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.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Social media can be a mixed blessing. It’s easier to stay in touch with friends and relatives today, but status posts, tweets and pictures also can add distraction to our lives. The other day, though, we experienced a pure blessing on ChildFund’s Facebook page.
A few weeks ago, Nicole Duciaume, regional sponsorship manager for the Americas, visited some of ChildFund Mexico’s programs. She met Guadalupe (whose nickname is Lupita), who works with one of our local partner organizations, often helping children write letters to their sponsors. Lupita was a sponsored child herself in Oaxaca, and she spoke fondly about her sponsor family from Oklahoma, the Talberts. More than 20 years after their sponsorship began, Lupita has kept the letters and photos from the family. (Click here to see a video of Lupita telling her story.)
As we do with many stories on the blog, we promoted it on Facebook. Usually we get a few dozen likes, a comment or two and perhaps a question about how to sponsor. The day that Lupita’s blog post went up, though, we received an unexpected message in the comments from Janice Talbert, who spotted the photo of her former sponsored child!
“This is so AMAZING,” Janice wrote. “I am so THRILLED to see LUPITA…she was OUR sponsored child. Of course, I had no doubt she would give back to her community. She wrote lovely letters to us for many years and then when we met her, she was warm, vivacious, bubbly and enthusiastic.”
Both Janice and Lupita still remember favorite letters they exchanged. Lupita’s was a letter she received on her 15th birthday, a cultural milestone for Mexican girls called the Quinceañera, marking the girl’s entrance into womanhood. Her family didn’t have money for a fancy dress or a big party, but the Talberts wrote that in their eyes she was still important.
Janice recalls the concerned letters that Lupita and another Mexican child they sponsored, Juan, wrote after Sept. 11, 2001, asking if her family was safe after the terrorists’ attacks. Janice says that her family, too, has kept every letter and drawing that Lupita and Juan made for them.
I had a chance to talk to Janice about her family’s 2005 trip to Oaxaca, when she visited Lupita and Juan.
At that point, Lupita was in high school, and the Talberts had sponsored her since she was 4 years old. They had been hoping to make the trip to see her and Juan for quite a while, and the timing worked out well. ChildFund Mexico’s national office helped arrange the visit, and Janice recalls riding in a white van for hours. Lupita’s town was quite a ways from Oaxaca’s capital, but the landscape was beautiful.
Near Lupita’s home was a canyon circled by jacaranda trees that were blooming during their visit. Lupita’s family warmly welcomed the Talberts, and they had a great visit to Lupita’s school, church and neighborhood. “It was amazing to meet her,” Janice recalls. “We’d get a picture once a year, and she was always serious in the pictures, but she smiled a lot in person.”
Lupita remembers the visit fondly: “My family and I were very excited about the visit, and we planned the food that we were going to bring them. When the date of the visit arrived, I made a sign. Then we showed them the local partner’s facilities and some activities we have there. What is most important is that I had the joy of meeting them.”
The Talberts also formed a close bond with Juan’s family. Janice recalls the tough conditions in which his family lived – a home with a dirt floor, and a single source of electricity coming through a long, orange extension cord. Janice and her family took Juan to see the nearby Mayan ruins; he had never had the chance to visit this historical site.
The families were generous hosts and very proud of their heritage. “At that point, my Spanish was really bad,” Janice says with a laugh. “The people from Mexico are so warm and helpful. When you butcher their language, they still compliment you.”
Today, since Lupita and Juan have completed ChildFund’s programs, Janice’s family sponsors two younger children from Oaxaca. She hopes that one day she’ll hear from Juan as well, whom we learned is still living in Mexico and working at an optician’s office. He still plays soccer in his spare time, a love that has carried on from childhood.
For Janice, the excitement of learning that both of her formerly sponsored children are doing well and leading happy lives has been an unexpected blessing.
Translated by Maria Fernanda Peixoto, ChildFund Brasil
Josengleyson “Gleyson” de Lima Maciel, 23, a former sponsored child from Brazil, wrote this testimony in gratitude to his sponsor and the local partner organization that helped him become an educated and successful adult.
I was born and raised in a community called Lagamar, located in the Aerolândia neighborhood in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. It is a suburb of the capital known for its violence and drug use (as well as other situations involving conflicts between organized groups), which oppressed all the residents, who were in the most part deprived of sanitation and other essentials. It was very hard for me and my neighbors, colleagues and friends to deal with this reality. Even with the family support that many of us had, I recall our prospects being minimal and restricted.
The ChildFund Brasil-affiliated project Frente Beneficente para Crianças (Front Charity for Children) rescued me. I cannot imagine how my life would be now without having enjoyed the project’s benefits during my childhood and adolescence, always counting on the support of all of the instructors, teachers and others who do this essential work.
The project brings many opportunities to the children and teenagers who are enrolled. Among them are tutoring, school supplies, snacks, professional training, dance and art classes, lectures and workshops that promote education. Those programs made me see life differently and led me to compete in the labor market in a satisfactory way, making it possible for me to achieve a career in administration. It is relevant to note that this project produces professionals with good conduct, ethics and, the most important in my opinion, character.
I feel extremely accomplished for being part of a contrary statistic. By my efforts and through the project’s support, I can honor my parents and all my family. For me, these are my greatest riches.
I graduated with a degree in business administration, and I am a professional, registered with the Regional and Federal Brazilian Administration Councils and specializing in financial management and controllership. Also, I’m certified by IFCE-CEFET in intermediate English. I recently purchased a car, and I’m currently employed in a company in charge of the administrative management of condos.
