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Small Voices, Big Thoughts

La Paz, Bolivia

Nestor, 11, lives in La Paz, Bolivia. “I think it is important to listen to children’s voices,” he says. “Boys without love grow to be aggressive. Parents’ love is important for children. It gives them more security and self-confidence.”

Reporting by ChildFund International staff members

Today is Universal Children’s Day, when ChildFund Alliance releases its annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey. Almost 6,000 children in 44 countries (in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia) answered questions about what their fears are, what they’d do if they were their country’s leader and what they consider their rights. Here are some memorable responses from children in countries where ChildFund works.

Hoan of Vietnam

Hoan, 12, of Vietnam:

Adults mistreat children who are alone. Because some children do not have anyone who cares for them and protects them, adults mistreat them. I will create a safe environment for children so they can live safely and happily. I will open a free school for orphaned children who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school before.


Teresa of Mexico

Teresa with her younger siblings.

Teresa, 12, of Mexico:

There are parents who always tell their kids that they are not capable of doing certain things, and I think that is really wrong because we feel a lot of pressure, and over time, we’ll be afraid of expressing ourselves.





Jeferino of Timor-Leste

Jeferino, 12, of Timor-Leste:

We are children. We also have the right to play, but most of the adults limit us. When we play, they come to chase us away because they are adults, and we are children. And we can’t do anything.

Agnes, 12, of Zambia:

If I become a leader, I will make sure everyone knows and protects children’s rights.

Agnes gathers maize for her family.

Agnes gathers maize for her family.


Jonathan of Mexico

Jonathan, outside his home.

Jonathan, 11, of Mexico:

I think it is really important to listen to children’s opinions because people shouldn’t make decisions for them or force them to do anything.

Welcome From Uganda!

Video by Christina Becherer, ChildFund Senior Manager, Corporate Strategic Alliances

Yesterday, Christina and her ChildFund colleague, content manager Christine Ennulat, met the Laroo Mothers’ Group, in the Gulu district of Uganda. In this video, they sing a song of welcome to their visitors. The mothers are proud of contributing to their new village savings and loan association, which allows them to take out small loans to start new businesses, pay school fees, cope with illnesses, or even come together to help another group member in need. We’ll be hearing more from them later, but for now, hear this!

From Virginia to The Gambia


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Photography by Ron Wolfe, ChildFund Senior Project Manager

Ron Wolfe, who has worked in ChildFund’s Information Technology department since 2010, got to visit his 11-year-old sponsored child, Aminata, when he was in The Gambia earlier this year for work. As anyone who has met their sponsored child can tell you, it’s a magical event that helps families from different continents create close bonds. Read here about Ron’s trip and how he and his family are staying in touch with Aminata.

What Sponsorship Means to Children in Guinea

Mariame, a sponsored child.

Mariame, a 15-year-old sponsored girl in Guinea, has cattle thanks to her sponsor.

Reporting by Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea

We asked three girls from Guinea to share how being sponsored has changed their lives. The answers may surprise you. Learn more about corresponding with your sponsored child and what they think about your letters.

Aminata, 14

Aminata with her books.

Aminata with her books.

I am Aminata, and I am in grade 4 in elementary school. I live with my parents, my elder sister, elder brother and my two little brothers. In the photo, I am holding the books that my sponsor sent me that I love so much. They contain drawings and pictures of people and fish and a rainbow. At home, I take my time to color these drawings in my books. I am very happy to have a sponsor, because since I started attending school, she has always sent me gifts. Thanks to her, I am among the best students in my school.

Also, my sponsor has contributed funds for my village to get clean water. Before, the people of my village had to walk a long distance to fetch drinking water from the creek. But thanks to her, today my village has a well.


Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Aissatou has learned about Thanksgiving from her sponsor.

Mariame, 15

I consider my sponsor as a father who loves and watches over his family. My sponsor is very straightforward and rigorous; he often asks for details of all he sent me. I appreciate it this way. Thanks to him, I have cows, a family latrine and a rice farm.

For me, sponsorship is a way to help the poor families have better futures.


Aissatou, 14

In the photo he sent me, my sponsor looks handsome with his family and his dog. One thing he often does in his letters is to encourage me to study well at school. But on the other hand, he surprised me by saying he was very attached to his dog, Emma, and that his dog had turned 7. That’s something we are not used to in my family.

My sponsor taught me to love, and to be generous and loyal to others. Through him, I learned about the celebration of Thanksgiving in his country, which resembles the way we celebrate the New Year of the lunar month in my country.

Sponsorship means a lot to me because it helps children have a better future through education.

Catch up with Momodou

Momodou and his sponsor

Momodou Bah, accompanied by his sister Sunkaru, meets his sponsor, Debbie Gautreau, in person for the first time. Photo by Alena Kuzub.

