In the News

Five Easy Pieces (of Advice) for New Grads

By Jason Schwartzman, Director of ChildFund’s Program Assessment and Learning Unit

puzzle pieceAs college seniors begin thinking of the job market, we offer five pieces of advice for those interested in not-for-profit work.

1. Look for supervisors you can learn from. You’ll need to respect them, and they’ll need to see supervising you as something worth investing time in.

2. Make sure the organization you work for reflects your values and beliefs; otherwise, your stomach will turn at work too much, your eyes will roll, your colleagues will pick up on it and you won’t get what you need from the experience.

3. Go for basic work and technical skills and get them down. What are basic work skills? Caring about your work and working as part of a team to make that team more productive. What are basic technical skills? Writing – become excellent at written communication of all types, including report writing. Get experience writing or providing necessary inputs to the grants acquisition and management process. A bit of financial budgeting and reporting is also great to have.

4. Be organized and proactive. Seek out regular supervision to get better at basic skills. Early in your career, this is allowed. At some later point, your basic skills are assumed to be in place, and then you are trying to cover up weaknesses.

5. Learn how to nag without alienating, how to not be shy and reluctant, how not to be obnoxious and how to listen and ask questions. Even stupid ones. You have a small window in which to ask what may seem like a stupid question to you, but for the rest of us, it isn’t – we’re covering up and can’t ask it.

Humanitarian Sector Faces Extensive Challenges

By Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications

The next two to three decades will be challenging for those working in the humanitarian sector, and the players aren’t entirely prepared for what is to come.

António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, shared his perspective yesterday during the opening session of the InterAction Forum in Arlington, Va.

two men on panel discussion

He noted that the international community has lost part of its ability to prevent conflict, and, as a result, “unpredictability has become the name of the game.”

Challenges include population growth, climate change and food and water scarcity. “These are all influencing each other,” Guterres said.

Because there is not consensus on these mega trends, Guterres said, “In the absence of collective answers to these problems, they will continue to get worse.”

He also is concerned because financial resources are shrinking. “Humanitarian aid budgets are not growing proportionately with humanitarian needs,” he said. “We will be called to do more and more with less and less.”

Another concern is the difficulty in making people understand at all levels the need to preserve humanitarian principles.

two men on discussion panel

(l to r) António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and Sam Worthington, president & CEO, InterAction in Washington, D.C.

To effectively respond, Guterres said, non-government organizations (NGOs) must be prepared to do so with limited resources and recognizing that humanitarian principles will not always be fully followed.

Guterres painted a stark picture and said for humanitarian efforts and the world to move forward, “it will not be enough to see people dying, it will not be enough to see people fleeing….” Only when the security of people is at risk will they be “motivated to act.”

However, he said, there has been progress in the ability of NGOs to respond to crises. Partnership and coordination has improved. “The most effective delivery organizations are NGOs,” Guterres told the sold-out crowd. “I am not really worried about your capacity to deliver and to be effective.”

NGOs and political systems must adapt to the new environments, including using all the tools that technology has to offer. He also stressed the need to do more advocacy, not only for fundraising, but also to promote values, such as protection.

“We are not doing enough to invest in the civil societies of the countries where we operate,” Guterres said. “We need to invest much more in strong, independent NGOs. We need to give them space and help them build themselves, even if it means a reduction in our own business.”

Audio Adrenaline Joins ChildFund LIVE! Team

By Kate Andrews

men in a band

Audio Adrenaline

ChildFund is getting a shot of adrenaline — Audio Adrenaline, that is. The upbeat Christian rock band, which has two Grammys and multiple Dove awards under its belt, is ChildFund’s newest LIVE! partner.

The band is coming off a seven-year hiatus with a new lead singer and starts its latest tour March 1 in Morganton, N.C. The tour is in support of the band’s new album, Kings & Queens, which features former dc Talk member Kevin Max on lead vocals.

logo for LIVE!At each Audio Adrenaline concert, ChildFund will have booths staffed with volunteers. That’s where you come in; we’d like your help to answer questions about how child sponsorship works and help people sign up to begin their sponsorships. A ChildFund representative will be on hand to answer questions and give direction to volunteers. Check the tour schedule to see if Audio Adrenaline is playing near you.

The group has a history of charitable work, and we’re pleased that they are joining the ChildFund LIVE! team, which includes Thompson Square, Girls of Grace, Mary Mary, Jake Shimabukuro and others.

