“Chicken Plus” Project Sustains Brazilian Families

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.

pickled vegetables at market

Families near the city of Diamantina in Brazil sell produce from the community farm at a local market.

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.

Brazil community farm

Rafael is an agricultural engineer who leads the Chicken Plus project, and Geralda is one of the local participants.

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.

ChildFund Brasil Expands Work to Amazon Region

By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager

School sponsorship is a new initiative of ChildFund Brasil to reach children in the most remote areas of the Amazon forest and improve their educational opportunities.

Two Brazilian teachers in Amazon

As teachers, Raimundo and Tomé are working to improve educational opportunities for children in their remote Amazon village.

Raimundo and Tomé are the local teachers in Tres Unidas, a small community located along the banks of the Amazon River, three hours by boat from the Brazilian city of Manaos. This community is part of the Kambeba indigenous group, one of hundreds of ethnic groups that live in the Amazon forest, a vast green territory more than twice the size of Texas.

Amazon village classroom with sparse furnishings.

Elementary schools in remote areas of the Amazon lack basic infrastructure.

Elementary schools in remote areas of the Amazon lack basic infrastructure, such as proper roofs, desks and even bathrooms. “Sometimes children take their lessons outside, under the shade of a tree, because it gets very hot during the day in the classroom, not to mention during the rainy season,” explains Tomé.

Most of the classes are multi-grade with an average of 30 students, ages 4 to 12 years. The children’s age differences make it difficult for teachers to follow up on programs and individual progress. “We divide the board into four parts and the children into four groups according to their ages; we work with them in separate activities, depending on the topic,” says Raimundo.

Girl from Amazin village with traditional painted face.

Children are eager to learn every day.

Still, every single child in this little village of palm-thatched huts housing about 20 families goes to school every day and looks forward to learning.

The ChildFund school sponsorship program in Brazil is a new initiative developed in partnership with the Sustainable Amazon Foundation (Fundação Amazonas Sustentável – FAS). ChildFund seeks to improve school infrastructure and access to quality education for school-age children in isolated communities deep in the Amazon forest. Launched in September 2012, the program also aims to raise children’s awareness of the importance of sustainable use of their resources, so that they can become “true guardians of the forest.”

For Raimundo, who is also the Tres Unidas school director, educating children in his community is about delivering formal curriculum and also focusing on indigenous culture. It’s important that the children learn about traditional history, rituals, language and medicine.

He notes that indigenous schools in Brazil typically have inferior infrastructure and learning materials. As part of their partnership strategy for the school sponsorship program, ChildFund Brasil and FAS are working to reduce the cost of delivering educational services to remote areas. “We don’t want to replace government but facilitate development,” says Virgilio Viana, director of FAS.

Thus, ChildFund and FAS are partnering with municipalities. For example, the municipality is covering the cost of providing teachers, and ChildFund and FAS, with the help of the community, are building or improving schools and also supporting teachers with additional training and teaching tools.

The School Sponsorship program is already piloting in the Sustainable Development Reserves of Juma and Uatumã, supporting 20 schools and nearly 300 students. In the long term, ChildFund Brasil’s goal, with the support of sponsors and donors, is to have a presence in eight natural reserves and reach children in more than 500 communities in the Amazon.

You Can Resolve Now to Help a Child

By Kate Andrews

Many of us are making resolutions to eat less, exercise more, call our parents on Sundays, get more organized and achieve any number of other positive goals in the new year. In this season of setting resolutions, we ask you to consider sponsoring a child in 2013; don’t let another year slip past.

boy at fence


Five-year-old Felipe, who lives near the town of Diamantina, Brazil, doesn’t have access to clean water or enough food. With a $28-a-month sponsorship, you can help children like Felipe live healthier and more stable lives.

2013 calendar graphicStarting this week and running through the middle of January, ChildFund International is working to build our number of sponsors through a New Year’s resolution campaign.

Also of note: Sponsoring a child takes less work than going to the gym five days a week. “There’s always a tendency for people to resolve to eat less or exercise more,” ChildFund’s digital marketing director Timo Selvaraj says, “or to say, ‘Next year I’m going to make a difference.’ Let’s not allow 365 days to go by. It’s a simple message.”

To sponsor a child, please visit our website. It’s a great way to start 2013.

