ChildFund International

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New Insights on the Critical Role of Early Childhood Development

by Mary Moran, ChildFund Senior Program Specialist, Early Childhood Development

Young girl countingEarlier this week, I was at World Bank headquarters for the launch of the new Lancet series on early childhood development as a global concern. These studies follow up on new evidence about the impact of early childhood development programs and the risks young children face in their development. They also highlight what things give children some form of protection even when they live in environments of extreme poverty, face high rates of malnutrition or lack stimulation.

Recent evidence demonstrates significant risk for young children’s development when

  • their mothers are depressed
  • they live in families where someone has HIV or they are infected themselves
  • they have had multiple bouts of malaria
  • they are exposed to violence of any type — within their families, in their communities, or their country is in conflict
  • they have inadequate developmental stimulation
  • their growth prenatally has not been adequate
  • they live in institutions.

However, children are protected when

  • they have good interaction with their caregivers (parents)
  • their mothers have more education
  • they are breastfed
  • their physical and social environments offer them good stimulation.

children making craftsChildFund’s Early Childhood Development programs address these risks and protective features through:

  • parenting education and support programs
  • caregiver-child interaction groups and home-based services targeted toward building strong relationships
  • integrated programs for young children living in HIV-affected environments
  • enhanced nutrition and health programs that promote breastfeeding while supporting good interaction and feeding relationships
  • play groups and preschools
  • successful community deinstitutionalization programs and supporting government-sponsored foster care and adoption systems
  • identification of children at developmental risk through screening with our innovative child development scale
  • malaria and HIV prevention
  • promoting family mental health
  • adult education
  • promoting girls education and reducing gender discrimination
  • aid to marginalized groups to be included in all programs and community life.

For additional reading, you’ll find the article series, on the website of the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development (ChildFund is an active member of this group).

A Visit with Iria

In a visit to a sponsored child’s home in Kenya, ChildFund President Anne Lynam Goddard learns from Iria’s family how they have benefited from their son’s enrollment in ChildFund’s sponsorship program. Iria attends school, sleeps under a donated mosquito net and has access to clean water.

What If You Couldn’t Feed Your Family?

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

My small backyard garden hasn’t had much attention lately. It’s been oppressively hot this summer in Richmond, and we’ve had little rain in the past month. Suffice to say that I gave in to the elements and got a bit slack about nurturing my plants.

Veggies from the gardenBut this morning, following a refreshing overnight rain, I ventured out to the weed patch — er, garden — and poked around. I was disappointed to find my largest, yet not-quite-ripe, cantaloupe pocked with two bird beak-sized holes and its stem knocked off. The crowder peas, which yielded one family-size mess about a month ago, have now dried on the vine. The arugula has bolted and bloomed — nothing tasty there. I did manage to rescue a green pepper and a dozen small figs.

I had already started my mental list for the grocery store when it hit me hard. The children and families that ChildFund is rushing aid to in the Horn of Africa don’t have that option — not even close. They would be thrilled to have a damaged melon, a crisp pepper and a handful of figs. But what would they eat tomorrow?

And what would I do if I was depending on my meager garden to carry my family through three more months until the next harvest in November? I’d certainly be pulling out my weeding hoe and my garden hose. But wait — what if I’d already sold my tools to raise cash for food, and what if my community well had long since gone dry?

What would I do then?

It’s a grim thought, one that those of us in developed nations tend to quickly brush aside. Even with the ongoing economic uncertainty, the vast majority of us have plenty to eat and drink.

This afternoon, as I drive to the grocery store, I’ll be thinking more about necessities than luxuries. I should be able to save enough to make a donation to ChildFund’s ChildAlert Emergency Fund. I know the East African children who are hungry and thirsty are counting on my support.

Please join me.

Winner of Facebook Promotion to Visit Uganda

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

The chance to travel across the world to meet a sponsored child doesn’t happen all that often for ChildFund supporters. Most faithfully write letters and exchange photos with children and their families for years, but few have the chance to meet face to face.

David Levis of Citrus Heights, Calif., now has that opportunity.

photo of David and Stacie Levis

David and Stacie Levis

David is the grand prize winner of the Experience of a Lifetime promotion, that ran on ChildFund’s Facebook site this summer. He and his wife, Stacie, sponsor 13 children in ChildFund programs. Five of the children live in Uganda, which is where David, a California school teacher, plans to travel.

“ChildFund has become part of our family, even to the extent that our three young children have become involved in writing letters and saving change to go toward buying cows for some of our families,” David says. “This has changed their perspectives on the world.”

