Programs

Are You Celebrating One Day Without Shoes?

One Day Without Shoes

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

It’s time to give your toes some air, while raising awareness for children’s health and education. Tomorrow is One Day Without Shoes, an annual event hosted by TOMS that calls attention to the plight of millions of children whose future is at risk because they walk barefoot or have only thin sandals.

Here are just some of the problems these children face:

  • Over time, in countries like Ethiopia, people can develop podoconiosis, a debilitating disease that causes painful swelling of feet and legs. According to the World Health Organization, 4 million people in 15 countries suffer from podo.
  • And in many countries, children are often required to wear shoes as part of their school uniform. Without proper shoes, they may miss school, be turned away from class or drop out altogether.
  • Cuts caused by walking on rough ground can become infected and lead to serious illnesses.

TOMS Shoes, one of ChildFund’s partners, started One Day Without Shoes in 2007 to encourage people to take off their shoes for a day and experience a bit of what is a daily challenge for millions around the world. We encourage all ChildFund supporters to give this a try — and explain to the people you meet tomorrow why you’re walking through your town, your school or your office without shoes on.

Also, we’d love to see your photos — tag @TOMS and @ChildFund on Facebook or Twitter whenever you share your One Day Without Shoes pictures, and use #withoutshoes. Hope to see your feet on Tuesday!

Seven Billion Liters of Clean Water

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Seven billion liters of water: That’s a big number, one that’s hard to imagine. But it has made the difference to at least 39,000 people who might have lost their lives to waterborne diseases over the past 10 years.

7 billion liters

Claudia’s family received CSDW’s 7 billionth liter of clean water. Photo courtesy of P&G.

In 2004, one of ChildFund’s partners, Procter & Gamble, started the nonprofit Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, which provides packets of water-purifying powder to families in the Americas, Asia and Africa who don’t have reliable access to clean water. Recently, CSDW passed the milestone of delivering its 7 billionth liter of clean water, to a family in one of ChildFund’s programs in Brazil. ChildFund has helped distribute the packets. Seven billion liters equal one liter of clean water for every single person in the world, and CSDW estimates that the program has prevented 300 million days of diarrheal disease and saved 39,000 lives.

The program is part of P&G’s Clinton Global Initiative pledge to help save one life an hour by 2020.To celebrate the milestone, P&G has launched a social media drive now through April 22 (Earth Day). Every time you use the hashtag #7billionliters on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram during this week, P&G will donate an additional liter of clean drinking water. They hope to provide 1 million more liters this week!

“This new program is one example of why ChildFund values its partnership with P&G,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO. “Clean water means a disruption of poverty. Thanks to our partnership with P&G, not only are we changing lives in Brazil, but in many countries around the world, from drought-affected areas of Kenya to areas impacted by natural disasters in Indonesia and Mozambique.”

 

The ‘Mama Effect’ on the World

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Have you heard the saying “When Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? The words are glib, but the sentiment behind them is right on target. A mother’s health and well-being have a huge impact on the future of her children and her community, both positively and negatively.

Consider a few statistics:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, with continued breastfeeding up to the age of 2, would save about 800,000 children’s lives each year, according to the World Health Organization.
  • The children of more educated women also have a greater chance of surviving infancy and childhood. A 2010 study in The Lancet shows that for every additional year of school that girls receive on average after reaching childbearing age, there’s a corresponding 9.5 percent decrease in child mortality rates.
  • If women had the same access to seeds and farming tools as men do, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an average of 4 percent, which could mean up to 150 million fewer hungry people, according to U.N. Women.

This month, as we approach Mother’s Day, ChildFund is considering the “Mama Effect” — how mothers’ lives influence their children’s lives, both now and in the future. We are working in 30 countries worldwide to provide children and mothers with the tools they need to live healthy, independent and empowered lives. Find out how you can give a mother a helping hand. Your gesture can make a difference to a whole family, a community and even the world.

India mother and son

An Indian mother comforts her son.

