Reading habits usually develop within families. Mom and Dad read to a child at bedtime, or an older sibling shows a younger one how to sound out words, or Grandma pulls a book of fairy tales off the shelf. In some homes, though, there are no books. Even in the United States.
That’s why ChildFund started the Just Read! program in some of the most marginalized areas in the country: Native American reservations in Oklahoma and South Dakota, African American communities in Mississippi and Hispanic communities in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. You can learn more about the project and also donate age-appropriate books on our Amazon wish list. For Father’s Day, please consider helping a family develop the reading habit.
ChildFund’s president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, wrote about the importance of child protection for the Huffington Post this week. You can take a simple action – sharing this story via social media – and help children who are vulnerable to violence. Anne’s post is part of the Relay for Kids project, a partnership of SOS Children’s Villages, Johnson & Johnson and the Huffington Post, and each time you share her story on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networks from now through April 24, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 per action to support children worldwide who are affected by crisis. Thanks for your help.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
At ChildFund, we have spent many hours helping children and families cope with the aftermath of wars, disasters and other traumatic events. For the past 25 years, we’ve raised funds specifically for emergency relief and often remain in affected communities for months or even years, helping people recover financially and emotionally.
Hand in glove with disaster recovery is preparation for future emergencies, such as earthquakes, typhoons and droughts. To help communities be prepared, ChildFund supports disaster risk reduction efforts in several countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, which are prone to destructive storms.
In March, ChildFund Australia’s international program director, Mark McPeak, led ChildFund’s delegation to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, an internationally significant gathering. At the end of the meeting, world leaders from 187 countries signed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015-2030, which sets seven global targets for the next 15 years. They include lowering the number of people killed or harmed by disasters; reducing economic loss, damage to infrastructure and disruption of basic services; increasing the number of countries with disaster risk reduction strategies and enhancing international cooperation to implement these goals.
McPeak notes in this piece for Devex that these targets are admirable, but right now, they are nonbinding and unfunded, which leaves them less potent than they could be. However, the door has not closed on discussions about funding and requiring governments’ participation, with opportunities ahead in the United Nations’ other conferences this year: the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in July, the global U.N. summit in September and the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.
ChildFund’s chief goal at Sendai was to get other participants to understand and recognize the value of child and youth participation in disaster recovery and preparation.
“Children and young people are normally seen as helpless, passive victims of disasters,” McPeak writes. “During and after emergencies, the mainstream media, even many organizations in our own international NGO sector, portray children and young people as needing protection and rescue. Of course, children and young people do need protection. When disasters strike, they need rescue and care. But what such images fail to show is that children also have the capacity — and the right — to participate, not only in preparing for disasters but in the recovery process.”
To make his point, McPeak presented information about youth who took part in disaster risk reduction efforts in 2011 in Iloilo and Zamboanga del Norte provinces in the Philippines, spreading awareness in eight communities. A year and a half later, this work paid off when Typhoon Haiyan struck just north of the area, and local governments were more prepared than in previous storms. More people in vulnerable areas were evacuated, and Child-Centered Spaces were up and ready to help children soon after the storm passed.
In this video, Mamta talks about how the Udaan scholarship available through ChildFund India has helped her overcome financial challenges to attend university to become a teacher. Her parents are illiterate, and many of her friends in her village dropped out to get married, so what she is doing is remarkable.
“I want to teach other girls to continue their educations so they’ll be independent, like me, and have a good life,” Mamta says. Video by Jake Lyell.
By Christine Ennulat, Content Manager
One of my favorite things about becoming a mother was the whole new world of children’s books I staggered into — with my kids tumbling into it with me when they were little and then, before long, actually leading me through it. It brought back, again and again, waves of nostalgia for all that books had meant to me in my own childhood. My children are older now, but those days are on my mind again as I learn about how ChildFund’s Just Read! program is helping hundreds of children in some of the United States’ poorest communities find the magic of reading for pleasure.
One thing I’ve learned that I didn’t know: Reading for pleasure trumps socioeconomic status as a determinant of how well kids do in school. (The magic of reading for pleasure, indeed!)
I don’t remember much of my own early childhood experience with books. My parents came to the U.S. from Germany just a couple of years before I was born, and my main memory of any book from that time was Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struvvelpeter, a German collection of alarming cautionary tales that included one about a boy who refuses to cut his hair and fingernails (yikes!) and another about a boy who won’t stop sucking his thumb until one day a man wielding giant shears appears and … well.
