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.
This is the time of year when we often take stock of our past, present and future, and it’s a great opportunity to consider making a donation to help a child: a gift that truly has legs. Whether you begin sponsoring a child today or purchase a gift that will help a family or community, your gift will mean hope to a child in need.
Also, by giving before the end of the year, you can make a deduction on your tax forms for 2013. We encourage you to take a look at our planned giving options, which help make a difference to communities for years, allowing children to become independent, self-sustaining adults who have more opportunities than before. Thank you for your past, present and future generosity, and we wish you a happy and meaningful 2014!
Many of our national offices have thrown celebrations recently for ChildFund’s 75th anniversary. Here are some photos from these events, taken by staff members from our offices in Brazil and Honduras.
ChildFund Honduras held two celebrations, involving sponsored children and youth, representatives from our local partners, staff members and local officials.
Season’s greetings arrive from Bolivia, Brazil and Guatemala, as children share their Christmas traditions. Over the course of the year, they have received great encouragement, love and hope from our sponsors and donors. All of us at ChildFund are thankful for your generosity and kindness!
Quema del diablo (burning of the devil), processions, posadas, firecrackers, eating tamales and drinking ponche (a traditional fruit drink) are traditions that people in the communities we serve in Guatemala practice before Christmas. “Feliz Navidad” means Happy Christmas, and the majority of the celebration happens the afternoon and evening of Dec. 24. Christmas is a very special day. Children share with the family and have fun, even when the economic situation is not good.
Yuri is 12 years old; she lives in the central highlands of Guatemala. At home, Yuri and her mother make tamales and ponche for Christmas. She has a tree in the back of her house, and she likes to decorate it for the season. “I would like every child to enjoy and celebrate Christmas as I do,” Yuri says.
“Hi, my name is Floridalma, I’m 12 years old, and I love Christmas because I participated in the posadas, traditional processions that start nine days before Christmas. The group sings traditional songs at various homes. For the season my family and I eat tamales and ponche.”
Eight-year-old Leticia, a sponsored child: “This Christmas I think will be very good, because my uncles come to visit us and will bring me gifts, like dolls and clothes. I do not believe that Santa Claus exists, but I know that Dec. 25 was the day that the baby Jesus was born. I see Santa Claus only when I step in front of stores, never asked him for any gifts, but I want to get a bike.”
Six-year-old Joao: “I’m in the first year of basic school. I like studying, but I also like the vacations because it’s when Christmas comes. My father’s name is Geraldo, and my mother’s is Maria. I have two sisters, Sara and Nilma. I love Christmas; it’s a day of receiving gifts. I stare at the lights of the shops. I love lights flashing. On Christmas Eve my mother does supper, because we are a simple family. Before Christmas Day, a friend of my mother sends Christmas gifts by mail. I have won a basket with a boat, a game of little pieces to assemble and a [remote] control car. On Christmas Eve, I like to go to sleep early to wake up early to see if Santa left something for me. I love Christmas!”
In Tarija, according to our sponsorship team member Victoria Glody, there is a dance called trenzada, and the celebration starts two weeks before Christmas Eve, when children dance and sing carols (known in Spanish as villancicos) with small drums and flutes to “Niño Manuelito” — that’s what baby Jesus is called by children in Bolivia. During the trenzada, people dance around the streets on their way to the town’s main square; once they get there, everybody enjoys hot chocolate and a special type of bread, or buñuelos, which is basically fried pumpkin dough.
Cochabamba rural areas have a different and harder reality, reports Alain, a coordinator with one of ChildFund’s local partner organizations. Although children expect toys and gifts, their parents can’t afford them, but they have figured out smart ways to make wooden or clay toys. They also make clay nativity scenes to celebrate Christmas Eve at home. Children also dress as the old wise men or shepherds, with a cape and beard made of cotton and go out singing “Niño Manuelito” at their neighbors’ homes, and in return they get bread or fruit. For Christmas Day, it’s traditional to have breakfast with hot chocolate and “buñuelos” too. Parents and grandparents gather together at home as a big family.
In El Alto, 6-year-old Viviana says: “On Christmas day I take a walk with my family, I play with my little cousin, and that night we have hot chocolate and Christmas cake. I like that day because there is more joy at home.”
Many of us are in a big rush to finish our Christmas shopping, decorating or holiday meal-planning. Let’s all slow down and take a moment to think about our blessings — and the millions of children who go without nutritious food, education and clean water. Instead of driving to the mall one more time, consider purchasing an item from our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog in the name of a friend or family member.
For $150, you can feed 25 orphans in Kenya for a week. In several countries, families have requested chickens; for $29, you can provide a family with three chickens. In the Philippines, children lost their homes and all their belongings in Typhoon Haiyan last month. We’re still collecting funds to help families rebuild in these communities, and your assistance is greatly needed.
All of the gifts in the catalog are items requested by the families we serve, and they fit different budgets and priorities. Best of all, you can print out a personalized card to your loved one so he or she will know how this gift is helping a child in need. Thank you for considering these children during the holiday season.
