As part of our 75th anniversary blog series, we take a look at ChildFund’s long history with the Philippines, as captured in a 1959 letter by Dr. Verent Mills.
China’s Children Fund continued to grow throughout World War II, assisting 45 orphanages by November 1944, only six years after CCF was started. At the end of the war in 1945, CCF founder Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke saw that the organization’s income exceeded the known needs in China. That’s when CCF began its work in other Asian countries, including today’s focus, the Philippines.
We began sending funds to orphanages in the Philippines in 1946 (in fact, on Feb. 7, our board voted to help Filipino children), and we still support children in the Philippines, with everyday needs and when disasters strike, including Typhoon Haiyan, which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed homes and livelihoods for millions.
Our support for children in the Philippines has deep roots. In August 1959, Dr. Verent Mills, who was then Christian Children’s Fund overseas director, wrote to Dr. Clarke from Manila during a visit to a cottage-style orphanage, Children’s Garden:
“Mrs. Pangindian and others were at the airport and we drove by the Methodist Church to pick up Dr. Mosebrook, who returned to Manila just two weeks ago. Then on out in the rain to Children’s Garden, where the little ones sang a song of welcome. The whole place looks so neat and clean and the shrubbery and flowers are beautiful. Everything is always kept in tip-top shape here and the children appear very happy. The same cottage mothers are there and they are very proud of their children.
The new clinic and sickbay is near completion and will be quite an asset to them, for it is difficult to segregate the ill children in the cottages. As soon as the weather changes they intend to build the other cottage.
Dr. Perez, who sends her special greetings to you both, stated that as time goes on the needs are becoming more pressing than ever, due to inflation, and the cost of living is going up constantly. … There is more unemployment than ever and market prices of everyday commodities continue to rise daily.”
Mills continues, “The relatives of many of the children we are helping are very grateful. Likewise, the local citizens are rallying around the project and helping equally as much as we are giving. If Voluntary Agencies only had the wherewithal to do more we could accomplish so much good and create more goodwill between other countries and our own.”
In closing, Mills writes that there are more than 200 children on the waiting list for Children’s Garden and that Dr. Perez hopes that in 1960, the orphanage could take in some of these children if they can build three more cottages.
“Also Dr. Mosebrook has asked me if he can raise locally for building an additional cottage. Would we take on the support of the children at $10.00 per month? I told him we would. I thought it would be an encouragement and an incentive. Children’s Garden in the Philippines is but one of our many Homes of which we can be justly proud.”
We recently interviewed Americas Regional Director Paul Bode about his three years at ChildFund and what he sees in our organization’s future.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am from the Netherlands. I am the youngest of the family of six, and all my brothers and my sister continue to live there, and my three children have moved there also.
How did you become involved in this field?
When I was in high school, I had a keen interest in development issues, and my career choices were directed at this. I studied anthropology with specialization on rural development of Latin America and a minor in development economics. During my study, I did field work in Colombia, living in a small rural village. I returned there after graduation, working on monitoring and evaluation for a rural development project. In 1989, through an advertisement in a Colombian newspaper, I came to Plan International and worked 21 years for that great organization, most of that in Latin America and a couple of years as program director at their international headquarters in the U.K. I left Plan in 2009 and then came to ChildFund.
What are the most significant changes you have seen in your time here?
We are making good progress on the changes we set out in our global strategy. Most importantly, we are making advances in building a high-quality, high-impact program. Through our partnership initiative, we are really changing our communication with our local partners [i.e., the organizations that help ChildFund implement our programs in communities] and targeting their sustainability, and we have created a financial mechanism to support our work with them. On the resource mobilization side, we have made good progress in building new income sources in the regions we are targeting, especially the corporate sector.
What is your favorite place you have visited?
I am very lucky — I get to travel a lot and experience some beautiful places. Once, I visited a project site in Ecuador in the Andes and got this really beautiful view of the snowcapped Cotopaxi volcano. I put the picture on my Facebook with the words “another day at the office…”
What is your favorite quote and why?
I think about the great legacy that Nelson Mandela has left us and especially his words, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.” That guides us in our work, and the need to emphasize that it is about realizing the rights of all children.
