Youth in Action

Keeping Children’s Rights Close to the Heart of the African Union

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the African Union, ChildFund, Save the Children, Plan International and the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) gathered last week to focus on the future of children across Africa. The meeting culminated with the drafting of an open letter to the chairperson of the African Union Commission, urging renewed support for the rights of children, who will become tomorrow’s leaders. We wanted to also share that letter with you.

child-focused organization representatives meeting

Meeting on Children’s Rights in Africa 50 Years of the African Union.

man at projection screen

Timothy, from Uganda, presents on behalf of ChildFund.

23 May 2013

Her Excellency, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union Commission

As civil society organisations working to secure a better future for children in Africa, we would like to congratulate the OAU/AU on its 50th anniversary. We would particularly like to commend the great strides that have been made for children in Africa over the last 50 years, including improved primary school enrolment, impressive reductions in child mortality and increased access to essential maternal and child health services, and the establishment of mechanisms to protect and promote children’s rights set forth in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

However, despite this progress, much remains to be done to ensure every child grows up healthy, well-educated and able to enjoy the full rights to which they are entitled. Ensuring we maintain and increase the gains we have made for children will require political leadership, strengthening of institutions and targeted investment. It will take concerted effort from us all – governments, regional bodies, business, international partners and the civil society.

We believe the 50th anniversary of the AU and the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union represent important opportunities to place children at the centre of Africa’s vision for the next 50 years, through reflecting their needs and interests in the African Common Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda.

We urge Your Excellency to use your Chairmanship to encourage and influence African Governments to:
1. Meet the commitments they have made to children under the regional and international child rights instruments and relevant declarations such as the Dakar Declaration and the Abuja target to allocate 9% of their GDP to education and 15% of their national budgets to health, respectively.
2. Address with the same commitment and vigour the issues of violence and exploitation against children, with clear and measurable targets for protection.
3. Honour their reporting obligations as Member States to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Investing in children and putting their rights and best interests at the centre of Africa’s development will not only help ensure that every child grows up to meet their full potential, but it is also a viable economic strategy to drive and accelerate Africa’s economic growth.

Today, Africa’s prospects are bright with booming economies, a burgeoning middle class and a youthful population. It is now feasible to imagine that in the coming decades no child in Africa will die from preventable causes, every child will go to school and learn, every child will have adequate protection from violence and exploitation and we will break the intergenerational poverty from the continent.

The African Union has demonstrated its commitment to children on many occasions. Under your leadership, we remain committed to working with you and the African Union Commission to ensure that children are at the heart of Africa’s renaissance.

ChildFund International
Save the Children
Plan International
African Child Policy Forum (APCF)

Talking Circles Help With Cultural Restoration in ChildFund’s U.S. Programs

Dr. Paul Dauphinais is a psychologist for Turtle Mountain Community Schools in Belcourt, N.D. He wrote this letter earlier this year after attending a tribal outreach gathering for American Indian youth, part of the work ChildFund supports in the United States. Here’s an excerpt.

children in gym

Children and youth enjoy themselves at Club Night in Belcourt, N.D., which is within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.

I had an experience last week that was very moving and gave me great hope for the future of our youth and community. It was a Wednesday in the early evening. I was invited to go to the gym at Dunseith High School. When I arrived, there were children, youth and some of the outreach staff gathered near picnic tables. One of the tables had food that the staff had prepared. I was observing and enjoying the true friendships that the staff and youth showed. A couple of the girls then spontaneously began to serve the youth and staff. They assumed that responsibility without any adult coaxing. It was a pleasant experience.

The gathering really demonstrated to me that each person there genuinely cared for one another, making sure that everyone was served food and satisfied. The children and youth were respectful of each other and it was clearly evident that each one was welcome.

children on floor

The centerpiece of Club Night is the Talking Circle.

After the meal, several of the team leaders gathered youth in a large circle for the main part of the gathering, the Talking Circle. [Talking Circles are an important component of ChildFund’s cultural restoration initiatives.] The adult leader then began with an introduction of himself and his family in the language of the Anishnabe; he gave an explanation of respect in our cultural world. After this, Paco, a stuffed animal, was handed from person to person to say what respect meant to them and who and what they were respectful of in their lives.

