Voices of Children

In Jakarta’s Slums, Children Fold Up Their Dream Bikes

bikes in Jakarta

Children in Jakarta, Indonesia, receive their fold-up bicycles and helmets from ChildFund. Aisyah is in the green T-shirt.

Reporting and Photography by Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

Many children who benefit from ChildFund’s Dream Bikes program are in isolated communities and face long journeys across rough rural terrain. It’s a little different in south and east Jakarta, the huge capital city of Indonesia. Children there live in dense, crowded slums, and to get to school, they have to walk or take the public bus or a motorbike, a big daily expense for families living in poverty.

Because their homes also are small, 125 children in Jakarta’s slums received foldable bicycles from ChildFund’s local partner organization, Perkumpulan Marga Sejahtera, which hosts after-school activities.

“When they fold the bike, it won’t take up as much space,” explains the organization’s director, Liest Pranowo. “These children walk every day to school, and also when they join some activities out of school. Having a bike hopefully will help them to get to school easier, get in on time and be more active as well in out-of-school activities. It would save their parents some costs too. Usually, it takes about US$2 for a rental motorbike. It is just too much for them. As children are very active, we also provided them with helmets. If they fell, their heads would be protected.”

Aisyah, 12, with her bike.

Aisyah, 12, with her bike.

Let’s meet Aisyah, a 12-year-old girl who likes watching the news and hopes to be a doctor one day. She received a bike and helmet, and it’s making a difference already. These are her words:

I walked to school and back every day with my younger brother. He’s in the second grade. I leave home around 5 a.m. and get to school by 5:30 a.m. Often I came late to school, especially on Mondays and Fridays. On Mondays, we have a morning ceremony where we need to be ready a bit early, and on Friday we have group study and exercise that I need to come early for too. On those days, often I came late.

Once, there were other kids in the street from another school who made fun of me. They would say something bad, like “Oh, you are a hobo! Even your school is the school for hobos!” They were boys, four of them. I would tell them to please not to say something like that, as they wouldn’t want other people to say something bad in return, right?

Another time, when I came home from school, these boys said something bad to me again. One of them pulled my hair from the back and pushed me down. I fell down and cried. A taxi driver stopped them. When I got home, I told my mom, and she then went to their house, but they still didn’t want to say sorry.

I am not afraid of them, though, but I try holding myself hard to just ignore them. My brother always says to ignore them.

Since I am in the sixth grade now, there are days where I stay longer in school for extra classes. That’s fine, as I need to be prepared for the exams. I take extra classes in math, science and Indonesian language. But sometimes when I got home, I was too tired from walking under the hot sun to study again or do my homework.

When I finish school, I am going to be a doctor! I want to help people who are sick. But if they don’t have money, I will do it for free. It’s all right. Even though our government has health insurance, it is not enough to cover everything.

One day I saw in the news that a mother had just given birth. The hospital kept the baby longer as the baby was born premature, and the family couldn’t afford the cost for the treatment. That’s why I want to be a doctor, to help people in need like that.

I really am happy I was given the bicycle by ChildFund. I will ride the bike to school. The bicycle lets me get to school on time, and now I have more time to do my homework. I will even take my brother in the back saddle!

You can help girls like Aisyah by donating a Dream Bike. One bicycle costs $100, and its value is priceless. Stay tuned for more Dream Bike stories from Jakarta, coming soon.

Ibrahim and Susie

Ibrahim of Sierra Leone

Reporting by Karifa Kamara, ChildFund Sierra Leone

Ibrahim is a 6-year-old boy from Sierra Leone, and he talked to us about his goat.

My name is Ibrahim. I am lucky to have a goat from ChildFund through Daindemben Federation [ChildFund’s local partner organization in his community]. I named my goat Susie. We have lived together for more than a year. She likes to stay and walk around with me at all times. She cries sometimes when she feels like seeing me, especially in the morning before breakfast and when I have gone to school. I love her because she is very fond of me and always comes to me when I call her to play.

My mother takes her to the farm every day to feed. When she comes home, I give her cassava and orange peels. My friends always come around to see and admire her and play with her. Playing with Susie has made me love animals more than before.

Read more about children playing.

Playing With What They Have

Photos from ChildFund’s offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico and Timor-Leste 

In the lobby of ChildFund’s international headquarters, we don’t have your typical office décor. Instead, we have a sparsely furnished Kenyan classroom, a world map mural with paper dolls holding hands, and homemade toys collected from around the world. A lot of the toys are made with what some people might call trash: used plastic bottles, twine and bits of rubber and metal. But the toys themselves are not junk and are often prized by the children who made and played with them.

