History

In 1950s Hong Kong, a Groundbreaking Orphanage Opens

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

With credit to A Book about Children by Larry E. Tise

Between 1949 and 1951, about 2.5 million Chinese refugees fled to Hong Kong, which was not equipped to handle such a crowd.

75th ChildFund logoAt the same time, ChildFund, started in 1938 as China’s Children Fund, also found itself unwelcome in China, which had ushered in a communist government that insisted it could take care of its own orphans and also confiscated CCF’s properties. It was clear that our organization could no longer operate in China, and because we were already working in other countries since the end of World War II, CCF’s board changed our name to Christian Children’s Fund in 1951.

In 1952, under the guidance of then overseas director Verent Mills, we began building Children’s Garden in Hong Kong, a campus for orphans who were assigned 12 to a cottage. It remains the most ambitious building project in our history.

Children's Garden

A 1958 graduation ceremony at Children’s Garden.

Each cottage was assigned a “mother” (often a widow) who oversaw the children, who were of all different ages, and they also attended school on the grounds. This project was groundbreaking in its vision to provide more than just food and shelter; it aimed for a higher standard of care, giving children a supportive, loving home.

Children’s Garden, which was placed at the base of Saddleback Mountain, was finished in 1957, and for years it served as home and school for thousands of children. In 1977, as CCF wrapped up its work in Hong Kong, Children’s Garden (renamed Wu Kwai Sa Youth Village) was donated to the Hong Kong YMCA for its youth programs. The increasingly prosperous colony could now build its own schools and day care centers, as well as assist children and families with special needs.

Three Siblings Follow in Their Grandparents’ Charitable Footsteps

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Each Christmas, R.B. Wheeler and his wife Fran gave their grandchildren packets of information about a donation they had made in their family’s name to touch the lives of children through a ChildFund project.

75th ChildFund logoFor more than a dozen years, the Wheeler family gathered to consider existing project needs in various countries where ChildFund works. Then R.B., Fran and the family would pick a few projects (often involving water and education) to fund in the names of all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Jacey Messer, one of those grandchildren, says she didn’t always take the gifts seriously when she was young, but the message her grandfather sent each holiday season eventually sank in. Her brother, Jeff Wheeler, suggested to Jacey and their sister Julie that they make a collective donation to a project this past Christmas through ChildFund. After losing both of their grandparents in the past year, the decision was very meaningful, Jeff says. Their gift will expand and equip a school in rural Ecuador where educational opportunities are very limited.

“I felt it was kind of our responsibility,” Jeff says, adding that his grandfather “knew at some point that this kind of gift would be more rewarding” than a toy or another present under the tree.

Wheeler family

The Wheelers, with original ChildFund supporters R.B. and Fran seated at center.

The three siblings, who are now in their 20s and 30s, live in different states and have many responsibilities. Jeff is an engineer in Seattle, and Julie is a nurse in Minnesota. Jacey, a lawyer, works for the family’s business in South Dakota and is expecting her third child. Deciding to make a contribution to a ChildFund project as a family was an effective way of making a difference, as well as honoring their grandparents, Jeff says. 

Over the years, R.B. and Fran Wheeler, who lived in Lemmon, S.D., sponsored children through ChildFund. They also donated funds for schools in Uganda, Bolivia and Brazil, as well as other projects focusing on health and water needs in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia.

Jacey says that her grandfather was “very meticulous about studying up about where his money was going” and that he placed trust in ChildFund’s stewardship. He was very interested in providing clean water and education, ideals that he shared with his family, even when they were young. Today, Jacey says she is continuing the humanitarian tradition with her children. Her eldest child, who is 5, is “starting to get it,” she says, and Jacey, Jeff and Julie hope to continue the Christmas tradition of funding a ChildFund project.

