By Karifa Kamara, ChildFund Sierra Leone
At an awards ceremony Dec. 18 in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma recognized ChildFund Sierra Leone’s work in the fight against the deadly Ebola epidemic.
Billy Abimbilla, national director of ChildFund’s offices in Sierra Leone and Liberia, was on hand to accept the bronze medal and certificate “in recognition of its support to the government and people of Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola disease, especially in the operation of Observation Interim Care Centers and donation of food and non-food items to communities.”
ChildFund was among 199 organizations and individuals honored at the State House in Freetown for their work against Ebola, which claimed 3,955 lives in Sierra Leone during 2014 and 2015. Abimbilla and Davidson Jonah, ChildFund’s field operations support director, were instrumental in opening Interim Care Centers in Liberia and Sierra Leone last year during the height of the epidemic.
Children who were exposed to the deadly virus stayed in ICCs during their 21-day quarantine period and were cared for and observed for signs of Ebola by trained health workers, many of whom had survived the virus and were immune to it. For many children who had lost loved ones to the disease, ICCs were safe havens where they could play, receive nourishing meals and sleep comfortably.
Photos from IREX and Momodou Bah
This week, Momodou Bah, a former sponsored child from The Gambia, took part in the Young African Leaders Initiative summit in Washington, D.C. He and 499 other Mandela Washington Fellows, chosen from a field of 50,000 applicants to represent Sub-Saharan African countries, met President Obama in a town hall meeting and discussed important issues faced by Africans, including the empowerment of women and girls, addressing HIV and AIDS, making educational opportunities available to more people and building their nations’ economies.
Read more about the fellowship program at Virginia Commonwealth University and what the president challenged the Fellows to do as they prepare to return home in coming weeks. Also, stay tuned for a second blog post soon about Momodou’s experiences at the summit and his meeting with his sponsor in Boston.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer; Photos by Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Content Manager
This morning, ChildFund launched the 10-Bike Challenge in connection with the UCI Road World Championships, which will bring more than 1,000 elite cyclists from 75 countries to the streets of Richmond, Virginia, in September. The organizer of the nine-day event, Richmond 2015, has named ChildFund as its “Official Charity of Choice.”
As part of our cooperative effort, we’re asking Richmond businesses to raise $1,000 to purchase 10 Dream Bikes for girls in 12 countries who need them to get to and from school. Our goal is to raise enough funds to pay for 3,400 bicycles, and we’re well on our way, with pledges from Richmond PR firm Hodges Partnership, Covington Travel and Tredegar, a Richmond-based global manufacturer of plastic films and aluminum extrusions, which has made a $25,000 grant.
“We are so happy that the world is coming to Richmond this September,” ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard said at today’s power breakfast at Richmond Cycling Corps. She noted that many children interviewed for the ChildFund Alliance’s annual Small Voices Big Dreams survey say they wish to continue their educations, despite many obstacles.
In developing countries, children who say they want to stay in school usually don’t mean attending college, Goddard pointed out. “What these kids are talking about is finishing grammar school, middle school or sometimes high school. Instead of riding buses, these kids get to school by walking.” Snakes, rough terrain and people who don’t have children’s best interests at heart present serious obstacles, she said. A bike helps speed up the commute, as well as making it safer.
“From the very beginning, we’ve talked about Richmond 2015 as being bigger than just a bike race,” said Lee Kallman, marketing and communications director of Richmond 2015. “The Dream Bike program really demonstrates the power of the bicycle.”
Mari Holden, sports director of the Twenty16 professional women’s cycling team (as well as an Olympic silver medalist and six-time U.S. championship winner), said that her cyclists have accepted the 10-Bike Challenge, too. “This Dream Bike program really resonates with our core values,” she said, naming education and empowering girls.
Holden added later, “I think for us, cycling is a sport where we learn about perseverance.” It’s different for girls in developing countries, who must show perseverance just to attend school, as opposed to competitive cycling, but Holden says that she and her team are all for helping girls become educated and reach their goals.
Liz Gluck of Covington Travel, the Richmond-based travel agency that has taken the 10-Bike Challenge, says that the owner, Josée Covington, has pledged to match her employees’ donations, and they’re already halfway to the $1,000 goal. “We just thought it was a great cause, to support ChildFund and empower girls.”
Josh Dare, co-founder of the Hodges Partnership, said that if his firm of 15 people can take the challenge, so can other smaller and midsized companies. “What a great opportunity this is,” he said. “I’m thinking of this as our own bike rally. Let’s rise to this challenge.”
You, too, can help girls continue their educations by donating a Dream Bike.
