ChildFund International Blog

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Margaret E. McCullough, 1995-1999

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first five executive directors: Dr. Calvitt ClarkeVerbon E. Kemp, Dr. Verent MillsDr. James MacCracken and Dr. Paul McCleary.

Dr. Margaret McCullough, Christian Children’s Fund’s sixth executive director and the first woman to hold the top job, served as our sponsor services director for seven years in the 1980s before becoming the organization’s deputy executive director during her predecessor Dr. McCleary’s tenure. She began working with CCF in 1974, first sitting on the board of directors. She earned degrees in child development, family social science and family social psychology at Kansas State University and the University of Minnesota.

Margaret McCullough in Brazil

Dr. Margaret McCullough in Brazil in 1995.

The end of the 20th century was a time of refining CCF’s policies and procedures, including updating technology in our organization to improve communications, monitoring and evaluating our work, and affirming CCF as a child development agency — a shift from being known solely as a sponsorship organization. During this time, we also began working more with children who’d been through wars and other traumatic experiences, employing psychologists to help children express their feelings through artwork and other means.

Despite the broadening of CCF’s mission, Dr. McCullough still recognized the continuing importance of sponsorship within our organization. She and her husband sponsored five children when she became executive director.

“I think it is so rewarding to work with people when they are still very young and open and ready to learn,” she said in a Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star article in 1995. “You can help them develop themselves so they can have exciting and meaningful lives.”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Paul F. McCleary, 1988-1994

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first four executive directors: Dr. Calvitt Clarke, Verbon E. Kemp, Dr. Verent Mills and Dr. James MacCracken.

Dr. Paul F. McCleary, Christian Children’s Fund’s fifth executive director, came from Save the Children, where his predecessor Dr. MacCracken was employed. Dr. McCleary served as a missionary in Bolivia for 12 years while working for the United Methodist Church and the National Council of Churches. He brought a global worldview and approached his leadership at CCF with an eye toward political shifts in the eroding Soviet Union, Germany, Iraq, Poland and South Africa, as well as population growth, debt and changing economies.

Dr. McCleary in Lithuania

Dr. Paul McCleary with children in Lithuania.

Dr. McCleary was the first leader of our organization with considerable hands-on experience in developing countries since the tenure of Dr. Mills, who was overseas director before becoming our third executive director.

“Working among the poorest, we were exposed to the full spectrum of problems that poverty breeds — high infant mortality, annual pregnancies, malnutrition, low productivity, low income, as well as the repetition of the poverty cycle from one generation to the next,” Dr. McCleary said in 1991 of his time in Bolivia, according to Larry E. Tise’s A Book about Children. “So, for me, it’s not at all difficult to know what people must be experiencing in Brazil or India or the Philippines, and to have a strong, empathetic relationship with the staff who are attempting to change things.”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: James MacCracken, 1981-1988

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Visit earlier posts about our first three executive directors: Dr. Calvitt Clarke, Verbon E. Kemp and Dr. Verent Mills. Stay tuned for more this week.

James MacCracken in Brazil

Dr. James MacCracken and a Brazilian infant.

Dr. James MacCracken, our fourth executive director, oversaw huge growth in the number of sponsors and children served. In an 18-month period ending in 1983, he led a successful campaign to increase the number of assisted children from 260,000 to 325,000. Also, Christian Children’s Fund’s annual budget doubled during the seven years of his tenure. He was the first head of CCF who came from outside the organization; Dr. MacCracken was the vice president of programs for Save the Children Federation before arriving here.

Dr. MacCracken said upon his retirement in 1988 that he was pleased with the “sense of joy” and the “common vision” at CCF during his years here. “That’s the thing I feel proudest of,” he said. “If we can’t care for each other, how can we care for a child halfway round the world?”

ChildFund’s Presidents Week: Verbon Kemp, 1964-1970

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we turn the spotlight on ChildFund’s top leaders throughout our history. Historical information comes from A Book About Children by Larry E. Tise and ChildFund archives. Please visit earlier posts about our founder and first executive director Dr. Calvitt Clarke, and Dr. Verent Mills, our third executive director.

Verbon Kemp

Verbon E. Kemp

Verbon Kemp, our second executive director, took over the reins of Christian Children’s Fund following Dr. Clarke’s retirement after 25 years as founder and executive director. Before, Kemp was a member of our board of directors, and he was a close friend of Dr. Clarke. Also, he served as executive secretary of Virginia’s State Chamber of Commerce before stepping down in 1963.

It came as a surprise to many that Kemp made major changes right away at CCF, including hiring staff members with backgrounds in development and child care, making record-keeping and financial accountability high priorities, and also updating technology, including bringing in computers for the first time.

“If anyone was a hero [in the transition], it was Kemp,” said Jerald Huntsinger, CCF’s public relations director at the time. “Kemp made the board an active, participating body with social welfare expertise. And he brought a new version of business management techniques to CCF. He equipped CCF to deal with the realities and complexities of the modern world.”

ChildFund Joins Other World Agencies in U.N. Anti-Violence Effort

By Andrew Johnson, ChildFund Alliance Deputy Secretary General

Every child has the right to live and thrive in a safe and caring family environment, free from all forms of violence. That’s what the ChildFund Alliance and our other peers believe.