ChildFund Assists Health Care Efforts in Mozambique

By ChildFund Mozambique Staff

One in a series this week for World Health Day (April 7)

Olga Jeje

Dr. Olga Jeje of Gondola, Mozambique.

Olga Jeje has worked in Gondola as a doctor since 2009, and she’s experienced firsthand the partnership between ChildFund and Mozambique’s health department, a collaboration that helps provide basic health services for children and families.

“At the health services department, we work in close coordination with ChildFund, which supports vaccination campaigns against polio and measles, and also in reaching children with supplements of vitamin A,” Olga notes.

ChildFund has supported doctors and other medical personnel with transportation and by facilitating their moves from one clinic to another. As a result, about 8,000 children have benefited in Gondola.

Another result of the partnership between ChildFund and the District Office of Health Gondola has been the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets purchased by ChildFund supporters, benefiting more than 100 children who now have a better chance of avoiding malaria.

Talking to community members, many say that ChildFund’s contribution to local health services has meant a lot.  

“The presence of community health activists in the area, trained by ChildFund through the Community Caring for Children Programme, has been a great opportunity for us, because we now understand the benefits of taking our children to the health centers at the first signs of sickness,” says Julio Domingos, a community leader in Mazicuera. “We now know the importance of managing waste to avoid diseases, such as diarrhea, and we now know how important is to use a mosquito net in order to prevent malaria. We are now aware of the methods of how to prevent HIV and AIDS. We also see community activists paying visits to people living with HIV and AIDS, and we know that this gesture is very important for all of us.”

vaccination campaign

A vaccination campaign in a Gondola clinic.

In Afghanistan, Women Strive for Education and Equal Rights

By Wendy Barron, ChildFund Afghanistan National Director

Saturday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, which has been observed for more than 100 years. Equal rights, education, empowerment and independence for women and girls — all over the world — are the cornerstone of the day, tenets that ChildFund supports. Mahdia, the Afghani woman interviewed here, declined to have her photo published because she was worried about her husband and male relatives’ reaction to her likeness being seen by people outside the ChildFund Afghanistan office, particularly men.

A huge smile lights up Mahdia’s face as she reads a sentence from her Dari book, which teaches phrases in the language used in Mahdia’s community.

Mahdia is one of ChildFund Afghanistan’s cleaners and, like the majority of Afghani women, she is illiterate. Two times a week, she and I sit together, as we are taken through the intricacies of the Dari language in our quest to read and write it. She has an advantage over me in that she can speak the language, but as for the rest of the tasks, we both struggle. 

For the rest of the day and ensuing days, the ever-present smile gets bigger and bigger, and there is a sense of something different about her — a confidence that is slowly uncoiling and emerging like the blooming of a flower.  

literacy classes in Afghanistan

Most Afghani women are illiterate because they did not have the opportunity to attend school. These women are studying today in a literacy course. Mahdia is not pictured.

Like Mahdia, I come from a poor background, but the difference between our somewhat parallel lives is that I was able to receive an education. Also, I was born in the country that, in 1893, became the first in the world to give women the right to vote. Today’s New Zealand women benefit from the struggle in which our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers succeeded in ensuring equal opportunities for women. In fact, if you were to ask New Zealand men how they perceive the rights and opportunities for New Zealand females, they would more than likely tell you it is 60 percent/40 percent in favor of women.

Afghanistan’s women were awarded the right to vote in 1964. The new constitution established in 2004 states, “Any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan is prohibited. The citizens of Afghanistan — whether man or woman — have equal rights and duties before the law.” But despite having the ability to vote and having a constitution that notes gender equality, the majority of Afghani women have not seen many significant improvements in their lives. Indeed, Afghanistan is recognized as being one of the most dangerous countries to be a female.

It is estimated that 75 percent of Afghani women have no education. The average lifespan of women is 49 years; 85 percent of women face, or have faced, abuse or physical violence. And Afghanistan still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Early marriage is extremely common as well. 

Most women and girls face precarious prospects in a highly fragile environment buffeted by low economic performance and high poverty, food insecurity, as well as high levels of insecurity and exclusion on account of gender. 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and reflect on the progress made so far in the quest to achieve equality for women and girls worldwide, we also recognize what still needs to happen.