I believe life is a perpetual learning process, and, since I was young, I have yearned for continuous learning. Despite my difficult and turbulent start, everything changed with the indispensable support of the Frente Beneficente para Crianças project and ChildFund Brasil.
I take this opportunity to thank all the people who did — and still do — this excellent work, my family for being my base and especially two people who never stopped believing in me and my potential: my sponsor, Dorothy, to whom I will be grateful for the rest of my life and whom I love, even without ever having any contact in person. I hope she receives this message. I also owe part of my education, efforts and faith to my professor, Silvia Simões. In the name of all of her students, I thank her for her patience, competence, strictness and care.
Finally, I take this moment to say that this chain of goodness cannot stop. Human beings have the possibility to be much better, even with little gestures. With this mindset, I have great interest in being able to sponsor a child and contribute, even with little, to the evolution and development of that child. My reality today is different because I was encouraged by sponsorship.
By Rukhsana Ayyub, ChildFund U.S. Program National Director
I remember the cool morning breeze as I stepped outside on that late August day. It reminded me that fall was around the corner. After the 100-degree days we’d had in Memphis during the summer, it was a welcome relief. I was looking forward to the change of season.
Leaves on the trees were showing early signs of changing colors. Stores were advertising back-to-school sales; those who could afford it were packing the local Wal-Mart, getting ready for the start of another school year. I was pleased that many of our U.S. program’s local partner organizations across Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota were holding back-to-school events and providing backpacks and school supplies for enrolled children whose families could not afford to purchase these necessities.
On that beautiful day, I called my area office in South Dakota, just a routine Monday morning check-in. Billie’s voice was quiet, not her usual excited tone. “What is it?” I asked. A 10-year-old tried to commit suicide in the Pine Ridge reservation over the weekend, she said. Although this child was not enrolled in a ChildFund program, it was a grim reminder that suicide season was approaching, Billie added.
Suicide season. Whoever came up with such a horrific, unnatural name, I wonder. But then I recalled the even more unnatural fact that it’s the large number of teens and children taking their lives that give Native American communities the highest suicide rates in the country. America is known the world over as the land of hope and opportunity. However, on the reservations, we have children who are not excited for the start of a new school year, Christmas or another birthday. They are choosing instead to end their lives.
Community consultations conducted by ChildFund on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation revealed high incidences of alcohol and other substance abuse, depression and feelings of hopelessness in households, along with a disconnection from cultural values and beliefs.
To counter these negative factors, ChildFund supports programs that promote children’s social skills and emotional health. We also encourage families and other community members to protect and nurture their children by preserving traditional Lakota values. After all, this is a culture that considers children sacred and gives them beautiful names like Little Big Thunder, Little Arrow and Blue Robin, connecting them to nature.
Our programs in Lakota communities include information on suicide prevention and support resources for both parents and children. However, each new suicide or attempt is a reminder of the enormity of the problem and the work that still lies ahead.
ChildFund seeks to empower children and bring families closer together. On that August day – and every day – I voice my wish for every Lakota mother: Hold on tight to your child. To the children and youth, I say: Give life a chance; embrace the new school year waiting for you, Thanksgiving, the first snow of the winter.
And to my colleagues hurt by witnessing this trauma, and the responsibility it carries: Don’t give up hope. Seasons change, and even this dreaded season will pass. Our work for these children continues.
By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Manager, ChildFund Americas
When Guadalupe, better known as Lupita, was about 4 years old, a woman from Oklahoma sponsored her. But they had a communication problem because Lupita’s mother was illiterate. So, the 4-year-old dictated her messages to a volunteer in her Mexican community. But Lupita wanted to write to her sponsor herself, so she would trace and copy the letters one by one to form words that became sentences that eventually created a letter to her sponsor.
This was a couple of decades ago, and Lupita eventually was able to write for herself as her relationship continued with her ChildFund sponsor until she was 22. Over the years, she wrote about her community (including festivals, holidays and culture) and herself (school progress, family and friends).
Her sponsor also sent Lupita US$1 for Christmas, Easter, her birthday and the day of her saint. Lupita became known as the Dollar Girl in her community, and that dollar was worth so much to her. It was enough to buy a piece of chocolate and also to boost her self-esteem year after year. Lupita, who is now 26, is proud that when she graduated from ChildFund, her sponsor agreed to support another child in her community.
Today, Lupita works as the sponsorship coordinator for one of ChildFund Mexico’s local partner organizations a few hours away from where she grew up. The children she now assists remind her of herself a couple of decades ago. Lupita manages a cadre of eight volunteers who work with 660 children.
“Now, I help children who have difficulty writing to their sponsors,” she says. “I have to have a lot of patience to help as much as possible, just like I learned with the support of my sponsors.” Lupita hopes all of the children in the community will be sponsored one day so they can feel what she felt: the love, the encouragement and the support of a faraway friend.
Communication between sponsors and sponsored children is very important, Lupita says, because you get to know people from other places that you never even imagined existed, with whom you can share traditions, customs, your way of life and how you are developing. Often, that person becomes a part of your bigger family.
She says that her sponsors “always cared about what was happening in my life and always encouraged me to grow personally and academically. They always inspired my confidence and encouraged me to tell them my problems and said that they were there to morally support me.”
In addition to the emotional support she received through sponsorship, there was a definite developmental value to her experience as well. Through the various writing exercises and reading letters from her sponsors, Lupita improved her literacy skills and learned to write and express herself clearly.
“It was important because it taught me to write and to learn something new every day that I didn’t already know, and then I wanted to learn as quickly as possible so I could write to my sponsors myself,” she says.
To this day, Lupita still has all of the letters, postcards and photos her sponsor sent her.