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.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
ChildFund’s primary focus is helping children who live in poverty, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that women play key roles in this mission. Whether they’re mothers, grandmothers, sisters, government officials, business owners or other role models, women influence the course of children’s lives and shape communities and nations. One day is not nearly enough to celebrate the important women in our lives, but it’s a start. Below, meet some of the remarkable women connected with ChildFund around the world.
Phanny, a former sponsored child, is now a supervisor at Autoworld in Zambia. She’s the only woman who works at her branch, an accomplishment that’s even more impressive given the fact that Phanny had to miss school sometimes to work odd jobs with her sister after their parents died.
Else, another former sponsored child, just graduated from nursing school in Indonesia. She’s from a village where few people continue their studies after high school, but Else is now pursuing a master’s degree in nursing so she can work in a hospital.
“I love taking care of young children,” she says. “Soon, I will be working in a hospital, helping young children in need.”
Johanna, a ChildFund-supported trainer mother from Ecuador, is taking steps to end the cycle of parental abuse and neglect that has affected many children. She estimates that up to 20 percent of children in her small village suffer abuse at the hands of their parents. Through home visits and workshops, Johanna works with parents and other caregivers to show them how to support their children’s development.
“Children don’t feel respected by their parents,” she says. “It’s something that really scars them. It’s like an inheritance, because the child learns these things and replicates them.”
Rita, a young mother in Guatemala, is training to be a guide mother, an important role in many Central and South American communities where we work. Despite the demands placed on her time by two small children, Rita takes weekly classes on parenting skills, children’s learning styles, children’s rights, nutrition, play and more. She’ll then lead education sessions for other mothers in her community.
“I didn’t get a chance to study,” she says, “so this is also my turn to learn.”
Today (or any day at all), let’s think of the women who have made a positive impact on our lives — and thank them!
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
March 22 is World Water Day, a very important event for ChildFund and the countries where we work, so you’ll be seeing videos, pictures and stories about water during the next month. We don’t want to flood you (pun intended) with a lot of statistics all at once, but consider this:
In Africa and Asia, women and children walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to fetch water.
This stat came from UNESCO in 2015, and the United Nations reported in 2013 that girls and women worldwide spend up to 6 hours a day collecting water because it’s one of their household responsibilities.
That’s a huge investment of time and energy, and it’s no wonder that children — girls, especially — suffer a loss of opportunity when their homes and schools don’t have clean water and sanitation.
According to UNICEF, one in four girls does not complete primary school, compared with one in seven boys. Water and sanitation are not the only reasons for this problem, but when girls do have access to clean water and private and safe toilets, they’re more likely to stay in school. Girls’ enrollment rates improved by more than 15 percent in some places after clean water and sanitation were provided.
Let’s think about these children’s needs this month and learn more about how we can help. You can start by reading the World Water Day website and watching this video about Aleyka, an Ethiopian girl who takes us on her daily journey to retrieve water. You may feel inspired to share your knowledge by the time World Water Day arrives.
By Julien Anseau, ChildFund Global Communications Manager
Julien, who has worked with ChildFund in Asia and specializes in emergency communications, joined our assessment team as they traveled through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia earlier this year to take stock of needs of migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, particularly children. This is the first of Julien’s reports from the field.
Thousands of Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians are fleeing their war-torn countries and embarking on a perilous journey to Europe seeking refuge and a better life. In Izmir, a western port city of more than 2 million people in Turkey, many throng the streets, desperate to get to Greece — the entrance to the European Union.
It’s an anxious and fearful time for many. The most dangerous point of the journey to Europe is the illegal boat crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands.
According to the International Organization for Migration’s last update on Feb. 19, 413 people — including children — have died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016. Migrants pay smugglers anything between $500 and $1,200 and take their chances aboard unseaworthy rubber boats in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
Around Izmir’s Basmane Station, shops sell everything migrants may need, as well as things they don’t. Merchants do a brisk trade in lifejackets, which cost about $25 each and are sometimes useless. This is just one of many examples of people making a quick profit on migrants’ desperation.
A few days later, in Athens, Greece, we see many more migrants, but this time, the mood is of elation and relief. They’ve made it to Europe. In Victoria Square, a central meeting space in the city, I met a group of young Afghans taking their first steps on European soil.
Hamid, who says he is 20 years old but looks younger and may in fact still be a minor, describes his harrowing ordeal on the boat from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.
“I’d been trying for three weeks to reach Greece,” he says in English. “I was losing hope, and then one night at 4 a.m., the smuggler came and said it was now or never. I grabbed my bag and followed him to the beach. Forty-seven of us piled up on a small rubber boat. The smuggler stayed on the beach and told one of us to steer the boat straight towards the lights on the island in the far distance. What was supposed to be a one-hour journey took five hours.
“A Syrian guy steered the boat into the darkness of the night,” Hamid continues. “None of us had ever driven a boat before, but he was brave. The high waves were crashing against the boat, and I was cold and wet through. Everyone was afraid, screaming and crying because we thought we were going to turn over. Some people were praying together. I can’t swim, and I thought I was going to die. When we arrived on shore, I was exhausted and lay down for a while, too tired to realize I made it.”
I can’t swim, and I thought I was going to die. When we arrived on shore, I was exhausted and lay down for a while, too tired to realize I made it.
Mehdi, another young Afghan man whom Hamid met earlier in the journey, jumps in: “We tried a few times to cross by boat. When the weather is bad and the sea is rough, smugglers drop the price. But we didn’t want to risk our life. We know some boats never make it. This time we were lucky. I’ve met some people on this journey who have lost friends and family at sea.”
Just that morning, as the city of Athens woke up, came news of yet another boat that didn’t make it to Greece. The boat capsized, killing several people, including children.
For most people seeking asylum in Europe, Germany is the destination of choice. Usually people have friends or relatives already living there, and the government has been welcoming of migrants fleeing political turmoil.
Ali, a man in his early 30s from Bamyan Province in central Afghanistan, says he hoped to complete his studies so he could rebuild his life away from the pervasive violence of his homeland. He was anxious to recharge his phone so he could tell his family that he was safe and learn the latest news on the migrant crisis.
“There are a lot of rumors and hearsay,” he says. “I heard that countries are closing their borders. I want to check online for myself.” Ali has kept in touch with friends further along the route to Germany, who relay practical information and advice.
Reaching Germany takes a great deal of planning and money, as well as procedures to protect migrants from losing their savings to dishonest smugglers.
Instead of paying smugglers directly along the route, Ali keeps his money in trust with a middleman back in Afghanistan. After hearing from Ali, this man released a payment to the smuggler who got Ali to Greece and made arrangements with the next smuggler along the route to Germany. If Ali had not reached Greece, the smuggler would have had to keep trying, or he wouldn’t have been paid.
The expense and trouble are worth it to Ali. “The insecurity in Afghanistan drove me out of my home,” he explains. “It’s a war zone. There is no education, no jobs, no safety, nothing. I am sad to leave my parents behind, but I have to save my life. This is not my first attempt to leave Afghanistan for a better life. The first time, I was caught without papers by police in Iran. I was beaten and sent back. This time I made it through.”
A few weeks after I met Ali, Hamid and Mehdi, the situation suddenly changed for Afghan migrants, who are no longer allowed to travel through Macedonia. Many are now stranded in Greece.
Stay tuned for more blog posts from Julien, and also check out Richmond Times-Dispatch staff writer Zachary Reid’s reports from his time spent shadowing ChildFund’s needs-assessment team in Europe.
To find out more about the children and families undertaking this journey — and to help — read more on ChildFund’s website.