ChildFund International Blog

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The Experience Gap in Science Education

Today is World Science Day for Peace and Development.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

I remember teaching at Guinea’s national polytechnic university a few years ago. Most of my first-year students had never seen a computer. They’d earned the highest marks in the country in science and math on their Baccalauréat (Guinea’s high-school leaving exam), yet had never examined water under a microscope, created a chemical volcano or even stuck balloons to the wall with static electricity.

But they could list waterborne illnesses, recite the periodic table of elements, and define induction. My students had learned theory without practical experience because Guinea, like many low-income countries, lacks the resources for proper science education. Scientific research there usually consists of literature review and retrospective study, not original experiments.

students in Guinea

Students in Guinea are interested in learning, but they often must do so without necessary resources.

Imagine MIT, Caltech or Virginia Tech without electricity, running water, refrigeration or internet access — and no books, maps, posters, calculators, CDs or DVDs on campus. Guinea’s only bookstore was located five hours away. Lab materials and scientific instruments are expensive and hard to come by. You barely have enough chalk.

“Why,” my students asked when I introduced myself on their first day of class, “did you leave your comfortable life in America for us?”

I’d come to teach technical English but ended up team-teaching introductory information technology classes, too. Each semester, my Guinean counterpart covered IT basics, while I observed and assisted with computer labs. Then we traded: I taught the advanced content and he ran interference.

I believe all children, regardless of where they are born, deserve as good an education as my daughter received in the United States. And the experience gap prevents these children and youth from solving new problems or thinking as creatively and critically as they could. Like DNA, a lack of practical experience passes down to subsequent generations.

I remember the moment I realized my students knew nothing about non-decimal number systems, including binary codes, on which information technology is based. While I reviewed my Energy Technology students’ course evaluations, one young man wrote that he hadn’t known you could generate electricity without pollution. Another wrote that the class wanted to learn more: “Show us photographs and diagrams of solar, wind, biomass, fuel cell, geothermal,” he wrote, “all these energy sources you told us of. And explain in French, please.”

The enthusiasm is there. I remember the sea of faces greeting me each semester. More than 100 students sat four to a desk. Although three in 10 scientists worldwide are women, fewer than one in 10 students at Guinea’s national polytechnic university were female when I taught there. Nearly all were already married with children.

Imagine the difference in the Ebola outbreak if the quality of science education in West Africa were equal to our own.

A Year After the Typhoon, Signs of Recovery

By Martin Nañawa, ChildFund Philippines

Before the typhoon, women in Miriam’s village would gather in a common space at the edge of their row of houses and take turns making batches of binagol, a staple dessert in Leyte, an island in the central Philippines.

Although there’s not a perfect comparison in Western cuisine, binagol is a little like tapioca pudding and also tastes similar to sticky rice cakes found throughout Southeast Asia. It is made with talyan roots, similar to taro, instead of rice.

binagol in Philippines

Binagol, wrapped up in banana leaves, is a portable treat.

There’s a smaller version of this sweet served in the northern Philippines, called “kulangot” (boogers). There’s also a variant made from rice, which is called “moron.” We have such glamorous names for local delicacies.

The women chop the talyan roots and cook them with coconut milk, condensed milk, eggs and sugar inside coconut husks with banana leaves layered on top. Everything is then wrapped in banana leaves and knotted with straw into a bun. This packaging makes binagol easily portable, and in Leyte, you’ll find it at markets, corner stores, canteens and even transit terminals. Miriam and the women of her village made enough binagol to drop off at nearby markets and make a small profit for themselves.

But when Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the region Nov. 8, 2013, everything changed for millions of Filipinos. The storm, one of the worst in the area’s history, claimed 6,300 lives and destroyed half a million homes in the central Philippines.

Scarcity of food was a primary challenge, and many villagers also had to repair or rebuild their homes. Selling binagol was not an option for Miriam and her neighbors, at least for the foreseeable future. This was especially difficult for her, as her husband’s earnings as a farmhand were never enough even before the typhoon.

But after immediate needs like food, shelter and clean water were filled, ChildFund and our local partner organizations started helping people reclaim their livelihoods — including the binagol-makers, who received assistance in July. This is all part of ChildFund’s response after disasters.

Miriam felt hope for the first time since the typhoon. She was not sure what to expect from ChildFund staff when they first came, but the workshop held right at her village helped her understand that we were there to help. Still, she and the other mothers would have to work hard to restore their livelihood, but improve it as well.

Miriam received a complete set of utensils for binagol production, allowing her and her neighbors to make as much of the dessert as they could. And ChildFund provided the ingredients for their first run. Most importantly, we’ve invested capital in the business, which has helped Miriam and her neighbors escape debt.

Before the typhoon, the binagol-makers took loans to buy the ingredients, repaying loans from their profits as they’re made. With ChildFund’s investment, though, the women don’t start off in debt and are now putting 10 percent of their profits into savings so their startup capital will grow.