A month after International Women’s Day, with its theme of Inspiring Change, the people of Afghanistan will head to the polls to elect a new president. As many of the presidential candidates campaign on the need to recognize the rights of women and make promises of bringing improvement to women’s lives, many Afghani women are hopeful that 2014 will be a year of positive change for both them and their country. They are calling for changes in attitudes and positive action for women’s equality; if Afghanistan is to make progress, the status quo cannot continue.

Mahdia tells me that she is doing all she can to encourage her daughters to get good educations so they can have opportunities that she has been denied. She also tells me — with that big smile lighting up her face — that they are so proud of her learning to read and write.

As I sit here in Afghanistan, I can’t help but wonder how my life may have turned out had it not been for the opportunities I have had, because I was born a female in New Zealand.

Fighting AIDS Discrimination Helps Stop the Disease’s Spread

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Today we observe UNAIDS’ first Zero Discrimination Day. Unfair or unjust treatment, either by action or omission and based on real or perceived HIV status, exacerbates the risks of infection and its progression to AIDS.

Do you think children living with HIV should be able to attend school with children who are HIV-negative? 

pediatric hiv and aids graphicIt’s mainly a hypothetical question here in the United States, but nine out of 10 HIV-positive children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine Mozambique, where one in 12 female youth and one in 50 children are HIV-positive. 

Worldwide, one in seven people infected with HIV is between the ages of 10 and 24; nearly 15 million children are AIDS orphans — they’ve lost one or both parents to the disease — and four-fifths of those orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda, almost every child has a loved one with HIV or AIDS within their extended family. At a community meeting I attended in Mozambique last April, many more grandmothers than mothers arrived, carrying babies in their arms, struggling to raise the youngest generation. 

Would you buy fresh vegetables from a shopkeeper if you knew she had the AIDS virus? 

Imagine a dilapidated, open-air market in Busia, a town on Uganda’s border with Kenya. Rough wooden tables, weathered through years of use, define the makeshift stalls. Neat pyramids of tomatoes, sour green oranges, carrots and potatoes alternate with bowls of finely shredded cabbage, large smooth-skinned avocados and hands of sugar bananas. Shallots, their shoots still intact, and small spicy peppers lay all around. Some of the women minding shop call out their prices and specials; others recline beneath tattered woven mats that shelter them from the merciless sun. 

memory books in Zambia

Zambians make memory books, which give children of parents with HIV and AIDS valuable stories about their personal histories.

Selling fresh vegetables is one of the few occupations available to women suffering from HIV and AIDS in this town. No longer strong enough to work in the fields, carry water on their heads, cook meals in heavy steel kettles over open fires, or scrub laundry against the rocks in a stream, they can still garden and sell their vegetables in the market. Many of these women discovered their HIV status only after their husbands died of AIDS. Most learned about their children’s infections at the same time. The young ones were infected in the womb, during delivery or from breastfeeding. 

My questions — about children and school, vegetables and vendors — are ways to consider the stigma of AIDS and how discrimination occurs to this day.

Although nearly half of all new HIV infections occur in those aged 15 to 24, the proportion of young people requesting HIV counseling and testing is still quite low, due to stigma and fear of discrimination. Even those eligible for treatment may find it difficult to stay on their medication regimen, or they may refuse the social services they’re entitled to.

One bright spot: Girls who finish high school are less likely to become infected with HIV. So, if you sponsor a girl, encourage her in her studies. Ask about her hopes and dreams, and praise her academic accomplishments. Show her what education means to you. And, by all means, erase discrimination and stigma wherever you encounter it.

Recognizing International Mother Language Day

Today, Feb. 21, is International Mother Language Day, so we’re looking at some of Africa’s linguistic traditions. Did you know that a child you sponsor in Africa may speak as many as five languages?