Many of our national offices have thrown celebrations recently for ChildFund’s 75th anniversary. Here are some photos from these events (featuring lots of ChildFund’s special shade of green), taken by staff members from our offices in Kenya, Liberia, Mexico and Mozambique. Enjoy!
Mexico City, Mexico
Interview by Sierra Winston, ChildFund Communications Intern
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. Rukhsana Ayyub, national director for our U.S. Program, has been with ChildFund since March 2010 and is based in Memphis, Tenn.
Where did you work before ChildFund?
I worked with CARE International and was posted in Pakistan, Thailand and Bangladesh. Before that, I worked for many years in the field of addiction in New York.
What is your favorite thing about working at ChildFund?
ChildFund’s approach of making a long-term commitment to each child, knowing that change does not happen overnight.
What successes have you had in your national office?
The Area Strategic Plans developed in each of our program areas in the U.S. are a major accomplishment. We have successfully conducted the ASPs in Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota and are completing one in Texas. These plans were developed through extensive community consultations, which allowed us to hear the community’s voices and their needs and aspirations for the future. Cultural and family restoration emerged as strong needs of communities in Mississippi and South Dakota.
What motivates you in life?
Throughout my life, I have admired people who do not accept injustice and inequality but are willing to make a change, not waiting for someone to come and rescue them but in their own small or big way are making an effort. I continue to seek such change- makers in my work, my circle of friends and in my selection of readings.
In my current work with ChildFund, as I travel through some of the most poverty-affected areas in the U.S., I have had the good luck of witnessing many emerging leaders among the youth and children. There is a young girl in Mississippi whose only family member was just arrested and imprisoned, yet she comes and volunteers at a program for children to teach them reading. Witnessing her strength gives me hope and motivates me.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to read. My work with ChildFund has expanded my understanding of some unique and special ethnic populations in United States. In my spare time, I continue to read books written by and about Native Americans and African Americans.
I am a good knitter and have been knitting shawls, hats and scarves, which I usually donate to friends, neighbors and children’s hospitals. This year I was blessed with a grandchild, Sophia, so now I am enjoying knitting for her.
Who is your role model?
It is difficult to come up with one name; I have been blessed from an early age to have been exposed to the words and examples of some very special people from around the world. At various stages in my life, I have been affected by the words and deeds of some exemplary leaders and poets: Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rabindranath Tagore, Martin Luther King Jr., Rumi and the Dalai Lama are a few that come to mind.
And then, of course, my work allows me to see people living under very difficult circumstances and overcoming challenges and making a difference. They are role models too and give me the opportunity to learn and derive strength from them.
What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
Two come to mind: Let there be change in the world, and let it begin with me.
The second one is in Urdu, a verse by Iqbal:
Tundiay baday mukhalif say na gabhra ai uqab.
Yeh to chalti hai tujhe uncha uranay kay liya.
Do not be afraid of the strong winds, o eagle.
The winds blow so strong so that you may fly even higher.
ChildFund could not do its work without the assistance of hundreds of local partner organizations in the communities we serve globally. Our partners work with us closely to identify local needs and implement programs to aid children, families and communities.
We are grateful for their partnership every day and their help in all emergency situations that arise — such as in communities afflicted by drought to those overwhelmed by floodwaters. Two local partners from Mississippi, one of the states where ChildFund works with children and families, recently sent us letters of congratulations on our 75th anniversary. We cannot thank them enough for their cooperation over the years as well.
A Message From Operation Shoestring, Jackson, Miss.
Happy 75th Birthday, ChildFund!
Not often in life are we able to feel that the work we have been assigned to do changes the world. It has been a pleasure to be affiliated with ChildFund, an organization that focuses on the needs and well-being of children. Even in the 21st century, the world continues to need an organization that focuses on assuring that the children it serves are not deprived of the opportunity to thrive holistically, physically and psychologically; and that helps them have what they need for the development of their full potential.
We are honored to be a part of ChildFund’s mission, which offers our poorest children guidance, support and a light to success. Can you imagine that a process that started 75 years ago is still relevant today and is still affiliating with like entities to improve the world for generations yet to come?
Operation Shoestring appreciates the opportunity to share in this work with ChildFund, since it affirms our work of teaching children and inspiring families so that we all rise together.
A Message From We Care Community Services, Vicksburg, Miss.
When I think of ChildFund (formerly Christian Children’s Fund), what I first jokingly think of is acronyms and other words … AIMES, SSIMS, FIT, PDF, NPs, photo guide, SITE, home visitors’ log, programs vs. services, enrollment reports, family cards, TUFF, ASPA and strategic directions, just to name a few.
But I also soberly look back and think about my new project affiliation form from the early ’90s (which I still have a copy of) and think about why we have this partnership and how far we have come.
This partnership aligns with We Care’s vision, values and beliefs. Our initial project description read “OUR children, the children of this community are OUR future. Your support through sponsorship activities is an investment in this community’s future.” This resonates as a truth today. Through our partnership with ChildFund, we as an affiliate have strived to offer not only quality services, but also meaningful services across this community.