“What made R.B. and Fran Wheeler even more exceptional is that they wanted their love for children around the world to live on not only through their own children and grandchildren, but also through their estate,” explains David Jokinen, ChildFund’s bequest administrator. “They realized that they could help the children in ChildFund’s programs and still benefit their own family after they were gone — a true win-win arrangement.”

When R.B. and Fran passed away last year, the gifts they’d planned for years ago, through their will and via a charitable trust, passed to ChildFund. Today, their generosity and faithful partnership lives on, transforming the lives of children.

“It’ll be something we’ll have to keep going for them,” Jacey says of future Wheeler generations.

You can make a gift to help children that costs you nothing now, by including ChildFund International in your estate plans.

An Interview With ChildFund Uganda’s National Director

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Simba Machingaidze

Simba Machingaidze

In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’ll hear from several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries we serve in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Uganda’s national director, Simba Machingaidze, discussed some of the issues his office is working on currently, including reducing the child mortality rate, which is high in Uganda.

What are ChildFund Uganda’s main focuses right now?

ChildFund Uganda’s main focus is holistic ECD (Early Childhood Development) including child health, nutrition, stimulation and protection.

Do you have a favorite story about a child or family who has been helped?

To many beneficiaries like Federsi, a widow aged 65 years in Kasengejje village, getting a water jar was a dream come true. Federsi lives with two of her children and five grandchildren. The family used to fetch water from the only borehole in the village, which is 6 kilometers (more than 3 miles) away from their home.

75th ChildFund logoThe borehole serves approximately 900 households. It took the children 3 to 4 hours every day to fetch water, and as a result, they were always late for school. Due to the long queues at the borehole, the family often fetched water from a pond shared with animals or bought some from other people who had tanks. Buying water was quite difficult for Federsi, since she has no source of income.

In such water-stressed communities, a 2,000-liter tank like that constructed near Federsi’s home saves children the burden of walking long distances to fetch water while parents and caregivers are relieved of worrying about their children getting abused on their way to and from the distant water sources.

What challenges and goals do you have in the future?

Our goal is to enhance the capacity of our local partners to sustainably deliver programs that help solve their communities’ day-to-day problems. However, our biggest challenges include resources to cope with the ever-growing needs of a country with high population growth, and inadequate functional government systems.   

How is ChildFund Uganda helping expectant mothers to sustain their own health and their child’s?

mother and daughter

A Ugandan mother brings her daughter to a nutrition workshop. Photo by Jake Lyell.

ChildFund Uganda has focused on increasing skilled birth attendance and quality postnatal care. This has been promoted through child health days, outreach clinics to underserved areas and through the Village Health Teams. In the last year, ChildFund Uganda constructed and commissioned two maternity wards in underserved districts.  Expectant mothers received mama (delivery) kits, which are an incentive for the mothers to go for postnatal checkups and to deliver at health centers instead of going to traditional birth attendants. ChildFund has also worked with the district health offices with supervision from the Ministry of Health to support skills improvement programs for health workers to manage maternal and neonatal health issues better. This has been through mentorship as well as in-service training.

Tell us about ChildFund Uganda’s ongoing work to reduce child mortality?

Some of the goals include reducing household poverty as a compounding factor through the livelihoods programs, enhancing mothers’ knowledge and skills on prevention and management of common childhood illnesses as well as nutrition, reduction of HIV and AIDS infections in children through the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS programs, and strengthening the district level health systems to assess and respond to child and maternal health problems in the districts.

The unmet needs are mostly in the areas of nutrition, HIV and AIDS, district health systems’ financing and human resources for health. Our major limitation is funding; we would definitely like to be in a position to do more.

Giving a Gift From the Heart

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of ChildFund, we are running a 75-post series highlighting our past, present and future. Today we hear from longtime supporters Sue and David Gossman.

Sue Gossman’s church started sponsoring a child through what was then known as Christian Children’s Fund in the early 1970s, when she herself was a teenager. As she grew up, went to college and then married in 1976, she continued that sponsorship. Sue and her husband, David, sponsored more children as the years passed, a commitment that continues today.

