In the Field

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Protecting the Welfare of Children in The Gambia

 By Ya Sainey Gaye, ChildFund The Gambia

ChildFund’s national office in The Gambia, in partnership with Save the Children International, recently donated office equipment and supplies to the Child Welfare Unit, part of The Gambia’s armed forces. The donation was made at a presentation ceremony in the capital city of Banjul on Feb. 13.

soldiers and office furniture

The Gambia Armed Forces’ Child Welfare Unit receives office furniture from ChildFund.

The items — desks, paper, office chairs and filing cabinets — are intended to help establish operations of the newly formed Child Welfare Unit, which was established within the seven military barracks across the country. The unit has hotlines for Gambians to report abuse or neglect of children.

This partnership signifies that ChildFund and Save the Children stand with the Child Welfare Unit on a vital cause: protecting vulnerable children in The Gambia.

The country continues to suffer a food shortage, in part because of poor rainfall in the past year. As a result, food prices are higher than most Gambians can afford.  Some children are sent to work by their families, leaving them vulnerable to physical and emotional duress.

two men shaking hands

The acting national director of ChildFund The Gambia, Mustapha Kebbeh (left), presents the donation.

At the presentation, Mustapha Kebbeh, ChildFund’s acting national director in The Gambia, spoke about his hopes that the Child Welfare Unit will help protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse. “As part of our core outcomes, ChildFund sees to it that children are provided with the right environment to develop in every life stage,” Kebbeh said.

National Peace Corps Week: ChildFund Employees Reflect on Experiences

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we recognize Peace Corps volunteers, many of whom leave the United States to live thousands of miles away from family, friends and familiar cultural landmarks. In exchange, volunteers gain global perspective and unforgettable experiences.

To celebrate Peace Corps Week (Feb. 24-March 2), we spoke with a few of ChildFund’s Peace Corps alumni, who shared their stories of living in the field.

Bethany Tebbe, who joined ChildFund in January as a grants management officer, was posted in Togo, a western Africa country, from 2003 to 2007, where she worked in girls’ education and empowerment. “I was 22,” she recalls. “I didn’t have any preconceived expectations.”

dirt road in African village

Bethany Tebbe, who now works for ChildFund, was posted in Badou, Togo, as a Peace Corps volunteer.

At first, she lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof, no electricity and no running water — a home she recalls fondly. It was Bethany’s first time outside of the U.S., but she says that she adjusted fairly well to village life and especially street food. She bicycled constantly.

After a mishap on a mountain hike that caused a serious knee injury, Bethany was posted in a Togolese city with greater ease of mobility. During her time in Togo, she traveled to many African countries, including Niger and Morocco.

When Craig Stein, senior grants and contracts manager at ChildFund, landed in North Yemen in 1982, it also was his first experience overseas. Craig had decided to apply to the Peace Corps after taking a college history class taught by a former diplomat who had piqued his interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. “I wanted to do something different,” he says, and he hoped to work in a Middle Eastern, Islamic society. A posting for an English as a Second Language teacher opened in Hodeidah, Yemen, and Craig was accepted. He lived in a three-bedroom home with three other volunteers, and he later moved to a mountain village as an office administrator of a water project.

group of men and boys in Yemen

Then a Peace Corps volunteer, Craig Stein (wearing buttoned shirt and jeans) was visited by his father (wearing fez and buttoned shirt) in Yemen in 1983.

Upon his arrival, Craig experienced a great sense of welcome. He and a friend were traveling in the mountains north of the capital city of Sanaa, and they stumbled into a wedding ceremony. They were immediately invited to be guests — for three days, the typical length of a Yemeni wedding. “The Yemenis were a lot more open to Americans or Westerners than I anticipated,” he says. “I’d expected some hostility or at least suspicion, but that wasn’t the case at all.”

Although volunteers cannot choose the country where they are stationed, they do have some control over the type of work they do and sometimes can pick the environment where they’ll live — such as city versus village.

Elizabeth Frank, a program assistant for global programs in ChildFund’s Washington, D.C., office, was posted in Ukraine from 2006 to 2008. Surprisingly, Ukraine has the most Peace Corps volunteers in the world. Elizabeth lived in the western half of the country, which identifies strongly with its Ukrainian heritage; the eastern half has a stronger Russian identity.