Which world issue would you would like to see solved in your lifetime?
Poverty, without doubt.
What’s your best ChildFund story or memory?
When visiting the field, you come across some amazing young people who are really having a different perspective on the issues affecting their lives. Once, I participated in a community planning exercise in Guatemala. The facilitators were young people who worked with groups of adults. One of the groups was formed by adult men, farmers, rough guys accustomed to the hard work on the field to bring in the daily income for their families, guys to be respected.
The group was facilitated by a boy, a kid really, about 13 years old, and as they discussed the priorities for their communities, the men would come up with things like building a community center, improving the road and building a water system, all very valid and important things to do. However, the little fellow spoke to them and asked them if the issues of violence and abuse against boys and girls within the family, schools and wider community were not more important to be addressed.
It was amazing to see the confidence with which he spoke and how the men really listened to him and took his views on board. That was a great example of youth participation in practice.
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Ireland.
September 2013 marked my 10th year as chief executive officer of ChildFund Ireland. Throughout the past decade I have been lucky enough to witness immensely positive changes throughout both our own organisation and the wider ChildFund Alliance. This piece is far too short to mention them all, so I will share highlights from the past decade.
On the sponsorship front, we worked hard to streamline sponsorship funds and focus on 11 countries, as compared to 27 in 2003. This means we now can really see an impact that Irish sponsorship funds have on ChildFund work in the field. I have always been a great believer in child sponsorship. On a personal level, I am proud to have helped form the Sponsor Relations Network, which brings even greater efficiencies for the Alliance, our national offices and our sponsors.
In terms of grants, ChildFund Ireland received its first grant of €95,000 from Irish Aid in 2003 for a 12-month project in Kenya. In the intervening years, our relationship with Irish Aid has grown, and we now have a four-year multiannual funding agreement that focusses on early childhood development in three countries in Africa, building on the sponsorship-funded programme in the same areas.
Our first forays into the online world came in 2004 with the launch of our first website. This year, we carried out a major overhaul of the site. Visual appeal and navigability have been greatly improved through extensive use of colour, animation and a more intuitive layout, and a whole host of new features have been added. Our social media presence has progressed from limited use of a single platform (Facebook) in 2010 to daily updates on Twitter, photo-sharing on Pinterest and engaging an active community on Facebook.
In just the last few months, we have introduced a digital newsletter to share our favourite articles with supporters on our email database and created our first Facebook advertising campaign in aid of the ChildFund Alliance Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign. The combination of all of these efforts has meant that traffic to our website has roughly tripled, and readership of articles has multiplied from a few hundred to several thousand per article.
The economic situation in Ireland is well-publicised and has impacted ChildFund’s supporter base. However, perhaps due to the nature of child sponsorship, our cancellation rate has been well below what might have been expected. We are embracing the challenge, and I am indebted to the hard work of my team and the loyalty of our supporters during this difficult time.
Moreover, our increasing public profile means we are well placed to take advantage of the coming improvement in national economic fortunes. I, myself, have enjoyed every year of my time at ChildFund Ireland, and I look forward to many more.
Slán go foill … (good-bye for now).
Henry and Judi Ferstl began sponsoring two 5-year-old Brazilian children, Jovino and Suely, through ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) in 1981. Henry was a dairy farmer living 45 miles west of Madison, Wisc., where he still lives. He hadn’t been to Brazil before, but he was curious about other cultures, and helping children appealed to him and his wife.
“They’re so grateful to have somebody care about them,” he says. As the years passed and their sponsored children aged out of the program, the Ferstls kept sponsoring; they have helped 10 children in all, and in the past decade, they took on two more sponsorships. Today, they assist four children and write letters every two months on average. The Ferstls’ son is continuing the tradition by sponsoring a child in Timor-Leste.
“I’m a big gardener,” Henry says. Just sharing ordinary details about weather or the vegetables he grows in the garden are interesting to the children. “The kids are amazed,” he notes, especially when he sends a picture of snow or, say, a moving truck in the neighborhood.
Henry says that he likes sponsoring through ChildFund because he knows where his donations go, and his assistance contributes toward children’s dreams.
“One girl wrote one time, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to sponsor a child, just like you sponsored me,’ ” Henry says.