When each youth had finished with their explanations, the rest of the circle applauded, showing respect and acknowledgement of the other person’s perspective. Each person in the circle was offered a turn. The insight that youth demonstrated in their speaking was a pleasure to hear, no matter their age. We have such great leaders-to-be who will be able to have insights into their daily lives and what it means to be Anishnabe/Mitchif. I was very proud to be a part of that group that night. [ChildFund believes that engaging children and youth in initiatives that connect them to positive Lakota values, practices and beliefs strengthens their cultural identity and their resiliency against inherent risks in their environment.]

All week, this past week, I wondered how these youth developed into such respectful and insightful beings; what is this process of growth? Who were they before they became involved with what is called Club Night? How do children mature in this manner – to become so respectful of each other and confident to speak about how one of the gifts of the grandfathers is part of their lives in the presence of others?

Club Night has been happening for many years through the leadership of Claudette McLeod and Turtle Mountain Outreach, and the staff of the Tribal JTPA, Turtle Mountain Youth & Family Center and tribal youth programs.

After the Talking Circle, the youth and staff played a group activity where there was not any bickering about rules or other negative behaviors. Everyone seemed to truly enjoy each other’s companionship, regardless of gender or age. At the end of the evening, the staff remains to assure that each youth has a ride home and that, if someone wants to talk about a concern or share a recent event, they are there.

I just wanted to jump in and be a part!

I thank the group for allowing me to be a part of the group that night.

Club Night will continue to be a part of program services and the dedicated staff will continue to be supportive to the youth. And I thank them for providing this opportunity for our youth.

With help comes hope.

Children’s Voices: Fatoumata From Guinea

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah Mamy, ChildFund Guinea

Guinean girl

Fatoumata, 13, is minister of discrimination in her school.

Fatoumata is 13 years old and lives in Guinea. A student in Sougueta Primary School, which is supported by ChildFund, Fatoumata holds the position of minister of discrimination in her student government.

We asked her why she accepted this post.

“In my village, families do not easily accept each other. Those from the Mandingo ethnic group do not collaborate with ones from the Foula ethnic group,” she says. “Unfortunately, our parents’ bad behavior has extended even to the schools and is affecting relationships between students on campus.”

She notes that students often fight each other and that each group of students discriminates against the other.

“I want to talk about peace with my fellow students and, if possible, with our parents,” Fatoumata says.

children in student government

Student government members at Sougueta Primary School in Guinea.

Asked what advice she would give, Fatoumata doesn’t hesitate: “To my friends, I would say, ‘Make peace with each other because if we follow our parents’ bad ways, we will not grow to become good people.’

To the parents, I would say, ‘Help us grow and become good people in the future.’ ”

Photography Exchange Program Brings Cultures Into Focus

 By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil

Photographs span different languages and long distances, as a group of American and Brazilian students learned during an exchange program. In January, 12 students from Soka University in California’s Orange County traveled to Brazil to work with teens involved in ChildFund Brasil’s Photovoice project.

group picture of studnets

Students from California participated in a photography workshop with Brazilian youth.

The group gathered in the city of Medina for a workshop. The teens and college students shared their approaches toward setting up pictures and, along the way, gained an appreciation for a different culture.

“It was an exchange where all students were engaged in teaching and learning,” says ChildFund Brasil Social Program Manager Dov Rosenmann.

The workshops took place at Medina’s Little House of Culture, another important project of ChildFund, which has worked in Brazil for 46 years. The space is meant to revive community bonds and pride in their cultural roots. Children, teens and young adults often find encouragement to pursue arts and other interests there while also gaining technological skills.

college students

The Soka University students from California.

Besides participating in the Photovoice workshops, the American students also donated six digital cameras and one projector that will be used by students from the communities that participate in this project.

Photovoice was developed by ChildFund Brasil in partnership with social organizations all over the country with the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence and healthy social relationships among young people through the art of photography. Participants take pictures of daily life in their communities, many of which are lacking necessary resources.

In addition to acquiring knowledge about photography, the young people have the opportunity to express their points of view about the daily life in the community and to reflect with criticism about what they photograph. More than 300 youths have taken part in Photovoice.

The teens decide on which subjects to capture — often family relationships, local culture, nature and social themes. “The importance is to capture the elements that contain a meaningful story,” Rosenmann says.