“It’s a very divided country,” Elizabeth says. She lived in a small village with a population of 3,000 or so and taught English and HIV prevention. She came away feeling strong respect for Ukraine’s “resilient people.”

woman holding sunflower

Elizabeth Frank and one of her Ukrainian village’s main crops, the sunflower.

“Overall, it was fabulous,” she says, and she remains very close to some of her former students. Two of them came to the United States for high school because educational standards remain very poor in Ukraine; now, they’re attending university in Western Europe.

Elizabeth, Craig and Bethany remain attached to the places where they lived and served, and concur that their perspectives on global issues are strongly influenced by their time in the field.

Since finishing their stints as volunteers a few years ago, both Bethany and Elizabeth have maintained ties to the Peace Corps and the people they met on their tours. Bethany also spent a year in Malawi working for the Peace Corps Response, a short-term assignment that is focused on a particular area of expertise; Bethany’s focus was on HIV and AIDS.

Craig eventually married an English nurse he met while working in that mountain village in Yemen. The couple went on to work in international development in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Senegal and the United Kingdom before settling in the United States.

“My Peace Corps experience had a profound effect on my life,” Craig notes.

Carnations: The Sweet Smell of Success

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

red and white carnations

Carnations are now plentiful in Santa Rosa de Patután.

I’ve never been a fan of carnations. I’m more of a roses and Gerber daisy girl. But then I went to Ecuador and developed new appreciation for this simple flower.

Carnations have helped transform the community of Santa Rosa de Patután, located in the province of Cotopaxi, two hours from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito.

During my visit I heard from community leaders about how their village had changed in the past decade and a half. You could say it had grown up. Fifteen years ago, Santa Rosa de Patután was a struggling community with no access to clean water or sanitation services. Adults in this isolated village had little income and few job opportunities. Alcoholism was rampant. Children were sick due to the lack of clean water and poor sanitation.

Today, though, there is much to celebrate. One of the first things ChildFund did when it began working with the community was open up access to clean water. We also helped educate children and family members about proper hygiene. Children’s health improved.

Access to water also meant that irrigation systems could be put in place to help grow crops and flowers, in particular carnations.

fields of carnations growing

Carnation fields.

With the installation of irrigation systems, farmers realized that their lands could be productive. They would no longer have to travel to the cities looking for work in construction or domestic services. Seeing an opportunity for a locally based enterprise, they built greenhouses to grow carnations. A sea of red and white and pink carnations springing from the earth looks like a sunrise – absolutely breathtaking. When the carnations are harvested they are brought to buildings for processing and shipment to the United States, Europe, Russia and other countries in Latin America. Breathing in the scent is intoxicating.

man with clipping shears and flowers

Community members share in the work of preparing carnations for shipping.

At the same time that the carnations began to flourish, community members created their own credit union, with initial training and support from ChildFund. Profits generated from the sale of carnations are reinvested in projects for the community such as building better roads and creating a technology center for the children.

“It hasn’t been easy, we had to struggle a lot, and this is the result of many hours of meetings with the community to organize ourselves and make our business work,” says Nestor Moya, a community leader. “Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have water or electricity, but ChildFund gave us the foundations… and now we are entrepreneurs and administrators. We don´t have to work for anybody else.”

Hearing that success story has changed my views on carnations. I’d be delighted with a bouquet of carnations this Valentine’s Day. Beyond making my day special, those carnations would be changing the lives of the children and families who grow them with love.

That’s the sweet smell of success.

Monitoring the Needs of Children in Mali

By Kate Andrews, with reporting from BØRNEfonden

As strife spreads through Mali, ChildFund Alliance partner BØRNEfonden reports that the children they serve will face many hardships in the future.

Groups of rebels have taken over the northern part of Mali and recently moved southwest as far as Diabaly, a rural town previously held by the Malian government. This recent encroachment has increased the urgency for an international response. Last month, the United Nations Security Council authorized a peacekeeping mission, and now the French military, leading an international coalition, is working to defend the North African country from rebels.

