ChildFund International

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A National Celebration of ChildFund Sponsors in Brazil

Reporting by ChildFund Brazil and Monica Planas, ChildFund Americas Regional Communications Manager

Today marks ChildFund Brazil’s nationwide celebration of Sponsor’s Day — a day filled with special meaning for the many sponsors and currently or formerly sponsored children who have been touched by ChildFund’s programs in Brazil. Thanks to the expansion of ChildFund’s presence around the country, thousands of children now have the opportunity to improve their lives.

photo of sponsorship poster

Child Sponsorship Day in Brazil

That expansion is partly because people from all walks of life are celebrating the day by spreading the word that sponsoring a child is one of the best investments anyone can make.

Well-known blogger Cris Guerra is one of them. She has been sponsoring a child through ChildFund for nine years. “It’s awesome and very easy to be a sponsor for a child,” Guerra says. “I had the opportunity to travel to the town of the child I sponsor and to meet him face-to-face. His mother came toward me crying, thankful that I’d been the sponsor of her son. The hug of that child, and also learning a little more of his life history, provoked an emotion that I can’t describe. At the moment that I met them personally, I had an idea of the help that I am bringing to that family. Being a sponsor makes a difference.”

That’s true for 11-year-old sponsored child Robert, who lives near Belo Horizonte. “I take part in computer, sport, [drawing] and dance classes,” he says. “It’s very rewarding because it keeps me busy and off the streets.”

Robert’s mother, Vicentina, is sure that without ChildFund’s support his life would be tougher. “I do hemodialysis three times a week,” she says, “and on those days I know I can go to the treatment lighthearted, because my son is benefiting from ChildFund’s program activities.”

Zé Teixeira, a 46-year-old father of two, is proud of having been a sponsored child in the past. He was one of eight brothers. “Things could have been much worse for us,” he says, “but some of my brothers and I had the privilege of taking part in ChildFund’s programs, which improved our living conditions.”

Nowadays, Teixeira is a musician, a music producer and civil servant. Last month his own mother had the joy of being in a position to support a child enrolled in the ChildFund project. “ChildFund’s work is essential because it fills the gap of socio-economic discrepancy, rescuing marginalized families,” she says.

ChildFund’s national director for Brazil, Gerson Pacheco, speaks to the benefits of the sponsorship relationship itself. “Many stories and different lifestyles are shared, and experiences, advice and encouragement are exchanged,” he says. “The sponsor has the opportunity of both contributing to and following his sponsored child’s development. When donating a small amount, a citizen supports social projects that benefit children, families and communities. And the effect is reciprocal.”

To Ana Maria Carvalho, having the opportunity to help a child is wonderful. “It has been about one year that I have sponsored a 6-year-old child,” she says. “I’d been influenced by my daughter to sponsor this child, and today I see how important my contribution is. I encourage all Brazilians who have means to help to take part in helping, and contact ChildFund and sign up.”

But I Did Not Give Up My Hopes

Guest post by Fulla, age 19 of India

Photo of Fulla

Fulla

Fulla was enrolled in ChildFund programs in the mid-1990s, becoming a member of one of ChildFund India’s children’s clubs when she was 7, and later a youth club member. She united with other girls in the village and participated in social and cultural activities to spread awareness about hygienic practices, personal finance, environmental protection and adolescent health and behaviors.

Photo of Fulla in NCC uniform

She later completed her schooling and enrolled in a bachelor’s of arts program for three years. She also joined National Cadet Corps (NCC) and attained A & B certificates, which are preparation for entering national service.

I live with my parents, along with one sister and one brother. My father is a fisherman and has no land. We have a small house made of mud and wattle. My father manages our family by fishing in nearby river Daya. He sometimes goes to the lake Chilika, which is 30 kms (about 19 miles) distant from our village.

With this meager income it is difficult for my father to maintain our family. He has taken all the initiatives to provide us education. Although my father wanted to bring up my brother highly, the poor economic conditions of our family compelled my brother to give up his studies. He dropped his education after 10th grade and helped father in fishing.

But I did not give up my hopes and continued my studies. I was able to complete my secondary education. I have also passed the NCC A & B certifications, which will help me a lot to find a job in the defense area.

