By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
I think most of us can agree that 2016 has been an eventful year, both here in the United States and around the world. If you are a sponsor, you can take heart in the fact that your presence and support has helped a child and his or her family. If you’ve contributed to one of ChildFund’s other campaigns, like the one in Uganda that helps reunite families torn apart by AIDS, you’ve made an important impact, too. Your generosity matters in large and small ways.
Here are this year’s most popular blog posts (judged by the number of views as of mid-December). They cover many interests and multiple continents. Thank you for your support of children and families in need.
Julien Anseau, our global communications manager, wrote three pieces about refugees and migrants he met while on an assessment trip through Europe in January 2016. With the chaos and death toll in Aleppo making headlines now, Julien’s story is just as relevant today as it was in February.
4. Sarah’s Doll
Jake Lyell, who shoots videos and takes photos for ChildFund all over the world, met 11-year-old Sarah while interviewing families in Uganda who are part of the USAID-funded project DOVCU, which is keeping families together and reuniting other families struggling to support their children. In Jake’s video, Sarah, whose father is disabled and was considering giving his children to an orphanage, shows us how she makes her own doll. It’s a lighthearted moment, but it also shows children’s resilience in the midst of serious circumstances.
Jake also spent time in Ethiopia earlier this year to document the food shortage in the region of Oromia. This post shares the words of Halko, a mother whose four children were suffering from malnutrition — particularly her 3-month-old baby son, Fentale. At the end of 2016, the situation in Ethiopia is improving, but families still need help.
In a report by the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood about children’s opinions on creating peace, we learned a lot. If nothing else, we hope your connection to ChildFund produces admiration and interest for the thoughts and voices of children. In some cases, they’re wiser than their elders. ChildFund writer Rachel Ringgold found some especially interesting quotes from children in Timor-Leste. Take a look!
This is one of my favorite new traditions: Local partner organizations and children around the world submit videos each year for our Community Video Contest. Everyone wins — the amateur videographers, the children in the videos and all the viewers. In this post, Meg Carter, sponsorship communications specialist, explains how she and her team of judges chose the winner of 2015’s contest. You can see the videos from 2016 and 2015 on YouTube.
Finally, here’s a slideshow of my favorite photos this year. Thank you to Jake Lyell and all of the ChildFund staff members and local partner staffers who took these pictures!
This will be the last blog post for 2016 and likely my final one, as well, since I’ll be leaving ChildFund in early January. Thanks for reading, and have a super 2017. Kate
Best wishes from ChildFund during the holiday season, and come back Dec. 28 to see our five most popular blog posts for 2016. Some of them may surprise you!
By Rachel Ringgold, ChildFund Staff Writer
It’s been five years since we met Anista. She’s a sponsored child who lives in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, and we took a peek into her daily routine when she was 9. Some things in her life haven’t changed much since then.
Anista still brushes her teeth in the morning to get ready for the day. Her sister, Stella, still washes up with her, out in front of the same robin’s-egg-blue house. To get to school, they still walk half an hour to school, down and then back up the sides of the same misty mountains covered with tea bushes.
But a lot has changed in the last five years, too. Anista is 14 years old now, and she’s at the top of her ninth-grade class. On this visit with the family, the kids were on summer break, so they were home from school. Anista drinks tea, washes up and plays with her sisters — their favorite game is jump rope.
Anista also helps her mother, Slatemary, do chores around the house. Five years ago, Slatemary wasn’t at home. In fact, she wasn’t even in the country. She worked abroad for years as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. But last November, after not receiving a paycheck for several months, Slatemary returned to Sri Lanka — and she says she won’t leave again. “I want to be here,” she says. “I want to be home with my children.”
Slatemary, along with Anista’s father, has worked hard to give her family all she possibly can. Five years ago, Anista and her siblings didn’t have electricity or running water in their house, but now they do. And they have a TV, which is something else Anista and her siblings enjoy on days off from school — but they’re allowed to watch only educational shows, Slatemary says.
And Anista has gone from being one of the little sisters to being the oldest child at home, as her two older sisters have jobs hours away in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Watching the siblings, it’s clear Anista takes her role seriously — she keeps a watchful eye when her younger sister, Princey, climbs a tree, and she holds brother Kabilash’s hand as they descend the steep stairs from their village.
Slatemary says that what she truly wants from ChildFund is not physical or tangible. What she wants for her daughter is “good knowledge, a good attitude and to learn to be a good human being.” And, she says, “I don’t want my daughter to be like me — a tea plucker.”
It seems that Anista’s mother’s dreams are well on their way to coming true. Five years ago, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Anista said she wanted to be a teacher. And her dream has grown since then. “I want to teach dance,” she says with a quiet determination.
We can’t wait to see it.
Photo and reporting by Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka
“I am thankful to have Darshika, who is my very good friend,” says Sasivini, 13, of Sri Lanka (at right). “Darshika is also 13 years old and studies with me in school. When something goes wrong at school, sometimes I quarrel with my classmates. When that happens, I feel lonely and isolated. But I am thankful for having a friend like Darshika, who intervenes and settles matters peacefully.”
Stay tuned for more stories about what children are thankful for.