Come rock out — and along the way, help children in need.

Our Common Humanity

By Virginia Sowers, Editorial Manager

I often say the best part of my job at ChildFund is collaborating with colleagues around the world, as we seek to better serve children who live in extreme poverty. So it was a real treat to spend last week with ChildFund’s regional communications managers from Africa, Asia and the Americas, gathered with the communications team here in Richmond, Va., to share ideas and up our game for the coming year.

We asked each other lots of questions: What worked? What didn’t work? Why? How can we better integrate? What are the stories we most want to tell about children who need help? How do we assist each other as colleagues? What’s next, as we near our organization’s 75th anniversary?

group shot of communication staff

ChildFund Communications team members (l to r): Jennifer Atkins, Patrica Toquica (Americas region), Tenagne Mekonnen (Africa region); Kate Andrews, Dale Catlett, Tasha Chambers, Julien Anseau (Asia region); Cynthia Price, Virginia Sowers, Christine Ennulat, and Loren Pritchett.

Yes, five days of questioning, brainstorming, deliberating and priority setting is enough to make your head spin by Friday afternoon. But we parted with a deep commitment to moving forward as a team.

program cover from Richmond ForumAnd it was in that musing mindset that I moved into Friday night, attending the Richmond Forum’s speaker series, featuring former president Bill Clinton, now head of the Clinton Foundation. I’d been looking forward to hearing him speak for months, but I had no inkling his message would help me with some dot-connecting.

“We need more community forums like this, citizens coming together to have a conversation,” Clinton said. “We’d make better decisions as a people if we had more nights like this.”

Allowing that the world we live in is increasingly complex, technologically sophisticated and highly interdependent, he asserted that we all “need a framework for thinking about the modern world,” which has a global job shortage, economic inequality, a shifting climate and depleting local resources.

And then he started throwing out (oh, no!) questions for each of us to ponder: What would I like the 21st century to look like? What are the obstacles to shared peace and prosperity? What do you do? Who’s supposed to do it?

The challenges are high, Clinton said, especially for the poor. “Half the world is living on less than $2 a day,” he noted. “Kids under 5 are dying of malaria, dysentery and tuberculosis – diseases of the poor… almost 100 million kids don’t go to school. We’re killing off human potential left and right.”

It’s time to pursue a different strategy, with values that rest on human dignity, Clinton said. “That strategy looks different in poor places than in rich places; and in some countries like India and Brazil, you do both.” Poor places like Haiti, where the Clinton Foundation is at work, need systems, he noted. “Haiti needs to build a system that rewards good behavior with positive results,” referencing the need to invest in entrepreneurial businesses that lead to sustainable job creation.

“At some point when you stop investing in the future, you pay a terrible price,” he said.

Across the world and at home in the U.S., Clinton called for a change in outlook, a change he believes is coming. “We have to revitalize the way we do things and engage in the prospect of renewal,” he said.

But who’s supposed to do it? “My answer is everybody,” Clinton asserted. “The nongovernmental organization (NGO) is a gift America makes to the world.” Yet, he pointed out that it’s not just the large and well-known NGOs that are getting things done at home and abroad.

“The NGO movement is sweeping the world,” he said, adding that the millennial generation, which has been raised to be service-oriented, is helping fuel this movement. And it’s a movement open to all – community groups, citizens groups, churches and faith-based organizations. “If you contribute to the United Way in Richmond, you’re part of an NGO,” he said. “A lot of people doing a little together can have a huge impact…. When we work together, it works.”

Americans Expect Developing Nations to Take More Responsibility for Aid to Children

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

infographic on foreign aid

Click to view the full infographic.

Yesterday, ChildFund released the results of a survey conducted for us by Ipsos Public Affairs. We were interested in what Americans might say when asked whether the recent payroll tax increase would impact their giving levels.

Because we are an international child development agency, we also wanted to know about Americans’ views on providing aid to developing nations. We found that most do not think that the responsibility lies with individual Americans or the U.S. government.

  • 42 percent say that the governments of nations where children are being affected are most responsible for assisting their poor children.
  • 23 percent say nonprofits or advocacy groups are responsible.
  • 22 percent say individuals in nations where children are being affected are responsible.
  • 7 percent say it’s individual Americans’ responsibility.
  • 5 percent say the U.S. government should provide the aid.

