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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.”
Translated by Maria Fernanda Peixoto, ChildFund Brasil
Josengleyson “Gleyson” de Lima Maciel, 23, a former sponsored child from Brazil, wrote this testimony in gratitude to his sponsor and the local partner organization that helped him become an educated and successful adult.
I was born and raised in a community called Lagamar, located in the Aerolândia neighborhood in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. It is a suburb of the capital known for its violence and drug use (as well as other situations involving conflicts between organized groups), which oppressed all the residents, who were in the most part deprived of sanitation and other essentials. It was very hard for me and my neighbors, colleagues and friends to deal with this reality. Even with the family support that many of us had, I recall our prospects being minimal and restricted.
The ChildFund Brasil-affiliated project Frente Beneficente para Crianças (Front Charity for Children) rescued me. I cannot imagine how my life would be now without having enjoyed the project’s benefits during my childhood and adolescence, always counting on the support of all of the instructors, teachers and others who do this essential work.
The project brings many opportunities to the children and teenagers who are enrolled. Among them are tutoring, school supplies, snacks, professional training, dance and art classes, lectures and workshops that promote education. Those programs made me see life differently and led me to compete in the labor market in a satisfactory way, making it possible for me to achieve a career in administration. It is relevant to note that this project produces professionals with good conduct, ethics and, the most important in my opinion, character.
I feel extremely accomplished for being part of a contrary statistic. By my efforts and through the project’s support, I can honor my parents and all my family. For me, these are my greatest riches.
I graduated with a degree in business administration, and I am a professional, registered with the Regional and Federal Brazilian Administration Councils and specializing in financial management and controllership. Also, I’m certified by IFCE-CEFET in intermediate English. I recently purchased a car, and I’m currently employed in a company in charge of the administrative management of condos.
I believe life is a perpetual learning process, and, since I was young, I have yearned for continuous learning. Despite my difficult and turbulent start, everything changed with the indispensable support of the Frente Beneficente para Crianças project and ChildFund Brasil.
I take this opportunity to thank all the people who did — and still do — this excellent work, my family for being my base and especially two people who never stopped believing in me and my potential: my sponsor, Dorothy, to whom I will be grateful for the rest of my life and whom I love, even without ever having any contact in person. I hope she receives this message. I also owe part of my education, efforts and faith to my professor, Silvia Simões. In the name of all of her students, I thank her for her patience, competence, strictness and care.
Finally, I take this moment to say that this chain of goodness cannot stop. Human beings have the possibility to be much better, even with little gestures. With this mindset, I have great interest in being able to sponsor a child and contribute, even with little, to the evolution and development of that child. My reality today is different because I was encouraged by sponsorship.
By ChildFund Brasil Staff
What does a perfect school look like? Lots of windows in the classroom, new desks, plenty of good books, bright colors, happy students and excellent teachers are some of the elements of a great school. Children in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, were asked to draw pictures of their dream school, which now illustrate a new book, Out of School No!, produced this summer by UNICEF with the support of ChildFund Brasil.
Brazil’s high rate of school dropouts is a serious problem, with only 48.7 percent of 19-year-olds having finished high school, according to a 2011 national survey. Fewer than two-thirds of 16-year-olds completed fundamental (or junior high) school, and almost a quarter of 12-year-olds had already dropped out, the report concluded.
Out of School No! tackles this issue focusing on social exclusion and how it factors into the number of students who drop out of school. Living in poverty, having a disability, being part of a racial minority group and residing in a rural region are all risk factors for students, who sometimes are also in danger of being exploited or hurt.
“What can each one of us do to ban the exclusion from education?” asked Maria Salete Silva, UNICEF Brasil’s education chief. “Every child can and must learn; there’s no child who can’t learn. This is a right that every child has. Because of this, the strategic agenda for Brazilian adolescents must be geared toward education and not reduction of the legal age for criminal responsibility. We have to discuss the construction of schools and not prisons. Without guaranteeing education, we won’t guarantee anything else.”
Children and teens enrolled in ChildFund programs read poetry, showed paintings and performed music at a launch party for the book, which was held at ChildFund Brasil’s office in Belo Horizonte.
“I participate in Oficina do Saber [an art workshop], where I learn to draw and do graffiti art,” said Luiz, a 12-year-old sponsored child, who attends programs held by ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Gedam.
“I found it very important to participate in the book. Seeing my drawing in the book means a lot to me,” he added. “When I was younger, I never thought I could do such a thing like that, which can change the world. The world is too violent, and with the picture I drew, I’m sure the world can change school for better. That’s why I drew it, to change the world and schools for better. Drawing is the thing I like the most.”
