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By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia; Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil; Rosa Figueroa, ChildFund Guatemala
Season’s greetings arrive from Bolivia, Brazil and Guatemala, as children share their Christmas traditions. Over the course of the year, they have received great encouragement, love and hope from our sponsors and donors. All of us at ChildFund are thankful for your generosity and kindness!
Quema del diablo (burning of the devil), processions, posadas, firecrackers, eating tamales and drinking ponche (a traditional fruit drink) are traditions that people in the communities we serve in Guatemala practice before Christmas. “Feliz Navidad” means Happy Christmas, and the majority of the celebration happens the afternoon and evening of Dec. 24. Christmas is a very special day. Children share with the family and have fun, even when the economic situation is not good.
Yuri is 12 years old; she lives in the central highlands of Guatemala. At home, Yuri and her mother make tamales and ponche for Christmas. She has a tree in the back of her house, and she likes to decorate it for the season. “I would like every child to enjoy and celebrate Christmas as I do,” Yuri says.
“Hi, my name is Floridalma, I’m 12 years old, and I love Christmas because I participated in the posadas, traditional processions that start nine days before Christmas. The group sings traditional songs at various homes. For the season my family and I eat tamales and ponche.”
Eight-year-old Leticia, a sponsored child: “This Christmas I think will be very good, because my uncles come to visit us and will bring me gifts, like dolls and clothes. I do not believe that Santa Claus exists, but I know that Dec. 25 was the day that the baby Jesus was born. I see Santa Claus only when I step in front of stores, never asked him for any gifts, but I want to get a bike.”
Six-year-old Joao: “I’m in the first year of basic school. I like studying, but I also like the vacations because it’s when Christmas comes. My father’s name is Geraldo, and my mother’s is Maria. I have two sisters, Sara and Nilma. I love Christmas; it’s a day of receiving gifts. I stare at the lights of the shops. I love lights flashing. On Christmas Eve my mother does supper, because we are a simple family. Before Christmas Day, a friend of my mother sends Christmas gifts by mail. I have won a basket with a boat, a game of little pieces to assemble and a [remote] control car. On Christmas Eve, I like to go to sleep early to wake up early to see if Santa left something for me. I love Christmas!”
In Tarija, according to our sponsorship team member Victoria Glody, there is a dance called trenzada, and the celebration starts two weeks before Christmas Eve, when children dance and sing carols (known in Spanish as villancicos) with small drums and flutes to “Niño Manuelito” — that’s what baby Jesus is called by children in Bolivia. During the trenzada, people dance around the streets on their way to the town’s main square; once they get there, everybody enjoys hot chocolate and a special type of bread, or buñuelos, which is basically fried pumpkin dough.
Cochabamba rural areas have a different and harder reality, reports Alain, a coordinator with one of ChildFund’s local partner organizations. Although children expect toys and gifts, their parents can’t afford them, but they have figured out smart ways to make wooden or clay toys. They also make clay nativity scenes to celebrate Christmas Eve at home. Children also dress as the old wise men or shepherds, with a cape and beard made of cotton and go out singing “Niño Manuelito” at their neighbors’ homes, and in return they get bread or fruit. For Christmas Day, it’s traditional to have breakfast with hot chocolate and “buñuelos” too. Parents and grandparents gather together at home as a big family.
In El Alto, 6-year-old Viviana says: “On Christmas day I take a walk with my family, I play with my little cousin, and that night we have hot chocolate and Christmas cake. I like that day because there is more joy at home.”
By Hyewon Lee, ChildFund Korea Field Officer in Bolivia
Today is World Toilet Day, which aims to create awareness of the problems stemming from poor sanitation in countries worldwide. One in three people — 2.5 billion — do not have a clean, private toilet, including those in many countries where ChildFund works. Today’s post spotlights progress in a Bolivian community.