Earlier this week, ChildFund President & CEO Anne Lynam Goddard visited the White House for the launch of Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative that aims to make education accessible for all girls worldwide, despite some daunting obstacles. Girls’ rights and the barriers to them figure strongly in our work at ChildFund, so it is thrilling to see such a major push led by the Office of the First Lady, involving USAID, the State Department, the Peace Corps and other agencies. You can read more of Anne’s thoughts on Let Girls Learn on her Tumblr page.
On the ChildFund blog, we’ve written about many girls and young women who have overcome significant barriers to attaining a full education — including early marriage, spotty electrical power, long walks to school and cultural mores that discourage women from getting an education. Read about Phanny, a Zambian woman who works as an automotive repair supervisor; Mahdia, an Afghani woman who is learning to read despite the objection of some of her male relatives; and Alexia, a Dominican police officer who encourages her younger siblings to remain in school. They’re heroines in our book.
ChildFund International’s corporate partner, Procter & Gamble Company, honored our organization with its 2014 Social Sustainability Partnership Award this week during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City. ChildFund President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard accepted the award on ChildFund’s behalf. For seven years, ChildFund has helped administer the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, which provides safe water for families living in poverty and people living with HIV and AIDS. Recently, a ChildFund-supported community in Brazil received the seven billionth liter of clean water.
“ChildFund values our partnership with P&G and the company’s support in bringing clean drinking water to people across the globe,” said Goddard. “Improving access to clean drinking water is one the world’s most important needs. We look forward to continuing our work with P&G to increase the availability and sustainability of clean drinking water in developing countries.”
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
ChildFund’s president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, will speak tomorrow at the TEDxRVA conference in Richmond, Va. You can view her speech as it streams live online Friday afternoon.
The theme of the event is “re__,” an invitation for our community (Richmond and beyond) to actively participate in making the world better. Anne’s speech, “Freedom From Violence,” focuses on “re-action.” That means more than just reacting to events, but acting again and again to achieve our goals — specifically ending violence against children.
Here’s a quote from her talk: “Threats to the most vulnerable and smallest among us — children — come not only from having too little food, but also from having too much violence in their lives. It is not enough to help children survive, but we must also have a world safe for all children to thrive.”
Anne also will share her story about how violence affected her family and encourage the audience to participate in the “Free From Violence and Exploitation Against Children” campaign supported by ChildFund Alliance.
Her presentation will begin at about 1:15 p.m. EDT Friday, and you can stream the video here.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
The number of children and youths who work — whether they’re paid or unpaid — is notoriously hard to pin down. Many countries have laws against employing children, but industries still continue to use child laborers despite legal and social consequences.
What number would you guess is accurate? A million? Six million? Ten?
Not even close.
The estimated number of child laborers ages 5 to 14 is 150 million, according to UNICEF. But only 1 percent of 1,022 Americans in a recent survey conducted for ChildFund answered correctly; 73 percent said less than 1 million children are engaged in labor in developing countries.
Other statistics reported in the survey, which was conducted in late June by Ipsos Public Affairs, are more encouraging; a majority of respondents say they’re willing to pay more for clothing produced without the use of child laborers, and 77 percent say they would stop purchasing clothing from labels that are found to use child labor. That’s good.
But it’s important for children all over the world — including those risking their lives in African gold mines, spending hours in the sun harvesting sugarcane in the Philippines, burning their fingers while making glass bangles at home in India or working for no money at all, as hundreds of thousands of Brazilian children do — for Americans to be more aware of the scope of the problem.
Almost one in six children ages 5 to 14 in developing countries are engaged in labor; aside from the potential physical hazards, these children are unlikely to complete their education. And thus the generational cycle of poverty continues. ChildFund supports many programs that assist families caught in this vicious circle by providing training for safer, more stable ways to earn income, giving assistance to children and youth to keep them in school longer and working with entire communities to discourage the employment of children.
The missing piece here is broader awareness in the United States and other prosperous countries. Child labor is a worldwide problem that touches everyone in some way, and we need to use this knowledge to engage and educate industries on how to change their practices and stop exploiting children.
By Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager
Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund’s regional director for east and southern Africa, recently reflected on ChildFund’s commitment to children’s rights and the Day of the African Child, celebrated annually on June 16.
What are ChildFund’s current strategies in Africa?
We currently work in 11 African countries, reaching a total of 8.5 million children and families. ChildFund focuses on engaging children, families and communities in an effort to improve outcomes for children both at the micro level within their immediate communities but also on a macro level, within their countries and regions. Thus, our approach is two-pronged: hands-on at the community level, and also at national and regional levels in terms of policy advocacy efforts on children’s issues.
We have had good success with a number of our program strategies, such as ChildFund’s work on early childhood development (ECD), which focuses on parent-child-community relationships that are central in creating a healthy beginning for a child. Through ECD programs, we are able to ensure that the first experiences of a child begin with an informed ECD caregiver and a supportive community. We have seen that such an environment has a lifelong impact on the children’s development and success in life.