By ChildFund Brasil Staff
Just as ChildFund is celebrating its 75th year, ChildFund Brasil also marked 47 years of operations in the country. Staff members celebrated on Aug. 30 with a visit to ChildFund programs in Belo Horizonte, spending time with some of the children they help support.
“ChildFund Brasil completed 47 years of expertise and commitment to build a better Brazil,” said ChildFund Brasil’s board president, Valseni Braga. “There is much to celebrate with the numerous social programs and poverty-reduction strategies that positively impact the lives of children, adolescents, young people and their families. Everything that has been built so far would not have happened without the support of sponsors, partners, donors, volunteers, supporters and suppliers.”
In 1966, ChildFund arrived in Brazil. Many of the children helped in our early days there are now adults who are happy and fulfilled because they had better opportunities. But much remains to be done. More than 8 million children and youths live below the poverty line in Brazil. ChildFund Brasil assists more than 188,000 people, 108,000 of whom are children and youth.
Key to its efforts is ChildFund Brasil’s partnership with more than 60 social organizations, which work in more than 800 urban and rural communities.
“There are many challenges,” Braga noted, “but confidence in our work and hope to witness real change drives us to continue with our dream.”
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 Tassia Duarte, ChildFund Brazil
Fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter Gracie Schram, along with the team from ChildFund LIVE! partner Girls of Grace, made a visit this month to visit ChildFund’s programs in Brazil, where Gracie sponsors a 1-year-old girl.
Gracie and representatives from Girls of Grace, which holds conferences across the United States aimed at teen girls, went to our programs in Vale do Jequitinhonha and Belo Horizonte in mid-June. They captured footage for a video to use at their conferences to promote sponsorship through ChildFund, which supports the events.
In Medina, children welcomed their visitors with posters and songs, and everyone participated in a traditional round dance. Gracie played with the children and then met Jovelina, her sponsored child.
“I was actually happy, even though it’s such a hard thing to see,” says Gracie. “But it’s really cool that I’m going to be able to be a part of her future and allow her to have a better life that she wouldn’t have without sponsorship.”
In Medina, while visiting ASCOMED, ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Gracieand a few Brazilian teenage girls made crafts, and she also sang for the children. The visiting team learned more about the activities children participate in that help them develop socially, and they saw a room specially designed for the children to write letters to sponsors.
In the rural outskirts of Medina, the team learned about conditions that were disturbing: families struggling to survive in houses with no bathroom or running water, living far from the closest bus station and with poor access to education and health care. “Being so close to the poverty makes it really real, and it forces you to really think about where and who you are,” Gracie says. “And to think that people need so many things like clean water and health care, it’s really hard to see that.”
In the region of Comercinho, the team met families that have benefited from ChildFund’s assistance. Water is scarce there because of drought conditions, and the little water available has not been healthy to drink.
ChildFund has worked to protect the nearby river, so animals don’t have access to the springs, which leads to pollution. Families are now able to channel clean water to their homes. Trained “water watchers” monitor the water quality and act to preserve it, a sustainable practice that will help their children’s futures, as will sponsors like Gracie.
By ChildFund Brasil Staff
ChildFund Brasil, with the financial support of telecommunications company Fundação Telefônica Vivo, has launched a project to fight against exploitative child labor in Brazil.
The project, Melhor de Mim (“The Best of Me”), is set to last two years and will target 500 children ages 6 to 14 in the Jequitinhonha Valley in the state of Minas Gerais. Working with its local partner organizations, ChildFund Brasil seeks to raise awareness of the risks of child labor through dialogue with children, teens, parents and other community members. Expert facilitators will lead the discussions. One notable part of the project is that it will also engage businesses who employ children. ChildFund’s goal is to educate employers about the serious risks that young laborers face, including physical dangers and missed educational opportunities.
In Brazil, hiring children under 13 is illegal. Yet, according to national data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 704,000 Brazilian children aged 5 to 13 were working in 2011. The majority of child workers are 10 to 13 years old, and 63 percent live in Brazil’s countryside. These numbers mark a 23.5 percent decrease of child laborers from 2009, but clearly the problem remains significant.
The majority of Brazilian child laborers, almost 55 percent, receive no income for their work, and those who are paid earn an average monthly income of only US$68. Child labor practices are receiving a spotlight today with the International Labour Organization’s World Day Against Child Labour.
The Best of Me’s activities began this spring with the enrollment of children involved in labor. The next step is to mobilize parents to make them aware of the project and sensitize them to the risks of child labor. After that, children will attend workshops using the Aflatoun method, which empowers children to play a key role in building a better society. By affirming children’s right to speak out on the issue and fostering dialogue among all parties involved, ChildFund seeks to facilitate sustainable change around child labor.