In these pictures below, you’ll see the ingenuity and creativity of children who play with what they have — animals, traditional games and toys made from available materials.

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Helping Girls Achieve Their Dreams

By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka_Lojana

Lojana (left) with her older sister and one of their chickens.

Nine-year-old Lojana dreams about having a bike. She wants one not just to ride to school, which is 2 kilometers away, but also because she would be able to live again full time with her grandmother in Sri Lanka.

Lojana lost her mother to cancer when she was just 3, and her father, who has remarried, lives separately with his new wife, while Lojana and her sister have lived at their grandmother’s house until recently.

An elephant trampled their home, and now all three live in Lojana’s uncle’s house, which is miles away from school. During the week, Lojana stays with a relative who lives closer to her school and stays with her uncle on weekends. Buses run infrequently, so a bicycle would help Lojana travel from her uncle’s home to school and require less moving around.

That’s where ChildFund’s Dream Bike project comes into play. We are working to raise money to provide 3,400 girls in 12 countries (including Sri Lanka) with bikes, which will allow them to travel to school safely and quickly, instead of walking long distances through sometimes dangerous terrain. Snake bites are very common where Lojana lives, and the hospital is a long distance away. Sometimes people die before they can get medical help.

Lojana is sponsored and receives financial support for her books and other educational needs from her sponsor, which is a “big relief,” according to her grandmother, who is struggling to make a livelihood. “I have a few chickens and sell about five eggs a day,” she says, noting that the family depends on help from Lojana’s uncle and ChildFund Sri Lanka.

Despite the hardships in her life, Lojana has big dreams: “I’d like to be a doctor one day,” she says.

You can help girls like Lojana achieve their educational dreams by donating a Dream Bike.

A Show of Hands for Nonviolence

Free From Violence handprints

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

For the past year, ChildFund Alliance (of which ChildFund International is a founding member) has been working to make sure the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which take effect in September 2015, will include a goal to keep children free from violence.

So far, more than 300,000 people have signed the Alliance’s Free From Violence petition calling for such a measure. And recently, ChildFund’s national offices have created a visible show of support for this goal: handprints of children, youth and adults who want to see every child able to attend school, play with friends and conduct their lives without fear of physical, sexual or emotional violence. Here are some of the handprints we’ve collected.

Please share the photos with your networks, create your own handprints, and help us build support for letting children grow up free from violence by emailing us pictures of your handprints. Below, see photos from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Mississippi, the Philippines, South Dakota and Texas.

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African Children Raise Voices for End to Forced Marriage

pieterson memorial

Children gather around a memorial structure for 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, who was killed in Soweto on June 16, 1976.

Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, Africa Regional Communication and Administration Manager, and Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

Today is the International Day of the African Child, a day to honor children’s rights. The continent-wide event looks back to a terrible day in 1976, June 16, when thousands of schoolchildren marched in Soweto, then a township in South Africa, to call for higher-quality education and the right to learn in their own languages.

Hundreds of children were shot. The official number of deaths was 23, but estimates put the number much higher. One of the first casualties, 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, would become the icon of a movement promoting children’s rights. Since 1991, the Day of the African Child has marked the tragedy and served as an occasion to advocate for children’s rights across the continent — and, in particular, for children themselves to raise their voices.

This year, children from seven African countries marched through Soweto from the Mandela House to the Hector Pieterson Monument and Memorial Museum, joined by representatives of the South African government, the United Nations, international nongovernmental organizations and other official bodies.

During the march, children and others chanted slogans against early and forced marriage, this year’s theme for the Day of the African Child: “Don’t talk about us without us!” “Stop early marriage now!” “Girls are not a commodity — do not trade them for money, but send them to school!” Later, children performed dramatic monologues, poems and other speech advocating for children’s rights.

Mamadou, a 14-year-old from Guinea.

Mamadou, a 14-year-old from Guinea.

This year, the Day of the African Child is joined with a parallel celebration of this month’s 25th anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The African Union crafted the Charter based on the United Nations’ global Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which marked its 25th anniversary in November. The Charter echoes the CRC but is geared more specifically toward Africa’s needs, particularly with regard to protecting children from harmful traditional practices.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child explicitly calls for all African countries to push the minimum age of marriage to 18, but child marriage — as well as accompanying issues such as early pregnancies and lack of education and job opportunities for young women — remains a challenge throughout Africa, home to 15 of the world’s 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage.

“We young girls want to be in a school,” said one girl participating in the march. “That is where we belong — not to marriage.”

Soweto is not the only site where the Day of the African Child is celebrated, and June 16 is not the only day; in Guinea, which is recovering from the Ebola outbreak, thousands of children, joined by government and NGO officials, gathered on June 6 in Siguiri, a prefecture on the Niger River, to launch a Month of the African Child.