Children in the municipality of Sapahaqui, Bolivia, once used 1-meter-deep holes as their toilets at school. Often, they preferred to go outside instead of visiting the dirty, smelly restrooms. Other schools didn’t even have indoor facilities.
Families also didn’t always wash their hands after going to the bathroom, mainly because water is very scarce and valuable; most people had no water sources other than small streams and springs. Some communities were lucky to be near water, but other families had to go a long way to fetch it. When they did get water, it was just enough for washing clothes, cooking and watering the fruit trees, which are their main income source. Many families knew that basic sanitation habits were important to maintaining good health, but it was a luxury most just couldn’t afford.
As a result of the lack of basic sanitation infrastructure and hygiene habits, the infant mortality rate was 68 deaths per 1,000 infants in 2010 in the municipality of Sapahaqui, according to Bolivia’s national statistics office. Diarrhea and other diseases related to poor hygiene were causes of many childhood deaths.
However, we’re seeing changes in Sapahaqui nowadays.
“This is how you wash your hands,” exclaims 10-year-old Eliana as she proudly demonstrates cleaning from palms to fingers to nails. (Watch the video below for an example of how children have learned proper hand-washing techniques.) ChildFund Bolivia staff members now oversee hand-washing centers in almost every school in Sapahaqui, teaching children about good hygiene habits and providing sanitation kits.
Schoolchildren now wash their hands at least once a day at school, with clean water provided through the SODIS method, which purifies water by hanging plastic bottles in the sun for several hours. Since it is so much easier to get access to clean water, children and families in Sapahaqui are now able to use water to practice basic sanitation habits, even in the harsh dry seasons when it barely rains and the streams dry out.
With the help and participation of community members and the local government, we also have built or improved the school bathrooms. A teacher from the community Saca Saca says, “Children are so happy about the new bathrooms that they just don’t want to come out from there. I can already notice that hand-washing corners and new bathrooms are affecting children’s health, because less and less of them catch cold and have fleas.”
ChildFund Bolivia will continue this water and basic sanitation project here until 2015. Our goal is that fewer children will suffer from diseases that can be easily prevented by practicing basic sanitation habits, and that families will have a better, cleaner and safer living environment in Sapahaqui.
By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
Youth from five regions of Bolivia met recently for a national conference in La Paz organized by ChildFund, where they tackled some serious topics over three days. For most of the teens, this was their first time in La Paz, a big city with many cultural opportunities.
The main objective of this meeting was for the youth to share experiences about what they had been doing in their civic-minded local clubs, both what worked well and what needed improvement.
During the three days, the teens participated in a variety of activities ranging from discussing the impact of violence, how to instill peace and talking about ways their voices could be heard in their communities, especially in decision-making processes.
For Evert, 15, from the rural region of Cochabamba, a highlight was a discussion of violence and discrimination. “This was so interesting that we continued talking about it even during lunch!”
Duveiza, 15, of Santa Cruz, told us, “I enjoyed sharing with youth from different places, sharing opinions. One thing I like is that all of them love sports and not drugs. I realized that violent behavior doesn’t work, and dialogue is the best way.”
Together the participants created a logo that represents all ChildFund-supported youth clubs in Bolivia. It will be used in official documents and other promotional materials at a national level.
Of course, the three days were not all about work. Everyone got to explore the city, see a 3D movie, watch a contemporary dance performance in the national theater and participate in dance classes.
For many of the teens, this was their first time doing all of these things.
Best of all, the conference resulted in strong friendships, and of course, they have made plans to meet again.
By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
“My dear baby, I’m awaiting you with hope,” is how Rilma, 32, starts a letter to her son. However, he is not traveling around the world or even far from her. He is pretty close by, in fact, residing in Rilma’s womb.
“I’m a little afraid for the moment when you will be born, but don’t you worry, I’ll give the best of me, so things can go well, and I will welcome you with the same joy and emotion as I did with your older brothers,” Rilma continues in a letter to her unborn child. This is one of many activities Rilma and other expectant mothers perform at Un Nuevo Caminar, ChildFund’s local partner organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
There, women receive free prenatal examinations, pregnancy exercises and infant-care training, including how to identify danger signs and more.