Now Miriam and her neighbors individually produce binagol, and they no longer labor merely to pay debt. They’re able to increase their village’s total production many times. With their increased production capacity, they’ve been able to broker an agreement with a wholesaler.

“I’m pleased and surprised how much better business is now,” Miriam says. “Life was so difficult after Haiyan, I was desperate to find a new way to feed my three children. I’m glad I can return to what I’m skilled at and provide better for my family.”

Miriam preparing binagol

Miriam (left) prepares talyan roots to make binagol.

#NoFilter in Brazil

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.

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Food Friday: Brazil’s Feijoada

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Brazilian cuisine is a mixture of many cultures: Native tribes and descendants of African slaves and European immigrants.

Today, local ingredients known to the original native populations are still key to Brazilian cuisine: root vegetables such as cassava and yams, fruit such as açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit and pineapple. Rice and beans are popular throughout the country. Seafood and dried meats (carne de sol or carne seca) are eaten along the coast, where ChildFund’s programs in Fortaleza are located.

Feijoada, Brazil’s national dish (pronounced fay-jwah-duh), is a stew made with dried, salted and smoked meats, along with rice, leafy green vegetables and black beans. Brazilians use the black beans originating in South America and various types of pork. Although there’s no one definitive recipe for feijoada, it’s traditionally served with farofa (toasted cassava flour).

Feijoada

Brazil’s feijoada, with greens and rice. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

 

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces of carne seca (or replace with unflavored beef jerky)

8 ounces of dried black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, chopped

1 bay leaf, crushed

½ teaspoon sea salt

8 ounces linguiça calabresa sausage (or replace with mildly spiced pork sausage)

8 ounces pork loin

1 cup white rice

1 pound chopped kale or collard greens

1 cup cassava flour

2 tablespoons butter

2 oranges, sliced thinly

DIRECTIONS:

Soak carne seca overnight. In a separate bowl, soak dried black beans. In the morning, drain and cut the meat into small chunks. Rinse and drain the beans.

Heat olive oil in a kettle. Add onion, bay leaf and sea salt. Sauté until onions are soft; then add sausage, cut into chunks. Cook for several more minutes. Add pork loin, cut into chunks, along with the carne seca, black beans and enough water to cover the stew. Bring to a boil, cover the kettle and reduce heat. Let simmer until beans are tender, adding water whenever necessary.

In the meantime, prepare rice. Sauté kale or collard greens in olive oil until tender.

Prepare the farofa by sautéing cassava flour in butter for about 5 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Serve the beans over rice, with greens on the side. Garnish with orange slices and hot sauce. Sprinkle farofa over the top.

Serves 8.

In October, ChildFund’s blog has been celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work.On Fridays, we’ve been sharing recipes, which you can see here (or find all of the Harvest Month posts). 

Learning About the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

This gallery contains 5 photos.

As Harvest Month comes to a close, some ChildFund employees took part in an Ethiopian tradition: the coffee ceremony. Many Ethiopians roast coffee beans and brew coffee three times over a fire, then serve it in small cups with a snack of nuts or popcorn. Our ceremony was a little less labor-intensive, using a coffee pot instead of a fire, but it was still highly social. Here are some pictures from our coffee ceremony and three more photos taken by Jake Lyell in Ethiopia.

Food Friday: Liberian Style Jollof Rice

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Much of the news coming from Liberia recently has been tragic, with the Ebola virus claiming thousands of lives. But there’s much, much more to Liberia than the virus. Let’s take a moment and learn about Liberian cuisine, which combines traditional West African and Southern Creole techniques.

Most meals are prepared in a single kettle over a three-stone fire. Liberians also have a long tradition of baking pastries. Their bakeries are noted for sweet potato, coconut and pumpkin pies; sweet potato cookies, peanut cookies, cassava cakes, pound cakes and spice cakes.

Jollof rice is a favorite meal, and it originated with the Wolof population of Senegal and The Gambia and has spread to other African countries. The recipe varies according to locally available ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

Jollof rice

Jollof rice is prepared many different ways in West Africa.

¾ cup palm oil or peanut oil

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ pound chicken, cooked

½ pound smoked pork, cut into 1-inch chunks

½ sweet onion, finely chopped

½ cup bell peppers (green, red, yellow and purple), finely chopped

1 or 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and finely chopped

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

12 ounces tomato paste

1 quart water

1 tablespoon sea salt

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups short-grain white rice, prepared as directed on package

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pour ¼ cup of oil into a large saucepan. Sauté shrimp, chicken and smoked pork on medium-high heat until slightly brown. Remove from the pan.

In the same saucepan, add the rest of the oil and sauté onions, hot peppers, bell peppers and ginger on medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and reduce to medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes; then stir in tomato paste, water, salt and thyme. Add the meat and shrimp to the mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low.

