Promoting Peace, Empowering Communities

by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications

I was in the audience Saturday evening as ChildFund’s president and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard shared a cup of tea with Greg Mortenson during the Richmond (Va.) Forum.

Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time,” addressed a sold out crowd.

Although his topic was serious, his delivery was engaging and resonating. He spoke about how peace is based in hope and how people need to be empowered “so they can lead their destinies.”

Those words are so similar to ChildFund’s mission: “We believe that the well-being of all children leads to the well-being of the world. We empower children to thrive throughout all stages of life and become leaders of enduring change.”

Later in the evening, audience members provided questions, which Anne moderated. She and Mortenson sat on plush chairs comfortably facing each other. Before Anne began asking questions, they shared a cup of tea. As the saying goes, the first time you share a cup of tea, you are a stranger; the second cup you are a friend, and the third cup you are family.

Because of their shared commitment to helping the world’s children, their interaction was natural and free flowing. Clearly, they were not strangers.

When Anne, who has spent more than 25 years living in developing countries, speaks about poverty she describes it as more than a word.

Mortenson did the same thing during his talk. “We have to touch it, to smell it, to be with poverty,” he said.

Since 1993, Mortenson has committed his life to building schools in developing nations, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. His first school took a while to build, Mortenson admitted, because he was micromanaging the work. But then he turned it over to the community and six weeks later it was built. “You have to let go and empower the community.”

That’s another familiar theme. When ChildFund begins work in a community, we first ask the community what needs to be changed. We then collaborate with community members to bring about that change and then, most important, hand control of the project back over to community members.

In recent years, Mortenson and his team have begun building playgrounds along with the schools. “The children are brought up in war, hatred. They never had a chance to play,” Mortenson said. “When the children started to play even the parents got happy.”

That’s one of the reasons ChildFund is working to fund playgrounds in Afghanistan. As part of its Fund a Project, supporters can donate to fund playgrounds in 20 communities in Afghanistan.

It’s always inspiring to spend an evening with others who are committed to making the world a better place for children.

ChildFund Launches Fund a Project

by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications

I’ve been working for ChildFund for a little over a year, and I’m impressed by those donors who can help a community by building a school, supplying a water pump or providing materials for a health hut.

These are significant contributions that usually require several thousand dollars to make them happen. How fortunate we are to have these individual donors.

For those of us who want to make a meaningful contribution but may not have the resources to do so individually, ChildFund has developed a collective tool, Fund a Project.

Children in Afghanistan have few safe places to play.

It’s a great way for a few or many of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life. I’m drawn to the playground equipment for parks in Afghanistan. I can’t even imagine what life is like for those children, but how incredible will it be for children to have a place to play and forget about conflict?

A little more than $50,000 is needed for the playground equipment. I’ve made a $10 donation to get the project started. With the help of others making similar donations, it won’t be long until the children in these Afghanistan communities are having fun on a playground.

If you’re also looking to make an impact, consider helping provide water pumps for rural families in Timor Leste or supplies for community gardens in the United States. The water pumps cost $2,800 while the community gardens are $7,000.

The two most expensive endeavors of Fund a Project are malaria-prevention programs in Zambia at $41,000, and a global youth employment and livelihood initiative for $100,000. They are both worthy goals for collective efforts.

I like the idea of funding a program that positively impacts children. And I like knowing that I’m doing it with many others, even though I will probably never meet them or know who they are. But that’s OK because we all want the same thing — a better world for these children.

Human Rights Day 2009: ChildFund at Work in Afghanistan

by Virginia Sowers
Community Manager

Upholding the respect and value of the individual is a guiding principle for ChildFund International as we go about our work in 31 countries.
Respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the General Assembly affirmed in its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As the United Nations and other organizations and individuals around the world mark the Dec. 10 anniversary of Human Rights Day, I wanted to share an update from ChildFund Afghanistan. We are making progress with regard to child protection, elimination of gender-based violence and education, especially for girls.

ChildFund has worked in Afghanistan since 2001, initiating an emergency response just days after the ceasefire that followed the first U.S.-led military action.

During the past eight years, ChildFund Afghanistan has established services in 151 communities in the four provinces of Takhar, Kunduz, Badkhshan and Baghlan, reaching 277,000 children and family members.

Elimination of Gender-Based Violence
ChildFund Afghanistan’s program to eliminate gender-based violence was developed at the request of communities and government officials. The program works with both men and women in 60 communities within the Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar provinces.

Young girls in Afghanistan are receiving educational opportunities.

By promoting awareness and response to early and forced marriage, domestic violence and sexual violence, circumstances for these individuals and their communities will improve.

The program includes public awareness campaigns and also benefits 900 individuals by providing vocational training and income-support activities for women. A police force and judicial system that addresses the violence also is improving conditions. And there is now a health system with improved capacity to help those who have been abused.

ChildFund plans to expand the program through outreach to schools, including teacher training and additional work with students on gender awareness.

Lots of Books!
ChildFund Afghanistan has constructed or rehabilitated 34 government schools and a teacher-training institute, as well as established and supplied 70 community libraries. We have provided nonformal educational services to more than 66,800 youth, including 32,000 girls. An additional 3,000 youth have participated in vocational training programs.