One thing I’ve learned during my tenure with ChildFund is that it really does take a village, and sometimes another nation, to combat poverty. Developing nations around the world have made progress in breaking out of patterns of poverty, but the fact is they cannot do it alone and must continue to rely on other nations. ChildFund works to educate those in a position to help.

The Ipsos survey also asked Americans to estimate the amount of U.S. support to foreign countries, which is around 1 percent of the annual federal budget. Americans drastically overestimate the amount: 55 percent think more than 10 percent of the federal budget is allocated to foreign aid. On the other hand, 39 percent think 10 percent or less of the budget is devoted to foreign aid.

Because children living in poverty need help no matter where they are, ChildFund serves children both abroad and at home in the U.S., in some of the poorest counties in Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Children need and deserve good nutrition, education and protection. When children flourish, the world becomes a better place for all of us.

Payroll Tax Increase Expected to Suppress Charitable Giving

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

infographic on charitable giving

Click to view the full graphic.

I’ve noticed my paycheck is a bit smaller with the return of the 6.2 percent payroll tax, a 2 percent increase over the 4.2 percent rate we’ve experienced for the past two years. I’d already identified and committed to my charities this year, so it’s not going to change my giving levels, although I may have to see fewer movies or cut back on my coffee shop visits.

At ChildFund, we were curious as to what Americans might say when asked whether the tax increase would impact their giving. Today, we release a survey conducted for ChildFund by Ipsos Public Affairs.

Here’s what we found:

  • 20 percent will reduce their charitable giving by an average of 29 percent.
  • 21 percent will not give at all to charity in the coming year.
  • 54 percent will continue to make charitable donations at the same level.
  • 6 percent anticipate giving more.

“While there is some good news in these findings, the survey results suggest a challenging year ahead, in what already has been a demanding fundraising climate,” says Tereza Byrne, ChildFund’s chief development officer.

“Nonprofit organizations like ChildFund can take comfort in the fact that six in 10 Americans will either maintain or increase their charitable giving,” she adds. “What is alarming, however, is the anticipated decrease in contributions by as many as one in five givers. If that comes to pass, it will likely have broad-reaching consequences across the nonprofit landscape.”

It’s Time to Solve the Global Crisis of Child Malnutrition

Today is a day for champions—a day to call on global leaders to commit to ensuring all children have enough food to eat, no matter where they are born in the world.

checking a child for malnutrion

Through its Early Childhood Development programs, ChildFund routinely monitors children’s growth to detect signs of malnutrition. (Photo: Jake Lyell)

Nearly 200 million children are chronically malnourished and suffer from lifelong, often irreversible, physical and cognitive damage as a result. Malnutrition also contributes to 35 percent of all deaths of children under the age of 5 annually, and roughly 20 percent of all maternal deaths.

Malnutrition is not just a result of poverty—it is also a cause.

As ChildFund’s CEO Anne Lynam Goddard often points out: Childhood is a one-time opportunity. We have one chance to get it right, especially when it comes to nutrition during the 1,000-day window that starts with a mother’s pregnancy and continues until a child is 2 years old.

Experts agree—nutrition delivers the biggest bang for the buck when investing in future generations. A panel of Nobel laureate economists known as the Copenhagen Consensus recently concluded that fighting malnutrition in young children should be the top investment priority for policymakers. The payoff is huge: $1 in invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

Investing in improved nutrition can

  • save more than 1 million lives each year
  • increase a country’s GDP by 2 to 3 percent annually
  • significantly reduce the human and economic burden of diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and diabetes
  • help 360 million mothers and children have healthy futures.
child on scale

Charting a child’s weight and height. (Photo: Jake Lyell)

At ChildFund, we emphasize growth promotion until the child is 3 years old. Helping ensure the health and security of infants is a critical component of our work with children throughout their life stages. Healthy infants are more likely to become educated and confident children, who, in turn, grow into skilled and involved youth. When children have a healthy start in life, they have a greater opportunity to break the bonds of poverty.

We fully support the Scaling Up Nutrition roadmap that is guiding the international aid community’s efforts to combat undernutrition.

Today on Capitol Hill, ChildFund is joining hands with other international development organizations, members of Congress, government leaders, civil society groups and private industry to call for action on child nutrition issues at the G8 Summit taking place this weekend at Camp David in Washington, D.C.

We call on leaders in the U.S. administration, Congress and G8 delegations to join us in support of improved nutrition globally, particularly for women and children in the 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.