Behind the Scenes With ChildFund Spokesperson Alan Sader

By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer

Alan Sader, ChildFund's TV Spokesperson

Alan Sader, ChildFund’s TV Spokesperson

When I sat down with Alan Sader, ChildFund’s TV spokesperson, I’ll admit I was a tad star struck. When I was younger, I’d seen him on countless commercials—sitting on a stoop in a developing country, arm wrapped gently around a small child. His posture was strong, his voice was both kind and commanding and his message was always clear – by giving a little each month, I had the opportunity to help change a child’s life.

Beatrice, a child in ChildFund Brasil programs.

Beatrice, 5, a child in ChildFund Brazil programs, is one of the many children Alan spoke to in ChildFund’s latest commercial.

For the last 20 years, Sader has spoken on behalf of children around the world. By sharing their stories and encouraging a U.S. audience to become sponsors, Sader has helped many children escape poverty. In our conversation, he recalled several trips to ChildFund program areas and shared how each child he meets reminds him why his work is so important.

“I do plays, I do commercials for lawyers and furniture stores and that’s great for providing food for my family but there is a legacy involved in this work [with ChildFund],” he says. “Making the lives of children better is the most important and rewarding work I can ever do. There are a lot of children whose lives have been changed because of this and I am happy talking to people about that.”

In 1993, one year after his first appearance in a ChildFund commercial, Sader traveled to Kenya to work on a second TV spot. He met numerous children whose stories he would share with the world but one child in particular helped reaffirm his decision to work as ChildFund’s spokesperson.

“At the time, my youngest daughter was 6-weeks old,” he says. “During this particular trip, they placed a small child in my arms. I can remember thinking, a baby feels like a baby and that baby felt like my baby; and I knew they had the same needs. It felt so good to communicate that need to the camera, to share that with whoever could see the commercial and encourage them to react by helping a child.”

Alan with Daniella.

Alan with Daniella, 9.

Although Sader realized that all children around the world had the same basic needs, he was exposed to a level of poverty unlike anything he had seen in the U.S. “There was a shocking quality of poverty in these places. I saw communities where entire families lived in shacks made of tin and paper to keep the weather out,” he says. “I had never seen up close and personal poverty. Although I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I knew that my family came from poor mountain folk on my mother’s side, I don’t think my people were ever starving, malnourished or lived in places where it was dangerous to drink the water.”

He explains that his firsthand experiences in some of the most impoverished countries have been humbling and serve as a continuous reminder to help those who are less fortunate. So he has taken his own message to heart. Since 1992, Sader has sponsored two children through ChildFund – a girl from Brazil and a boy from Kenya. Both youth are approaching an age where they will complete ChildFund’s program, but Sader knows his support will have a long-lasting effect.

“I’ve met them both,” he says. “The young woman has special needs but is able to do things that make her feel included and worthwhile – when I hear from her (most letters come from her family), she is very happy. And Arnold started a business at a young age because he was able to buy rabbits using a monetary gift I sent him – so he tells me about his rabbits in his letters. I keep in touch with his father as well.”

Parents, especially mothers, play an important role in the communities Sader has visited. “ChildFund projects depend on the involvement of the local people,” he says. “I’ve seen them involve the whole community. It is amazing to see the mothers cook, clean, and make money at the markets and then volunteer to help their children have a better life.”

Alan in Brazil.

Alan filming with 8-year-old Morrone in Brazil.

It’s this behind-the-scenes perspective that has motivated Sader to continue his role as ChildFund’s TV spokesperson. “I am continually impressed by this organization,” he says. “ChildFund is not run by some expert sitting back making all the decisions. It is a collaborative effort between the country, who knows what is best for their people and folks who want to help here at the home office.”

Home is Richmond, Va., to both ChildFund and Sader. And when he’s not dropping into headquarters to plan his next filming schedule, you can find him doing what he does best. “I’ve been acting since I was a child,” he says. “It wasn’t until much later I decided to make a career of it.”


Alan Sader has been ChildFund’s TV spokesperson since 1992.

Sader is well known in Richmond theater circles. Last year he played King Lear, a role that won him best actor from Richmond Critics’ Circle and also played the role of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His latest work was on the motion picture, Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg

“I will continue to do theater and movies as opportunities present themselves,” he says. “And I hope to continue to do commercials and represent ChildFund as well. My wife is an artist, my oldest daughter is married and my youngest is a junior at Virginia Tech – so life is good.”