Near the site of Guinea’s celebration is a gold mine, and many young children work there, missing school and placing themselves in danger. That was the issue on Mamadou’s mind, and the 14-year-old ninth-grader was excited to exercise his right to speak out: “This moment is an occasion for me to pass messages to parents and even friends,” he said. “In my district, most of the children of my age and even younger are in the gold mine. Some are there through because of pressure from their parents. These children are not attending school. Instead, they spend every day from morning to evening digging hard, rocky ground in search of gold.

“Parents, please help your children to go to school,” he said. “School builds children’s minds and prepares them for tomorrow so that they can be helpful to you.”

He worries about his friends’ thinking that money is the answer to problems. “I am telling them that I agree with them that money is good, but you need to have the education and training to be able to manage money and know how to multiply it,” he said. “I tell my friends who have gone to the mine to go back to school for the education and training that will let them manage money, because school builds the mind.”

Creating New Readers in India

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Pooja (in white wrap) discusses books from ChildFund with her friends in a village in India’s state of Andhra Pradesh.

By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India

Five months after the launch of ChildFund India’s Books, My Friends campaign, we’re learning more about the children who are getting their first chance to own books and read for pleasure.

This spring, ChildFund India and its campaign partner, Macmillan Education, conducted a baseline assessment of 1,200 children across 15 Indian states, to understand their reading abilities. About 40,000 children have received books and bags since December through the Books, My Friends program.

Pooja with her books.

Pooja with her books.

The analysis showed that reading ability improved with age, although far too many children still can’t read. In the group of 6- to 8-year-olds tested, 66.2 percent were not able to read at all, while 44.8 percent of 11- and 12-year-olds and 29 percent of 13- and 14-year-olds were illiterate. Geography mattered as well, with higher literacy rates in the states of Delhi, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, while Rajasthan, Jharkand and Chhattisgarh had lower rates.

Pooja, 14, who lives in a village in Andhra Pradesh, was able to read at the level of an 8- or 9-year-old when she received her books in December.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to read these books,” she says. Also, most of her time was spent in studying her textbooks or attending classes, so Pooja preferred to get away from books during her leisure time.

But because some of the books she received were in her local language, Telugu, they piqued her interest. Soon, she was enjoying them, and she moved on to the other books in her bag, which were in English. That presented an obstacle, since English is harder for Pooja to read.

With a smile on her face, Pooja says, “My school coordinator has helped me a lot in improving my English reading ability. She would patiently sit with me, make me read these story books and correct me whenever I went wrong. And as soon as I started understanding the stories, I started enjoying them and wanted to read more.”

As a result, Pooja has joined a group of other students who discuss their books.

“This campaign has really helped me make new friends,” she says. “All the students who have received these books have formed a group, and during weekends, all of us sit together to read these books and enjoy chatting with each other. The illustrations in these books make the reading all more interesting. I’m really grateful to ChildFund for giving me these books. Because of this campaign, I’ve made this extra effort to read, and today I can read an entire sentence in English without faltering.”

Reading is an important source of knowledge, happiness, pleasure and even courage. It opens your mind and transports you virtually into newer worlds. It develops your brain and helps in communicating and sharing ideas, and therefore is essential for advancement and development of any society.

Read Rashmi Kulkarni’s first story about Books, My Friends.

The Freedom of Speech in Guatemala’s Highlands


This is a first-grade class at Patzite, Guatemala’s primary school, where more students stay in school than in other communities in the highlands; only 4 percent of its 150 students drop out before sixth grade. Still, a high school in town has only 60 students.  

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This is the first of three articles this month about Kate’s recent trip to report on ChildFund-supported programs in Guatemala’s highlands.

When ChildFund staff members travel to the field, we often hire translators, even when we have some command of the language being spoken. But in Guatemala’s highlands, I needed two translators: one who could translate Spanish to English, and a second to translate from the local language to Spanish. Often, we asked our local partner organizations to help us out.

Felipe, my Spanish-to-English translator, holds a homemade horse toy at a local home.

Felipe, my Spanish-to-English translator, holds a homemade horse toy at a local home.

It definitely made reporting interesting. A couple of people compared the process to the childhood game of Telephone, which isn’t too far from the truth. Since it was hard to get direct quotes, I relied a lot on skills of observation in Palima, Patzite and Pachichiac, mountain villages that I visited in late April.