Dr. Pamela Lopez, who works at Un Nuevo Caminar, tells us, “Every day I can see and understand how big a mother’s love is. Working with them is touching; when they smile at the moment they feel their baby or listen to their baby’s heartbeat, it’s a very special moment for them.”
The mothers also practice with a doll, to whom they show their feelings, Lopez says. “I usually tell them, ‘Madam, this is your baby. What’s the first thing you would tell him?’ And they answer, ‘I’d give him a little kiss, I’d hold him, I’d tell him how much I love him.’ ”
Babies are born with the potential to succeed, which parents and other caretakers must nurture. “Our work is to strengthen that link, so it could be stronger and unbreakable,” Lopez says. “It’s a great experience, sharing that unique and particular moment in their lives.”
Ten expectant mothers and 112 children under the age of 5 (along with their mothers) are now enrolled in Un Nuevo Caminar. They participate in stimulation exercises, so the children can gain skills naturally and can also understand and discover the world around them.
By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This post concludes our four-part series about the exchange program designed to improve the sponsorship experience. Read the series.
Our weeklong exchange program for sponsor relations managers in the Americas opened the door to in-depth conversations on policies, practices, processes, operations and cultures. Each sponsor relations manager now has an action plan to implement a promising practice gleaned during the exchange.
Here are some of their final reflections on the experience:
Ana Handrez, of Honduras, who visited Mexico: In the 19 years I have worked with ChildFund, this was my first time visiting another country specifically to discuss sponsorship issues and experiences. I was very surprised to see the engagement and initiatives from ChildFund Mexico’s local partner organizations. They knew their policies very well, and they were very proud to share their ideas of engaging children in sponsorship activities. It was amazing! The visit was worth every single day.
Valeria Suarez (Mexico): Ana’s visit was an enriching experience for Mexico’s office and especially for the sponsorship team. The national office and field sponsorship staff realized that even though each country has “particularities,” both share similar conditions, processes, histories and results. We enjoyed showing Ana how things are done here in Mexico, how sponsorship processes and visions have changed in the past few years, and how results have started to be achieved. We learned from her how processing times should be improved to continue enhancing the sponsorship experience, and Ana learned from us how creativity and working closely with children can provide better information for sponsors.
Cynthie Tavernier-Jervier, of the Caribbean, who visited Guatemala: This week makes me want to continue to make the sponsorship position more and more effective. I realized again how important the part that we play in programs actually coming to fruition to meet the needs (educational, social, health) of the less fortunate of our countries. So, a wonderful thing about my job is helping to bring benefits to less fortunate children and families and making a difference.
Diana Benitez (Guatemala): The exchange is an opportunity to know in situ the sponsorship processes. I see this experience as very exciting and enriching. Although Dominica and Guatemala have very different contexts, the sponsorship processes are similar. This exchange will impact our work going forward.
Dov Rosenmann, of Brazil, who visited Bolivia: This was an opportunity to reflect on our current practices and identify key areas of improvement for immediate implementation. I consider myself a beginner in sponsorship management in ChildFund, and being in Bolivia with an experienced team is, for me, a unique chance to directly ask questions and take in knowledge. On the other hand, I hope I was able to share with my Bolivian peers more about Brazil’s experience in managing sponsorship. As for what has been the best part of the exchange, for me it was seeing the youth participation at the local level and learning about Bolivia’s communication corners. Both were very inspiring and definitely an initiative to be multiplied in other countries.
Rosario Miranda (Bolivia): My expectation was to learn by comparing processes and seeing opportunities of improvement. Both national offices have similar interests and efforts toward integrated sponsorship and program activities to contribute to children’s development. Having Dov visit our national office and four local partner organizations was a wonderful educational exchange experience. We were able to compare operations and provide valuable information to improve each other’s sponsorship processes and developmental activities with children.
