In the Field

Talking Circles Help With Cultural Restoration in ChildFund’s U.S. Programs

Dr. Paul Dauphinais is a psychologist for Turtle Mountain Community Schools in Belcourt, N.D. He wrote this letter earlier this year after attending a tribal outreach gathering for American Indian youth, part of the work ChildFund supports in the United States. Here’s an excerpt.

children in gym

Children and youth enjoy themselves at Club Night in Belcourt, N.D., which is within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.

I had an experience last week that was very moving and gave me great hope for the future of our youth and community. It was a Wednesday in the early evening. I was invited to go to the gym at Dunseith High School. When I arrived, there were children, youth and some of the outreach staff gathered near picnic tables. One of the tables had food that the staff had prepared. I was observing and enjoying the true friendships that the staff and youth showed. A couple of the girls then spontaneously began to serve the youth and staff. They assumed that responsibility without any adult coaxing. It was a pleasant experience.

The gathering really demonstrated to me that each person there genuinely cared for one another, making sure that everyone was served food and satisfied. The children and youth were respectful of each other and it was clearly evident that each one was welcome.

children on floor

The centerpiece of Club Night is the Talking Circle.

After the meal, several of the team leaders gathered youth in a large circle for the main part of the gathering, the Talking Circle. [Talking Circles are an important component of ChildFund’s cultural restoration initiatives.] The adult leader then began with an introduction of himself and his family in the language of the Anishnabe; he gave an explanation of respect in our cultural world. After this, Paco, a stuffed animal, was handed from person to person to say what respect meant to them and who and what they were respectful of in their lives.

When each youth had finished with their explanations, the rest of the circle applauded, showing respect and acknowledgement of the other person’s perspective. Each person in the circle was offered a turn. The insight that youth demonstrated in their speaking was a pleasure to hear, no matter their age. We have such great leaders-to-be who will be able to have insights into their daily lives and what it means to be Anishnabe/Mitchif. I was very proud to be a part of that group that night. [ChildFund believes that engaging children and youth in initiatives that connect them to positive Lakota values, practices and beliefs strengthens their cultural identity and their resiliency against inherent risks in their environment.]

All week, this past week, I wondered how these youth developed into such respectful and insightful beings; what is this process of growth? Who were they before they became involved with what is called Club Night? How do children mature in this manner – to become so respectful of each other and confident to speak about how one of the gifts of the grandfathers is part of their lives in the presence of others?

Club Night has been happening for many years through the leadership of Claudette McLeod and Turtle Mountain Outreach, and the staff of the Tribal JTPA, Turtle Mountain Youth & Family Center and tribal youth programs.

After the Talking Circle, the youth and staff played a group activity where there was not any bickering about rules or other negative behaviors. Everyone seemed to truly enjoy each other’s companionship, regardless of gender or age. At the end of the evening, the staff remains to assure that each youth has a ride home and that, if someone wants to talk about a concern or share a recent event, they are there.

I just wanted to jump in and be a part!

I thank the group for allowing me to be a part of the group that night.

Club Night will continue to be a part of program services and the dedicated staff will continue to be supportive to the youth. And I thank them for providing this opportunity for our youth.

With help comes hope.

A Frightening Brush With Malaria

By Silvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Cristina Moniz was busy as usual one morning three years ago, getting her children up for school and preparing breakfast for them and her husband, Joaquim Lopez, a police officer in the Timor-Leste district of Covalima. She passed by her 7-year-old son Deonizio’s room, and to her surprise, he was still in bed asleep.

Approaching his bed, Cristina discovered that Deonizio had a fever.

mother and sons

Cristina and Deonizio (with his youngest brother) spend time at their home in the Covalima district.

“I felt not well at all, got headaches and vomited all the time,” Deonizio recalls today. “With all those conditions, it prevented me from going out; I couldn’t go to school or play around with my friends.”

It turned out that Deonizio had malaria, one of the deadliest diseases in the developing world, especially for children. He and Cristina first went to the village health post, Salele Community Health Center, which referred Deonizio to the hospital, where he had a blood test analyzed.

Cristina was shocked that her son had malaria, but the health center’s staff advised her to give Deonizio anti-malarial medication on time and keep the home clean and mosquito-free. This isn’t an easy task for Cristina, who now has five children and many duties. But insecticide-treated bed nets that arrived from ChildFund in 2011 have helped.

