To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Denmark.
We at BØRNEfonden are very proud to be part of the long-lasting effort made by the members of ChildFund Alliance to ease the grip of poverty for local communities in Africa, Latin America and Asia. While we are now commemorating ChildFund International’s 75 years of important work, last year BØRNEfonden also reached an organizational milestone. We celebrated our 40th anniversary as the Danish representative of the ChildFund Alliance. Last year, as now, there is plenty to celebrate.
First of all, BØRNEfonden remains Denmark’s largest development organization financed by private funds. We have more than 45,000 sponsors supporting 65,000 children and their families in 25 countries.
In recent years, our cooperation with private businesses has become an integral part of our work. Donations from private companies have increased 40 percent since 2010, and investing in development and job creation in Africa has become a matter of greater interest in the Danish private sector.
These numbers tell us that within the Danish population and business life, there is a strong confidence in the way BØRNEfonden works by focusing on long-term development.
Working in West Africa
Many of BØRNEfonden’s sponsors support children in countries where work on the ground is carried out by other members of the Alliance, and we greatly appreciate the collaboration. BØRNEfonden itself has opened offices in five West African countries. After opening in Cape Verde in the late 1980s, offices were established in Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso in the 1990s. In 2003, Mali became the most recent member of BØRNEfonden’s program countries.
Even though there have been many significant occasions worthy to mention here in all of our program countries, BØRNEfonden’s work in Cape Verde stands out.
In 1989, BØRNEfonden initiated its effort in Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa. At that time nearly one-third of all children in the country didn’t start school, and 46 of every 1,000 didn’t live to celebrate their first birthday. Today, these numbers have improved significantly. Currently, 99 percent of all Cape Verdean children start school, and nine out of 10 finish primary school. Infant mortality has dropped to 29 out of 1,000, becoming one of the lowest rates in Africa. Due to the positive development, last year BØRNEfonden began a five-year phase-out of its efforts in Cape Verde, creating a path for leaders in the local community to carry on this work independently.
In 1989, the slogan for the work to be done in Cape Verde was ”Help to Self-Help.” Today in 2013, it is clear that the support from sponsors and donors has paid off in Cape Verde. Not only has this support given individual children and families better chances for a more hopeful future, but it has also contributed to the general development of the country.
As we look forward, this story is important to keep in mind. It reminds us that the work we do actually does work.
By Kate Andrews, with reporting from BØRNEfonden
As strife spreads through Mali, ChildFund Alliance partner BØRNEfonden reports that the children they serve will face many hardships in the future.
Groups of rebels have taken over the northern part of Mali and recently moved southwest as far as Diabaly, a rural town previously held by the Malian government. This recent encroachment has increased the urgency for an international response. Last month, the United Nations Security Council authorized a peacekeeping mission, and now the French military, leading an international coalition, is working to defend the North African country from rebels.
The children served by BØRNEfonden, a Danish organization, are in the relatively secure localities of Bougouni, Yanfolila and Diolila in the southernmost Sikasso region of Mali.
Nevertheless, says BØRNEfonden CEO Bolette Christensen, “At the moment many of the families, children and young people who have fled the northern parts of Mali stay with relatives in southern parts of the country. We must support them now and start thinking long term, or we will end up in a vicious spiral that makes it difficult for Mali to get firmly back on its feet.”
BØRNEfonden supports 14,000 children and families in 22 development centers in southern Mali, although the program is now working with more people, given the recent influx of refugees. Since March 2012, more than 300,000 northern Malians have fled to the southern part of the country, and others are refugees in nearby nations.
One of BØRNEfonden’s main objectives is to assist young Malians in creating small farms with irrigation systems; this program will contribute to the country’s long-term food security. BØRNEfonden will also support schoolchildren who have fled from the northern regions by providing textbooks and other teaching materials.
“Long-term development and targeting job creation, food security and education is more important than ever,” Christensen says.