During the devastating flood in 1999, we lost our new boat, which we had obtained through a bank loan and borrowing from local moneylenders. My father was depressed and panicked as to how he could clear up all the debts. My grandma died of grief. We got really harassed then. My brother and father set up their minds to go to a distant place for wages. I assured my father to keep patience and not to worry about our family.

I opened a tutoring centre at village community hall and earned a little, but it was insufficient to manage. One of my friends suggested I join in a prawn-processing plant. I had to work in a place far from my village to earn Rs. 3000 (US$66) per month that my father reluctantly allowed. The job compelled me to discontinue my studies. Moreover I sent Rs.2000 (US$45) per month to my family. I stayed there for one year. We were relieved when all our debts cleared.

Photo of Fulla at school

Fulla's return to school.

One day my father urged me to return back and resume my studies. I got embarrassed, because I thought that it is not the suitable time to study. However I returned home and got readmitted in classes and successfully passed the +3 examination [secondary school graduation]. Thereafter I joined in a computer course to get my post-graduate diploma in computer applications.

Photo of Fulla with her family

Fulla with her family.

In the meantime some of my relatives planned for my marriage, as I am the eldest daughter of my family. But I decided not to marry till my employment is finalized. I will have the burden to run our big family. I have experienced how the moneylenders exploit the poor and downtrodden. I am committed to struggle against unemployment and poverty.

I remain an optimist that I will get a good result worthy of my efforts and be able to be successful in my life.

ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime

If you are writing or blogging about ChildFund’s  Facebook promotion, the Experience of a Lifetime, thanks for your assistance in helping spread the word about this amazing trip opportunity.

One lucky winner will get to visit his or her sponsored child. Or, if the winner is not a child sponsor, he or she will take a four-day escorted tour of a ChildFund project in Asia, Africa or the Americas. You’ll find additional details in an earlier blog post. The promotion runs through June 30.

We’ve also created a few images from the promotion that work well as blog badges. Please feel free to download these images and use in your blog posts when writing about the Experience of Lifetime promotion. And we have a picbadge available to add to your Facebook  profile.

Thanks for your support!

blog badge image

Blog badge image 2

Meeting Our Sponsored Child

Guest post by Russell and Daiza Smith, Reston, Va.

We had the privilege of helping support Regina in Zambia through ChildFund in the 1990s. This past winter, my wife and I were planning a business trip to Lusaka, Zambia, and we wondered if it might be possible to find Regina, now that 12 years had passed. We knew she had originally lived in a small town, but we thought she had moved to Lusaka when she left the ChildFund program at age 18.

We contacted the ChildFund office in Lusaka. The personnel there advised us that it would be difficult to find Regina. They would try to locate her, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

It had been such a rewarding experience to help support Regina between 1991 and 1999. The first we saw of her was a black and white photo; she was age 11 and wearing a little torn dress. She had this look on her face like she might have an attitude (or didn’t want to have her picture made). We would exchange letters and pictures from time to time, and gradually her look softened.

One year, we wanted to do something special; so we sent some extra money, which was enough to get a bicycle for her and some goats for her family. We came to love Regina almost like a member of our family. When she got to the end of the ChildFund program, we provided funds for her to enter a one-year program to learn a profession. We understood she had entered school in Lusaka in 1999, and there the news ended.

Photo of Smiths and former sponsored child

(l to r): Daiza Smith; Violet Mwansa (ChildFund Zambia), Regina and son; Russell Smith.

We were happy to hear from ChildFund in January that they had located Regina. In February we traveled to Lusaka to give a seminar. ChildFund scheduled a meeting and sent a van to pick us up at the hotel. We didn’t know what to expect. Would Regina be living in some desperate and unsafe circumstances? Would she be held down by a low standard of living or health problems? Would she even remember us?

Photo of Regina with family and former sponsor

Russell Smith with Regina, her husband and children.

