It often takes a full day to fly from the United States to India, counting layover time, and that brings you just to the nearest large city. To reach Dhodlamitta, a village in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, you’ll spend several more hours on the road.
This summer, a team of filmmakers, plus ChildFund staff members from India and the U.S., traveled to Dhodlamitta for an unusual purpose: to create a 360-degree video that will give viewers the experience of visiting the village. Using the 360 GoPro camera and other elaborate gear, the crew takes us to homes, a school and fields where people labor under the sun every day.
Annapoorna is our narrator. She’s a former sponsored child who is now a teacher, a wife and a mother. When she was growing up, child marriage was very common where she lives — and it still is in nearby villages. Sponsorship and ChildFund’s programs helped Annapoorna continue her education and finish university. She also is in a happy marriage that was her choice, and her daughter is thriving.
We hope you’ll take a look at the 5-minute video — and share it. Not everyone has the opportunity to fly across continents and oceans to Dhodlamitta, but we can offer you the next-best thing: an immersive virtual reality experience. You can also read more about Annapoorna and the making of the video.
Photo and reporting by Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
In parts of India, ChildFund and our partners have focused on building literacy rates and, more significantly, a deeper culture of reading. This is hard to do in communities where many households have no books and where adults never learned to read. Some homes don’t even have electrical power, limiting story time to daylight hours.
As you may have read in previous stories about the Books, my Friends project, ChildFund has distributed more than 40,000 book bags full of fun books, so children have exposure to more than just school textbooks and can start building a library at home. Some are written in their native dialects, and others are in English, which helps them learn to read a new language. We’ve also distributed solar-powered lamps to households without electricity, and now, we have begun sending mobile libraries out to rural and remote areas.
Today is International Literacy Day. Let’s take the advice of Anna Dewdney, the late author of the Llama Llama series of children’s books, and read to (or with) a child.
“When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language,” Dewdney wrote. “We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes.”
If you’re thinking of becoming a sponsor, don’t take it from us. Take it from former sponsored children: You matter. We hear from many young adults who are involved in careers, higher education and leadership roles that they never expected to achieve before someone sponsored them as children. Your consistent support and encouragement help them pursue many kinds of dreams and even pass on your generosity to future generations. Here are just a few examples.
Paul, a teacher in Uganda: “My sponsor used to inspire me through the letters he sent. I used to wait so eagerly for his response whenever I wrote to him. He always reminded me to work hard at school.”
Makeshwar, a community leader in India: “We will always remain indebted to ChildFund and our sponsors. We have taken a vow, and we will continue to serve underprivileged children and help them live with dignity.”
Lidiane, a business owner in Brazil: “Today I am a warrior, a hardworking and brave woman, fighting for my goals and dreams, and you are part of this. I wish I could say more to you, but I can write a thousand words here and still would not demonstrate what you represent in my life story.”
Else, a nursing student in Indonesia: “I want to help cure people. My favorite subject is pediatric nursing. I love taking care of young children. Soon, I will be working in a hospital helping young children in need.”
Reporting and photos from ChildFund Sri Lanka
Usually on the ChildFund emergencies page, it’s grim news. But this week, we heard from our staff in Sri Lanka that they had distributed relief packages (full of kitchen equipment, paper products and other needs) to more than 600 families affected by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Roanu in May. Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Sri Lanka, with funding from ADRA China, donated these packages, which go a long way toward helping families recover. Many lost their belongings and saw great damage to their homes, but there are bright spots here and there.
We’ve also heard good things from the two Child-Centered Spaces we set up in Puttalam, an area hit hard by flooding. As we’ve seen time and time again, children want and need to play. They just need a safe place to do it. We hope you enjoy these pictures from Sri Lanka, where families are on the long road to recovery.
On the ChildFund website, we have a story by Martin Nanawa (our communications officer at ChildFund Philippines) about a family from Manila, the nation’s capital. These six children have had a hard life, losing their father several years ago to a heart attack. Rachel, their mother, works as a laundrywoman, and until 2014, they lived in a shack under a highway bridge. Despite all of these trials, Rachel and her four eldest children have volunteered with ChildFund’s local partner, Families and Children for Education and Development. After losing their home and having few options, a friend who works at FCED nominated Rachel’s family for an award from a corporate foundation. They won, and the prize money has helped them move to a new, stable home.
“We never expected any reward for helping other people like ourselves,” Rachel says. “We volunteer because it’s fulfilling. Poverty doesn’t mean you have nothing to give.”
Reporting and photos from Himangi Jayasundere and local partners in Sri Lanka
Since May 16, heavy rains from Cyclone Roanu have caused massive flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka. More than 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes, and 200 people are either reported dead or missing. Fortunately, no ChildFund-enrolled or sponsored children and their family members were reported hurt or killed in the disaster, but some have had to leave their homes.