I expected to hear nothing less from a man who uses his talents to change lives around the world.

Visit our website to sponsor a child.

Children Are the True Innovators

by Ron Wolfe, ChildFund Senior Business Systems Analyst

houses in a narrow alley

The favela is a maze of alleys.

The day was coming to an end, and our last home visit was accessible only through one of the many narrow and dark alleys that crisscross the favela (urban slum) on the edge of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Above me, though, a young girl leaned out a window, grinned, and rushed to open the door. As we entered, she held up her finger to ask us to wait one minute, ran up the winding stairs to the upper floor, and returned with a pink, plastic toy computer. She smiled at us again and said proudly, “Netbook!”

girl with toy computer

Children love technology.

While deploying technology pilots over the past two months in Dominica, Zambia and Brazil, it has become clear that technology has a universal appeal. The appeal, though, is strongest among the children.

Staff from ChildFund International and ChildFund Brazil spent a week in Villa Ventosa, a village in the Nova Barroca neighborhood to continue the mobile application tests that began in the Caribbean in April. We worked with our affiliated partner, GEDAM (Grupo de Educação Desenvolvimento e Apoio ao Menor), to evaluate an Android application created at our headquarters and loaded onto tablet computers. The app synchronizes existing child data acquired during a home visit with geospatial information so that we can better analyze geographic patterns among our enrolled and sponsored children. This data is then combined with a photograph of the child’s letter to his or her sponsor, which was captured with the tablet’s built-in camera and sent to a database in Richmond, Va. In the future, this image will be queued into a translation database accessible to our translators around the world.

an urban slum

The favela covers a vast expanse of land.

In Brazil, GEDAM currently implements programs for approximately 500 ChildFund sponsored children. During the pilot, the team, consisting of representatives from ChildFund International, the Brazil office and GEDAM, set a goal of reaching about 20 children over three days in the field. Each day was split into morning and afternoon home visits where the two teams walked the dense neighborhood amid stray dogs and hollow clay brick houses with corrugated roofs that extended beyond the horizon.

The participating community mobilizers were immediately excited by the potential impact these devices could have on their work. Their day is often filled with administrative tasks that, if streamlined, would give way to more child-centered programming and an improved child/sponsor experience. As seen during previous pilot tests, the mobilizers came up with multiple ways in which properly focused technology could advance ChildFund’s mission. These insights will guide future applications and ChildFund’s broader mobile platform strategy.

children with tablet computer

The tablet immediately attracts children’s interest.

Every child we met during a home visit seemed drawn to the tablet. Some intuitively reached for the glass surface and used the standard gestural commands to interact with the device. Some simply smiled when they realized that this home visit was different, and they were participating in a unique experience.

One thing became immediately clear: although we consider our work in mobile technology to be innovative, the children are the true innovators. It comes natural to them.

On the way out of her house after we captured an image of the letter she had just handwritten, a teenage sponsored child turned to the team and said, “Next time, give me the tablet and I’ll type the letter directly to my sponsor.”

Fashion Forward for ChildFund Brazil

Reporting by Luza Marinho, ChildFund Brasil

model wears T-Shirt

Cris Guerra models the new Victor Dzenk-designed T-shirt. Sales will benefit ChildFund Brasil’s programs. Photo: Luíza Villarroel

Spring fashion week in Minas Gerais, Brazil, took on an added dimension this year with the much-anticipated release of a T-shirt designed by Victor Dzenk. Proceeds from sales of the shirt will benefit children in ChildFund programs.

More than 200 journalists, designers and fashion followers turned out to preview the noted Brazilian designer’s 2013 summer collection. The show included the release of the special T-shirt. Internationally known for his avant-garde prints, Dzenk is also focused on social responsibility.

group photo of Photovoice project members

Cris Guerra and Victor Dzenk support the youth photography project. Photo: Agência Fotosite

“Last year in Rio de Janeiro, we created a T-shirt for the breast cancer foundation with a pink bow. It was beautiful and a great success! We want to repeat [that success] working with children from ChildFund Brasil,” he said. “ChildFund Brasil is a serious and respected organization. It is very gratifying to add beauty and an art project.”

celebrity at fashion show

Gloria Kalil at the fashion show. Photo: Jorge Quintão

Celebrities such as fashion consultant Gloria Kalil and members of the national and world press became acquainted with ChildFund’s mission, while snapping up the designer shirts. Fashion model and blogger Cris Guerra shared with the audience her experience of nearly 10 years as a ChildFund sponsor. Her stories about Fernando, her sponsored child, touched everyone.