Lidiane has a special place in the Ferstls’ heart; they started sponsoring her in 1995, and she’d aged out in 2006, but they maintain contact today, often through email. Lidiane attended college and started a clothing business in Brazil. She and her husband now have a daughter, and the Ferstls had the honor of choosing her name, Emily.
“She’s just a wonderful young woman,” Henry says of Lidiane. “It’s one of the great satisfactions. I learn as much or more as the children do. And that’s probably how it should be.”
In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’re talking with several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries where we work in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Virginia Vargas, national director of ChildFund Mexico, has been with our organization for 13 years and also served as Kenya’s interim national director for two months last year.
What is your favorite thing about working at ChildFund?
I work for ChildFund because I am convinced that by developing capacities in children and youth, they will be able to break the generational cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential.
I also appreciate that we reach the most vulnerable and deprived children; we try to help those children meet their potential. I like to be part of a global organization known as a child development and protection agency.
Where did you work before ChildFund?
I worked for a cerebral palsy foundation as the director for its education programs.
What is the most difficult situation you have encountered in your job?
The wonderful thing about the national director job is that every day is a different one. I always have to solve different problems, to make decisions, sometimes strategic and some operational. I always have in mind the communities and children we serve.
One of the most difficult tasks is to keep the “balance” among national office, local partners, the international office and the Mexican Board of Directors. As the leader of the organization in Mexico, I have the responsibility to take everybody in the same boat and to roll in the same direction.
What successes have you had in your national office?
Looking at the potential market for sponsorship in Mexico, during 2005, we started our fundraising. Today we have almost 7,000 Mexican sponsors. We developed a five-year business plan, and our goal is to have 15,000 sponsors by 2017.
What motivates you in life?
My motivation in life is to be able to support more vulnerable children; to give them hope, to help them to reach their dreams.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read and go to the gym.
Who is your role model?
Gandhi, because he made a revolution in his country with no violence.
What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
“I want to end my life with empty hands, not because I have nothing to give, but because I have given everything.”
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of the 12 ChildFund Alliance groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from France.
Un Enfant par la Main was founded in 1990 by ChildFund International. Today, through sponsorships, we are supporting more than 7,000 children and almost 100 projects in 16 countries.
After 23 years of work and engagement to help children who are impoverished, 2012 saw a dramatic change in our global strategy. We interviewed hundreds of sponsors, donors, volunteers, team members and other stakeholders in our organization to arrive at our key objectives of increasing sponsorships and funding, and to accurately measure the effects of our actions to promote children’s rights.
These objectives are based on our organizational values:
The first outcome of our strategy was the launching of a communication campaign called Aider un enfant, si ça compte pour moi, imaginez comme c’est concret pour lui. (Helping a child: If this matters to me, imagine how concrete it is for him.) The campaign focuses on the relationships between children and sponsors, highlighting the concrete effects of sponsorship on children’s lives. As the campaign launched, we also increased our digital presence with a new website, newsletter and increased social network engagement to reach our supporters.
As our organization makes strategic shifts, it is always with the desire to help more and more children to grow up and thrive in the best conditions and environment possible through sponsorship.
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Japan.
Love reaches beyond national borders, as we know. In 1948, 65 years ago, when our grandparents were in their youth, Christian Children’s Fund (then known as China’s Children Fund) began assisting children in Japan, where postwar confusion continued. The situation of child-care institutions in Japan at that time was desperately severe. Most of the institutions could not provide children with nutritious food or clothes.
From Postwar Beginnings
The 1940s was a very difficult decade for Japan. There was World War II, and at its end in 1945, the country was in ruins. Many children lost their guardians and relatives. They were literally children living in the streets. CCF brought the love of people in the United States to these destitute Japanese children. CCF demonstrated that love can reach beyond international borders and save suffering children.
The Christian Child Welfare Association was established in 1952 with management assistance from CCF. One piece in a book called “Love Beyond the Frontier” about CCWA’s history attracted my attention. It was written by the director of a child care institution taking care of war orphans after World War II:
“In September of 1949, I received a notice that my institution would soon receive the first subsidy from CCF. Under the very difficult situation which we were in, this was a blessing shower from God. All the workers together with children, remembering sponsors of U.S., offered thanks giving prayers to God. With this donation, we were able to provide children with supplemental food, additional clothes and educational materials.”