“Before getting the bed nets, there were many mosquitoes around the house,” Cristina says. “We are happy because there are no more mosquitoes, no more sickness.  Now, my family and I can sleep safely away from mosquitoes. No more malaria in our family. Deonizio can go to school any time,” she notes.

boy and baby on bed

Deonizio and his baby brother are protected by a mosquito net.

“I feel sure that mosquito will no longer bite me when I sleep under the bed net,” adds Deonizio, who is 10 now. “I’ll be freely doing my daily activities as usual, going to school, playing with friends.”

Having recognized World Malaria Day recently, we’ve learned about how many children are at risk of contracting this preventable disease in developing countries like Timor-Leste. Malaria kills 200,000 children worldwide each year, and many more become sick. However, the gift of a medicated mosquito net can mean good health, education and fulfilled potential for children in need like Deonizio and his brothers.

A Garden of Opportunity in Ecuador

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund International writer

On Earth Day and every day, ChildFund approaches its work with one overall mission in mind: helping communities become self-sufficient. That’s why we work with local partner organizations and provide training to community members wherever we go — so they’ll be able to succeed over the long term, allowing ChildFund to assist others in need.

Ecuador garden

A community member gives a tour of the garden.

In northern Ecuador’s Pichincha province, 200 families need a helping hand. ChildFund’s goal is to help them start and improve fruit and vegetable gardens, a program that will not only feed children but also set their families on the path to self-sufficiency. This Fund a Project, started in February, will provide vegetable and fruit seedlings, agricultural supplies and educational workshops. Our goal is to have 200 gardens in the region by August, which will directly help 750 children and 500 youth.

Ecuador garden

A garden’s bounty.

This is where your help comes in; our goal is to raise $42,600 by August. Children in this region of Ecuador sometimes suffer from undernutrition, and families often don’t make enough income to cover basic needs. A thriving home garden will provide families with a diverse supply of vegetables and fruit — instead of just corn, the most common regional crop — and give them the chance to sell the excess crops, increasing the family’s income by an estimated 30 percent.

With greater income, children will have more educational opportunities, and parents will be able to provide the basics: health care, clothing and bedding. In northern Ecuador, a garden represents hope and independence.

Will you help fund this project?

Children’s Voices: Fatoumata From Guinea

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah Mamy, ChildFund Guinea

Guinean girl

Fatoumata, 13, is minister of discrimination in her school.

Fatoumata is 13 years old and lives in Guinea. A student in Sougueta Primary School, which is supported by ChildFund, Fatoumata holds the position of minister of discrimination in her student government.

We asked her why she accepted this post.

“In my village, families do not easily accept each other. Those from the Mandingo ethnic group do not collaborate with ones from the Foula ethnic group,” she says. “Unfortunately, our parents’ bad behavior has extended even to the schools and is affecting relationships between students on campus.”

She notes that students often fight each other and that each group of students discriminates against the other.

“I want to talk about peace with my fellow students and, if possible, with our parents,” Fatoumata says.

children in student government

Student government members at Sougueta Primary School in Guinea.

Asked what advice she would give, Fatoumata doesn’t hesitate: “To my friends, I would say, ‘Make peace with each other because if we follow our parents’ bad ways, we will not grow to become good people.’

To the parents, I would say, ‘Help us grow and become good people in the future.’ ”

In Brazil, Advocacy for Clean Water

By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil

Reflecting the fifth article of the Universal Declaration of Water Rights — ”Its protection is a vital need and a moral obligation of men to the present and future generations” — ChildFund Brasil strives to educate communities about water preservation for the benefit of future generations.

The project “Meu Meio, Minha Vida” (My Surroundings, My Life), is part of the Vigilantes da Água (Water Watchers) program and is a result of the efforts invested in the communities of Vereda, Bidó, Pedra do Bolo, Tombo and Empoeira, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, a semi-arid region in the state of Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil.

Brazil water watchers

A group of water watchers in Brazil gather at a pond.

ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Municipal Community Association of Medina, carries out the program, which trains community leaders to monitor water quality and educate the community on advocating for their right to have access to clean water. Currently, 18 men and women monitor water quality, which benefits more than 200 families.

For Maria de Almeida, a 42-year-old farmer from the community of Tombo, participating in the program has been valuable. “This project made us learn more about the water we use,” Maria says. “And, knowing that it was contaminated, we now fight for improvement and for the preservation of the springs. I feel happy to participate in the project and for the opportunity to educate other people.”