Lift the meat, shrimp and tomatoes from the sauce with a slotted spoon, and stir prepared rice into the sauce. Serve on a platter with the meat and shrimp in the center. Serves 6-8.

This month, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work. On Fridays in October, we’ll share recipes. If you try one, take a picture of your dish and share it with us on our Facebook page

Renewing Interest in Agriculture

watering banana field

Nkazimulo (left) demonstrates how to water her banana fields.

Nkazimulo, 25, is a Zambian farmer who was orphaned as a child and had to quit school to support her younger siblings. With help from ChildFund Zambia, she was able to train for a career in agriculture. In Zambia and other African countries, young people have increasingly abandoned the traditional job of farming, which presents a problem because these nations’ economies depend on agriculture. But men and women like Nkazimulo are helping turn this trend around. Read more of her story.

In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.  

Food Friday: India’s Tomato-Apricot Chutney

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Indian cuisine is noted for its samosas, curries, biryanis, vindaloos and kormas — rich, complex and savory dishes. ChildFund staff members at our International Office in Richmond, Va., went to an Indian restaurant for lunch recently, where we tried a variety of dishes, along with rice and bread (naan) and sauces, such as raita and chutney. A raita is a yogurt-based sauce that often includes cucumbers, fresh mint, pepper, coriander and cumin. It helps quench the fiery spices of some dishes. Chutney, a relish made of spices and fruits or vegetables, can be fresh, pickled, spicy or sweet. The word is derived from the Sanskrit word that means “to lick.”

We’re going to learn how to make a classic tomato-apricot chutney, which is sweet and spicy, a relish that would go well with northern Indian or even Persian cuisine. Eat it with any rice and sauce dish, like a korma or a masala, or flatbreads.

 

tomato onion chutney

This is a tomato-onion chutney we ate at lunch.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cardamom

¼ cloves

Butter or coconut oil

1 cup chopped, dried apricots

3 to 5 chopped tomatoes

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lime juice

DIRECTIONS:

Mix and sauté garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in clarified butter or coconut oil for 1 minute. Add dried apricots, tomatoes, sea salt, honey and lime juice. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes, until apricots are soft and the chutney thickens.

Chill before serving. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or freeze, if you want to keep the chutney for longer periods.

This month, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work. On Fridays in October, we’ll share recipes. If you try one, take a picture of your dish and share it with us on our Facebook page

ChildFund’s Ebola Response Continues

Liberian child

In a Liberian community affected by Ebola, we’re providing hand-washing supplies.

 

ChildFund’s response to Ebola continues, as the number of diagnosed cases nears 9,000, with 4,493 deaths recorded. For the next five days (until Oct. 20), you can listen to a BBC interview (go to the 44-minute mark) with Billy Abimbilla, national director of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Ebola survivor and volunteer Decontee Davis about the Interim Care Center started for Liberian children affected by the deadly virus. It’s a remarkable story, and Billy reports that Liberians are volunteering to foster and adopt children orphaned by Ebola. You can read more and help our efforts in West Africa through the Ebola Response Fund.

ChildFund Liberia

ChildFund Liberia staff members taking stock of supplies.

Interim Care Center

ChildFund’s Interim Care Center near Monrovia, Liberia.

Livestock Delivers Nutrition and Income

Sri Lankan boy and goat

Vijayakumaratharun, 10, and one of his goats.

By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka

Vijayakumaratharun, who is 10, says that what makes him most sad is seeing his mother cry. It hasn’t been an easy life for Ithayakala, 34, who was abandoned by her husband when her son was very small.

Living in a rural village in the Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka and with little education, her livelihood came from selling the vegetables she grew in her small home garden, plus doing odd jobs and working in rice paddies, seasonal work. But when Vijayakumaratharun was sponsored three years ago through ChildFund New Zealand, one of ChildFund International’s Alliance partners, his mother saw a ray of hope.

“Things have changed for us now,” Ithayakala says. Although she still struggles to make enough money, the strain has decreased. “Almost all of his educational expenses are covered thanks to sponsorship,” she adds.

In addition to his sponsorship, Vijayakumaratharun and his mother have three goats and three cows. Ithayakala sells surplus milk, which supplements their income.

Ithyakala has had the opportunity to participate in ChildFund’s nutrition program, where she learned about growing and cooking nutritious foods for her son. Now, she is a leader and teaches other mothers the same skills. She has also benefited from child protection programs organized by ChildFund Sri Lanka for the community.

Vijayakumaratharun shares with us a photograph and letters he has received from his sponsor in New Zealand. The kea, he points out from a card with several animals from New Zealand, is his favorite. “I want to thank her for all the greeting cards and letters she has sent me. I have learnt new things about her family in New Zealand and about the animals there.”

In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.  

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