Assistance for Japan Meaningful in Several Ways
Japan was among the first recipients of CCF’s assistance. Moreover, ChildFund Japan is the first country office that became independent from Christian Children’s Fund in 1974, and in 1975, we started assisting marginalized children in the Philippines.
In 2005, we made an important decision to disunite from the Christian Child Welfare Association to focus on international development cooperation, although CCWA continues to serve children here in Japan. At that time, we joined the ChildFund Alliance as the 12th member organization. We were able to expand our assistance to children in Sri Lanka in 2006 in collaboration with ChildFund International, and in 2010, we began assisting children in Nepal through the sponsorship program.
As I look back, ChildFund Japan indeed demonstrates love beyond frontiers. Love that reaches beyond national borders is essential for assisting children in need around the world.
When I think of 2013, I see great waves of floodwater. Over the past year, a typhoon and a cyclone struck communities in India and the Philippines, causing great devastation to families we serve, as well as our local partner organizations and national office staff. Yet these disasters also gave us the opportunity to show the best of our human spirit, whether it was through donations or assistance on the ground.
Here’s a look back at some of ChildFund’s highlights in 2013.
In November, Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines in many years, blew through several communities that ChildFund serves. Nationwide, more than 6,000 people died, and 550,000 homes were destroyed. We are still collecting donations to help those who lost their homes and belongings, as well as giving psychosocial support to children and families who were traumatized by the storm’s destruction. In October, Cyclone Phailin struck eastern India, causing massive flooding and the destruction of homes and more than a million acres of farmland. Our support there continues.
Our work against exploitative child labor took center stage in mid-June, when we recognized World Day Against Child Labor. We learned how child labor takes many forms, whether it’s in a sugarcane field, a mine or inside the home; sometimes, it’s hard to tell when children and youth are being exploited because of the secrecy surrounding the practice. In fact, a poll we commissioned in June revealed that 73 of Americans surveyed believe that only 1 million children are working in exploitative conditions. Wrong: The actual number is closer to 150 million. It’s important to pay attention to the signs and to make efforts to support industries that are taking a stand against child labor. ChildFund Alliance also launched the Free From Violence and Exploitation petition this year, aiming to make child protection a priority in the United Nations’ post-2015 goals.
In November, the Alliance released the results of its Small Voices, Big Dreams children’s survey, asking children what they would do if they were president of their countries, as well as what they consider the most important issues of the day. As usual, children gave wise and considered responses to our questions.
In September, ChildFund began marking its 75th anniversary, a landmark that our national offices, Alliance members and international office have recognized with numerous events, including meetings and celebrations with staff members, our Alliance countries, board members and, of course, sponsored children. Our 75-post anniversary blog series, which shares historical photos and stories — as well as the views of sponsors, children, Alliance members and staff — continues through the end of March.
As we take a look back at the past, we employ our history to lend perspective to ChildFund’s work and to help determine our future goals. Just as our founder, Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke, declared in October 1938, the well-being of children in need remains at the heart of ChildFund. Thank you for your past and present support, and have a happy and healthy 2014!
Each year, about 300 people who lived in Christian Children’s Fund’s orphanages in Hong Kong in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as their spouses, gather in Hong Kong to celebrate and reflect upon how their lives were inextricably changed forever.
As part of the 75th anniversary celebration of ChildFund International (formerly known as Christian Children’s Fund), I too had the opportunity to attend the reunion in November.
Dr. Verent Mills, CCF’s third executive director (and before that, our overseas director), was like a father to many of the Hong Kong alumni. They remember being fortunate to grow up in an orphanage village started by Dr. Mills in Hong Kong. Many, if not most, of the orphans who escaped from war-torn China would not have survived if their paths did not meet that of Dr. Mills and CCF.
My trip to Hong Kong reminded me of how many people before us faithfully served the mission of ChildFund International, and we are here today standing on the shoulders of giants. ChildFund left a legacy of faith, love and hope for hundreds of orphaned Chinese girls and boys, who are now continuing the legacy of giving back as adults.
