By Rachel Ringgold, ChildFund Staff Writer
It’s been five years since we met Anista. She’s a sponsored child who lives in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, and we took a peek into her daily routine when she was 9. Some things in her life haven’t changed much since then.
Anista still brushes her teeth in the morning to get ready for the day. Her sister, Stella, still washes up with her, out in front of the same robin’s-egg-blue house. To get to school, they still walk half an hour to school, down and then back up the sides of the same misty mountains covered with tea bushes.
But a lot has changed in the last five years, too. Anista is 14 years old now, and she’s at the top of her ninth-grade class. On this visit with the family, the kids were on summer break, so they were home from school. Anista drinks tea, washes up and plays with her sisters — their favorite game is jump rope.
Anista also helps her mother, Slatemary, do chores around the house. Five years ago, Slatemary wasn’t at home. In fact, she wasn’t even in the country. She worked abroad for years as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. But last November, after not receiving a paycheck for several months, Slatemary returned to Sri Lanka — and she says she won’t leave again. “I want to be here,” she says. “I want to be home with my children.”
Slatemary, along with Anista’s father, has worked hard to give her family all she possibly can. Five years ago, Anista and her siblings didn’t have electricity or running water in their house, but now they do. And they have a TV, which is something else Anista and her siblings enjoy on days off from school — but they’re allowed to watch only educational shows, Slatemary says.
And Anista has gone from being one of the little sisters to being the oldest child at home, as her two older sisters have jobs hours away in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Watching the siblings, it’s clear Anista takes her role seriously — she keeps a watchful eye when her younger sister, Princey, climbs a tree, and she holds brother Kabilash’s hand as they descend the steep stairs from their village.
Slatemary says that what she truly wants from ChildFund is not physical or tangible. What she wants for her daughter is “good knowledge, a good attitude and to learn to be a good human being.” And, she says, “I don’t want my daughter to be like me — a tea plucker.”
It seems that Anista’s mother’s dreams are well on their way to coming true. Five years ago, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Anista said she wanted to be a teacher. And her dream has grown since then. “I want to teach dance,” she says with a quiet determination.
We can’t wait to see it.
Photo and reporting by Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka
“I am thankful to have Darshika, who is my very good friend,” says Sasivini, 13, of Sri Lanka (at right). “Darshika is also 13 years old and studies with me in school. When something goes wrong at school, sometimes I quarrel with my classmates. When that happens, I feel lonely and isolated. But I am thankful for having a friend like Darshika, who intervenes and settles matters peacefully.”
Stay tuned for more stories about what children are thankful for.
Photos from ChildFund Philippines staff
Last week, a Category 4 typhoon struck the northern Philippines, including Apayao Province, where ChildFund recently began working with 514 children enrolled in our programs. Fortunately, the local government had prepared evacuation facilities, so there were few human casualties, but homes, farmlands and roads suffered damage during Typhoon Haima.
ChildFund Philippines sent an assessment team into the region, where they are working to provide food, shelter, school kits for children who lost their school supplies, livelihood support for families reliant on the agricultural economy, and educational and recreational activities until schools reopen.
You can read more here and donate to help families in the northern Philippines. Below are photos taken by the emergency assessment team members.
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.