Our objectives are straightforward:

  1. Commit to concrete, time-bound goal(s) to reduce chronic malnutrition.
  2. Support the SUN movement and SUN countries’ efforts to improve nutrition.
  3. Ensure food security, agriculture and health investments are optimized to improve nutrition.

Now is the time for global leaders to reaffirm their commitment to confronting the challenges of hunger, poverty and disease by accelerating efforts to improve nutrition, particularly for women and children.

Will you join us and be a champion for change?

Children and Youth Seek Solutions for Clean Water

Guest post by Alan Parker

Alan Parker, based in New York City, writes about alternative energy, green business, sustainability and climate change. Follow on Twitter @AGreenParker.

With the focus this week on World Water Day, it’s good to step back and recognize that approximately 1 of every 6 people on the planet has difficulty accessing sanitary water. The problem exists primarily in developing countries, where water is a day’s walk from home, is polluted or is buried deep underground. There are a number of charities that teach people of the importance of clean water and have helped countless villages and towns attain water, yet many people still fail to comprehend how immense this problem really is.

Photo by Jake Lyell

Enter the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), a worldwide event sponsored by some of the leading international chemistry institutions. The centerpiece event of the IYC is a worldwide chemistry experiment called Water: A Chemical Solution. It’s geared toward elementary and high school students and has two main goals. The first is to get students excited about science, especially chemistry. The second is to teach the importance of clean water for all. As Andrew Liveris (head of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), one principal sponsor of the event) claims, the experiment “encourages young people to respect water as a vital resource and how science can help make it cleaner and more available to everyone.”

Through the experiments, students will help to complete the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal of greatly improving access to safe drinking water before 2015.

The global experiment contains different projects where students will complete water-themed chemistry tests to distill water so it can be consumed. The first tests teach students to measure the acidity and salinity of their local body of water. They can then upload their conclusions to the IYC’s website, and compare their results to those from all over the world. Students will also have the chance to develop filtration systems and solar stills from readily available materials to learn about alternative approaches of sanitizing water.

Experiments are tailored for students of all age groups, so elementary school students perform simpler tests, while those in high school can run more complex and challenging tasks. Further, to ensure as many students participate as possible, the experiments will cost very little, if anything at all. The IYC’s experiment runs through December 2011, so if you think that your child or local school would have fun contributing to the experiment, visit the website.

The IYC’s Global Experiment on water could not have come at a more important time in the resource’s history. According to Global Issues, roughly 1.1 billion people in the developing world lack adequate access to water, more than 660 million people lack access to sanitation and survive on less than $2 a day, and children are absent from school around 443 million days due to water related sickness and disease. Water is unquestionably a human issue, and the global experiment is using chemistry to stimulate young students to find solutions.

Liveris, with ICCA, notes that water scarcity means “the world is searching for sustainable, innovative solutions that can only be realized through the advances of chemistry.” Through the awareness that the IYC is raising, it may well be students who will help develop these solutions and aid in getting clean water to those who need it most.

World Leaders: Open the Doors to Hope for Youth

Guest post by William S. Reese

William Reese, International Youth Foundation

William Reese is president and CEO of the International Youth Foundation,  working across nearly 80 countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine, to prepare young people to lead healthy, productive, and engaged lives. This post first appeared Feb. 2 in International Youth Foundation’s Viewpoint.

Look closely at the faces of protesters surging into the streets of Cairo and other cities in the Arab world and you’ll see that many of them are strikingly young.

Their passionate demands for freedom, democracy and an end to corruption and autocratic rule ring out loud and clear. Yet only when we look at the cold hard numbers of youth unemployment and social marginalization in the region can we fully understand the powerful underlying causes driving these young people to topple their government.

It’s critical to know that in Egypt — a country of 78 million people — the median age is 24. The vast majority of these Egyptian youth are struggling to find a job, support their families, and help shape the future of their country. Their failure to realize these aspirations is now bubbling over. Finding a job is particularly difficult. It is estimated that one in four of Egypt’s young men and nearly 60% of its young women can’t find work. Often, it is the best educated who are having the most difficult time. Some 700,000 new university graduates in Egypt every year are chasing fewer than 200,000 jobs. So even those young people fortunate enough to find employment have to settle for jobs that in no way correspond to their qualifications or aspirations.