“The name of the project, The Best of Me, means that everyone becomes involved to the best of their abilities,” says Dov Rosenmann, ChildFund Brasil’s program manager. “Everybody is contributing their best to prevent child labor.”
By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil
Reflecting the fifth article of the Universal Declaration of Water Rights — ”Its protection is a vital need and a moral obligation of men to the present and future generations” — ChildFund Brasil strives to educate communities about water preservation for the benefit of future generations.
The project “Meu Meio, Minha Vida” (My Surroundings, My Life), is part of the Vigilantes da Água (Water Watchers) program and is a result of the efforts invested in the communities of Vereda, Bidó, Pedra do Bolo, Tombo and Empoeira, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, a semi-arid region in the state of Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil.
ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Municipal Community Association of Medina, carries out the program, which trains community leaders to monitor water quality and educate the community on advocating for their right to have access to clean water. Currently, 18 men and women monitor water quality, which benefits more than 200 families.
For Maria de Almeida, a 42-year-old farmer from the community of Tombo, participating in the program has been valuable. “This project made us learn more about the water we use,” Maria says. “And, knowing that it was contaminated, we now fight for improvement and for the preservation of the springs. I feel happy to participate in the project and for the opportunity to educate other people.”
Paula Gava, coordinator at the Medina community association, notes, “The program is a way of working on environmental issues as a whole in the community, of making everyone reflect on the environment. At the moment, we discuss the situation of water availability.
“The reality is that there is a lack of water during this period of drought, and furthermore, we’ve detected coliform bacteria contamination,” he adds. “We already have people mobilized and aware of the bad water they consume. Our job is to provide information so that the community can organize themselves, feel empowered to demand clean water and become part of the solution.”
As the program continues, community groups are working with Minas Gerais’ rural extension agency and municipal health and agriculture departments to improve the quality of water.
By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil
Photographs span different languages and long distances, as a group of American and Brazilian students learned during an exchange program. In January, 12 students from Soka University in California’s Orange County traveled to Brazil to work with teens involved in ChildFund Brasil’s Photovoice project.
The group gathered in the city of Medina for a workshop. The teens and college students shared their approaches toward setting up pictures and, along the way, gained an appreciation for a different culture.
“It was an exchange where all students were engaged in teaching and learning,” says ChildFund Brasil Social Program Manager Dov Rosenmann.
The workshops took place at Medina’s Little House of Culture, another important project of ChildFund, which has worked in Brazil for 46 years. The space is meant to revive community bonds and pride in their cultural roots. Children, teens and young adults often find encouragement to pursue arts and other interests there while also gaining technological skills.
Besides participating in the Photovoice workshops, the American students also donated six digital cameras and one projector that will be used by students from the communities that participate in this project.
Photovoice was developed by ChildFund Brasil in partnership with social organizations all over the country with the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence and healthy social relationships among young people through the art of photography. Participants take pictures of daily life in their communities, many of which are lacking necessary resources.
In addition to acquiring knowledge about photography, the young people have the opportunity to express their points of view about the daily life in the community and to reflect with criticism about what they photograph. More than 300 youths have taken part in Photovoice.
The teens decide on which subjects to capture — often family relationships, local culture, nature and social themes. “The importance is to capture the elements that contain a meaningful story,” Rosenmann says.
By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Much significance is attached to the Easter egg tradition: springtime, fertility, rebirth and life. But for the women of the community of Sao Joao de Chapada, near the city of Diamantina in Brazil, an egg hunt has become a daily activity that not only means nutritious food for their children but also a much-needed source of income.
But which came first: the chicken or the egg? In this case, the chicken, thanks to ChildFund Brasil’s Chicken Plus project, which allows many women in extremely arid regions of Brazil to produce food and generate income at home instead of having to migrate to cities for work. This helps ease the problem of families leaving home and residing in urban slums.
In Sao Joao de Chapada, the community farm project started with a donation of 300 chicks a few years ago, and now the chicken population has grown to 1,200. The eggs provide high-protein nutrition for more than 30 pre-school children attending an early childhood development center, plus healthy meals and snacks for older children and families participating in the project. Each family receives 12 eggs a week and one chicken per month for consumption or for selling at the local market, along with other farm products like vegetables and homemade goods.
Geralda, a mother of four, volunteers at the community farm about two hours a day. “While we work with the other mothers picking up the eggs, cleaning the farm or in the community garden, our children play and learn at the community center,” she says. “With the money we get from the eggs, we feed our families and keep the project going, so we’ll always have food.” A community savings fund, set up when the farm was established, ensures that chicken production keeps going strong.
With a sustainable approach, the project is leading community members toward the development of innovative businesses based on chicken farming. The project also enhances women’s business skills by emphasizing quality control, microcredit options and entrepreneurship.