We were escorted by Violet Mwansa of ChildFund and her driver on a trip to the neighborhood compound where Regina was living on the outskirts of Lusaka. She had walked a quarter mile down the road to meet us and took us to her home and into her living room. It was pretty unbelievable to meet Regina, and it was gratifying to see she had made a successful and happy life for herself. The neighborhood was a safe place with children playing outside. Her small house was a well-constructed residence with comfortable furniture. She had three of the most beautiful children we have seen, ages about one to 14. Her husband, a driver for a church group called “The Brothers,” was obviously a solid person, a good father and a good provider.

Photo of Regina and family

Catching up with Regina and her family.

Photo of Regina's home

Regina's home near Lusaka.

We were just overwhelmed with happiness when we saw how well Regina had done in her family, her husband and her life. In the brief 45 minutes we were together, there were a lot of hugs and some tears.

Regina said she thought we had just forgotten her after she left the ChildFund program. We would never forget her. And we were relieved to see what a happy person she is and what a good life she has made for herself.

We’re Giving One Facebook Fan the Experience of a Lifetime

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

We love sharing children’s photos, videos and stories on ChildFund’s social media sites, but we know there’s nothing like seeing the real thing.

Current sponsors and study tour participants who visit ChildFund projects around the globe return home with an expanded understanding of how poverty affects children and how one person truly can make a positive impact in a child’s life.

Inspired by their travels, they tell friends and colleagues about the experience and the work ChildFund is doing. And that helps bring new sponsors for children who are waiting.

Facebook image photoThat’s why we’re excited to launch a special promotion that begins on ChildFund’s Facebook site today and runs through June 30. One lucky winner will travel off the beaten path to see our programs in action. The four-day escorted tour will provide a firsthand view of how ChildFund is helping children around the world.

Wouldn’t you like to be the fan who wins the “Experience of a Lifetime” — a visit to see your sponsored child? Or, if you win and are not a sponsor, you’ll have a chance to tour a ChildFund program in the Americas, Africa or Asia.

Entry is easy: “Like” ChildFund on Facebook and complete a simple entry pass. You’ll also need 10 friends to “like” ChildFund on Facebook and support your quest by nominating you to win. Once you get the support of 10 friends, you’re officially entered. Every friend in addition to your first 10 earns you another entry in our random drawing. So the more friends you sign up, the greater your chances to make the finals! (Must be 18 and a U.S. resident of the lower 48 states to enter.)

You have until June 30 to complete your entry. Five finalists will be randomly selected. Each finalist will then prepare a short statement as to why he or she should win the trip.  We’ll then post those statements on Facebook, and one winner will be decided by popular vote.

Be sure to visit ChildFund’s Facebook page to enter the promotion. You could win the Experience of a Lifetime and make a difference in a child’s life!

A Force for Positive Community Change in Dominica

Reporting by Graeme Thompson, ChildFund Americas Region Program Coordinator

As ChildFund goes about its work of improving the lives of children from birth to young adulthood, we are finding that youth, especially, have a lot on their minds. Increasingly, we are viewing youth as partners in our work, and we’re listening closely to their ideas. We’re also helping them form leadership groups and assisting them with projects they want to take on to improve their communities.

In the Caribbean nation of Dominica, youth are worried about high unemployment rates in their country. They recognize that education is the key to a better future, and they are eager for Internet access to help them with homework and research. Yet, web access has been limited and expensive.

Enter the Wesley Youth Achievers, a community youth group that ChildFund helped start. As its leader Philippa explains, “Its mission is to develop the minds and create strong rapport among the Wesley Youth.”

As you’ll see, Philippa has been a strong advocate for youth in her community.

The Big Blue Rug in Haiti

by Jeff Ratcliffe, ChildFund Grants Compliance Coordinator

I just returned from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I witnessed a magical moment with children.

ChildFund has been supporting partner organizations on the ground in Haiti since shortly after the destructive earthquake in January 2010. The country is working to recover, but the day-to-day reality for children remains harsh. Most children lack safe places to play. In Port-au-Prince, any open spaces are filled with rubble and children must play in concrete lots, often near busy streets.

Photo Haitian children

A surprise is in the air.