Brazil water watcher

One water watcher gets a sample.

Paula Gava, coordinator at the Medina community association, notes, “The program is a way of working on environmental issues as a whole in the community, of making everyone reflect on the environment. At the moment, we discuss the situation of water availability.

“The reality is that there is a lack of water during this period of drought, and furthermore, we’ve detected coliform bacteria contamination,” he adds. “We already have people mobilized and aware of the bad water they consume. Our job is to provide information so that the community can organize themselves, feel empowered to demand clean water and become part of the solution.”

As the program continues, community groups are working with Minas Gerais’ rural extension agency and municipal health and agriculture departments to improve the quality of water.

A ChildFund Alumnus: ‘I Want to Be a Role Model’

Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia staff

Tariku, now 33, grew up in a family of nine in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. Without the support of ChildFund, he says he would not have been able to afford school materials or continue his education. Today, as a university graduate and a master’s degree student, Tariku has found success. The following is his story in his own words:

Ethopian student speaking at event

Tariku, 33, a ChildFund alumnus, is studying for a master’s degree and working in Addis Ababa.

Today I am going to tell you about myself, about how ChildFund changed my life, as it did for many children, by providing various kinds of support. ChildFund played a great role in my life and helped me become who I am now.  I enrolled in the project when ChildFund opened its office at Semen Shoa, in the Amhara region, in 1992 during the downfall of the Derg political regime. At that time, I was a grade-six student, while my father was a soldier and my mom was a housewife. We were nine in the family.

I am the youngest in my family, except one younger sibling. However, no one in my family has gone far from home or been successful in education. Since I joined the project, ChildFund supported me with educational materials, health care and fulfilling our family’s needs. Before, I had no means to buy books or other educational materials. The project provided me with everything I required for my education; that, in turn, increased my interest in learning.

After I finished my diploma in agriculture at Jimma University (a top Ethiopian teaching university) in 2000, I had the chance to join ChildFund’s local partner organization staff as a community development worker. After some time there, I moved to a project in Addis Ababa.

I received my first degree in business management in 2009, and now I am a graduate student at Addis Ababa University in psychology. I am now a sponsorship relations head at work.

“Supporting one child means supporting the family.”

One thing that I want to highlight is how ChildFund’s work is fruitful. There are many successful alumni who are working in many areas in different organizations. Supporting one child means supporting the family. For instance, my family has benefited a lot. I have created work opportunities for my elder siblings by supporting them financially, and I was able to teach my younger sibling.

The support I received in the Semen Shoa project is the basis of all my success. I can say that ChildFund was just as important as my blood circulation.

I am sure that I will keep on improving my life even after this, but I will give credit to ChildFund often. Now I am successful in my work. I want to be a role model and pass this message on to other children who are receiving support from ChildFund to give credit for what ChildFund did for them. I hope that many children will attain similar success to what I have achieved now.

Responding to a Devastating Drought in Burkina Faso

women cooking grain

Women in Burkina Faso cook grain. The country is recovering from an extreme drought.

Dry weather can lead to disaster in developing countries. Without backup water supplies during a drought, food gets scarcer and more expensive, and people — usually the most vulnerable — become malnourished. This scenario repeats itself all over Africa, and Burkina Faso was one of the most recent countries stricken.   

However, this story has a happier ending than many, thanks to the leadership of Christian Children’s Fund Canada, part of the ChildFund Alliance. Beginning in April 2012, CCFC started a project that targeted 12,000 people at risk of illness and death related to malnutrition — mainly children under the age of 5 and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Canadian supporters and other Alliance partners, including ChildFund International, made donations that helped this project succeed.   

child at clinic

A child is checked for malnutrition with an upper-arm measuring device.

The project, which ended in December, provided supplementary feeding and related training; distributed food rations; supplied seeds and fertilizer; and distributed goats and sheep. In the end, about 19,000 people in 20 communities in Burkina Faso benefitted.

With some funds remaining and new funding coming in, the focus in Burkina Faso has now shifted to helping the communities prepare for future droughts and become more resilient.

Photography Exchange Program Brings Cultures Into Focus

 By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil

Photographs span different languages and long distances, as a group of American and Brazilian students learned during an exchange program. In January, 12 students from Soka University in California’s Orange County traveled to Brazil to work with teens involved in ChildFund Brasil’s Photovoice project.

group picture of studnets

Students from California participated in a photography workshop with Brazilian youth.

