire may be an ethnic print. The bottom line is that although professionalism should be exhibited in all we do here at ChildFund, our unique identities encourage dialogue, show pride in who we are as individuals and represent the diverse global community we serve.
Recently, Mamadou Diagne and Emile Namsemon N’Koa from ChildFund Senegal visited our headquarters to share the wonderful community health work we are doing there. An African-American woman who happened to be visiting our office that day asked, “How does ChildFund go into these countries and expect change without disrespecting the culture?” That was a million-dollar question I had also planned to ask sooner than later, now that I’m a member of the ChildFund staff.
Diagne shared, in his native French, that ChildFund does not go into a community and force what it believes on a group of people who have long-held traditions, some of which are unhealthy like female genital cutting. He explained that you don’t break traditions with a hammer; you simply show community leaders ways that will improve the overall health of an entire community.
His hammer analogy was so moving to me. I couldn’t agree more. Relationships are not built by beating people down. Yes, many of us are passionate and unyielding in our efforts to eradicate poverty and give children a fighting chance in this world. But the fact that ChildFund engages in dialogue at a grassroots level that fosters new, healthier practices and traditions is the best way to create long-term change.
And that’s exactly what we want.
by Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Children in ChildFund Philippines’ programs and a few of their school peers received a special treat last Sunday when David Archuleta made a surprise appearance at a ChildFund gathering held at a local school.
Children from the Teatro Bu-bot [arm-in-arm] Children’s Advocacy Theater had prepared all week to mount their much-touted “Many Faces of Poverty” performance for ChildFund Philippines National Director Katherine Manik, and her unspecified guest.
Little did they know that the special guest would turn out to be none other than recording artist David Archuleta, who is in the Philippines filming a television miniseries.
Archuleta, now 21, who finished runner up in the seventh season of American Idol in 2008, teamed with ChildFund for his 2011 My Kind of Christmas tour. He is also sponsoring a child from Honduras, his mother’s native country.
Archuleta has developed a large fan base in the Philippines since his American Idol debut and through his three previous visits to Manila. Filipinos are highly anticipating the upcoming miniseries Nandito Ako, starring Archuleta and local talents.
His unannounced appearance on Sunday caught the children by surprise. Thrilled and starstruck, the children quickly recovered to deliver the program they’d prepared.
Archuleta fell silent during the troupe’s simple performance, which the children themselves conceptualized, articulating the different faces that poverty and disadvantage assumes in their community. The 10-minute skit is wordless, preferring to describe exploitation, vice and neglect through music, movement and expressive dance.
Masks partially obscure each of their faces as they depict society’s fevers, which are shed finally through the expression of children’s growing cognizance and assertion of their rights and responsibilities. The skit illustrates how children, their community and ChildFund help foster an environment conducive to the totality of each child’s life and identity.
Moved by the performance that he described as “amazing” and “powerful,” Archuleta took the floor in turn, regaling the children with an a capella rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water,” followed by an encore of Robbie Williams’ “Angels.”
Archuleta then spent time meeting the children in small groups. Though he currently sponsors a child in Honduras, Sunday’s gathering was the first time Archuleta had the opportunity to interact with children in ChildFund’s programs.
The theater troupe, sponsored children and even the school’s marching band had time to ask Archuleta questions and share stories of what sponsorship means to them.
With translation assistance by ChildFund Philippines Program Director Mark Dasco, sponsored children told Archuleta: “Please help us share the privilege of sponsorship with others, by inviting more people to sponsor [children].”
As the event came to an end, many children said they would long remember this exciting day. As he departed, Archuleta expressed his happiness at meeting the children: “Gosh, I feel so good today! Thank you so much for this experience!”
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
With the conclusion of our Around the Globe with ChildFund blog tour in January, we’re sure you now know (if you didn’t already) that ChildFund works in 31 countries helping children and their communities.
But can you identify those countries in photos? Today we’re launching a fun promotion on Facebook to put your knowledge of ChildFund program countries to the test.
Visit ChildFund’s Facebook page, view the photo album and test your geographic knowledge. We’ll send school uniforms or school supplies in honor of seven fans who enter the promotion by Feb. 29 and get the most answers right.
Thanks for your time to enter and also to share this promotion across Facebook so that more people become aware of the plight of children who lack educational opportunities.
Remember: Enter by Feb. 29 and have fun traveling around the world with ChildFund.
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.