Honestly, I couldn’t get enough of those gruesome tales. “Pleasure” probably isn’t an accurate description of what they gave me … but I’m not sure pleasure is necessarily that simple. What I can say is that I took to reading in search of similar wild thrills and imaginative flights. But even more, I was searching for myself.
As a weird, lonely kid, I recognized myself in moody Meg Murry, of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and in Milo, the initially reluctant protagonist of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth (after whom I named Kid #3). And always, always there was Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, and her blue-haired doll with the most beautiful name in the world, Chevrolet, and the Dawnzer, and “BOINNNG!” Oh, the courage of Ramona. I wanted to be Ramona.
Later, I would — and still do — recognize my own heart in Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s exhortation, in his Letters to a Young Poet: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
As my own children grew, I delighted alongside them as they found their own ways down their own rabbit holes toward who they might become. My oldest fell in love with Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books, in which a girl becomes a knight in her kingdom, and her Dane books, with a heroine who converses with animals. Kid #3 couldn’t get enough of Al Perkins’ Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, which my whole family can still shout-chant from memory to this day, and through which music grabbed hold of him for the first time. (Kid #4 now says he hated that book because, as he learned to read from it, he had to face silent Bs—“thum-BUH,” he says. He became a Calvin and Hobbes guy.)
It was magical for me to be along for this ride, vicariously experiencing their journeys through silliness, love, terror, beauty and more.
Children need these flights of the imagination, these adventures beyond their everyday circumstances. When they use their imaginations, they flex their abilities to think creatively, and that’s key to not only learning but also taking aim at what they want to accomplish in their lives.
Reading is a way toward experiencing difficult feelings in manageable ways, which prepares a child for facing difficult situations in real life. Reading is also a way toward relief of stress — which is rampant and nearly constant for families living in poverty — and a way toward a loved one’s lap.
And reading is a way toward laughter. (I am convinced that laughter has an important role in the fight against poverty.)
Years ago, my neighbor said to me, after having accomplished some crazy plumbing repair without help, “If you know how to read, you can do anything.”
I second that sentiment … and offer a tweak: If you know how to read, you can be anything.
When children read, even amid the most challenging circumstances, they really can.
You can help change a child’s life by donating to ChildFund’s Just Read! program.
By Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka
Today, which is known as Black Friday in the United States, is a great opportunity to think about sharing our good fortune with children in need. Dream Bikes allow children — especially girls — to get to school safely and quickly.
An impatient Piyumi, waiting for her father to take her to school, used to be a regular sight. Her teacher scolded her many times for being late, which she often was: Her long trek from home to school was more than two miles each way, on foot unless she could catch a ride on her father’s bicycle. Some days she stayed home because it was too difficult to get to school.
But today, she no longer has to catch a bicycle ride with her father or walk down village paths in Mahakalugolle, Sri Lanka. Piyumi, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student, has her own bike, thanks to a ChildFund donor.
Piyumi has been in ChildFund’s sponsorship program for more than five years. Last year, she sat for Sri Lanka’s Year 5 scholarship exam and passed with high marks, which made her school proud.
So, along with the bicycle, Piyumi also received school materials, a school bag and shoes from ChildFund donors, to recognize her hard work and achievements.
“Some days, I had to wait till my father finished his work to come to school,” Piyumi says. “But now soon as I get ready, I can come to school on my own. My brother also likes my new bicycle.” Sometimes he rides with her.
“I feel better knowing that Piyumi is on a bike on the journey back home,” her mother says. “I feel that she is safer.”
By Janat Totakhail, ChildFund Afghanistan
Janana is 15 and the oldest of four sisters. They live in a village in northern Afghanistan near the border of Tajikistan, where few children — especially girls — have the opportunity to get an education. Janana, too, had never been allowed by her mother and father to attend school.
Her father works as a shopkeeper and sometimes as a hired farmer, while her mother takes care of the household. As the oldest sister, Janana also has many responsibilities at home. But she always hoped to go to school. Today, that goal has become a strong possibility.
In Afghanistan, ChildFund supports Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) where children and teens can study and play. In Janana’s village and four more, we started 10 CFSs in 2013: one for boys and one for girls in each community, and 1,001 children have taken part in the program. Many have experienced war-related trauma and are still at risk of violence, abuse and neglect, so the spaces don’t just serve educational needs. They help keep children safe and also let community members plan for emergencies, particularly how to protect their children. Once ChildFund’s direct supervision ended in January, community members have stepped in to run the programs.
The CFSs for girls have eased some of the stigma attached to education for young women. Janana persuaded her parents to let her attend.