David’s trip with ChildFund to Uganda will take place next April over spring break. And it’s an experience he looks forward to bringing home to his family and students. “Seeing the five children we sponsor in Uganda will help me better understand the complexities faced by their families,” he says. “I plan to share this firsthand information to help teach my students about the importance of global citizenship, and how they too can look for ways to help people around the world.”

Biking Across the U.S. for ChildFund

by Ginny Evans, Communications Intern

Casey Miller is about to embark on a journey that will take him by bicycle across the United States. Along the way he hopes to come to understand what unites the human experience and, at the same time, raise funds for ChildFund.

Casey Miller with his bicycle

Casey Miller begins his expedition Aug. 8.

He begins his journey Aug. 8 in Portland, Ore., and will end many weeks later in Boston.

Miller paused in his training to tell us more about his motivations, expectations and concerns about his upcoming journey.

Q: Have you been on a trip like this before?
I have never done anything like this before. In fact, bikes and camping have never been appealing to me at all. Having said that, I believe that the greatest amount of personal growth only happens when we are placed in uncomfortable situations. That, coupled with a deep desire to understand what unites the human experience inspired me to bicycle across our nation. Now that I have been training for a few weeks, something remarkable has happened: I actually love biking. Yes, I am sore and still uncomfortable. But something about going slow and being deliberate has already given me a great sense of connection unlike any other I’ve felt before. I can only imagine how I’ll feel in a few weeks!

Q: What drives you to do this?
I am driven to understand how we are the same. So much of our world focuses on how we are different. My project, Socrates Spoke, aims at understanding how we are fundamentally the same.

Q: What do you love about this personal challenge you’re taking on?
I love that I am scared to death. I also love that I will be depending on the kindness of others — really making a web of connections — in order to make it to the other side.

Q: What will be the toughest challenge for you?
I think I am frightened most by the long hours alone. I love people and love being around them. Being alone for long stretches of highway will be hard for me. That said, part of what I am trying to learn on this trip is the art of simply being. And I will have a lot of time to just “be” on this long voyage.

Q: Why did you choose to raise money for ChildFund?
There are two reasons. The first is that two of my friends work for ChildFund. Oscar Fleming works in the D.C. office and Nicole Duciaume works in the Panama office. Besides being my friends, Oscar and Nicole are deeply inspiring people to me and indeed have helped me understand that a large part of meaning in life comes through serving others.

The second reason focuses on the question that I will be asking across the United States, “How do you create meaning in your life?” This is a profound question, and indeed, perhaps one of the most fundamental of all of life’s questions. And while this inquiry may be at the root of understanding our human experience, I view the opportunity of being able to reflect on it as somewhat of a luxury. Only after certain basic needs have been met can humans contemplate existence. ChildFund enables deprived, excluded and vulnerable children — children otherwise condemned to a life of survival — to ask these questions by providing them with the tools and resources to become positive leaders in their communities. This is truly inspiring and I feel honored to be able to help support ChildFund’s mission.

A Close-up Look at the East Africa Drought

Based in Ethiopia, Isam Ghanim, ChildFund’s executive vice president for Global Programs, answers questions about the cause and impact of the drought in East Africa. Read the full interview with Isam on ChildFund’s website.

Photo of Isam Ghanim

Isam Ghanim, ChildFund's executive vice president for Global Programs

What has led to this food crisis?
It’s a situation that we refer to as a slow-onset emergency. This was caused by two consecutive rainy seasons failing, and the short rainy seasons in Kenya and Ethiopia also failed. This has led to an increase in food prices. There is also high inflation in all of these countries. And there is violence in Somalia. A significant number of Somalians have moved to established camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Families entered this crisis with depleted assets and very poor physical conditions. For almost two years now, they have been affected by food shortages. They are suffering from nutritional stress. There is only so long you can cope before you fall into acute malnutrition. The environmental conditions and the health conditions take their toll.

What is the current situation?
More than 11.5 million people are affected. In the areas where ChildFund works, we estimate 660,000 people are affected, with 7,000 children facing life-threatening conditions. This is a very serious situation. Stress indicators are reaching the levels that you see in the middle of a famine. Without immediate intervention, children will die.

What impacts of the drought are we seeing?
Children and their parents are malnourished and at increased risk of disease due to poor hygiene because of the shortage of water. They are suffering from physical and emotional stress. People are moving from their homes.

The most grievously affected are women and children. They have less capability to move. For young children, there is a permanent impact on their health — stunting, wasting, mental development. If the mother is breastfeeding, she won’t have enough milk. When parents are under significant stress, the normal care and support for children will be minimized.