The Day of African Child is one of the main events celebrated in Africa. How is the event helping promote the rights of children in Africa?
The event should remind us all of our duty as citizens of Africa and its friends to promote the rights of the child on this continent. It does indeed commemorate children rising up against [South Africa’s] apartheid government that was bent on denying children their equal rights to education, health, etc. In Africa today, there has been some progress achieved for children in education, gender equity, HIV and AIDS and other areas. However, with children making up a significant portion of our populations (in some countries more than 50 percent), governments, civil society organizations and other key development partners have to keep children’s well-being and rights central to any and all sustainable development efforts on the continent.
How are you planning to celebrate the Day of the African Child, and what will that mean to the children you serve?
In Ethiopia, we are joining with the African Union Commission and others to organize a forum that will highlight African achievements and the plight of children in the continent. We are also bringing children from other countries where ChildFund works to share their stories and have their voices heard on issues affecting children in Africa. We are also participating in various events within countries in which we operate.
The theme this year is “Eliminating Harmful and Social Practices Against Children: Our Responsibility.” What is ChildFund doing along these lines?
In almost all the countries where ChildFund operates, children experience some form of physical violence before the age of 8! This is unacceptable, and in a number of countries ChildFund works with children, families, local communities, as well as governments, to address harmful social practices as well as violence and exploitation against children.
What are your expectations as you join other organizations and the African Union to celebrate the Day of the African Child?
I have many expectations for the Day of the African Child, especially to urge all African citizens and governments in renewing our commitments: To significantly reduce the number of children that are subjected to sexual violence and abuse of any form; to reduce the number of children living outside family care; to end harmful social practices against children like early marriage and genital mutilation; to eliminate any form of child labor on the continent; and to support birth registration for all children without discrimination in Africa.
Speechwriter Jeff Porro has helped Fortune 250 CEOS and the heads of some of the nation’s most influential nonprofits.
ChildFund is fortunate to have been one of his clients. One of the toughest types of speeches to write is a commencement speech so when ChildFund’s President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard was asked to give the commencement speech for Assumption College, her own alma mater, Jeff agreed to write it based on input from her.
In a recent interview Jeff was asked about his favorite speech and he cited that commencement speech. “[Anne] is a terrific woman with a great sense of humor, and she was very willing to share wonderful stories,” Jeff recalled. “I’m very proud of that speech, but Anne made my job pretty easy.”
The commencement address can be viewed online.
If you want to know more about speechwriting, check out Jeff’s new book, Words That Mean Success.
By Erin Olsen, ChildFund Staff Writer
Last week, the United Nations released the Post-2015 Development Agenda, outlining the strategy for eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. The agenda is a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, and includes recommendations from thousands of civil society organizations, businesses, governments and everyday people from more than 120 countries. The result is what the report calls a “bold yet practical vision” for the future of development.
It was exciting to see children at the core of the Post-2015 Agenda. Among the 12 goals outlined, eight specifically target children’s issues. At the forefront: violence against children, gender discrimination, job training and education for youths and prevention of deaths among children under 5 and mothers during childbirth.
Since the declaration of the MDGs in 2000, there have been many successes, particularly for children. According to UNICEF, more children – especially girls – are now attending primary school, maternal and child deaths have declined steadily. Malnutrition in children under age 5 is lower than ever. Globally, extreme poverty has been reduced by half.
Despite the successes, there have been some shortcomings, in part because the eight defined goals were not well integrated. Effective sustainable development requires a holistic approach. For example, combating malaria doesn’t just require supplying those at risk with pesticide-treated nets and medicines; it also requires tackling the root causes of poverty, like poor infrastructure in communities and inequality.
Addressing that lack of integration is a main focus of the Post-2015 Agenda. The agenda is driven by five “transformative shifts” that will help to meet the 12 goals to end poverty. Economic growth, universality, peace, global partnering and sustainability are all essential to meeting the goals by 2030. Each goal focuses on a particular sector such as gender, water and sanitation, health, food security, education and economics. These goals integrate and overlap, and ideally the success of one goal will lead to the success of another. It will require a pretty drastic global paradigm shift, but the payoff could be huge.
ChildFund’s programs are already ahead of the curve on many of these issues, and sustainability is at the heart of ChildFund’s mission. Our integrated, sustainable approach tackles root causes of poverty and focuses on holistic programs. For example, our Early Childhood Development programs incorporate maternal and child health, early education and nutrition, as well as addressing parenting techniques and preventing violence in the home.
You can play a part in eradicating poverty and helping children in need by Sponsoring a Child, and supporting ChildFund’s efforts to provide innovated, integrated programs to help children throughout the world.