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Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with warm thoughts and love. What are we thankful for at ChildFund? The chance to see children’s happy faces and hear their voices. Here’s a class at an elementary school in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, singing about a garden full of pretty flowers. Please enjoy.

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.

Today Is World Toilet Day

Did you know that 2.4 billion people do not have access to basic toilets? That number includes some of the children and family members ChildFund works with in Africa, Asia and the Americas. When families don’t have clean and safe bathroom facilities, children become vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day, and we’re asking for your help in sharing information about the lack of good sanitation in communities around the world. This video from Cambodia shows how a simple latrine has made a dramatic difference in 11-year-old Romduol’s life. If you share the video with your circle of friends and loved ones, use the World Toilet Day hashtag, #WeCantWait.


Lighting Up the Future of Children in India


ChildFund India distributed solar-powered lanterns to children. Here, Aarathi reads by its light.

By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India

In parts of India, literacy rates are very low for a variety of reasons. One problem is a lack of electricity. When you are in the dark at home, it’s not easy to read.

In June, ChildFund India distributed nearly 40,000 solar-powered lamps to children in homes without electricity, as phase two of a national literacy campaign called Books, My Friends. In December 2014, our India staff members, with the help of local partner organizations and others, distributed 40,000 tote bags full of age-appropriate books in several languages. About 115,000 children have benefited from the program, which aims to make reading fun and also help them improve their literacy skills.

According to India’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2014, many children are behind grade level in their reading skills. Among eighth-graders, about 75 percent can read at second-grade level, and 32.5 percent of second-graders can’t even recognize letters.

We used to use wax or kerosene candles. With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out.

In this campaign phase, called Toward a Brighter Future, children have received solar-powered lamps that allow them to read, do homework or other activities after the sun goes down.

“For me, my education is very important,” says Aarathi, who got a lamp. “I don’t like missing school even for a single day. Now that I have my own solar lamp, I can study anytime and anywhere. It’s so convenient and easy to use these solar lamps. We also use these lamps for doing group studies outside our houses.”

Although the lamps’ primary purpose is to help children study after dark, they also make it easier for family members to do household chores. “Earlier we used to use wax or kerosene candles,” recalls Jayamma. “With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out. We also used to feel hot while using them. Having a solar lamp is great. We don’t face any of those problems with this. My mother finds it very convenient to cook using this lamp.”

And for some, the solar lamp has a totally different benefit. “Now we can also play after dark outside our houses using these lamps,” say Prathibha and Swathi.

After the successful implementation of this second phase, ChildFund India plans to open two solar-powered model schools, more than 100 libraries in rural schools in 14 states and introduce mobile libraries, which will provide access to high-quality reading material and dedicated reading space for children and other community members.

Postcards From Abroad

Clarita of Timor-Leste

Clarita, 17, of Timor-Leste, regularly receives postcards from her sponsor. One of the most memorable postcards she received is the one with high buildings and long bridges of the city of Melbourne, Australia.

“I like this card because it’s like a memory from my sponsor,” she says. Photo by Kim Bomi of ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Sonam’s Fight Against Child Marriage

By ChildFund India staff

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.

Sonam, 17, a child marriage activist from Madhya Pradesh, India, accepts an award.

Sonam, 17, a child marriage activist from Madhya Pradesh, India, accepts an award.

In India, the country with the most child brides worldwide, an estimated 47 percent of girls are married before age 18, putting their physical, emotional and mental health at risk. Although it is illegal in India for girls under 18 and boys under 21 to marry, the tradition remains entrenched.

For a long time, ChildFund has worked with adults and youth in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where the practice is particularly prevalent, to end this harmful tradition. For many in this fight, the stakes are personal.

When 17-year-old Sonam’s parents insisted that she get married, she protested, and together with her youth club members who had taken an oath to become role models for others by not becoming the victims of early marriage, she spoke with her parents. She shared that she did not want to get married before reaching the legal age and also wanted to study further to achieve her dreams.

At the launch of a 100-day child marriage awareness campaign in 75 villages earlier this year, Sonam was recognized for addressing the issue of early marriage and for standing up against her own marriage. Anmol Jeevan, the campaign, drew great support from the community, including village leaders and parents. Thousands of people attended the event where Sonam and other youth members received awards.

“ChildFund has changed my life — it came as a ray of hope in my life and has given me courage to dream about my future,” she said while accepting the award.

Sonam (left) at a literacy campaign event.

Sonam (left) at a literacy campaign event.

Sonam has been with ChildFund India since the beginning of the project, for more than six years.  She has actively participated in several of ChildFund’s programs, awareness camps and meetings on early marriage. She also encourages mothers to get their children immunized and provide nutritious food. She also has promoted literacy in her village by doing door-to-door counseling and getting children of her village enrolled in school. With Sonam’s and her youth club members’ persistent efforts, more than 62 community members have learned to read — out of the 142 illiterate village members they had identified.

After a lot of persuasion, Sonam’s parents were convinced that she should remain unmarried. With their support, she is now preparing for exams, with plans to become an engineer and help her village.