What is ChildFund doing to help?
ChildFund is addressing the immediate life-threatening conditions affecting children — providing food, water and basic health services, as well as supplemental feeding through early childhood care and development centers to ensure babies and young children will not fall into acute malnutrition.

In addition, ChildFund is working to help families stay in their own communities so that when the rains come in September they are there to plant crops and cultivate their farms. If they don’t plant, they will lose another harvest and experience another year without food.

There is also a need to address child protection issues. Parents are too weak to care for their children. They have no roof over their head. Providing support is critical so that families don’t deplete their resources as part of their coping mechanism.

Read the complete interview and learn more about ChildFund’s response in the Horn of Africa.

Five Finalists Compete for Chance to Visit Sponsored Child

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

It’s now up to you to decide who will travel off the beaten path to meet their sponsored child and tour a ChildFund program in Africa, Asia or the Americas.

Image of Facebook Experience of a LifetimeToday, phase two of ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime promotion gets under way on Facebook. Five finalists — randomly selected from the group of qualified entrants who collected at least 10 friend nominations during phase one — are vying for the chance to realize their dream of visiting their sponsored child.

The finalist who receives the most votes by July 31, 2011, 11:59 p.m., ET, will be named the winner, pending a final background check per ChildFund’s child-protection policy.

You may vote one time per day by visiting our Facebook app.

But, first, take a moment to read their wonderful stories (appearing in alphabetical order).

Photo of Janet BrownJanet Brown, Monrovia, Md.
Sponsored child: Jose, Mexico
Jose has been my sponsored child for many years, and as he’s grown, has become more and more like a second son to me — and I have become his “Madrina” (Spanish for godmother).

Jose tells me everything going on in his life including “little things” you would share with your mom or a beloved aunt, including when he didn’t get such a good grade in school!

I’m so proud of Jose and I also have deep respect for his mother who, in spite of so many obstacles, has done a fine job raising such a wonderful young man who dreams of working with computers some day.

I have been fighting ovarian cancer for over four years and Jose has been so concerned for me, expresses so much love. I want to go down to Mexico to hug him, to tell him personally how so very proud I am of him. And I know he would want to do the same for his Madrina.

Photo of Matt FoleyMatt Foley, Merrimac, Mass.
Sponsored child: Adalberto, Mexico
Over the past year, my son Connor and I have supported a 13-year-old Mexican child named Adalberto through ChildFund. Connor, also 13, and I occasionally exchange letters and photos with Adalberto.

It has been a great learning experience for both of us. Connor would like to meet Adalberto; therefore, I want to win this promotion so Connor and I can meet Adalberto and his family.

Seeing underprivileged youth thrive is so rewarding! I see this firsthand, both as a ChildFund sponsor and foster parent. Please vote for Connor and me!

Photo of Cheryl Honey and grandson ChaseCheryl Honey, Branson West, Mo.
Sponsored child: Lam, Vietnam
When my grandson, Chase, was 6, I explained to him that children in some parts of the world didn’t have all of their needs fulfilled. We went online and Chase picked out a little boy that we could sponsor through ChildFund. He chose Lam from Vietnam because Lam was cute and looked sad.

Chase and Lam are both the only child in their families and decided to call each other “brother.” Lam sends us pictures he draws (He is an exceptional artist!) and his parents write to us often telling us how Lam yearns to meet his “brother” and that if Chase could come visit he would take him horseback riding.

Chase and I write and send pictures to Lam and his family often and feel like they are family we have never gotten to meet. It is amazing how we have grown to love a family through letters. We aren’t a wealthy family and truly felt the chance of meeting Lam and his family was nothing more than a dream. Now, it seems, there is a possibility that our dream can become a reality, but only with your vote. Thank you, Cheryl.

P.S. I want to see how Lam lives, play with him and have fun, and tell each other about our lives. I want to be able to come home and tell people here about Lam so they will also sponsor a child. Please help us. Thanks, Chase.

photo of David LevisDavid Levis, Citrus Heights, Calif.
Sponsored children: Shafik, Sarah, Dixon, Margaret, Robinah, Uganda
Before I begin, I believe that all of the finalists are deserving of this opportunity. Allow me to tell you about myself and also what I plan to do if chosen. I am a father and a teacher; I have been married for 13 years. I have three wonderful children, seven, four and two. I teach at a low-income school in Sacramento, Calif. We have been with ChildFund for about 12 years and sponsor 13 children.