Bumpy dirt roads, bright blue tarps draped over mud-brick house frames, the scent of greens cooking on a rustic stove, chickens and dogs running loose, the smell of rain as a storm approached — they all fed my senses. So did the peal of 4-year-old Heidi Karina’s voice as she named colors in her native tongue of Kaqchikel, part of the Mayan family of languages. She’ll learn Spanish in school, but right now, she says räx for green instead of the Spanish verde.

People in these highland villages are isolated from the rest of Guatemala, particularly the capital of Guatemala City and nearby Antigua, where schools, jobs, running water and electricity are far more accessible. Although the highlands are just a couple of hours away from the cities by car, a lack of reliable transportation and job opportunities keeps many families in poverty.

Heidi Karina, 4.

Heidi Karina, 4.

As does the language barrier. Children learn Spanish in school, but most in the highlands don’t attend past sixth grade. How many of you reading this story took high school Spanish or French? And how much of it do you remember?

Anyone hoping for a professional job in Guatemala needs to be fluent in Spanish, and I overheard one person in our party advising a young woman that she also should study English to improve her chances for a job as a social worker. Such advice seems unreachable for people who stop school in the third grade, take up farming or weaving, marry in their teens and have six or seven children to care for. Hopes may be somewhat higher for the children, but few of them progress to high school even now.

A state-maintained highway runs near the district of Quiché, which gives people there an advantage over other communities like Pachichiac, which is far from any main roads. José Mario Lopez Ixcoy, general director of ChildFund’s local partner in Quiché, says that most people there speak some Spanish, at least enough to take menial jobs in cities, although, he adds, “sometimes they feel discriminated against in the city because of their customs.” People can walk half an hour to a bus stop, where buses come twice in the morning and return from the cities twice in the afternoon. School, health care and jobs are easier to reach, as a result.

The people in Guatemala’s highlands will need many things to happen to make school more accessible: better roads, regular transportation, funding for school uniforms and other necessities.

And, according to Aura Maria, a guide mother who lives in Pachichiac, the communities also need more job opportunities, reliable electricity and financial assistance for education and health care.

I learned how to say “thank you” in Quiché, another Mayan language: Maltiox, pronounced mal-tee-osh. It took a fair amount of practice, and although I got comfortable with saying it during the visit, the word is already starting to fade from my memory a month later.

Let’s not let the same happen with children who depend on us to think of their futures.

A boy outside his classroom at Patzite's grammar school.

A boy outside his classroom at Patzite’s grammar school.


Drawing a Line on Violence and Alcohol Abuse

Video by ChildFund Bolivia

In La Paz, Bolivia, members of the Avance Comunitario Youth Club are talking about alcohol abuse and gang violence, two serious problems in their community. In the video, one girl points to bushes where gang members hide from police lights. If you were to draw a map of your neighborhood, the way these teens did, what kinds of dangers would you draw? By creating awareness of community issues, the members of the youth club — one of several supported by ChildFund and our local partner organizations in Bolivia — are leading the way toward solutions.

Reflections of Life in Kenya

Reporting by ChildFund Kenya

Children enrolled in ChildFund’s programs near Nairobi participated in an art exhibition featuring photos and paintings they made, often depicting their surroundings.



Weslyne and his photo.

Weslyne, who is 13, shows a photo he took of the Dandora dump near his home. Covering an area of 30 acres, the dump accepts about 850 tons of solid waste generated daily by the 3.5 million inhabitants of the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The dump, which is the largest in Africa,was once a quarry that the City Council of Nairobi sought to use temporarily. But it still exists, 40 years later, despite having been declared full.

Residents have to live with the stench, trash and dirt. Waste pickers pounce on trash once it is offloaded by incoming trucks. Birds, pigs and people scavenge heaps of rubbish for food, scrap metal, polythene bottles and bags, which are often sold. Weslyne explains that the dump also attracts children and youth who would rather scavenge than go to school. His photo shows a boy drinking water from a bottle that was probably scavenged from the trash.

Dennis and his painting.

Dennis and his painting.

Dennis, 14, also lives in Dandora. He explains that many children in his school smoke. Because of lack of parental guidance and peer pressure, boys will begin to start smoking to “fit in, be cool and be adultlike.”


Regina and her photograph.

Regina and her photograph.

Regina, 14, comes from Mukuru’s fuata nyayo (the Swahili term for outskirts). Mukuru is a slum on the eastern side of Nairobi. It is one of the largest slums in the city, with a population of around 700,000. Mukuru is sub-divided into eight villages and is located in the middle of the main industrial area of the city, bordering the Nairobi River. It is characterized by congestion, narrow alleys, poor drainage, lack of sanitary facilities and open sewers. Regina explains that her photo shows children walking alone and dangerously close to the edge of the river.

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