This issue of economic marginalization, coupled with the often brutal suppression of young people’s voices in the public sphere, helped spark the original uprising in Tunisia a little more than a month ago, which has since spread. The appalling spectacle of an unemployed 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor committing suicide in front of a government building — by setting himself on fire — helped crystallize the utter frustration and growing despair of his entire generation. His action sparked a revolution against Tunisia’s repressive and corrupt leaders who were forced to flee the country – events that helped mobilize and embolden thousands of young people in Egypt who today are demanding real change in a country where few thought change was possible.

While the current events in the Middle East appear to have taken the government by surprise, its leaders cannot plead ignorance of these pressing problems. Countless studies and reports highlight the historically high levels of joblessness and marginalization among young people in the region. We know, for example, that no fewer than 90% of Egypt’s unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 29; that nearly a third of Tunisia’s college graduates can’t find employment; and that at least 35% of Palestinian youth are out of work. We also know, from a recent assessment of a dozen low-income communities in Jordan, that one in five young people in those neighborhoods can’t find jobs; that the level of young people’s participation in civic activities is shockingly low — less than 4% in some places; and that the majority of social services do not come close to meeting the particular needs of their ever growing youthful population. In part as a response to that report, Jordan has launched its largest initiative to date to address these social and economic issues and further empower its youth.

Nor can today’s government leaders and policy makers argue that they don’t know what the solutions are to the rising levels of frustration and anger among their country’s young people. Time and again, innovative and comprehensive job training programs for unemployed youth — from the Middle East to Latin America to Europe — have demonstrated real success when they combine life skills such as teamwork and problem solving with practical job skills; when they work with local companies to ensure the training matches local business needs; when internships and job placement assistance are a required part of the program.

The result: more youth are finding jobs — and keeping them. Likewise, we’ve seen how effective programs that engage young people as active citizens in their communities, and boost their leadership skills, have lessened the violence and empowered this younger generation to press for positive change in their societies. Many of these young people are now launching their own efforts to solve the toughest problems we face — from saving the environment to promoting religious tolerance to creating jobs.

Describing his autocratic rulers, one protester in Egypt said: “They have closed all the doors of hope.” In other words, they have closed the door to young people’s deepest yearnings to shape their own economic and political futures.

Something enormously powerful has been unleashed across the Arab world. But governments everywhere should be on notice that they can no longer ignore their countries’ young people. They want their voices to be heard and they want a real commitment to respond to their ideas for concerted and sustained investments in their futures. That’s how to prevent violent upheavals and social unrest. Just ask President Mubarak.

Liberian President Focuses on Youth, Economy and Security

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

As the first woman head of state of an African nation, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, is ever mindful of the obligations that accompany leadership – not just as president of Liberia but also as a role model in the world.

“I am aware of the tremendous responsibility,” she told a sold-out crowd at the Richmond Forum this past weekend in Richmond, Va. “I welcome the challenge with humility.”

Democratically elected in 2005, the Harvard-educated Sirleaf pledged national renewal after a long period of civil conflict and corrupt governance in her homeland. During the 14 years of turmoil, young children were recruited by the warring factions. ChildFund began work in Liberia in 2003 to help these children, families and communities reconnect and resume their daily lives.

Despite the country’s ongoing challenges to rebuild its infrastructure and economy, Sirleaf said she is “bullish” about Liberia’s future as well as that of the African continent as a whole.

“Africa is taking hold of its own destiny,” said Sirleaf, citing country-led poverty reduction programs as one of the centerpiece efforts. “Our civil society organizations are vigorous.”

As president, Sirleaf said her biggest accomplishment has been gaining international forgiveness for Liberia’s crippling national debt, thus freeing up still-scarce resources for education and innovation. “All of our little children are back in school,” she said.

Africa is a continent of young people and growing younger, Sirleaf noted. By 2050, the African youth population is projected to be 1.9 billion strong. On the positive side of that statistic, Africa is home to the world’s “fastest-growing labor force,” she said. But without investment in the critical basics of education, health, shelter, clean water and skills training for these young people, the risk remains high that they will be unemployed and apt to engage in violence. “The civil war, from which Liberia had recently emerged when my administration took over in 2006, was mainly fought by young men for whom the economy held no promise,” Sirleaf said.

Yet, Sirleaf is encouraged by the progress in her own country, including the rekindling of industry and commerce, and noted the harmonizing of economic policies across the continent. “The majority of African countries have created the environment for security and stability,” she said. “The majority are meeting the challenges of human security, jobs, education, health, sanitation clean water, all of those poverty-reducing measures that reduce conflict and instability.”

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