As I arrived at our partner’s office, I watched as the children were lined up. Something was up, but they were not sure quite what. As is common for 5- to 8-year-old children, they were restless. Suddenly, the children screamed with delight as two of the instructors emerged from the building carrying a big blue rug. Many of the children began to dance with excitement. The soft blue rug was spread across the hard concrete, creating a space for the children to play. They wasted no time removing shoes and scampering onto the lush carpeting. They could play freely, without thought to getting scraped or bruised. The smiles were almost instant.

Photo of children on rug

A safe and comforting place to play.

From an Early Childhood Development perspective, the rug provided three benefits:

  1. It was soft and inviting—a comforting factor.
  2. It offered a defined space that made children feel safe to relax and be themselves.
  3. It provided a bright color that made the children happy and cheerful.
Photo of children playing on rug

The bright blue color is instantly appealing to children.

The ecstatic reaction to this rug reminded me again of the importance of play in a child’s life. Playing freely without fear of being harmed is important to healthy child development.

For me, the big blue rug reinforced the importance of ChildFund’s work with our partners in Haiti. I was heartened that amidst all the post-reconstruction work we’re helping fund, we’re also supporting the equally important work of helping children play again.

Fashion Students Find Global Inspiration to Help Vulnerable Children

by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications

Students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., researched the globe to find inspiration for their fashion designs during spring semester. Tonight they are auctioning their design creations to raise funds for vulnerable children in the countries that inspired them. The event, which also includes fashion pieces designed by faculty, takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Gallery near the VCU campus.

The idea for the course took shape when the Friends of ChildFund Richmond Chapter approached faculty from VCU’s art school to propose a wearable art fashion show as a ChildFund benefit. Fashion and Merchandising department chair Karen Videtic suggested a multi-disciplinary course in which students would draw inspiration from the countries where ChildFund works.

“I think that students need to be exposed to global influences from the first day they arrive at VCU. We live and work in a global economy and a global community,” says Karen. “Students need to understand how diversity can bring a rich perspective to both design and life in general. I also believe that students need to understand how fortunate they are to have grown up and lived in the United States. They need to understand the poverty and lack of basic necessities that a huge part of the world lives with daily. This changes a student’s life.”

Earlier this spring, students took time out from designing to share insights into their process. Marylin Li, a junior in crafts and materials studies, chose Vietnam as her inspiration. Through her study she learned that Vietnamese people use details to convey a message. She pointed out that brighter colors are worn by the younger generation while darker colors are favored by elders. She also came to appreciate layering several simple pieces. “My definition of simplicity used to be multiple colors and a simple design,” Marylin said, “but now I’ve realized that no color, and an organized and detailed design can be just as intriguing.”

bracelet photo

An Ecuadorian-inspired bracelet.

Jennifer Robbe, a senior graphic design major, became intrigued with Ecuador’s ancient Inca and Spanish history. One of the items she designed was a bracelet. In addition to incorporating Ecuadorian touches, she also wove in a ChildFund story.

“I created a bracelet out of the tagua nut native to Ecuador and accented with Ecuadorian gold beads. I found a vintage Ecuadorian postage stamp and made it the centerpiece of the bracelet. I thought about how someone would communicate with their sponsored child through ChildFund,” Jennifer said. “Using a postage stamp exemplifies communication between the child and the sponsor through the mail. I wanted the bracelet to serve as a sign of remembrance to the owner on a daily basis of their child sponsored through ChildFund in Ecuador.”

scarf photo

Remembering Belarus.

Sarah Robbe, a senior fashion merchandising major, chose Belarus because of its distinctive heritage as a former Soviet Republic that gained independence. She made a brooch using a Soviet ruble coin, similar in composition, size and shape to the medals worn by Soviet military personnel on their dress uniforms. In addition, she designed a scarf with a print she created in Belarusian language featuring the quote “not forgotten.” According to Sarah, “This country has seemed forgotten for quite some time. This scarf celebrates helping Belarus by not forgetting them.”

Junior fashion merchandising major Erin Bailey was drawn by the bright colors, spirituality and way of life in Thailand. She created a handbag incorporating stingray leather, which is exotic and durable. The natural marking on the back of the leather is considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

“Thailand is now on my top list of places to travel,” Erin said. “It’s truly a place that is one of a kind.”