Santiago Baldazo, of the United States, who hosted Ecuador: This was a great experience. Although in planning for the week, we assumed that discussing sponsorship processes when both countries were already very familiar with the procedures would be somewhat tedious. But, while we shared the “how” of the sponsorship processes, it was very valuable for us to have the opportunity to discuss the “why” as well.
Zoraya Albornoz (Ecuador): Staff in both offices work hard to give children the chance of better opportunities for their lives. Through this experience, I was able to better understand the way other offices work and realize the good things we have in our own operations as well as the importance of working closer to the local partners. In the daily work we lose the real perspective of our strengths and weakness. I saw that we have some things that can be improved in order to reach our goals.
Learn more about all of the countries where ChildFund works around the globe.
By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, made it into the news in 2000 for its “water wars.” Today, its communities still struggle for access to clean water, but ChildFund makes life a bit easier for residents by providing education and water purification systems. Today, as we mark World Water Day, we take a look at the situation in Cochabamba.
In the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, water is a scarce resource. The city is located in an extremely dry valley, where most of the scenery is dominated by desert and dusty roads with little greenery or vegetation.
Luisa is a mother of five children, ages 11 years to 7 months. She and her husband, Zenón, arrived in Cochabamba a few years ago with many other migrants from Bolivia’s rural areas when the country’s main mining company closed and left thousands of people unemployed.
The family settled in a marginal area of Cochabamba, where no electricity, paved roads or water services are available.
The water problem in Bolivia is not new. In fact, Cochabamba’s water wars made news in 2000 after protests over water prices erupted into violence. The conflict inspired several movies and documentaries. Today, more than a decade later, Bolivia continues to suffer from South America’s lowest water coverage levels, as well as low quality of services, especially in terms of sanitation.
ChildFund Bolivia works in the most vulnerable and deprived areas of Cochabamba through local partner Obispo Anaya to help families gain access to purified water, educating them about water-usage techniques and improving hygiene and sanitation systems to avoid the spread of diseases that include diarrhea, chagas disease (a parasitic infection), respiratory and skin infections.
Luisa has worked as a community leader with ChildFund Bolivia’s local partner for the past seven years, and one of her family’s main concerns is water. Having to buy water has always been an additional expense that was eating up a big portion of their small monthly budget. Her family still has to buy water, but the expense is lower thanks to ChildFund’s efforts.
At the ChildFund-supported community center, families receive training on how to use a simple water purification system, which requires only sunlight and plastic bottles to kill germs, viruses and bacteria that can be present in water.
“We don’t need to buy bottled water anymore or boil it,” Luisa says. “We used to spend much more money for water. We still have to buy it from the water truck, but we spend less.” The family still buys two to three tanks full of water a week, which is approximately 15 bolivianos (US$2), half of what Zenón makes in one day of work.
Now Luisa trains other mothers in her community about proper usage of water purification systems. Her children are also healthier: Baby Tania is growing much stronger, as well as her brother Jonas, who is 3. Luisa’s three older children attend school and have healed from the skin infections that they used to get before the family began using the water purification system.
ChildFund’s program has helped me in many ways… to take better care of my children,” Luisa says. “They have taught us how to better clean our house and avoid diseases, and how to use water better and wash our hands, and I can see the difference, as my little babies don’t get sick anymore, as the elders did.”
Were you inspired by today’s blog post? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.
By Abraham Marca and Ana Vacas, ChildFund Bolivia
It’s common to hear older Bolivians describing adolescents and children as being in their “donkey’s age” because they can be bull-headed.
But this perception of youth is now changing in the city of Tarija in Bolivia, where eight local partners, assisted by ChildFund Bolivia, have given children and youths the opportunity to put forward their own solutions for community problems like alcoholism, garbage and poor-quality playgrounds.
“We might be small, but we can do big things” is the slogan of one of the youth clubs.