Young Entrepreneurs Group Wins National Award in Zambia

By Priscilla Chama, ChildFund Zambia

A Zambian youth group supported by ChildFund recently won a national award for its entrepreneurial spirit. The Mukubulo youth group’s work — growing vegetables and selling them at a local market — earned them a laptop computer and a cash prize of US$654.

youth holding laptop

Davey receives laptop from Zambia’s vice president

The Zambian government awarded the prizes on March 12, National Youth Day, as part of its first young entrepreneurs’ exhibition, “Opportunity for Youth Through Enterprise.” The Mukubulo group reached the national level after beating 15 other teams in the provincial level, winning a trophy and US$935 in cash.

Zambia youth exhibitors.

Zambia youth exhibitors.

The national event attracted 61 teams, including 24 international competitors from Namibia and Zimbabwe. The exhibition was aimed at encouraging young people to create their own wealth through innovation, creativity and hard work.
The Mukubulo youth group is supported by ChildFund Zambia through the Youth and Caregiver Entrepreneurship Development Project. They initially came together in 2007 as a group of 10 that grew vegetables and sold them at a local market.

Group leader Davey explained that they struggled to share the money raised from the sale of their vegetables, because their profit margins were too small.

“When we started, we did not have modern agricultural equipment, and we used to water our gardens with buckets. Thus, we did not make enough profits for us to share,” he explained.

The trophy.

The trophy signifies many years of work.

The big breakthrough for the group came when they began receiving support from ChildFund. They were trained in organic farming and entrepreneurship skills and then were given start-up seeds.

With further support from ChildFund, the group managed to procure modern agriculture equipment and is now involved in gardening on a large scale. The size of their market presence has also grown, and they are now selling their products not only in Chongwe but also in Lusaka.

“We are grateful for the support from ChildFund, and winning the first prize both at provincial and national level is a big motivation for us to work even harder and explore further business ventures,” Davey said after receiving the award.

During the presentation of the prizes to the group, Zambia’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Chishimba Kambwili, urged the group to recruit more young people.

“As a ministry in charge of the youth in this country, we would like to see the group grow from its current membership so that other young people that are not in formal employment can benefit,” he said.

A ChildFund Alumnus Gives Thanks

By ChildFund Ethiopia staff

Gegsebo Redi, 24, lives in Silti Aynage, Ethiopia. He is a formerly sponsored child and an alumnus of the Silti Aynage Child and Family Development Association, an organization that partners with ChildFund.

Ethiopian man sitting under tree

Gegsebo wants to give back to his community and country.

Gegsebo completed high school in 2006. He was an outstanding student and scored straight A’s. But Gegsebo’s family couldn’t afford the next step in his education — attending university preparatory classes away from home. They couldn’t cover the cost of his transportation or his living expenses.

“I had no chance,” Gegsebo recalls, “except missing the opportunity of the pre-university course and looking for other options around my village.” Recognizing Gegsebo’s potential, ChildFund’s local partner offered financial assistance to cover housing and living expenses while he attended classes. “They encouraged me to continue my education and to join the university. I have no words to thank them for enabling me to reach my current position.”

He has now completed studies at Hawasa University, earning a degree in rural development offered in cooperation with the Ethiopian government’s agriculture department. Today, Gegsebo is employed at Silti Aynage’s agriculture office and earns a salary that also allows him to also support his brother, who is still in school.

“I would like to thank the association for helping me to improve my life,” Gegsebo says. “They were helping me by being my family in many ways. In the future, I want to support children either by my profession or financially. I would also like to continue my education since our country is expecting much from young people like me.”

Youth in Bolivia: “We Might be Small, but We Can Do Big Things”

By Abraham Marca and Ana Vacas, ChildFund Bolivia

It’s common to hear older Bolivians describing adolescents and children as being in their “donkey’s age” because they can be bull-headed.

A youth group in Tarija, Bolivia.

A youth group in Tarija, Bolivia.

But this perception of youth is now changing in the city of Tarija in Bolivia, where eight local partners, assisted by ChildFund Bolivia, have given children and youths the opportunity to put forward their own solutions for community problems like alcoholism, garbage and poor-quality playgrounds.

“We might be small, but we can do big things” is the slogan of one of the youth clubs.

Forming Youth Clubs
This dream started with small steps. With support from ChildFund, young people created clubs by choosing their own names, designing logos and writing club constitutions with rules about honesty, punctuality, teamwork and more.

A member of a youth group explains plans for a microproject.

A member of the group explains his plan for a microproject.