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

In July 1975, I began a training program for Peace Corps volunteers in Dakar, Senegal. The volunteers were immersed in French and Wolof in the classroom and in field settings. We practiced our bargaining language while speeding along in cars rapides — large, open vehicles painted bright blue and crammed with women, children, chickens and goats — on our way to Dakar’s open-air markets.

Speaking a mixture of Wolof and French, we sometimes saw English phrases painted lopsidedly on cars and walls: “It is forbidden to spit,” for instance.

Tea in different languages

Tea entered most languages from the Chinese in the mid-17th century.

“Spit” is one of about two dozen words common to many cultures that have remained highly stable over time, so they’re useful for understanding language dispersion. In French, to spit is cracher, and spit itself is crachat; Wolof uses tufli and tuflit. Both languages make use of onomatopoeia — the words sound like what they mean — even though English and French are members of the Indo-European cluster, and Wolof belongs to the world’s largest language family, the Niger-Congo.  

As an English speaker, it was easier for me to learn French than Wolof. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute agrees. French, Portuguese and Spanish are relatively straightforward for native English speakers to learn, with their many cognates, similar alphabets and common grammatical structures. It’s tougher for us to achieve proficiency in Hindi, Vietnamese or Thai; Arabic is among the most difficult of languages for Americans.

West Africans move effortlessly between four or five languages.

Yet many of the children in ChildFund’s programs speak three or more languages fluently before the age of 15: First they learn their mother tongue, then a regional or national language — Wolof, in Senegal — and, in school, an international language like Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.  

In Senegal, I lived in a Pular-speaking district. Wolof and Pular are siblings: Tuttugol (to spit) is clearly related to tufli. My high-school students had already mastered Pular, Wolof, Arabic (the language of Islam) and French (Senegal’s official language). I taught them their fifth language: English.

English is often hard for non-native speakers to learn. Our vocabulary borrows from two sources — Romance (tricky, difficult, arduous) and Anglo-Saxon (tough, hard, thorny). Decades later, I taught English to university students in neighboring Guinea. Guineans also speak Pular, along with Malinké, Soussou and Kissi.

Senegalese children

Children in Senegal show posters in French. Many speak three or more languages fluently before the age of 15 and may learn another in high school.

Just as Romance languages (French, Portuguese and Spanish) all derive from a Latin root, Malinké,  Soussou and the Sierra Leonean Mende dialect belong to the same cluster as Senegalese and Gambian languages such as Mandinke, Bambara, Soninke and Serahuli. Its influence is felt in Liberia and Sierra Leone too. Niger-Congo languages blanket the West African coast, from the Sahara Desert to the River Congo.

West Africans move effortlessly between four or five languages. Not surprisingly, linguistic research suggests language itself originated there. As our African ancestors explored and settled the rest of the globe between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago, these expert language learners took their abstract communications and distinct cultures with them.

Our original mother tongue was an African language. Why not celebrate International Mother Language Day by sponsoring a child in West Africa? Explore one of the 1,500 living languages spoken by nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Afghanistan: Lights for Learning On the Move

Kuchi girls in Afghanistan

Only 2 percent of girls and women in the nomadic Kuchi tribe are literate.

By ChildFund Staff

ChildFund and Nokero International, Ltd. have partnered to expand educational opportunity to 1,200 girls and 800 boys from a nomadic tribe in northern Afghanistan.

Our first effort with Nokero, in 2012, was to provide safe, inexpensive solar-powered lights to schoolchildren in Liberia. This time, we’re taking advantage of another quality of Nokero’s lights: their portability.

Kuchi tribe

Providing portable lights will help Kuchi children receive an education.

In northern Afghanistan, the nomadic Kuchi people move with the seasons, herding animals and bartering along the way. As one of Afghanistan’s most marginalized ethnic groups, they face extreme poverty and instability.

Since they settle only temporarily in rural, isolated regions, the Kuchis go months at a time without basic services like electricity and education. The literacy rate among the Kuchi men is less than 7 percent, and among women, it’s less than 2. Less than 2 percent of Kuchi girls are able to enroll in school.