A Young Artist Blossoms in ChildFund’s Oklahoma Programs

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

At a small school in the Oklahoma countryside there is movement and bustling about — it’s the day before the last day of school. Giggles. Skipping. Laughter. Summer is around the corner!

Photo of Katie at her school

Katie is among the regional finalists in the Doodle 4 Google contest.

Throughout the hallways are small hand-drawn signs: Vote for Katie.

No, she isn’t running for class president or for the local strawberry festival princess. The signs are reminding students and teachers to help Katie win the 2011 Doodle 4 Google contest. Katie is one of 40 regional finalists vying for the Grand Prize National Winner, who will take home a $15,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 technology grant for his or her school. Celebrity judges include actress Whoopi Goldberg and Olympic athletes Evan Lysacek and Michael Phelps. The winner will be announced May 19.

As we wait for Katie and her mother to join us in the art room, we admire the children’s paintings and drawings lining the walls. In the center of the display is a poster-size version of Katie’s Google artwork — about 5 feet high and 12 feet wide!

Responding to the Google Doodle theme of “What I’d like to do someday…,” Katie wrote: “I want to become an amazing artist and paint endangered animals on my canvases. I would travel to the jungle and paint ‘animal portraits!' I would exhibit my art work in museums for people to enjoy!”

Suddenly, in bounds a 9-year-old with high energy and a smile that reaches ear to ear. Katie is a beautiful Cherokee child, who enrolled in ChildFund’s U.S. programs  in 2008. She likes sports, the color blue, animals and singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.

photo of Katie with awards

Award-winning artist!

As we get acquainted, I learn that Katie’s favorite subject is spelling: “I always get 100 in spelling and I get to put a sticker on the reward board.” Her favorite word to spell is “e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t.” No surprise then that the elephant is the dominant figure in her Google drawing. Katie giddily describes her own animals: “My cat is named Stephanie, and my brother named our dog, Wagsy.”

We talk more about her art, and she explains that many of her art supplies come from her sponsor’s family. Katie shares: “They know that I like to draw and I like to read. They send me funny books, too. And they send me erasable color pencils. I like writing to them a lot. They ask me about my cats and ask how I am doing in school. They ask me if I have won any drawing competitions lately. They are really nice and make me happy.”

Katie prefers to use crayons for her drawings, and animals are her favorite subjects. She tells me that she likes drawing because “it is fun and you get to go places.” She means that figuratively and literally. Her artwork often depicts distant places, exotic animals and people. And by winning so many competitions, she’s getting to travel. Just the previous day, she was at the Oklahoma state capitol collecting honors for her drawing for an anti-smoking campaign. And next week she will be boarding a plane to New York City to attend the Google awards ceremony.

“We will be there for a few days,” she exclaims. “We get to take a plane. And we will see the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower…wait, no, the Empire State Building. And we are going to be on Broadway and will probably see either “Mary Poppins” or “The Lion King.” And there will be a big party for us.”

Bubbling on: “I cannot believe I am going to New York and will see the Statue of Liberty. She recalls seeing a photo of the statue when she was younger: “I told my momma that I want to see her one day. She is so beautiful.”

A childhood dream is coming true through the power of self-expression. It’s been an honor to meet someone who has mastered shape, color, shading and depth. Katie is an artist! Yes, with an exclamation point!

Working with Youth as Partners

by Jason Schwartzman, ChildFund Team Leader for Child & Youth Involvement

Photo of ChildFund India staff

Jason Schwartzman, center, with members of ChildFund India's area staff.

What we have learned from young people in India and across all the countries and communities that we reached out to over the past few months are some central facts:

  • Youth everywhere want to play a role in their communities.
  • They want to participate in decision making.
  • They want to make a difference.

While ChildFund will continue to focus on literacy and education, health and nutrition, livelihood preparation and fostering the resiliency of children of all ages, we are moving rapidly into newer territory — working with youth as partners.

We are bringing young people together to discuss ideas, develop solutions for their own lives and help ChildFund make decisions about its future program offerings. We are talking to youth, we are listening and we are responding to what we learn.

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