The group gathered in the city of Medina for a workshop. The teens and college students shared their approaches toward setting up pictures and, along the way, gained an appreciation for a different culture.

“It was an exchange where all students were engaged in teaching and learning,” says ChildFund Brasil Social Program Manager Dov Rosenmann.

The workshops took place at Medina’s Little House of Culture, another important project of ChildFund, which has worked in Brazil for 46 years. The space is meant to revive community bonds and pride in their cultural roots. Children, teens and young adults often find encouragement to pursue arts and other interests there while also gaining technological skills.

college students

The Soka University students from California.

Besides participating in the Photovoice workshops, the American students also donated six digital cameras and one projector that will be used by students from the communities that participate in this project.

Photovoice was developed by ChildFund Brasil in partnership with social organizations all over the country with the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence and healthy social relationships among young people through the art of photography. Participants take pictures of daily life in their communities, many of which are lacking necessary resources.

In addition to acquiring knowledge about photography, the young people have the opportunity to express their points of view about the daily life in the community and to reflect with criticism about what they photograph. More than 300 youths have taken part in Photovoice.

The teens decide on which subjects to capture — often family relationships, local culture, nature and social themes. “The importance is to capture the elements that contain a meaningful story,” Rosenmann says.

“Chicken Plus” Project Sustains Brazilian Families

By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager

Much significance is attached to the Easter egg tradition: springtime, fertility, rebirth and life. But for the women of the community of Sao Joao de Chapada, near the city of Diamantina in Brazil, an egg hunt has become a daily activity that not only means nutritious food for their children but also a much-needed source of income.

But which came first: the chicken or the egg? In this case, the chicken, thanks to ChildFund Brasil’s Chicken Plus project, which allows many women in extremely arid regions of Brazil to produce food and generate income at home instead of having to migrate to cities for work. This helps ease the problem of families leaving home and residing in urban slums.

pickled vegetables at market

Families near the city of Diamantina in Brazil sell produce from the community farm at a local market.

In Sao Joao de Chapada, the community farm project started with a donation of 300 chicks a few years ago, and now the chicken population has grown to 1,200. The eggs provide high-protein nutrition for more than 30 pre-school children attending an early childhood development center, plus healthy meals and snacks for older children and families participating in the project. Each family receives 12 eggs a week and one chicken per month for consumption or for selling at the local market, along with other farm products like vegetables and homemade goods.

Brazil community farm

Rafael is an agricultural engineer who leads the Chicken Plus project, and Geralda is one of the local participants.

Geralda, a mother of four, volunteers at the community farm about two hours a day. “While we work with the other mothers picking up the eggs, cleaning the farm or in the community garden, our children play and learn at the community center,” she says. “With the money we get from the eggs, we feed our families and keep the project going, so we’ll always have food.”  A community savings fund, set up when the farm was established, ensures that chicken production keeps going strong.

With a sustainable approach, the project is leading community members toward the development of innovative businesses based on chicken farming.  The project also enhances women’s business skills by emphasizing quality control, microcredit options and entrepreneurship.

World Water Day: Fátima’s Story

Reporting by ChildFund Mozambique

 To mark World Water Day on March 22, we’re focusing on the myriad challenges children and families face without a reliable source of clean water.

a girl drinks water from a cup

11-year-old Fátima.

My name is Fátima. I am 11 years old, I live in Gondola, Mozambique, and I attend Bela-Vista Primary School.

Formerly in my school there was no water source, which compelled us to walk long distances with a 20-liter container looking for water in other neighboring communities between 5 and 7 kilometers (3 to 4 miles) away from the school.

Consequently, our lavatories were unclean and classrooms floors were rarely mopped up, which exposed all of us to the risk of catching diseases related to poor hygiene.

Luckily, a water borehole has been dug on our school grounds by ChildFund, so now we are very happy because we do not need to walk long distances to access water anymore. Drinkable water can be obtained 7 to 10 meters (23 to 30 feet) away.

Our classrooms are not dusty anymore because we keep them neat, and our lavatories are always clean. We are less likely to catch diseases, as we now quench our thirst with treated water from the borehole.

women at a water pump

Fatima’s mother (in red coat) gets water at the pump.

This lady pictured in the red coat is my mother. She is pumping the water up here at my school for us to use at home. The beneficiaries of the water are not only schoolchildren but also the neighboring community.  We don’t need to walk long distances looking for water to drink, to cook, to wash our clothes and to give our animals to drink.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

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