Now, they support 10 children through ChildFund, and their generosity includes a meaningful Christmas tradition: giving gifts from ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog to children and communities in need.

75th ChildFund logo“It really goes back a couple of years,” David explains. “It didn’t make sense to give large gifts to everybody in the family.” In previous years, he and Sue, who split their time between Illinois and Iowa, have chosen items from the Gifts of Love & Hope catalog to give in honor of their three daughters and other family members, but this past Christmas, their loved ones chose gifts themselves. The family gathered in December 2012 at David’s parents’ 60th anniversary celebration, so David and Sue brought along the catalog.

One daughter, who is a veterinarian and an EMT, picked out a fully stocked health station, and another daughter who likes to sew donated a sewing machine. The Gossmans also like to donate a gift yearly that has a long-term, infrastructural benefit, often assisting a village to grow its own food or have clean water. This year, along with the health station and the sewing machine, the Gossmans donated a water filter, a scholarship for a child in Ethiopia and a starter farm.

“It was a way of saying, ‘Hey, this is what Christmas is all about,’ ” David notes.

Also, through their years of sponsorship, the Gossmans learned how much good even a small donation can do.

Gossman family

The Gossman family gathers during a reunion to choose ChildFund gifts to donate.

“We’re always astounded at how far the Christmas and birthday gifts go,” Sue says of the monetary gifts the couple gives to their sponsored children. For only $8 or $10, a whole family can purchase clothing and party treats, David adds. One boy they sponsored in Africa since the age of 5 or 6 wrote the Gossmans a closing letter after he had turned 18 and was leaving ChildFund. He’d finished a tailoring course, and he was saving money to buy his own sewing machine to start a business. Sue and David decided to step in and purchase the machine for him.

“He’s becoming a part of the community who is giving back in a productive way,” David says proudly. “That’s a fantastic long-term thing that happens.”

One of their daughters, who started a job just after finishing graduate school, now sponsors a child in Africa, so the Gossmans’ tradition continues.

“Something as basic as clean water is pretty amazing, that that’s considered a gift,” David says. “Much of what we discuss in the letters with the children is education — encouraging them to continue with it and work hard on it. It’s so important to them.”

Celebrations Begin for ChildFund’s 75th Anniversary

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Seventy-five years have passed since ChildFund’s founder, Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke, unexpectedly met his friend, Dr. J. Stewart Nagle, on a train in the summer of 1938. Clarke, then 49, had decades of experience raising funds for displaced, impoverished people in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

75th ChildFund logoSo, it comes as no surprise that the two men would talk about the suffering of Chinese orphans following the 1937 Japanese invasion of China. According to A Book About Children, a 1991 history of our organization written by Larry E. Tise, Nagle asked Clarke, “You’re a good fundraiser, why don’t you do something about it?”

That fall, Clarke did do something: He started China’s Children Fund, a national appeal for funds to help vulnerable Chinese orphans. The headquarters was in Clarke’s home in Richmond, Va.

This was the seed that became ChildFund International, a global child-focused development organization that now serves more than 17 million children and family members in 30 countries. By the early 1940s, person-to-person child sponsorship was in place, and Clarke and his founding board had raised and distributed funds to support children in China and other Asian countries.    

Calvitt and Helen Clarke

Calvitt and Helen Clarke

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of ChildFund, we are launching a 75-post series that will run during the next several months. Historical moments, archived photos and memories from sponsors, employees and children will play a significant part in the series, as well as updates on our ongoing work around the globe. You will also hear from ChildFund Alliance members and national directors from several of our country offices, sharing current projects and the goals they hope to achieve in the future.

Most of all, as we reflect on our organization’s history we want to express our gratitude to our supporters – those who helped Dr. Clarke’s vision for Chinese orphans succeed and those who make our work for children possible today. Stay tuned during the coming weeks, and look for the 75th anniversary logo on the blog!

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