Our love for ChildFund began with a young boy in Guatemala named Deny, after seeing a commercial about ChildFund. Then we began looking into sponsoring other children by browsing ChildFund’s website. What we found was child after child in terrible need of OUR help. Our ChildFund family grew from one to two, then five, then nine, then thirteen. We only wish we could support more.

ChildFund has become part of our family, even to the extent that our children have become involved in writing letters and saving change to go toward buying cows for some of our families. This has changed their perspectives on the world.

As a teacher, my hope is to do the same with my students. Seeing the five children we sponsor in Uganda would help me better understand the complexities faced by their families. I would use this firsthand information to help teach my students about the importance of global citizenship, and how they too can look for ways to help people around the world. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!

photo of Clarissa MaxwellClarissa Maxwell, Alexandria, Va.
Sponsored child: Alpha, Republic of Guinea
Everyone dreams of winning. Who doesn’t want to? For me, this promotion is about more than just winning, it is about seeing my sponsored child in person in the Republic of Guinea — shaking hands with him, giving him a hug and seeing him smile from ear to ear, handing him some gifts that are coming all the way from the USA.

I look forward to reading books, singing songs, sharing conversation and laughter. I can see him as being very shy, yet deep inside, he is eager and happy. I want to see him change even in a very small way. I want to meet his family and learn their culture and see how they live, to better understand them.

I also have a personal charity project that aims to better the lives of the children in a small island in the Philippines by distributing slippers, educational and personal items.

Being underprivileged is no joke at all. I experienced it myself; that is why I understand their needs. Inspired by the different books I’ve read, I have the desire to share what I have with children in need. I believe that winning is happiness. This is an experience of a lifetime.

Visit ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime page on Facebook to cast your vote.

A Brighter Future for Kenya’s Young Women

In Kenya, ChildFund is helping change the lives of young girls through two unique schools. One “books” girls for an education instead of early marriage. Another features solar-powered lighting so courses can be held in the evenings after the days chores are done.

A Backyard Garden Changed Our Lives

Guest post by Berhane, an Ethiopian mother

photo of family in garden

Berhane, 28, sits in her family's vegetable patch with her five children (left to right) Frehiot, 9; Yohannes, 5; Ermias, 10 months; Tarik, 13; and Matadel, 7. They live near Semen Shewa, Ethiopia.

Before ChildFund gave us training about the importance and the necessity of backyard gardening, I didn’t know how to do or understand the benefit.

Today my family and I are not only enjoying our garden but we are even making a profit from the product we raise.

Photo of Tarik

Tarik

There is a big demand for the vegetables. The prices increased. Therefore, we all make sure the garden is kept well and taken care to give the products.

We are eating different vegetables according to the seasons and our diet has improved. The income from these products supports us to buy school materials for the children.

All photos by Jake Lyell Photography.

photo of mother and child

Berhane and 10-month-old Ermias

Photo of Matadel

Matadel

Commemorating the International Day of the African Child

Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, Africa Regional Communications Manager

The Day of the African Child, marked each year on June 16, stems from the brutality and cruelty inflicted on children in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 during apartheid.

Thousands of black schoolchildren went to the street to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down, and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than 100 were killed and more than 1,000 injured.

Group photo of Ethiopian childrenEach year, schoolchildren across Africa honor the memory of those killed and the courage of all who marched. This year, children in ChildFund’s Ethiopian programs share a song and their artwork to commemorate the day.

Song for the Day of the African Child

by Meseret, 13, and Jerusalem, 12

Listen now, listen now
We children we know
We deserve the love of mothers and fathers
We need to be free of child abusers
We know, we know
Child abuse is not right
We have education right
Listen, listen
Parents and communities
We children have rights
We are tomorrow’s doctors and leaders
Listen, listen
Be gender sensitive
Abandon rape
Beating and insult is not good for us
Advise us and guide and grow us
To help us be good citizens

Art by Yabsra and Kuribachew

Yabsra's drawingYabsra, 14, Grade 8
On my art, I have tried to show a child who has opportunity to go to school and another street child who is crying there. At the same time, I tried to show the student who went to school greeted the [street child] and another child, being carried by his mom, waved his hand to this boy. There is also a teacher who is calling the street boy to join the school. The message I want to pass on is that everybody, regardless of age, should give love and respect to children and take care of them. I have tried to teach the community to support orphaned and street children as they are their own.

Kuribachew's drawingKuribachew, 12, Grade 6
I have tried to express my feeling on my art. We need to take care of orphan children. I tried to show how children receive educational materials and uniforms for their school needs. This is to teach the community to continue their support.

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