Photo by Jéssica Takato, ChildFund Brazil
When I visited ChildFund’s programs in Brazil earlier this year, girls and boys at a community center in Belo Horizonte were kicking and punching — while led by a teacher. They were learning basic moves in a martial arts class, and the teacher told me something interesting: Learning this ancient pugilistic art actually keeps kids from fighting.
And interest is growing. As more children learn Muay Thai and other martial arts, the center has begun offering a class at night for adults.
Camilly, 13, is one of several girls who take Muay Thai at the community center, and she is living proof that martial arts help people of all ages become more secure and confident, and less volatile. She’s practiced Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, since she was 10.
“I was very nervous and fought with everybody,” Camilly says, “but now that I do martial arts and play soccer, I’m getting better. In Muay Thai, we learn to have respect for others and not hit people outside of the fight. I changed a lot. I can settle things calmly, and I’m more patient.
“Now when something happens, I drink a glass of water, calm down, and everything is fine.”
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Getting ready to watch the games in Rio? I sure am. To mark this special occasion, I’ve got a few pictures from my side-trip to southern Brazil (see below, in the slideshow), which followed a wonderful visit to ChildFund’s programs in northeastern Brazil. One of my favorite moments was meeting Maria Antônia, whom we featured last year on the blog. She’s the girl who spoke about violence against children at a side-event organized by ChildFund and other international nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations headquarters in New York City in March 2015.
One of my hopes was to meet Maria Antônia in person while visiting her hometown, Crato, to find out what she had done in the year after her trip to New York. With the help of my ChildFund Brazil colleagues and our local partner staff, she and I were able to meet. She’s now about to turn 16, and as you’ll read, she’s doing well in and outside of school. No surprise there. Maria Antônia is a young woman destined for great things.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
As usual, July 4 is the United States’ Independence Day, but this year, it’s also Zambia’s Heroes Day, which falls on the first Monday of July. Many countries celebrate holidays dedicated to heroes, whether military, political or humanitarian. Who are your heroes? They may be people you’ve never met or someone you’re related to. Maybe you have multiple heroes.
At ChildFund, we hear from time to time about children and adults who take stands for someone else’s rights — a person who needs protection or could use extra support as he or she fights for what is right. It can be a lonely and scary feeling to be a hero, but we are thankful for people doing what they can to improve the world, despite personal risk.
In honor of Heroes Day in Zambia, please watch Jake Lyell’s video about Patricia, who was married at age 15. She is a hero in my eyes, and so are the people who helped her escape her marriage, which had already led to abuse and the end of her formal education. Questioning long-held traditions and creating awareness of early marriage’s harmful effects are bold stands in Zambia and many other countries. We need heroes willing to speak out for the rights of girls and women.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
On the last day of my trip to northeastern Brazil, my colleagues and I (an intrepid group of five, including my translator) went to a small community called Sao Geraldo. After driving all over creation the day before — through rain and mud, past itinerant donkeys — it was a relief to have just a 15-minute drive on paved roads in the sun.
After visiting a well-stocked playroom for children ages 5 and under at a community center supported by ChildFund, we walked to nearby homes to visit sponsored and enrolled children and their families.
Sao Geraldo is a brightly colored place, with yellow, turquoise, coral and white homes lining steep streets. Nearly every home was decorated with children’s artwork and family photos. But serious problems lie beneath the cheery exterior. Neglect and abandonment of children, as well as drug abuse and prostitution, are common here, we learned from our local partner’s staff. Parents, mainly mothers, are doing the best they can, but this is a community that relies on sponsorship and ChildFund’s support of the community center, which serves children and youth.
You can read more about Sao Geraldo on our website, but I wanted to share a few photos of the children we met. Many face an uphill climb because of poverty and few job opportunities in this region, but sponsorship and other kinds of support do make a difference in their lives, offering them hope.
Video and text by Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
During my trip to northeastern Brazil in March, I visited many families of sponsored children and the community centers where neighborhood kids go after school. The centers are supported by ChildFund and run by our local partner organizations, and offer arts and crafts classes, music lessons, dancing, martial arts and much more for children and youth.
In Crato, a midsize city in the state of Ceara (which has been deeply affected by the Zika virus outbreak), a troupe of young drummers — boys and girls, ages 5 to 13 — played for our small group of visiting ChildFund staff members from Brazil and the United States.
After watching the children perform, we visited 13-year-old Poliana’s home and met her parents and siblings, who told us about their great experience with sponsorship. You’ll see Poliana in the video around :28; she’s the girl with the springy curls. Aside from drumming, she also takes ballet and likes to draw.
Brazil, as you may know, is a large country both in land mass and in population, and the northeast has just as many cultural traditions as the southern part of the nation. But because of Rio’s international fame (especially for its samba and bossa nova music), people in the U.S. usually know more about southern Brazil. The children in the drum troupe, however, are keeping northeastern culture alive by learning to play rhythms that are part of local musical styles baião, axé and forro.
“We’ve learned to play many different instruments,” says 13-year-old Francisco, who’s been drumming since 2013. “We’ve also made new friends, and our parents are proud of us.”
The late performer Luiz Gonzaga is the prime example of the northeast’s musical tradition, with decades of songs featuring accordion, drums and prominent vocals. You may recognize a few similarities between his music and what the children are playing. Give him a listen!