The event also featured a special exhibit of photos taken by photographer Luíza Villarroel and students in the ChildFund-supported Photovoice project. A few days before the fashion show, the students had the incredible opportunity of photographing Guerra—sporting the Dzenk T-shirt—in their own community of Sierra Cluster.

model against stone wall

Scenes from the street. Photo: Luíza Villarroel

Seeming unaffected by the glamor of the moment, the student photographers lost no time in determining the shots they needed and then capturing street scenes with Cris as their focal point.

boys with cameras

Students in the Photovoice project. Photo: ChildFund Brasil

The Photovoice project teaches children and youth how to use photos, videos and other communication techniques to express their views and their voices. The 2012 workshops are focusing on social identity as revealed through self-portraits and portraits of community residents—capturing life histories, recording the daily life of students and exchanging “looks” and experiences.

Discover more about ChildFund’s work in Brazil.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Growing up Strong in Brazil

Reporting by ChildFund Brasil

31 in 31 logoDuring January’s 31 days, we’ve made a blog stop in all 31 countries where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. On our final day, we meet Wagner Oliveira, an accomplished teacher who attributes his success to sponsorship and ChildFund Brasil.

From the age of 4 until age 20, Wagner Oliveira was enrolled in ChildFund Brasil’s Projeto União. “Today, I have a broader vision of the world, and I owe this to the project,” he says. “Here is where I started. The project contributed to my formation because it encouraged me to study…. “I learned to value my friends and interact with people.”

Now 37, Wagner teaches at several schools in the city of Fortaleza/Ceara, Brazil. “If I grew up with education, I must give education,” he says. He counsels children to grab hold of education and do their best to overcome adversity. “You’re much stronger than you think,” he advises young people. “You have no idea how strong you are. Be stronger than your problems.”

Wagner also has a message for ChildFund sponsors: “You have the privilege of being part of the group that will build a better future.”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Brazil and how you can sponsor a child.

A National Celebration of ChildFund Sponsors in Brazil

Reporting by ChildFund Brazil and Monica Planas, ChildFund Americas Regional Communications Manager

Today marks ChildFund Brazil’s nationwide celebration of Sponsor’s Day — a day filled with special meaning for the many sponsors and currently or formerly sponsored children who have been touched by ChildFund’s programs in Brazil. Thanks to the expansion of ChildFund’s presence around the country, thousands of children now have the opportunity to improve their lives.

photo of sponsorship poster

Child Sponsorship Day in Brazil

That expansion is partly because people from all walks of life are celebrating the day by spreading the word that sponsoring a child is one of the best investments anyone can make.

Well-known blogger Cris Guerra is one of them. She has been sponsoring a child through ChildFund for nine years. “It’s awesome and very easy to be a sponsor for a child,” Guerra says. “I had the opportunity to travel to the town of the child I sponsor and to meet him face-to-face. His mother came toward me crying, thankful that I’d been the sponsor of her son. The hug of that child, and also learning a little more of his life history, provoked an emotion that I can’t describe. At the moment that I met them personally, I had an idea of the help that I am bringing to that family. Being a sponsor makes a difference.”

That’s true for 11-year-old sponsored child Robert, who lives near Belo Horizonte. “I take part in computer, sport, [drawing] and dance classes,” he says. “It’s very rewarding because it keeps me busy and off the streets.”

Robert’s mother, Vicentina, is sure that without ChildFund’s support his life would be tougher. “I do hemodialysis three times a week,” she says, “and on those days I know I can go to the treatment lighthearted, because my son is benefiting from ChildFund’s program activities.”

Zé Teixeira, a 46-year-old father of two, is proud of having been a sponsored child in the past. He was one of eight brothers. “Things could have been much worse for us,” he says, “but some of my brothers and I had the privilege of taking part in ChildFund’s programs, which improved our living conditions.”