Earlier this month, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted six child-focused agencies — ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, UNICEF and World Vision International — at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss violence against children and ways to prevent it. The goal is to make sure children’s rights are a high priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is set to be agreed upon by United Nations member states in September 2015.


freedom from violence group

A World without Violence against Children panel, including ChildFund’s Jim Emerson (far left).

Millions of children experience abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence on a daily basis at home, at school, at work and in their communities. The consequences can be life-long and also spread to other generations; in the worst cases, violence can lead to a child’s death. Violence can also cause economic disadvantages: lost productivity, and a reduced quality of life. Most broadly, it has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.

During the eighth session of the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted A World without Violence against Children, along with coordination from the six agencies. ChildFund Alliance, for one, has taken a stand to advocate for children’s issues — particularly freedom from violence and exploitation — to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the prevention and responses to violence against children to the debate about the U.N.’s future priorities, which affect its work in the countries where ChildFund and other agencies work.

Jim Emerson, secretary general of the Alliance, thanked the co-hosts, participating children and the speakers. He highlighted the pervasive presence of violence against children, and the importance of the post-2015 development agenda addressing this issue.

“But it’s not just our organizations saying this,” Emerson noted. “Most importantly, this is a call from children all over the world. Children are asking for an end to physical and humiliating punishment; sexual violence and abuse; harmful child work and child marriage; trafficking and other harmful practices.”

Migena, an Albanian girl who participated in a post-2015 consultation in her home country, organized by SOS Children’s Villages International, also joined the meeting via Skype. She highlighted the need for the next generation of development goals to address the different forms of violence, exploitation and abuse against children, as well as the importance of children’s participation in the process. Raising awareness in communities and getting state agencies more involved in regions where violence occurs are equally important, Migena said. “Children are going to rule the world in the future,” she concluded.

Canada’s and Paraguay’s U.N. ambassadors, Guillermo Rishchynski and José Antonio Dos Santos, both spoke about their countries’ work to bring children’s issues to the attention of the U.N. work group, and their speeches were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Al Jazeera English journalist Femi Oke. The panelists also answered questions from the audience in New York and online.

Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives.

The panelists, among them UNICEF’s chief of child protection, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on violence against children and the World Health Organization representative to the U.N., discussed many aspects of this issue. Susan Bissell of UNICEF noted that it’s important to communicate the fact that violence against children is preventable and that there are concrete solutions to the problem, drawing on successful programs from around the world. She also pointed out that the reduction of child mortality rates could be offset in the future by violence against children.

Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives. Werner Obermeyer of WHO called attention to links between violence against children and other types of violence, which often lead to risk-taking attitudes that cause declines in health. 

ChildFund’s Emerson highlighted the importance of this issue for development and remarked that violence against children has a series of economic implications that transcend the direct costs of responding to it. Evidence shows that prevention is much more cost-effective than response.

Santos Pais also read a statement of support from the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, urging governments “to make the protection of children from all forms of violence a high priority goal on the post-2015 agenda, as an issue of utmost international as well as national importance.”

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.

The World Through Children’s Artwork

A few decades ago, ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) organized art exhibits of work by children in our programs throughout the world. The events were called competitions, because only the best pieces were displayed. While doing research for our 75th anniversary celebration, we found black-and-white photos of drawings from the 1981 exhibit. Many drawings are of typical scenes from their home communities. Please enjoy this slideshow!


75 Years, by the Numbers

Seventy-five years is a long time, and ChildFund International has touched many lives over the years. Here are some of the numbers associated with our work, both current and historical. To pin this graphic, check out our Pinterest page. Click on the graphic to make it larger.



A Memorable Conversation in Guatemala

Children in Guatemala

The best part of working at ChildFund, for many of our staff members, is to visit children at our programs, like this one in Guatemala.

We asked Lloyd McCormick, ChildFund’s director of youth programs, to tell us his favorite story from the field. He travels many weeks out of the year to our programs around the world.

75th ChildFund logoI was in Guatemala a few years ago assisting the Americas regional office, national office and the local partner organization in conducting a community consultation in a rural village in the mountains, a very beautiful place. It was held over two days, and during one of the first sessions, I started to interact with a boy about 10 or 11 years old. I don’t speak Spanish, so he was listening to me speak English to others around me that knew English. He was very intrigued by me speaking English, as were some other kids his age who were in the same session. After a bit, he started to address me in an imitation of what he thought English sounded like. It was actually just gibberish, but I immediately responded to him as if I understood exactly what he was saying. We then just got into a rhythm of a conversation with hand gestures, tones, and laughter — as if two old friends were having a great conversation.

Lloyd McCormick

Lloyd McCormick

The kids around him were flabbergasted that he seemed to know English and that we were having this conversation. The adults around us that knew English and Spanish just let us continue our “drama” and confirming that the other kids were so impressed their friend could speak English so fluently. After some time, we both just finally burst out in full laughter, and the gig was up. From that point on during the rest of the stay in the village, whenever this boy and I would run into each other, we would start our “English” conversation where we left off the last time, just enjoying a laugh and some simple fun. The whole thing continues to remind me how we can truly connect with children in different and simple ways.

The Mama Effect

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