The children served by BØRNEfonden, a Danish organization, are in the relatively secure localities of Bougouni, Yanfolila and Diolila in the southernmost Sikasso region of Mali.

Health worker weighs child.

A child is weighed at a hospital in Gao in northeastern Mali, after being admitted for malnutrition last fall. Photo: REUTERS/Adama Diarra, www.trust.org/alertnet

Nevertheless, says BØRNEfonden CEO Bolette Christensen, “At the moment many of the families, children and young people who have fled the northern parts of Mali stay with relatives in southern parts of the country. We must support them now and start thinking long term, or we will end up in a vicious spiral that makes it difficult for Mali to get firmly back on its feet.”

BØRNEfonden supports 14,000 children and families in 22 development centers in southern Mali, although the program is now working with more people, given the recent influx of refugees. Since March 2012, more than 300,000 northern Malians have fled to the southern part of the country, and others are refugees in nearby nations.

One of BØRNEfonden’s main objectives is to assist young Malians in creating small farms with irrigation systems; this program will contribute to the country’s long-term food security. BØRNEfonden will also support schoolchildren who have fled from the northern regions by providing textbooks and other teaching materials.

“Long-term development and targeting job creation, food security and education is more important than ever,” Christensen says.

ChildFund Projects Up Close in Zambia

Jake Lyell, photojournalist and videographer, provides a behind-the-scenes view as he travels to southern Africa to document the needs of the people of Zambia and report on the successes of ChildFund projects in the area. Enjoy the video.

Youth in Bolivia: “We Might be Small, but We Can Do Big Things”

By Abraham Marca and Ana Vacas, ChildFund Bolivia

It’s common to hear older Bolivians describing adolescents and children as being in their “donkey’s age” because they can be bull-headed.

A youth group in Tarija, Bolivia.

A youth group in Tarija, Bolivia.

But this perception of youth is now changing in the city of Tarija in Bolivia, where eight local partners, assisted by ChildFund Bolivia, have given children and youths the opportunity to put forward their own solutions for community problems like alcoholism, garbage and poor-quality playgrounds.

“We might be small, but we can do big things” is the slogan of one of the youth clubs.

Forming Youth Clubs
This dream started with small steps. With support from ChildFund, young people created clubs by choosing their own names, designing logos and writing club constitutions with rules about honesty, punctuality, teamwork and more.

A member of a youth group explains plans for a microproject.

A member of the group explains his plan for a microproject.

Next, the clubs participated in various educational modules, starting with leadership skills and photography. The children and youth started to identify problems and strengths in their community, often using photography. They then developed a project to address a community issue.

One of the main problems the children identified was pollution in their neighborhoods, as well as a lack of good recreational spaces. The few playgrounds were in poor condition. The youth also recognized that a lack of street lighting and persistent alcoholism made their neighborhoods more dangerous. These concerns echoed what we heard during our area strategic program with the Tarija communities.

Taking Action

Members of a youth group in Tarija.

Youth group members and leaders.

After forming a club, the children in Guadalquivir planted 12 trees — which they bought themselves — during a clean-up campaign. In Nueva Esperanza, the club members started a campaign to prevent alcoholism and also purchased new lights for the community’s soccer field. A youth leader, studying architecture, designed a new playground and coordinated the project in Moto Mendez. One of Tarija’s rural partners had problems with the speed of traffic near a school so the children consulted the mayor. As a result, speed bumps were put in place. In the same area, the youth raised awareness among adults to use the garbage collection services that passed through the community once a week, instead of tossing trash out on the streets or burning it.

Creating Partnerships

ChildFund staff and youth in Tarija.

ChildFund staff and youth in Tarija.

These are just a few examples of how children and youth can reach out, because as they tell us, “There are more ideas and, of course, a lot of energy.” Money is often short, so the club members have made alliances with local authorities and parents’ groups. Municipal governments have helped the children’s groups buy trees to plant in their neighborhoods.

Adults have been pleasantly surprised with the children’s drive, and now they are paying more attention to the young voices.

Reflections on Sponsorship: A Visit to Vietnam

Guest Post by Pete Olson

Pete Olson is an American Formula car racer in the Asia Formula Renault Series. Olson’s Race for Children campaign is to raise awareness around the issue of child poverty while encouraging fans to become child sponsors. Olson shares his recent trip to meet sponsored child Trang.