We would like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to ChildFund as you celebrate your 75th anniversary. As you commemorate this milestone in history, remember that you have not only been a voice for children but also for many a source of survival. Without your presence and compassion, many more children still would be trapped by the hardships poverty imposes. It is because of partnerships such as ChildFund that we are successful.
With your continued support, we will continue to work on ways to make the lives of OUR children easier and healthier, without deprivation or isolation, through empowerment strategies. We know that we can only be successful if the communities that we serve, which you help to support, are thriving, healthy and successful.
With homage and congratulations,
By Hyewon Lee, ChildFund Korea Field Officer in Bolivia
Today is World Toilet Day, which aims to create awareness of the problems stemming from poor sanitation in countries worldwide. One in three people — 2.5 billion — do not have a clean, private toilet, including those in many countries where ChildFund works. Today’s post spotlights progress in a Bolivian community.
Children in the municipality of Sapahaqui, Bolivia, once used 1-meter-deep holes as their toilets at school. Often, they preferred to go outside instead of visiting the dirty, smelly restrooms. Other schools didn’t even have indoor facilities.
Families also didn’t always wash their hands after going to the bathroom, mainly because water is very scarce and valuable; most people had no water sources other than small streams and springs. Some communities were lucky to be near water, but other families had to go a long way to fetch it. When they did get water, it was just enough for washing clothes, cooking and watering the fruit trees, which are their main income source. Many families knew that basic sanitation habits were important to maintaining good health, but it was a luxury most just couldn’t afford.
As a result of the lack of basic sanitation infrastructure and hygiene habits, the infant mortality rate was 68 deaths per 1,000 infants in 2010 in the municipality of Sapahaqui, according to Bolivia’s national statistics office. Diarrhea and other diseases related to poor hygiene were causes of many childhood deaths.
However, we’re seeing changes in Sapahaqui nowadays.
“This is how you wash your hands,” exclaims 10-year-old Eliana as she proudly demonstrates cleaning from palms to fingers to nails. (Watch the video below for an example of how children have learned proper hand-washing techniques.) ChildFund Bolivia staff members now oversee hand-washing centers in almost every school in Sapahaqui, teaching children about good hygiene habits and providing sanitation kits.
Schoolchildren now wash their hands at least once a day at school, with clean water provided through the SODIS method, which purifies water by hanging plastic bottles in the sun for several hours. Since it is so much easier to get access to clean water, children and families in Sapahaqui are now able to use water to practice basic sanitation habits, even in the harsh dry seasons when it barely rains and the streams dry out.
With the help and participation of community members and the local government, we also have built or improved the school bathrooms. A teacher from the community Saca Saca says, “Children are so happy about the new bathrooms that they just don’t want to come out from there. I can already notice that hand-washing corners and new bathrooms are affecting children’s health, because less and less of them catch cold and have fleas.”
ChildFund Bolivia will continue this water and basic sanitation project here until 2015. Our goal is that fewer children will suffer from diseases that can be easily prevented by practicing basic sanitation habits, and that families will have a better, cleaner and safer living environment in Sapahaqui.
Ingrid Janeth became a sponsored child when she was 7, and today, as an adult, she works with children in her Guatemala community. In today’s guest post, she shares the impact that her sponsor had on her life.
About 22 years ago, a magic story started. I say “magic” because I never thought that a person would change my life! My story took place in a rural, poor, indigenous community in Guatemala; I was 7 when my life started changing. My name is Ingrid Janeth, and now I am 29.
When I turned 7, my mom told me that I had a new friend who lived so far away from my home; she lived in Pennsylvania. I remember the first letter I received. It had some stickers on it and a photo from my sponsor and her two children. She wrote to me about the United States, the American culture, their most traditional foods, places they visit for vacations, how they celebrate Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. That was all new to me, and I learned a lot from her.
My sponsor was always really sweet; she taught me how important it was to share with my family, how important it was for me to study and to have a career. She also supported me economically when I was studying and I couldn’t buy my uniforms, shoes or books.
It was a really good experience, two families knowing each other, even though my sponsor´s family was in another country. But the communication was always constant. The best thing I got from my sponsor is her friendship, and I keep all her letters and photos in a special place.
If I had my sponsor in front of me, I would like to say, “Thank you so much for sharing your time; thank you for all your support; thank you for your letters and pictures. Thank you, because now I am different, and I have a bright future.”
Now I am a teacher, and I have a special commitment to work for my community, especially with girls and youths. I am a technician in the ChildFund Guatemala project “I Love Myself, I Take Care of Myself” and work with the Association Renacimiento, ChildFund’s local partner organization in Guatemala. This project specifically works to help youth improve their self-esteem, build healthy relationships with their families, peers and communities and provide guidance on health.
My intention, now that I am working with children, is to teach them how to change their lives and how to have a better life and future. From my own experience, I have confidence in the great potential of the youth in my communities.
My plans are to continue working with children; also, I want to finish my studies in college to become an environmental engineer and find a place where I can both work with children and contribute to creating a better planet.