As you may recall, we met a ChildFund alumnus from The Gambia, Momodou Bah, this summer when he was a Mandela Washington Fellow, an honor bestowed annually by the White House on 500 young African leaders. After going to Washington, D.C., for the fellows’ week-long summit — and meeting President Obama — he and his sister went to Boston to meet Momodou’s sponsor, Debbie Gautreau. It was a very special meeting, and you can read all about it. Today, Momodou is back in The Gambia, employing the ideas he learned during his stay in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, and Debbie hopes to visit him next time in Africa!

Selamawit Is Not a Cliché

Ethiopia food crisisSelamawit, 5, is suffering in Ethiopia’s food crisis. She and her brother have kwashiorkor, a protein-energy malnutrition disorder.

By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Content Manager

Happy World Food Day! There are starving children in Africa.

At how many dinner tables in how many homes have finicky children been scolded that way to get them to eat their dinners?

Or maybe it was India — “There are starving children in India. Eat your meatloaf.”

And how many children have rolled their eyes at their admonishing parents? How many of those parents really were speaking from a place of gut knowledge about what it means for a child to starve?

Clichés come to be clichés because they’re true. There are, and ever have been, starving children in Asia and in Africa. They are also in South America and in North America — right here in our back yard. All over the world.

A truth devolves into a cliché through overuse. We become numb to the idea.

The whole world has become numb to the idea of starving children. That’s why fundraising for a slow-onset crisis like a drought is so challenging, much more so than for a splashy, sudden typhoon or a devastating earthquake.

But 5-year-old Selamawit is not a cliché. She’s a little girl who lives in Ethiopia, where 8.2 million people right now are suffering through a food crisis.

Selamawit became so malnourished that her condition tipped into kwashiorkor, or protein-energy malnutrition, which causes loss of muscle mass, irritation, fatigue, skin issues, diarrhea, liver damage, failure to grow and more. Kwashiorkor is behind the round bellies we see in the now-clichéd photos of starving children in developing countries; the lack of protein causes fluid to collect in the abdomen and elsewhere.

Selamawit is in treatment now, but she will likely never reach her full height. Her brain development may have been irreparably disrupted — time will tell. (Another cliché.)

And time will tell for Ethiopia, but we know what to expect for the coming months: The drought that has decimated the harvest nationwide is expected to continue well into 2016, thanks to what some are calling the strongest El Niño event on record. In a country where 86 percent of the population depends on subsistence farming, the failed harvest means that families must instead purchase all their food, and prices are rising. Poorer families can’t afford the food they need, so they reduce their intake dangerously.

It happens slowly and quietly. And it silences children.

You can help by donating to our Ethiopia food crisis response here.

And you can take the opportunity of this World Food Day to tell your friends and networks what’s happening in Ethiopia. Tell them about Selamawit, and about her brother, 7-year-old Temesgen.

Every day after that, keep an eye on the crisis, and encourage those around you to do so, too. You’ll have to look for it in the media, because it’s not a typhoon or an earthquake. We’ll keep you posted here.

Celebrate Global Handwashing Day!

Today’s Global Handwashing Day, which emphasizes the importance of washing hands with clean water and soap to prevent diseases and infections. Just months ago, we saw how proper handwashing could be the difference between life and death in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. It’s also a skill nearly anyone can learn. Watch (and share) this video by Jake Lyell, where 5-year-old Joseph from Kenya teaches all of us how to clean our hands. You can help children gain access to clean water through our Real Gifts Catalog, too.

Listening to Girls’ Voices

Maria Antonia of Brazil

Maria Antônia in New York City.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Oct. 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day set aside by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the special challenges they face. This year’s theme for the day is The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030, so ChildFund’s blog will focus this week on girls who are working to achieve great things now and in the future.   

Thinking about girls — especially those who are entering adolescence — reminded me of some favorite stories from past blog posts, featuring girls raising their voices to advocate for themselves and other young people. In March, Maria Antônia, a 14-year-old girl from Brazil, spoke about violence against children at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. “It is very important to improve child-friendly services within the child protection network, so that children feel confident and safe,” she said. It was her first time in the United States, as well as the first time she’d seen snow.

In a post from 2014, this one from Indonesia, we met Stefanie and Irma, teenagers who were youth facilitators in a large, multi-age forum about dating violence, which has grown more prevalent there in recent years. It’s impressive how open children and youth can be about such sensitive issues, and it’s thanks to young people like Irma and Stefanie that Indonesian communities are making progress in stopping domestic violence.

Finally, in Ethiopia, four young women spoke out about children’s right to a complete education, during 2014’s Day of the African Child, an annual, Africa-wide event that marks the deaths of young protesters who marched for better educational access in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976. Eden, Helen, Aziza and Bemnet, all in their teens, addressed the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can read their words, which reflect the struggles they and other young people in their communities face.