“If convinced properly,” says Sonam, “parents will support their daughters’ wishes to study instead of getting them married at an early age.”

And when they do, those girls will be able to make enormous contributions within their own communities — as Sonam has.

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.

Day of the Girl: Hope for Mung

Mung of Vietnam

By ChildFund Australia and ChildFund Vietnam staff

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, its theme 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.   

Thirteen-year-old Mung was born in one of the poorest villages in Kim Boi district in rural Vietnam’s mountains, and even here, she’s had a difficult life compared to many children.

Mung’s father passed away when she was young, and her mother has a disability and is unable to work. She struggles to provide for Mung’s needs with the approximately US$13 she receives from the Vietnamese government each month.

Her uncle tries to support Mung and her mother, as well as his own wife and two children. His rice fields produce enough rice to feed the family and pay for their basic daily expenses, but if a crop fails, they will be hungry for several months.

“When I get home from school, I feed the pigs, clean the house and cook for my mom to help her,” Mung says.

Mung has just completed seventh grade. She has a passion for learning and is a good student, despite having to borrow schoolbooks from her friends to follow the lessons. Also, her house is more than four miles from school, so it often took Mung and her cousin two hours to walk to school each day.

“I used to have to leave home at 5 a.m. to be at class on time,” she says. “It was so dark and freezing.”

Mung and her mother.

Mung and her mother.

In 2013, ChildFund Vietnam staff members identified Mung as being at great risk of dropping out of school due to her family’s financial situation. So, Mung was among 200 children in her village who received bicycles through the Hope Bike project, which was funded by KB Financial Group in partnership with ChildFund Korea and ChildFund Vietnam. She was also enrolled in a project designed to offer support to families struggling to provide for their children’s school needs.

Through the project, Mung receives paper and clothing for school, her fees are covered by direct transfer to her school, and she receives a daily meal to ensure her dietary needs are met.

“ChildFund’s support has helped to reduce the burden on my uncle,” Mung says. “He has been really tired taking care of the two families. Now he doesn’t have to worry about the expense to send me to school. I am provided with tuition fees, course books, a desk and lamps to study at home. I also get rice for meals every month. I feel like I am getting closer to my dream.”

Despite her challenges, Mung always tries her best to study hard, and her efforts are showing. She recently took part in a mathematics competition in her district and received an “encouragement award.” Everyone in the community is proud of her.

“I would like to become a teacher in the future to earn enough money to support my mom,” Mung says. “My goal next school year is to improve my grades in Vietnamese. Any teacher should be good at Vietnamese to convey what she means to her students.”

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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Children Advocating for Safe Schools

children against violence

Members of Timor-Leste’s Children Against Violence group pose for a photo during their journey from their hometown, Maliana, to neighboring district Suai for a national child rights forum.

By Janella Nelson, ChildFund Education Technical Advisor

This blog post was originally published by the Global Campaign for Education’s United States chapter.

As many children return to school this month, it is an exciting time for parents and students. There is an assumption by many that school is a safe place, but there are children around the world, including in the United States, who will be returning to school and wondering if their school is really safe.

Children have the right to learn in a physically and emotionally safe environment that is conducive to learning. When we think about “safe environments,” there are several things we consider, but usually physical safety is at the top of our minds. Globally, children are exposed to several forms of violence in the classroom, on school grounds and on the way to or from school. They include corporal punishment, bullying, sexual gender-based violence, gangs and political unrest.

Children in Timor-Leste rehearse a skit about corporal punishment.

Members of Timor-Leste’s Children Against Violence group rehearse a skit about corporal punishment.

These forms of violence, which can be physical or psychological, can prevent children from learning and staying in school. Evidence shows that corporal punishment by educators increases dropout rates and perpetuates a cycle of violence. Bullying is linked to poor mental and physical health, school absenteeism, lower test scores and higher crime rates (bullies are four times more likely to engage in serious crime, according to a study in 28 countries published by the American Psychological Association in 2013). Sexual violence based on gender has a detrimental effect on girls’ attendance and completion of basic education, which contributes to the large gender gap in secondary school. Gang-related and political violence prevents children from even attending school, causing schools to close and teachers to resign.

ChildFund International and our partners in the ChildFund Alliance are committed to contributing to a world where every child is free from violence and exploitation. We support children in exercising their rights and work to create environments where children can not only participate as advocates against violence but also lead efforts.

In Timor-Leste, ChildFund’s Children Against Violence program has prioritized the push for a legal framework prohibiting violence against children in schools, as well as community-based awareness activities. Students have created Child Advocacy Groups, which have conducted research on violence against children; group members have used this research to advocate for a national policy forbidding corporal punishment in school. A cadre of young advocates has grown out of the groups, and they promote the protection of children’s rights, as well as the education of teachers and parents about positive discipline practices.

Students, parents and teachers need to work together to tackle all types of violence in schools, and one essential step is to provide support to children so they can raise their voices about this issue and make schools truly safe.

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