Me and Trang.

Trang, 11, lives in Vietnam.

After a decade of sponsoring various children through ChildFund, I finally made the decision to meet my sponsored child, Trang, and it was so worth it. Beyond the pictures and the letters from half a world away, my trip to Vietnam made my sponsorship experience that much more tangible. For the first time, I saw, in person, what my sponsorship had done for the little girl I’ve been communicating with over these past years.

To put it simply, meeting Trang is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.

My visit made me realize, more than ever, just how privileged I’ve been in my life. I have been very lucky to have so many opportunities, many of which I’ve taken for granted. The benefits my sponsorship are helping provide to Trang are things I’ve always been accustomed to having.

Meeting Trang's family.

Meeting Trang’s family.

For instance, I saw how ChildFund has helped build a medical center in the village to provide basic health care; they’ve built a fresh water system so the community doesn’t have to walk to a stream to collect drinking and cooking water; and they’ve installed toilet facilities in the village to provide access to basic sanitation. It was eye-opening to realize these standard amenities were previously nonexistent in this community. But I was more shocked to learn from a ChildFund representative that some children have to walk over the surrounding hills to get to and from school each day. That’s probably an hour hike over – and we complain about the Stairmaster!

We gripe so much about trivial things when so many of our basic needs are met. We only have to do a little comparison with those who lack those conveniences to realize how thankful we should all be for what we have and often take for granted.

Hanging out with Trang.

Trang and me.

It is a shame that there are so many inequalities in the world, but I know that I can do my part, no matter how small, to help children like Trang to improve their lives. I sincerely hope that through the Racing for Children program and my own personal efforts, we can find many more sponsors for children like Trang. If more people were moved in the way that I was last month in Vietnam, I have no doubt they would contribute.

I’m already looking forward to going back to visit Trang and her community. I am so glad I made the effort. To think that I have been able to help so much with what we Americans think of as so little – it is really something.

Formula One World Champion race driver, Aytron Senna said it best, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”

Indeed it is our duty, and yet our privilege – we should all do our part. Help a child in need by becoming a sponsor through ChildFund International.

Behind the Scenes With ChildFund Spokesperson Alan Sader

by Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer

Alan Sader, ChildFund's TV Spokesperson

Alan Sader, ChildFund’s TV Spokesperson

When I sat down with Alan Sader, ChildFund’s TV spokesperson, I’ll admit I was a tad star struck. When I was younger, I’d seen him on countless commercials—sitting on a stoop in a developing country, arm wrapped gently around a small child. His posture was strong, his voice was both kind and commanding and his message was always clear – by giving a little each month, I had the opportunity to help change a child’s life.

Beatrice, a child in ChildFund Brasil programs.

Beatrice, 5, a child in ChildFund Brazil programs, is one of the many children Alan spoke to in ChildFund’s latest commercial.

For the last 20 years, Sader has spoken on behalf of children around the world. By sharing their stories and encouraging a U.S. audience to become sponsors, Sader has helped many children escape poverty. In our conversation, he recalled several trips to ChildFund program areas and shared how each child he meets reminds him why his work is so important.

“I do plays, I do commercials for lawyers and furniture stores and that’s great for providing food for my family but there is a legacy involved in this work [with ChildFund],” he says. “Making the lives of children better is the most important and rewarding work I can ever do. There are a lot of children whose lives have been changed because of this and I am happy talking to people about that.”

In 1993, one year after his first appearance in a ChildFund commercial, Sader traveled to Kenya to work on a second TV spot. He met numerous children whose stories he would share with the world but one child in particular helped reaffirm his decision to work as ChildFund’s spokesperson.

“At the time, my youngest daughter was 6-weeks old,” he says. “During this particular trip, they placed a small child in my arms. I can remember thinking, a baby feels like a baby and that baby felt like my baby; and I knew they had the same needs. It felt so good to communicate that need to the camera, to share that with whoever could see the commercial and encourage them to react by helping a child.”

Alan with Daniella.

Alan with Daniella, 9.