At the U.N.’s Day of the Girl website, read about the special challenges girls face, including early marriage, gender-based violence and poor access to education and job opportunities. Also, if you’re on social media, use the hashtag #dayofthegirl to learn more and discuss these issues.

My Favorite Book

During our month-long focus on literacy, ChildFund staff members asked children in Asia, Africa and the Americas to tell them about their favorite books and why they love them. You can support children’s reading habits in a couple of ways: ChildFund’s Just Read! program in the United States, or helping ship textbooks to schools overseas. Enjoy the pictures, too!



Brazil: Agatha is 6 years old, and she loves to read and dance ballet. At the local partner organization where she spends time, Sorriso da Criança (Smile of the Child), she often goes to the library.

“My favorite story is The Princess and the Frog,” Agatha says. “Because there’s a princess, and to me she is the best character. The frog falls in love with a princess, and after all, she discovers that he is a prince. In the end, they live together forever.”



“Before I could read, I used to ask my father to read stories for me. Now I can read by myself and I love it. I would say to all the children in the world: If you can, go to a library, it’s so cool!”

Philippines: “I always go to the library during my free time,” says Jamil. “I love looking through books about animals, like the hippopotamus. I wish to become a wildlife photographer someday.”

Bolivia: Reyna is 11 years old. She loves short stories like Aesop’s fables.

United States: Anastasia, 8, of Cheyenne River, South Dakota, received a princess book and a “pillow pet” from her sponsor, so she read the book to her new pet.

Brazil: Jéssica, 10, is a shy girl who loves to read. Her favorite book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “I really love to read, especially in my home. But the library is also very important in my life.”

Sierra Leone: Saio, 11, lives in Koinadugu District. “I am in class five. My favorite story book is The African Tea Pot.”

Sri Lanka: Sarujan, 10, loves to read under the shade of the mango tree in his garden. He likes comic books the best because they have lots of pictures.

“My favorite story is about animals living together in peace, in the jungle,” he says, explaining that he likes it because the animals live in harmony in their jungle home without conflicts or disturbances. “My grandmother tells the best stories,” he adds.

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Bikes and Education Mean Freedom


Maria (right) and her Dream Bike.

By Nyararai Magudu, ChildFund Mozambique Program Director

Maria enthusiastically picked up her school bag. Although it’s dirty and worn out, she clutched it close to her chest. Inside were a few workbooks without covers, a 30-cm ruler, a pen and a pencil. She lives in a remote and poor province in Mozambique with her parents, three younger sisters and two younger brothers.

Maria, 15, hoped for many things: a box with a compass, rulers and other mathematical tools, colored pens, a big rubber eraser, a scientific calculator, a student dictionary, even a computer. What a wish list. Poverty’s grip had often made her life miserable, she sometimes thought.

Anyway, it was a new day, she remembered, a school day, which came with new hopes and possibilities. Maria loves school more than anything. This morning, she grabbed her new bike, which came from ChildFund’s Dream Bike program, and rode majestically to school.

I used to be the last to arrive in class. Most of the time I missed the first lessons, or I dozed. Now, everything has changed.

Before she received the bike, Maria used to leave her home at dawn to walk six miles to school and often returned after dark. Although she was never physically abused during the daily journey, there have been several stories of girls who have been attacked and hurt in Maria’s district, Zavala, where ChildFund has worked since 2006.

Now, instead of waking at 4 a.m. and trekking three hours to school, Maria has an hour-long journey. It’s still a long way, but she considers herself lucky.

“I used to arrive at school weary. The 10 kilometers was a long walk to freedom,” Maria chuckled. “Yes, education is freedom!”

When she walked to school, Maria often had to take 10 minutes to clean the dust and sweat off her face, arms and legs, making her even later to school.

“I used to be the last to arrive in class,” she recalled. “Most of the time I missed the first lessons, or I dozed. Now, everything has changed. It only requires me one hour to get to school. I’m investing more time now in my studies, and I can sleep for another hour. I can study for another hour, and I can ride to school for only an hour. I’m no longer weary; no more dozing. The benefits are beyond imagination.

“These are tangible benefits. There are also other ones,” Maria added. “My grades improved tremendously as soon as I got the bike. I developed high self-esteem. Some people who used to laugh at my poverty started to respect me. I was nominated to be a prefect* in my class after I got a bike. Believe me, I´m now a public figure in the school!”

*Prefects are students who are left in charge of the class when the teacher has to leave the classroom and are considered prestigious positions.

You can help girls like Maria achieve their educational goals by donating to ChildFund’s Dream Bike project.


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