Next, the clubs participated in various educational modules, starting with leadership skills and photography. The children and youth started to identify problems and strengths in their community, often using photography. They then developed a project to address a community issue.

One of the main problems the children identified was pollution in their neighborhoods, as well as a lack of good recreational spaces. The few playgrounds were in poor condition. The youth also recognized that a lack of street lighting and persistent alcoholism made their neighborhoods more dangerous. These concerns echoed what we heard during our area strategic program with the Tarija communities.

Taking Action

Members of a youth group in Tarija.

Youth group members and leaders.

After forming a club, the children in Guadalquivir planted 12 trees — which they bought themselves — during a clean-up campaign. In Nueva Esperanza, the club members started a campaign to prevent alcoholism and also purchased new lights for the community’s soccer field. A youth leader, studying architecture, designed a new playground and coordinated the project in Moto Mendez. One of Tarija’s rural partners had problems with the speed of traffic near a school so the children consulted the mayor. As a result, speed bumps were put in place. In the same area, the youth raised awareness among adults to use the garbage collection services that passed through the community once a week, instead of tossing trash out on the streets or burning it.

Creating Partnerships

ChildFund staff and youth in Tarija.

ChildFund staff and youth in Tarija.

These are just a few examples of how children and youth can reach out, because as they tell us, “There are more ideas and, of course, a lot of energy.” Money is often short, so the club members have made alliances with local authorities and parents’ groups. Municipal governments have helped the children’s groups buy trees to plant in their neighborhoods.

Adults have been pleasantly surprised with the children’s drive, and now they are paying more attention to the young voices.

Teens Find Their Voice in Ecuador

By Mauricio Bianco, ChildFund Brasil

Mauricio Bianco, marketing and fundraising manager for ChildFund Brasil, recently traveled to Ecuador. Today, he shares his impressions in the first of a two-part series.

On this trip, I had the opportunity to visit communities where ChildFund Ecuador develops social programs for children and their families. The first experience of the day was to visit young people between 15 and 17 years old in the city of Ambato, the capital of the province of Tungurahua (Ecuador’s third-largest city, three hours south of Quito).

ChildFund staff member with youth

Meeting with young communicators in Ecuador.

Four years ago, 40 young people began meeting every week to discuss issues that are important to them. Often, adults don’t give them the opportunity to be heard.

Weekly, these young people publish their news in a column for the local newspaper and record a 20-minute program at a radio station in town. They discuss such important matters as self-esteem, peer pressure, school interests, puberty, teenage pregnancy and other topics, completely without taboos. Often, parents have difficulty broaching such topics with their children, so the young people give voice to these issues, their wishes and values, seeking the common good and trying to improve the living conditions in their communities.

These teens also are passing on what they have learned to others who are even younger, so they also have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their communities.

I enjoyed talking with Shirley, 16, who had terrific insight into her role in society and young people’s ability to change the society in which they live. In Ecuador, often only the adults have strong voices, but this is changing. These young people are really making a difference in several neighborhoods in the city of Ambato. It’s a pleasure to see the empowerment that is going on.

From Kara2Mijael: A Father’s Inspiration

Guest post by Robert Patrovic

As ChildFund recognizes #GivingTuesday today, we are sharing the inspiring story of a father watching his daughter work hard – to give. Through ChildFund, Kara sponsors Mijael, a 6-year-old boy from Bolivia, and this year she raised funds to visit him.

My wife, Mary, and I have always tried to teach our children the value of their place in the world. We instilled in them a need to make the world a better place. Although we believe we’ve provided a comfortable home and life, we have always been sure not to focus on the attainment of personal possessions. There are almost no video games in our house (except for educational ones), no smartphones when they were kids, and we’ve always stressed reading, playing outside and giving.

Each of our three children, Jess, 23; Bobby, 20; and Kara, 15, is different, but they share that same value system. They have always volunteered for many causes both in and out of school. We have encouraged them to seek their dreams and have always taught them that hard work gets results. When they have truly wanted something, we have shown them paths to get it – always involving work on their part.

Kara and Robert

My daughter, Kara, and me.

Kara, in particular, has always been one of the most giving people we know, even as a younger child. When, at 9 years old, she came to us with the idea of sponsoring a child, we were very encouraging (how could a parent not be?!). I helped her do the research on which organization operated the most efficiently, as she is conscientious about things like that. We decided on ChildFund. We helped supplement her monthly sponsorship payment and she did her best to keep in touch with Mijael over the years. At the time, he was 6 months old; Mijael is now 6 years old.