Although Sader realized that all children around the world had the same basic needs, he was exposed to a level of poverty unlike anything he had seen in the U.S. “There was a shocking quality of poverty in these places. I saw communities where entire families lived in shacks made of tin and paper to keep the weather out,” he says. “I had never seen up close and personal poverty. Although I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I knew that my family came from poor mountain folk on my mother’s side, I don’t think my people were ever starving, malnourished or lived in places where it was dangerous to drink the water.”

He explains that his firsthand experiences in some of the most impoverished countries have been humbling and serve as a continuous reminder to help those who are less fortunate. So he has taken his own message to heart. Since 1992, Sader has sponsored two children through ChildFund – a girl from Brazil and a boy from Kenya. Both youth are approaching an age where they will complete ChildFund’s program, but Sader knows his support will have a long-lasting effect.

“I’ve met them both,” he says. “The young woman has special needs but is able to do things that make her feel included and worthwhile – when I hear from her (most letters come from her family), she is very happy. And Arnold started a business at a young age because he was able to buy rabbits using a monetary gift I sent him – so he tells me about his rabbits in his letters. I keep in touch with his father as well.”

Parents, especially mothers, play an important role in the communities Sader has visited. “ChildFund projects depend on the involvement of the local people,” he says. “I’ve seen them involve the whole community. It is amazing to see the mothers cook, clean, and make money at the markets and then volunteer to help their children have a better life.”

Alan in Brazil.

Alan filming with 8-year-old Morrone in Brazil.

It’s this behind-the-scenes perspective that has motivated Sader to continue his role as ChildFund’s TV spokesperson. “I am continually impressed by this organization,” he says. “ChildFund is not run by some expert sitting back making all the decisions. It is a collaborative effort between the country, who knows what is best for their people and folks who want to help here at the home office.”

Home is Richmond, Va., to both ChildFund and Sader. And when he’s not dropping into headquarters to plan his next filming schedule, you can find him doing what he does best. “I’ve been acting since I was a child,” he says. “It wasn’t until much later I decided to make a career of it.”

Alan

Alan Sader has been ChildFund’s TV spokesperson since 1992.

Sader is well known in Richmond theater circles. Last year he played King Lear, a role that won him best actor from Richmond Critics’ Circle and also played the role of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His latest work was on the motion picture, Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg

“I will continue to do theater and movies as opportunities present themselves,” he says. “And I hope to continue to do commercials and represent ChildFund as well. My wife is an artist, my oldest daughter is married and my youngest is a junior at Virginia Tech – so life is good.”

I expected to hear nothing less from a man who uses his talents to change lives around the world.

Want to see Alan Sader in action? Check out ChildFund’s latest TV commercial and visit our website to sponsor a child.

It Gave Me a Sense That Things Really Can Be Fixed

By Mauricio Bianco, ChildFund Brasil

Mauricio Bianco, marketing and fundraising manager for ChildFund Brasil, recently traveled to Ecuador. Today, he shares his impressions in the second of a two-part series. See part one.

children on playground

An ECD program in Misquilli.

After visiting with teenagers in ChildFund programs who produce a newspaper column and a radio show, we traveled to the community of Misquilli, an indigenous community of Quechua origin. We visited an Early Child Development (ECD) center built and maintained by ChildFund Ecuador with child sponsorship resources and government funding. The center serves children under 5.

woman with charts

A trained volunteer helps new mothers.

Many activities strengthen the emotional bond between children and caregivers, and many mothers in the ECD program receive guidance on the importance of breastfeeding. That advice is delivered by “madres-guias” (mother-guides) who visit mothers in the community weekly to discuss health, hygiene and nutrition of young children.

girl in blue hat

A young child attends ECD programs.

Toward the end of the day we traveled to the province of Cotopaxi, bookended at one side by a snowy hill and the other, a volcano.

We went straight to the community of Patutan, which lies about 10 km (6 miles) from the highway leading to Quito. We talked with leaders of six local associations that have partnered with ChildFund since 1995, supporting the work of ChildFund Ecuador, the national government and local social organizations.

green houses

Local greenhouses for growing flowers.

Some communities from the federation are “graduating,” meaning that they will no longer rely on funding from ChildFund Ecuador.

Carnations

Flower export provides needed income for this community.