Nowadays, Teixeira is a musician, a music producer and civil servant. Last month his own mother had the joy of being in a position to support a child enrolled in the ChildFund project. “ChildFund’s work is essential because it fills the gap of socio-economic discrepancy, rescuing marginalized families,” she says.

ChildFund’s national director for Brazil, Gerson Pacheco, speaks to the benefits of the sponsorship relationship itself. “Many stories and different lifestyles are shared, and experiences, advice and encouragement are exchanged,” he says. “The sponsor has the opportunity of both contributing to and following his sponsored child’s development. When donating a small amount, a citizen supports social projects that benefit children, families and communities. And the effect is reciprocal.”

To Ana Maria Carvalho, having the opportunity to help a child is wonderful. “It has been about one year that I have sponsored a 6-year-old child,” she says. “I’d been influenced by my daughter to sponsor this child, and today I see how important my contribution is. I encourage all Brazilians who have means to help to take part in helping, and contact ChildFund and sign up.”

Walking the Streets of a Favela with a Community Humanitarian

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, Americas Regional Office

Editor’s note: Today Nicole concludes her three-part blog series on her visit to a ChildFund project in a Brazilian favela.

favela Brazil urban poverty ChildFund

Homes are literally built into the side of the hill and basically stacked one on top of the other. This is why heavy rains can have catastrophic results.

If I thought the streets were steep and winding when driving to Conselho de Pais Crianca Feliz in the Belo Horizonte favela, it was certainly confirmed as we walked to families’ homes. Without exaggeration, I can say we walked up near vertical hills, over paved and dirt roads, down crumbling alleys and through overgrown yards. And that is just a fraction of what our community mobilizers (volunteers) do on any average day. They didn’t spare us the details or the terrain as we literally walked many miles — if not in their shoes then at least along the same paths.

ChildFund povery Brazil favela

Ziza (in purple), who has worked as a community volunteer for more than 10 years, also cares for 13 nieces and nephews.

Our guide was Ziza, a community mobilizer who has volunteered with the organization since November 2000. She goes house to house visiting families to raise awareness about specific ChildFund programs and children’s overall health and well-being. As the mother of a 13-year-old son, Ziza is not shy about broaching the topic of child violence, both within the home and within the community at large. Over the 10 years she has spent volunteering with ChildFund, Ziza has earned a reputation in the community for being a problem solver and a great humanitarian.

Brazil favela poverty ChildFund

Nicole with two of Ziza's nieces.

In fact, she has taken on the personal responsibility of helping raise 13 nieces and nephews. They live with her in her small three-bedroom house — a house with mud-and-stick brick walls and a cement floor. Several of the children share her bed. The most recent to join her is only 3 weeks old. When asked about the heavy burden she has taken on, her response was simple: “I believe greatly in what I do. I don’t see problems, I see future solutions.”

Walking with her, it became clear that Ziza is an important and valued member in the community. People trust her and we were allowed into homes, down alleys and through areas that we would never pass alone. But with her, there was a calm presence and an unspoken respect.

Brazil Favela Belo Horizonte poverty ChildFund

Belo Horizonte spreads out below the favela.

Along the route I chatted with several children:

  • Two boys sat on a partially constructed rooftop perilously perched on the hillside. They told me that they liked the view of Belo Horizonte because one day they hoped to live there. They asked me to join them on the ledge. As I politely declined I must have unwittingly made a funny face. They laughed and came over to give me a high five.
  • One boy who begrudgingly took a break from flying his kite (homemade from plastic trash bags, sticks and an old knotted string rolled around a dented soup can) to tell me about his school — lots of students, some friends, OK teachers. But he said he knew it was important to go, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to grow up strong and smart. He goes to school in the morning shift, does his homework in the afternoon and then flies his kite until his friends come to play.
  • I met a youth who had previously participated in programs at the Conselho de Pais Crianca Feliz center. So I asked him what is the important thing teens need in his community. He shared that he really enjoyed his time at the center (learned to dance and thought it was a great way to stay out of trouble), but that what they needed most now was “job skills and information about reproductive health in order to make better decisions than previous generations.”

We made our way back to the center (slowly — those hills are rough!) and checked in on their systems, processes and audit reports. Yet we kept thinking about the children, families and community because, much like the hokey-pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

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