Forming Youth Clubs
This dream started with small steps. With support from ChildFund, young people created clubs by choosing their own names, designing logos and writing club constitutions with rules about honesty, punctuality, teamwork and more.
Next, the clubs participated in various educational modules, starting with leadership skills and photography. The children and youth started to identify problems and strengths in their community, often using photography. They then developed a project to address a community issue.
One of the main problems the children identified was pollution in their neighborhoods, as well as a lack of good recreational spaces. The few playgrounds were in poor condition. The youth also recognized that a lack of street lighting and persistent alcoholism made their neighborhoods more dangerous. These concerns echoed what we heard during our area strategic program with the Tarija communities.
After forming a club, the children in Guadalquivir planted 12 trees — which they bought themselves — during a clean-up campaign. In Nueva Esperanza, the club members started a campaign to prevent alcoholism and also purchased new lights for the community’s soccer field. A youth leader, studying architecture, designed a new playground and coordinated the project in Moto Mendez. One of Tarija’s rural partners had problems with the speed of traffic near a school so the children consulted the mayor. As a result, speed bumps were put in place. In the same area, the youth raised awareness among adults to use the garbage collection services that passed through the community once a week, instead of tossing trash out on the streets or burning it.
These are just a few examples of how children and youth can reach out, because as they tell us, “There are more ideas and, of course, a lot of energy.” Money is often short, so the club members have made alliances with local authorities and parents’ groups. Municipal governments have helped the children’s groups buy trees to plant in their neighborhoods.
Adults have been pleasantly surprised with the children’s drive, and now they are paying more attention to the young voices.
Guest post by Robert Patrovic
As ChildFund recognizes #GivingTuesday today, we are sharing the inspiring story of a father watching his daughter work hard – to give. Through ChildFund, Kara sponsors Mijael, a 6-year-old boy from Bolivia, and this year she raised funds to visit him.
My wife, Mary, and I have always tried to teach our children the value of their place in the world. We instilled in them a need to make the world a better place. Although we believe we’ve provided a comfortable home and life, we have always been sure not to focus on the attainment of personal possessions. There are almost no video games in our house (except for educational ones), no smartphones when they were kids, and we’ve always stressed reading, playing outside and giving.
Each of our three children, Jess, 23; Bobby, 20; and Kara, 15, is different, but they share that same value system. They have always volunteered for many causes both in and out of school. We have encouraged them to seek their dreams and have always taught them that hard work gets results. When they have truly wanted something, we have shown them paths to get it – always involving work on their part.
Kara, in particular, has always been one of the most giving people we know, even as a younger child. When, at 9 years old, she came to us with the idea of sponsoring a child, we were very encouraging (how could a parent not be?!). I helped her do the research on which organization operated the most efficiently, as she is conscientious about things like that. We decided on ChildFund. We helped supplement her monthly sponsorship payment and she did her best to keep in touch with Mijael over the years. At the time, he was 6 months old; Mijael is now 6 years old.
When she came up with the idea to actually visit Mijael, we saw this as an excellent learning opportunity and told her we would accompany her if she raised the money to go. This was in late January, a time where her schoolwork was especially heating up. Kara is a dedicated student and athlete. She played high school soccer and track and field and played for a club soccer team, as well – quite the demanding schedule.
Once Kara realized what it would take to put this trip together, she decided she wanted to invest more time, ultimately leaving the club soccer team. She used the extra time to really begin planning her big trip to Bolivia. She first placed a letter in our church’s bulletin and got a good response, which encouraged her further. She sent more letters and emails, developed budgets, researched flights, hosted fundraisers and even got some media coverage. The trip began taking on a life of its own, and Kara was at the forefront. How proud we were!