This project supports a larger grant initiative to expand educational opportunities for 2,000 Kuchi children. It has two components:

625 Nokero solar-powered lamps and chargers that students can use to study, even when they’re in remote locations without electricity

peer-led study clubs that will be monitored by trained mentors and teachers so that students can continue their studies while on the move

Lights and study groups will empower children — especially girls — to sustain their learning without abandoning their nomadic way of life.

But to make this happen, we need your help to raise $8,864 by March 1 for our Fund a Project, Solar Lights and Study Clubs for Kuchi Children.

Join hands with other like-minded people and bring this project to life. And don’t forget to share the link with your family and friends.

ChildFund Listens to What Local Partners Say

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

ChildFund has made listening to children a hallmark of its work. But what about the local partner organizations that implement ChildFund’s programs for children?

partnership surveyLocal partners’ unique perspectives about their communities are key to ChildFund’s program design for children and families. To strengthen its relationships with these partners, ChildFund participated in a survey to identify its assets and weaknesses, with a view toward improving performance.

Along with ChildFund, 62 other international nonprofits participated in the survey, which was administered by Keystone Accountability and released as the Development Partnerships Survey 2013.

Keystone contacts local partners directly, asking them to anonymously respond to a standard questionnaire. In the survey, partners are asked to give their perceptions on various aspects of their relationships with the organizations. ChildFund received a copy of its own survey results, along with benchmarks for the other organizations that participated.

“We are releasing our private report publicly because we want our partners to know we are listening to them and that we take the findings seriously,” says Sarah Bouchie, vice president of Program Development. “We will follow up with our partners to learn more.”

ChildFund scored high for its financial support and capacity building. The organization was also highly rated for promoting participatory approaches to child development and for making an important contribution within its sector.

ChildFund scored high for its financial support and capacity building.

The survey highlighted relationships and communication as an area to improve. “We have been changing rapidly as an organization, so we can meet the needs of more children and families,” Bouchie says. “The results show that we need to pay close attention to how we communicate these changes. We want to make sure that we are attuned to local partners’ questions and concerns.”

ChildFund plans to develop joint strategies and promote its partners’ work more.  It also will repeat the survey to monitor its progress in building these important relationships.

Seeds for Healthy Development in Ecuador

Reporting by Veronica Travez, ChildFund Ecuador

In Ecuador, children under 5 make up 10 percent of the total population, and 23 percent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Samira's garden

Two-year-old Samira in her garden.

But in a small community north of Pichincha, we find Samira, a cheerful and lively 2-year-old girl who lives with her mother, Diana, and her grandparents, Maria and Miguel.

Maria and Diana participate in ChildFund’s early childhood development programs in their community. Diana has participated since she was pregnant, and when her baby girl was born, she already knew Samira needed the right kind of food. Maria tells us that Samira is the family’s “guinea pig” because they put into practice everything they have learned in raising her.

“My daughter does not get sick as other children do,” says Diana. “When the other children have had strong flu, she didn’t get it. She is a very healthy girl. She likes to eat soup. She really likes beans and corn, and she eats all kinds of fruits.”

Samira has access to this healthy diet thanks to another ChildFund-supported effort: Maria’s family garden. In her 30-square-meter plot, Maria cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables. These form the basis of the family’s diet.

We hope to provide this opportunity to 70 more families in Pichincha through our Ecuador gardens Fund a Project. These endeavors assist communities with specific needs like treated mosquito nets or winterization kits.

Ecuador garden

Samira’s grandmother, Maria, grows vegetables for her family in a 30-foot plot.

With your help, the garden project will provide these families with a sustainable source of nutrition, helping to address health challenges common to this region. Each family will receive fruit and vegetable seedlings with supplies and training for growing their own gardens. Using recyclable materials and avoiding pesticides, families will create their gardens in a sustainable, safe way.

As a result, children will have better access to vitamin-rich produce, which will protect them from malnutrition and illness. And the sale of surplus fruits and vegetables will boost each family’s income by as much as $40 per month. We need about $5,000 to reach our goal to start these families on a healthier path. Please consider making a donation.

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