These communities now have numerous entrepreneurs who started businesses selling flowers, tomatoes, chickens and pigs. The federation of community groups has a credit union that was formed in 2000 with US$120 and now handles more than US$600,000 in loans to local producers (with interest of 18 percent per year). Carnations and roses are exported to the United States, Europe, Russia and parts of Latin America.

community leaders

Community leaders discuss their future plans.

More than 400 families are involved in the flower industry. The Patutan community leaders eloquently discussed sustainability, transparency, income generation, empowerment, water sanitation, family farming, marketing and foreign trade. It was amazing and gave me a sense that things really can be fixed!

All of the community leaders, including women, seem fully aware of their rights in society and are increasingly improving their communities through sustainable growth. Next year, ChildFund Ecuador will end the subsidy for more than 25,000 people in these communities after providing a great deal of training in education, health and community participation.

You’ll Never Look at Your Toilet the Same Way Again

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

Each Nov. 19, World Toilet Day is observed as reminder that 2.6 billion people lack access to toilets and proper sanitation. This year, sanitation is a particular worry in the Philippines where families have been living in a tent city for several months after floods submerged their homes.

In rural areas of the Philippines, toilets – when you can find them –
consist of just a basic bowl with no lift-up seat. These are usually made of ceramic, but among poorer communities, toilets are often made of concrete. Water closets are rare, mainly because the local water supply is irregular. Even where there’s water in the tap, many people prefer to flush manually using a pail, claiming it saves more water than a modern flush.

men walking among tent camp

ChildFund staff survey tent camps.

For 297 Filipino families currently living at the relocation tent city at Marianville, located in the Laguna province town of Bay [Ba-e], even the rough, concrete toilets would be preferable, as the camp’s makeshift latrines offer only rudimentary sanitation.

Heavy monsoon rains inundated the Philippine capital of Manila and surrounding locales in early August. Floodwater from Manila drained into Laguna Lake, south of the capital, swelling it to dangerous levels. Simultaneous with Manila’s recovery, towns like Bay were submerged in water, chest-deep in many areas. Rice fields became lakes and homes drowned in water that quickly turned dark and septic as the flood lingered. Many families had no choice but to evacuate to designated shelters. From there, they were moved to tent camps where they’d wait out the floods, which would recede in the sun, but would quickly fill again when it rained.

young girls holding hands

Young girls are taught simple safety steps.

Many children reside in the tent community at Marianville. For the past several months, ChildFund has responded with emotional and psychological support activities through Child-Centered Spaces set up at the camp. Children’s safety and protection remains paramount as families endure the long wait to return home.

ChildFund staff inspect latrines

Although latrines at relocation camps are spartan, ChildFund works to ensure they are safe for children.

ChildFund’s focus on child protection is doubly important in irregular circumstances such as disaster, according to Hubert Par, a ChildFund sponsor relations officer who also serves on the Emergency Response Team. “Children are especially vulnerable in crowded tent camps, particularly as the toilets are common [not private], and are often constructed from available materials,” Par says.

Since summer, ChildFund has worked with its local partner to train first responders, local authorities and youth volunteers to educate children and families living in the tent community on simple steps for keeping children safe, especially when nature calls.

ChildFund has worked with camp managers to make sure separate latrines were set up for males and females, with neither facility located more than 50 meters from the camp proper. “We also made sure camp managers and residents kept the discipline of never sending a child to the restrooms alone. Children should be accompanied by a caregiver when going to the common latrines,” says Par. “We also inform them of mechanisms by which they can report any child protection issues that may arise,” he adds.

Kerzon, 16-year-old youth volunteer, has become a strong advocate for child protection, in addition to his daily response work in the camp, and his duties as a local youth council representative. “As a Child-Centered Space volunteer, I’m proud not just of being able to help, but also because I’m able to share practical knowledge, specifically about child protection,” he says.

Although families long to return to and repair their homes, flood levels remain up to 3 feet deep in Bay. Although the comfort of home and a private restroom must wait, ChildFund is working to ensure that the camp’s plywood and plastic common latrines are safe for children.

If you would like to help children around the world who lack a proper toilet, please consider a gift to the Children’s Greatest Needs fund.

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