We are working with Sri Lanka’s government and other nongovernmental organizations to assist people in need, and in Puttalam District, we have set up two Child-Centered Spaces (you can see photos in the slideshow above) to help keep children safe. They also receive psychosocial counseling and opportunities to talk about their fears. Read more about the emergency response in Sri Lanka on our website.
Photos by ChildFund staff members and photographer Jake Lyell
Mothers are crucial to ChildFund’s mission, whether they’re guide mothers in the Americas spreading reliable health and nutrition information, three Indonesian mothers growing vegetables for their families, or a group of Ugandan moms who are contributing to a village savings and loan program. Or the numerous grandmothers raising their grandchildren in Mozambique after they lost their parents to AIDS. This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States, a time when many of us celebrate our mothers and mother-figures in our lives — women who are there to listen or laugh with us, or sometimes tell us hard truths. Above are some pictures of moms from around the world who are connected with ChildFund’s programs. We have more in common with them than you may believe possible.
Join us on our Facebook page today to share your photos and thoughts about your mother or other important women in your life. We’d love to hear from you!
By Rachel Ringgold, ChildFund Staff Writer
“Asked what peace is, children drew inspiration from their homes, communities and surroundings. There was maturity in their innocence. There was resonance in their honesty. Children have a lot to say about peace. It is time we listen.” – ARNEC’s “ECD & Peacebuilding” report
Since April 2014, ChildFund has been a core member of the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC), a group of nongovernmental organizations and United Nations branches advocating for effective early childhood development policies and practices throughout the region. ARNEC partners have built cross-disciplinary partnerships to share their knowledge about young children, and last year, a technical working group surveyed 119 children ages 3-8 from six Asian countries about how they perceive peace.
The answers were illuminating, especially in Timor-Leste, which became independent in 2002 after many years of conflict with neighbor Indonesia. ChildFund has worked there since 1990, and there has been internal strife as recently as 2006. Of course the children who were surveyed were born after the official end of the conflicts, but the collective memories of violence are fresh in Timor-Leste’s communities.
Many children said in the survey that nature and playing feel like peace, and they strongly dislike bad words, throwing stones, stealing, fighting and hitting.
“I like mountains, trees and flowers because they give us food,” says 6-year-old Luzinha, while 5-year-old Rosalinda expresses empathy: “When people fight each other, it gives me pain.”
Many children said, “I don’t know” when they were asked what peace means to them.
During the first years of life, children’s brains develop rapidly, and their earliest experiences are foundations for everything that follows. Although these children didn’t know how to define peace, they still know how peace feels. Being in nature — seeing, smelling, hearing and touching the world around them — feels like peace. So does playing, or being with friends. Peace is less of a noun and more of a verb in these children’s vocabulary. It means actively engaging with the world and participating in happy, harmonious exchanges with the people around them. It’s the absence of violence.
So, how are we listening to these children’s voices and conveying their messages?
In October 2015, staff members from ChildFund Timor-Leste shared their findings at an ARNEC conference in Beijing, contributing to a larger discussion about peace-building and ECD across the region.
Also, our national office in Timor-Leste is incorporating peace-building ideals into its ECD curriculum, an innovative idea because of the ages of the children: five and younger. As we build this platform for peace, ARNEC members and ChildFund staffers will research its effects on children and advocate for its expansion into national education policies throughout Asia.
Children already know how peace feels. Our job, as adults, is to create space for them to practice what they know and nurture their instincts for nonviolent problem-solving, sharing and collaboration. And we can observe and learn from the youngest among us.
Photos and Reporting by Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
World Water Day is next Tuesday, so let’s take a look at how Indian children have benefited from access to clean running water in their communities and schools. First, we see a group of schoolchildren from Udaipur, a city in western India.
One of the students, Kuldeep, says, “Before and after eating, we clean our hands and plates properly to stay healthy.” In the picture above, three boys — Mukesh, Lalu and Harish — wash dishes before lunch at school.
Next, girls from Orissa, a state on India’s eastern coast, talk about how a water pump provided by ChildFund supporters has changed their lives.
“It’s our daily routine to walk to the hand pump, which ChildFund has provided through the gift catalog, to get water,” one girl says. “Otherwise, we had to walk for several kilometers to fetch water.”
One out of 10 people in the world do not have reliable access to clean water. That’s more than 663 million people, or twice the population of the United States! Astounding, right? That’s why we should do what we can to spread the word about providing everyone access to clean water. This World Water Day, share information with friends — and lead by example however you can. ChildFund has several options for you to make a difference for children and their family members who don’t have easy access to clean water.