For the programs to succeed, the community and government officials need to value them. That’s why ChildFund Afghanistan works closely with the community and government officials to ensure community acceptance and use of the facilities and to underscore the importance of both girls and boys attending and profiting from educational opportunities.

Through efforts large and small, ChildFund Afghanistan is making a difference in human rights.

Future Doctors in Afghanistan

“When I finish school, I hope to be a doctor and serve my country and my community,” says 13-year-old Shamila.

Children in Afghanistan study and hope for a brighter future.

Children in Afghanistan study and hope for a brighter future.

“I have always wanted to be a doctor,” says 12-year-old Kubra. “I see the doctor is very respected and saves the lives of people in my community.”

These are the dreams of two children in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan, a country ChildFund has worked in since 2001. As Afghanistan’s citizens have been at the center of conflicts this decade, children there are facing many health issues. The average life expectancy is only 44 years. Infant, children under 5 and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest. Twenty-five percent of children die before they turn 5.

Afghanistan also has a disproportionately high percentage of people under the age of 20 – the average age of Afghan residents is 17.7, compared to 36.7 in the U.S.

Nevertheless, we are working hard to improve the lives of children such as Shamila and Kubra. ChildFund has trained parents, community leaders and government staff to recognize and manage child-protection issues. In addition, we are supporting community-based literacy classes for children, training teachers and providing children with recreational areas in which to play. ChildFund is also developing health services and training health workers to diagnose and treat illnesses.31 in 31

“While many news reports focus on military developments and corruption, we must not forget about the children there,” says ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard. “Childhood is a one-time opportunity. Now is time for Afghan children to get back on their feet and move in a positive direction. It is the children who will determine Afghanistan’s future – a future in which we all share a stake.”

“If I get to be a doctor, I will make my family very proud as people in my community will look up to me and respect me,” says Kubra.

For more on our work in Afghanistan, click here.

More on Afghanistan
Population: 28.3 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 530,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Afghanistan has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games.

What’s next: Twitter chickens arrive in The Gambia

Creating a Safe, Normal Childhood in Afghanistan

By Anne Lynam Goddard,
President and CEO of ChildFund International

In a country ravaged by conflict over many years, Afghanistan’s citizens will hold a historic election today to help determine their future. More than 40 candidates are vying to become president. Putting politics aside, the future of the children of Afghanistan is at stake – war turns everyone’s lives upside down, but none more so than children. At ChildFund International we strive to create environments in Afghanistan where children can learn, play and grow. We want them to have as safe, stable and normal a childhood as possible and to grow up in communities where they can become leaders of positive, enduring change that will help bring peace and security to their country.

Children in Afghanistan currently face many issues that impact their future. Infant, children under 5 and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest. Twenty-five percent of children die before they turn 5. Stunted growth affects more than half of all children. Much of the country’s population lacks access to safe drinking water, which leads to diseases that threaten public health. Afghanistan also has a disproportionally high percent of people under the age of 20 – the average age of Afghan residents is 17.7, compared to 36.7 in the U.S. The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44.6 years, compared to 78.1 here at home.

We are working in this country to fight these problems and to help ensure children have a brighter future. We have trained parents, community leaders and government staff to recognize and manage child protection issues; supported community-based literacy classes for children; trained teachers; provided children with recreational areas in which to play; and developed health services that include training health workers to diagnose and treat illnesses. All told, we have assisted more than half a million Afghan children and family members.

While many news reports focus on military developments, corruption and what will happen with this election, we must not forget about the children there. Childhood is a one-time opportunity. Now is time for Afghan children to get back on their feet and move in a positive direction. It is the children who will determine Afghanistan’s future – a future in which we all share a stake.

More on Afghanistan
* Meet the youth of Afghanistan
* What we’re doing there

A Day to Remember

By David Hylton of ChildFund International
and Jacqui Ooi of ChildFund Australia

Six years ago today, the ChildFund International family lost two of its staff members in Baghdad. An attack on the Canal Hotel in the Iraqi capital on Aug. 19, 2003, claimed the lives of 22 people, including ChildFund staff members Jill Clark, Child Protection specialist, and Omar Al Orfali, a driver/interpreter. 

Today, the inaugural World Humanitarian Day commemorates those individuals, such as Jill and Omar, who have risked – and lost – their lives while carrying out their work to help others.

In November 2008, we lost a staff member in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked a passing military vehicle. Mohamad Shar, 52, was riding his bicycle in the area when the bomb exploded, receiving lethal shrapnel wounds. He left behind a wife and six children.

“This senseless tragedy reminds us all of the challenging circumstances faced daily by so many people around the world,” ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard said following the attack.

“While ChildFund recognizes all those who contribute to making a difference in the lives of others, we pay our utmost respect to those courageous individuals who work on the ground in crisis situations and put their lives on the line,” says Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, a partner organization of ChildFund International.

The United Nations decided in December 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This inaugural year, the focus will be primarily on commemorating those whose lives have been lost while engaged in humanitarian operations, but emphasis will also be placed on current humanitarian needs and challenges, and increasing public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities.

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