As the project grew in scope with more and more fundraisers, increased amounts of time and planning were required. At this time, Kara was given a “gift” of sorts. While playing soccer, she took a serious fall. She suffered a pretty serious concussion and broke her wrist. Kara could not participate in her normal activities. She was discouraged, understandably so, but this gave her the gift of time to spend on fundraising and planning her trip. Kara was making a hug jug of lemonade out of a large batch of lemons – a gift from God. Talk about getting inspiration from your own child!
Ultimately, Kara was successful; so successful in fact that she raised about $850 more than she planned. With the extra money she was able to provide gifts for 55 additional children and donate to two health care fundraisers in Tarija [Mijael’s community]. Although, I only went to accompany Kara, my own life was changed dramatically as well.
Kara has been, is, and continues to be a God-given gift and inspiration in our lives. I was moved by the impact that Kara had. At one point, she was honored as a Chapaca (resident of Tarija), which is an incredible tribute. In addition, the Tarija people called her a role model for their children because of her motivation to give. Imagine that, a child who comes from a wealthy country like the U.S., who is accustomed to living comfortably, being honored as a role model for children that have very little.
Kara has decided to continue to raise funds for Mijael, ChildFund Bolivia, and the various communities of Tarija. We are so proud of and inspired by our daughter.
Learn more about Kara’s trip to Bolivia.
By Gabriela Ramírez, ChildFund Mexico Communications Officer, and Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
The beginning of November marks a special celebration in most Latin American countries: the Day of the Dead. The first two days of the month are dedicated to remembering and honoring loved ones who have passed away. These celebrations have their origins in the pre-Hispanic era and symbolize death and rebirth.
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to celebrate this occasion with the Quechua communities while visiting ChildFund programs in Ecuador. Specifically, Nov. 1 is dedicated to honoring infants, while Nov. 2 is devoted to remembering deceased adults.
One of the most common customs is the making of altars to welcome departed spirits home. Vigils are held, and families go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and to present them with offerings and flowers. Ceremonial foods include the colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge, and the guagua de pan (guagua means child in Quechua language), a bread shaped as a little child, wrapped in traditional clothing and beautifully decorated as a symbol of remembrance of those infants who passed away.
Sharing the traditional foods and customs with the mothers, children and elders in the community made us reflect on the precious lives of children and sadly reminded us of the many children who die every day, especially in developing countries due to lack of water, sanitation, food or proper care. Each day, nearly 19,000 children die before their fifth birthday. That’s almost 800 every hour, according to World Health Organization’s 2011 stats.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead – also very important in other countries where ChildFund works in the Americas including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia – was a special opportunity to honor the many children who didn’t make it to their fifth birthday. It reaffirmed our commitment to work toward providing access to health care and nutrition, educating caregivers and creating safe environments for the growth and development of millions of children born into challenging conditions around the world.
This is our commitment. We want more children to be able to celebrate the Day of the Dead, and not just be remembered on that date.
Reporting by ChildFund Bolivia
Of Maria Elena’s nine children, she and her husband still have six growing under their care on the outskirts of a big city in Bolivia. All girls, their names are Angelica, Eva, Margot, Gabriela, Rosmary and Nazareth.
And then there is Regina. She belongs to them all, thanks to a contribution through ChildFund.
A few years ago, Maria Elena’s family received a cow through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. The girls named her Regina. Maria Elena says Regina was the “greatest surprise and blessing” of their lives.
The cow provided a steady supply of fresh milk for the girls during their growing years, with enough extra that Maria Elena was able to share milk with the community center each week. This helped ChildFund’s local partner organization, Lucerito, in its programs to reduce malnutrition, which is one of the main causes of child mortality in the area. Lucerito also offers after-school support activities, access to health care and skills development workshops. Several of Maria Elena’s girls participate in the programs.
When Regina has baby calves, Maria Elena and her family give them to other families, creating a chain of benefits that has extended and multiplied — literally — within the community.
This gift of love continues to yield more gifts of love, making a difference in the lives of many growing children who live in extreme poverty in Bolivia.
Please visit our online catalog and choose a special gift for a child in ChildFund’s programs.