When she came up with the idea to actually visit Mijael, we saw this as an excellent learning opportunity and told her we would accompany her if she raised the money to go. This was in late January, a time where her schoolwork was especially heating up. Kara is a dedicated student and athlete. She played high school soccer and track and field and played for a club soccer team, as well – quite the demanding schedule.

Once Kara realized what it would take to put this trip together, she decided she wanted to invest more time, ultimately leaving the club soccer team. She used the extra time to really begin planning her big trip to Bolivia. She first placed a letter in our church’s bulletin and got a good response, which encouraged her further. She sent more letters and emails, developed budgets, researched flights, hosted fundraisers and even got some media coverage. The trip began taking on a life of its own, and Kara was at the forefront. How proud we were!


Kara at one of her fundraisers.

As the project grew in scope with more and more fundraisers, increased amounts of time and planning were required. At this time, Kara was given a “gift” of sorts. While playing soccer, she took a serious fall. She suffered a pretty serious concussion and broke her wrist. Kara could not participate in her normal activities. She was discouraged, understandably so, but this gave her the gift of time to spend on fundraising and planning her trip. Kara was making a hug jug of lemonade out of a large batch of lemons – a gift from God. Talk about getting inspiration from your own child!


Kara delivering clothes and toys to kids in Mijael’s community.

Ultimately, Kara was successful; so successful in fact that she raised about $850 more than she planned. With the extra money she was able to provide gifts for 55 additional children and donate to two health care fundraisers in Tarija [Mijael’s community]. Although, I only went to accompany Kara, my own life was changed dramatically as well.

Kara has been, is, and continues to be a God-given gift and inspiration in our lives. I was moved by the impact that Kara had. At one point, she was honored as a Chapaca (resident of Tarija), which is an incredible tribute. In addition, the Tarija people called her a role model for their children because of her motivation to give. Imagine that, a child who comes from a wealthy country like the U.S., who is accustomed to living comfortably, being honored as a role model for children that have very little.

Robert and Mijaels Parents

Kara and me with Mijael and his parents.

Kara has decided to continue to raise funds for Mijael, ChildFund Bolivia, and the various communities of Tarija. We are so proud of and inspired by our daughter.

Learn more about Kara’s trip to Bolivia.

Young Tailor Sews Her Way Out of Poverty

Reporting by ChildFund Zambia

Twenty-two-year old Jacqueline is one of the young people whose lives have been changed for the better through ChildFund’s youth empowerment projects in Zambia.

youth at sewing machine

Jacqueline stays busy in her tailoring shop.

She owns her own tailoring shop and makes student uniforms for the local school. Jacqueline also has regular clients in the Mpanshya community for whom she makes clothes.

But how did Jacqueline manage to own a shop of her own at such a young age?

“Life was really hard for me before I learned about the ChildFund livelihood programs,” she explains. “I failed to continue school after grade nine, as my parents could no longer afford to pay my tuition fees and other school requirements.”

After dropping out of school, Jacqueline started spending most of her time doing odd jobs at people’s farms to help her family earn a living. But the jobs were poorly paid, and Jacqueline’s family continued to struggle.

“I joined my mother as she did odd jobs, but we never made enough to make ends meet. It was very hard and sometimes we went to bed without eating anything,” Jacqueline recalls.

Her life took a turn for the better when a friend invited her to a youth meeting organized by ChildFund in Mpanshya. After that meeting, she began attending trainings in entrepreneurship, life skills and basic accounting, among others.

After being trained in tailoring and clothing design, Jacqueline and other youth received sewing machines. “I was in the group business for three years and after sharing the profits, I decided to buy my own sewing machine and do my own business on the side, she explains.

As her business grew, Jacqueline decided to leave the group and set up her own shop at the local market. Immediately, she was approached by the local school who later gave her a contract to start making uniforms.

Today her business has grown, and Jacqueline has now taken on the responsibility of helping send her siblings to school.

“I’m very happy now that I can help my parents send my younger siblings to school,” Jacqueline says, “and I will forever remain grateful to ChildFund for empowering me with tailoring skills.”

You can help empower other girls like Jacqueline by sending them a gift from ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope Catalog.

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