Now, it is her second home, giving her a place to learn and spend time with girls from her neighborhood. Janana is able to read and write names and short sentences, and she’s about a year away from mastering primary school-level literacy and numeracy. One of her sisters has joined her at the CFS.
“I like learning the Pashto language,” Janana says, “and I feel proud and empowered while reading a letter for my parents and helping my little sister to read and write.”
If she had not attended the CFS, she adds, “my life would be different. I would be busy all day with housework, with no opportunity to interact with peers, make friends, play, and learn to read and write.”
Janana’s parents also are happy to see their daughter progressing in her studies.
“An illiterate person is like a blind person,” her father says. “My daughter helps me to learn Islamic principles; she reads for me the letters, invitations and wedding cards; takes note of money that I lend to people, and she helps me understand the details of the electricity bill. She helps her mother and sisters in understanding personal hygiene and health issues. I am proud having Janana as a helping hand.”
Kochai, who facilitates the CFS, also has noticed her progress: “Janana has been very active participating in learning activities. She learned to respect parents and elders, gained awareness in health and hygiene, and, more importantly, is progressing well in literacy and numeracy. I am hopeful that one day she will join school with children of her age.”
Her family, too, is encouraging Janana to continue her education at a school close to her village. She has a big dream for the future: “I want to be a teacher, to help all school-age girls in my village to go to school and learn to make their future and help others.”
By Nicole Duciaume, Americas Region Sponsorship Manager
After a long day of training at ChildFund’s national office in Brazil and a few more hours in my hotel answering emails, I closed my laptop and walked a few blocks to the closest mall. I was on a dual mission: to eat dinner and to buy a Brazilian soccer jersey for my nephew’s upcoming 12th birthday.
Later, with my belly full and my purchase in hand, I stumbled upon something so much more exciting — something I wasn’t expecting.
In the middle of the shopping center was a photography exhibit with the ChildFund logo. I became enveloped in the amazing photos, which were described as #NoFilter (a social media term indicating that the photo has not been retouched or run through a filter on Instagram). The photos were all taken by children and youth enrolled in ChildFund’s urban programs around the city of Belo Horizonte.
As the #NoFilter tag indicates, they are unfiltered, unedited and untouched… not just in the sense of using technology to alter the photos, but also in the sense of giving real perspective and insight into the daily lives of these children and youth: their identity, their roots and their realities.
These photos are a part of an outreach program, Photovoice, that uses photography to stimulate reflection among children and youth. It opens a space for them to talk about their communities and their cultural strengths. As such, these images become an important instrument to discuss citizenship, identity and collective work for the well-being of society. These photos are a launching pad for not only creative expression, but also building leaders for tomorrow.
I experienced the exhibit not only as someone who loves good photography but also as a proud ChildFund employee. I didn’t expect to stumble upon the photos, but I am so glad I did. It helped me to reconnect, yet again, with the invaluable work my colleagues do around the world helping children and youth realize their beauty, power and value just as they are: without filters.
It isn’t every day that you get to meet a United States president, but our president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, attended the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting last week in New York City, convened by former President Bill Clinton.
On her Tumblr blog, she expresses hope and optimism about the future, despite such daunting problems as the spread of Ebola. The event, which draws business and nonprofit leaders from around the world, “reinforces my belief that if you get the right people working on a problem, anything is possible,” she writes. Read more of Anne’s reflections on the conference.
By Beth Meszaros, ChildFund Volunteer
Getting people to make donations to your charity of choice is never an easy task. You will send unanswered emails and hear polite noes in reply when you reach out to family, friends, colleagues. But don’t despair.
The best advice I can give you is to not only be a volunteer for ChildFund but, more importantly, become an advocate for ChildFund.
According to Merriam-Webster, an advocate is defined as “someone who publicly supports a cause or policy.” We should all be advocates or champions for children in need. I’ve made being an advocate for children and ChildFund part of who I am. I talk about my sponsored children and share my experiences every chance I get. I won’t say it’s easy, but through advocacy you can raise awareness about children in need and the incredible job ChildFund is doing to help them, and you can ultimately reach people who are willing to help. When I’m frustrated and feel like no one is listening, I just recall some of the words from my children’s letters. Things like “I love you” and “you’re part of our family.” These simple words remind me that they truly need and appreciate my help, and I go on to tell others about sponsorship.
Through advocacy, I have been able to find sponsors for several children in need, as well as one-time donations to ChildFund. I will keep on advocating for ChildFund and children all over the world because I have seen what ChildFund can do for children, and I have experienced what it feels like to help children and become a positive part of their lives.