In our 2013 annual report we shared that we have helped 18.1 million children and family members in the past year to reach their potential. Our reach is exponentially greater than this number because of people like the Hong Kong alumni, who have assisted thousands of others through their generosity.
Among them, there are successful doctors, surgeons, bankers and building contractors, but there is one man who stands out to me, having had a difficult life as a laborer with only a sixth-grade education. He lives in Australia with his wife and made a generous donation, especially in proportion to his income, to the endowment fund named for Dr. Mills. This man was unable to attend the gathering in Hong Kong, but he sent this note with his donation:
Please accept our small offering to express our sincere gratitude and support of the works of ChildFund International. May our Lord bless ChildFund, as well all the people working there. Last but not least, may we say a big THANK YOU!
Please enjoy a short video slideshow of our Hong Kong alumni from past and present day:
In April 2012, David Jenkins found himself on his sofa, watching TV while recovering from surgery in his Las Vegas home. That’s when he saw a commercial for ChildFund, and his attention was captured by the children on the screen. His next step was to go to our website’s financial accountability section to do some research.
“I liked what I saw,” David says, and he decided: “Well, I’m going to do this.” He began reading profiles of children in Mexico, in part because he knows two Mexican women who told him about some of their hardships growing up, challenges that many girls still face. The opportunity to get to know the child and immediate family by exchanging letters was also important to David. Right on the first page of search results for Mexico was Jessica, a girl from Ocumicho, in the state of Michoacan. She wore her hair in pigtails and looked quite serious and sad. “I’m not a big believer in divine intervention,” David says, “but I felt I needed to sponsor that little girl right there.”
Today, nearly two years later, David and Jessica maintain a strong friendship through their correspondence; they write to each other about every three weeks. Jessica’s grandmother, who looks after her, sent David some homemade pillow covers last Christmas, which he cherishes. Sometimes there’s a delay in mail service, but the friends continue to write each other regularly. They agreed early on to write when they have something to say, whether or not they’ve received a letter lately, David notes, and they make sure to record dates on the letters so they can keep up with the chronology of events if one letter falls behind. “It really takes things to a whole different level,” he says of their correspondence, which has taught him a great deal about Jessica’s community. “What I’ve learned is it’s a very traditional town. They’ve been through a lot of struggles.”
Jessica is part of the Purépecha Indian tribe, whose members speak an indigenous language and were one of Mexico’s pre-Columbian civilizations. In the 1500s, the Purépechas managed to hold off the Mexica Empire, which tried to conquer them. These days, David says, most are farmers, earning only $100 to $200 a month. Her community is known for creating carved masks and figurines, but tourism has declined in recent years, so this source of income for the village has decreased.
Jessica and David often exchange the Purépechan phrase “juchari uinapikua,” or “our strength,” in their letters, and they often share stories about their activities, including Jessica’s participation in local festivals. One of her favorite things is dancing, and she also loves reading, drawing and coloring pictures, especially of flowers.
“I think it’s very important to go to school,” says Jessica, who’s now in sixth grade, “because then I’ll have better opportunities …. I think that having a sponsor has changed my life. From my sponsor, I learned to be honest, as he has been with me, and to be generous.”
In addition to his sponsorship of Jessica, David has encouraged several friends and coworkers to sponsor other children in Ocumicho, including Jessica’s friends and classmates. Often, Jessica serves as “town crier” when she hears that David has found a new sponsor, spreading the news.
“She’s got a very big heart and has wonderful priorities for a child her age,” he says, and Jessica, who just turned 11, is feeling hopeful about her future. “Her dream was to get her vocational degree and become a secretary,” David recalls, but now she has mentioned becoming a teacher after attending university, or perhaps another professional career. Noting that she loves mathematics, David wonders if she’ll pursue engineering. At the end of 2012, David started a university fund for Jessica, contributing part of his annual tax return. “I’ve got a feeling that whatever she does, it’ll be something that helps people,” he says, calling her a ray of “inspirational sunshine and perspective.”
ChildFund staff members from our Mexico office recently met up with Jessica and recorded a short video, in which she explains in her own words what sponsorship has meant to her.