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Our Top 5 Posts from 2016

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In Zambia, two girls help prepare a meal. Photo by Jake Lyell.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

I think most of us can agree that 2016 has been an eventful year, both here in the United States and around the world. If you are a sponsor, you can take heart in the fact that your presence and support has helped a child and his or her family. If you’ve contributed to one of ChildFund’s other campaigns, like the one in Uganda that helps reunite families torn apart by AIDS, you’ve made an important impact, too. Your generosity matters in large and small ways.

Here are this year’s most popular blog posts (judged by the number of views as of mid-December). They cover many interests and multiple continents. Thank you for your support of children and families in need.

5. On the Migrants’ Trail

Julien Anseau, our global communications manager, wrote three pieces about refugees and migrants he met while on an assessment trip through Europe in January 2016. With the chaos and death toll in Aleppo making headlines now, Julien’s story is just as relevant today as it was in February.

4. Sarah’s Doll

Jake Lyell, who shoots videos and takes photos for ChildFund all over the world, met 11-year-old Sarah while interviewing families in Uganda who are part of the USAID-funded project DOVCU, which is keeping families together and reuniting other families struggling to support their children. In Jake’s video, Sarah, whose father is disabled and was considering giving his children to an orphanage, shows us how she makes her own doll. It’s a lighthearted moment, but it also shows children’s resilience in the midst of serious circumstances.

3. The Drought in Ethiopia

Jake also spent time in Ethiopia earlier this year to document the food shortage in the region of Oromia. This post shares the words of Halko, a mother whose four children were suffering from malnutrition — particularly her 3-month-old baby son, Fentale. At the end of 2016, the situation in Ethiopia is improving, but families still need help.

2. A Child’s View of Peace 

In a report by the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood about children’s opinions on creating peace, we learned a lot. If nothing else, we hope your connection to ChildFund produces admiration and interest for the thoughts and voices of children. In some cases, they’re wiser than their elders. ChildFund writer Rachel Ringgold found some especially interesting quotes from children in Timor-Leste. Take a look!

1. ChildFund’s Community Video Contest

This is one of my favorite new traditions: Local partner organizations and children around the world submit videos each year for our Community Video Contest. Everyone wins — the amateur videographers, the children in the videos and all the viewers. In this post, Meg Carter, sponsorship communications specialist, explains how she and her team of judges chose the winner of 2015’s contest. You can see the videos from 2016 and 2015 on YouTube.

Finally, here’s a slideshow of my favorite photos this year. Thank you to Jake Lyell and all of the ChildFund staff members and local partner staffers who took these pictures!

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This will be the last blog post for 2016 and likely my final one, as well, since I’ll be leaving ChildFund in early January. Thanks for reading, and have a super 2017. Kate

Anista, Five Years Later

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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.

rs38394_dsc_0364Anista 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.

 

 

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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.

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Friends in Deed

Photo and reporting by Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka

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“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.

Emergency Support in the Philippines

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.

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A 360-Degree View of an Indian Village

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.

Creating a Culture of Reading

Photo and reporting by Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India

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In India’s Karnataka state, children gather around a mobile library, which brings books and other learning materials to remote communities.

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.”

 

In the Words of ChildFund Alumni: Sponsors Matter

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Else is pursuing a nursing degree, a goal her sponsors enthusiastically support. 

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.”

Kindness Goes a Long Way in Sri Lanka

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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.

A Family’s Just Reward

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.”

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