Exchange Market Empowers Brazilian Families

by Karen Van Roekel, Impact Assessment Team Leader

Community exchange market house

Now here’s a great idea.

ChildFund’s local partner in Brazil, PROCAJ (Projecto Caminhando Juntos), has converted a house into an exchange market.

Inside the market

Families now have the opportunity to raise vegetables for their families on land that PROCAJ has purchased with donor support. When they have surplus crops, they can go to the exchange market and sell the vegetables or trade them for other goods brought in from other towns.

Gardens that contribute to community market

The market is helping families improve their nutrition and quality of life.

Assessing the Well-Being of Brazil’s Children

by Karen Van Roekel, Impact Assessment Team Leader

Today we drove to a small community to visit our first group of children enrolled in ChildFund programs.

Getting there required that we leave the main highway and travel a bumpy red-dirt road. Dark gray clouds threatened rain but none came. We traveled up and down hills and across small streams with bridges made of wooden planks.

A fine layer of red dust covered all the plants for several feet on either side of the road, so we could see that it has not rained in some time. Chickens and roosters scuttled across the road in front of us.

Upon arrival, we split into three groups to start collecting data. In all, we were able to visit 47 children on this first day.

A child prepares a meal.

We saw a range of situations. Some children live in nice, simple homes while others live in houses with no running water or bathrooms. Cooking is done over wood fires and some houses were smoky as a result. The smoke can lead to respiratory troubles.

One mother told us that she uses the money she receives each month from the Brazilian welfare system to pay for water and electricity. Then she takes what is left and buys food for the month. Rice, pinto beans and pasta are the staple foods. Families with a little more money can buy vegetables or raise them in small plots, but the lack of rain makes this difficult. Meat is a luxury that most families we visited cannot afford.

A boy invites us into his family's home.

The children we visited all reported that they attend school regularly, thereby benefiting from a school lunch program. Fortunately, most of the children we encountered are healthy. Medical care is limited to a nurse who visits the community twice a week. There is no doctor here and families have no way of traveling to a larger town to see one.

We have encountered a number of sad situations, including a young girl orphaned at an early age. Yet, we’ve also witnessed the resilience of children if they find a loving home and support.

Our journey continues.

Expanding Opportunities for Brazil’s Children

by Karen Van Roekel, Impact Assessment Team Leader

Karen reviews key points with team.

By now you know that the ChildFund team is in Brazil this month to pilot a new tool for monitoring children who are enrolled in our sponsorship programs. The tool was designed by the Measure Evaluation project of USAID, with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Because the tool measures 12 dimensions of child well-being (e.g., food security, nutrition and growth, shelter, care, education) that are closely related to ChildFund’s approach , we are testing how well it works to capture a collective picture of children’s needs in the communities we serve. In addition, we plan to use this data as we work with our partners to design better programs for children.

Yesterday after a brief visit to ChildFund’s Brazil National Office, we spent most of the day driving to Diamantina, where our partner organization PROCAJ: Projecto Caminhando Juntos (Walking Together Project) has its headquarters. It’s a charming colonial town lined with cobblestone streets. Red tile roofs top the white-washed houses.

Training session with PROCAJ staff.

At our meeting with the PROCAJ educator group, we reviewed their questions that stemmed from online training they completed in advance of our arrival. We were pleased with their progress and discussed some sample cases to confirm their understanding of how to use the measurement tool. They also practiced entering data into the custom netbook application we built for the pilot.

Tomorrow we will travel to the communities where ChildFund is working and start collecting data on children.

The Greatest Job in the World

by Jessi Hanson, Education Associate, ChildFund Program Quality

Traveling to the field is never a simple experience for a ChildFund employee. Yet for me, this trip has been particularly adventurous. First, I traveled from Richmond, Va., to Chicago only to discover that the airline had canceled our connecting flight to Miami minutes before.

They put me on the next flight to Miami that night, which was a struggle since there was an entire plane full of stranded passengers. I was lucky enough to land at Miami International minutes before my plane to Brazil departed. One of our lead staff had to hold the plane, literally standing at the door saying, “Don’t shut it! She is on her way now!” I raced through two terminals to just make it on to the long flight to Belo Horizonte, where our Brazil national office is located. However my checked bag was lost, but at least it got a free trip around the world. In total I traveled nearly 22 hours for a trip that should have taken only 11.

Two days after arriving in Brazil, I was picked up by Flavia and Gilberto, who work in our Brazil office. We set off on an 8-hour drive to the small town of Turmalina, located near the tree forests of Minas Gerais. It was a lovely trip, and we listened to lively Brazilian music. Flavia and Gilberto tried to teach this gringa some basic Portuguese so that I could get around on my own.

Gilberto to the rescue.

All seemed to be going well when suddenly we heard a flap, bang, flap, flap. Gilberto pulled the car over to find the front tire popped, and we were in the middle of nowhere — 30 kilometers from the nearest town or village.

Suddenly Gilberto transformed into a super hero, pulling out the spare tire hidden beneath the 10 Intel netbook computers that we were carrying for the project and Flavia’s 50-pound suitcase (the girl knows how to travel). It took a good 40 minutes in the heat to change the tire, but then we were off. The spare was old, so we had to stop in a small tourist town along the way. I am used to tire repairs being quick, so I was not expecting the three-hour Brazilian repair! Our 8-hour trip turned into yet another epic adventure.

We’re now safely in the field, engaged in the first week of the project that should last about 21 days. I think I will need a vacation from this trip, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I work with my colleagues and the children, I know that I have one of the greatest jobs in the world!

ChildFund Netbook Project Helps Brazil’s Children

by Ron Wolfe, ChildFund Business Development Specialist

Editor’s Note: A ChildFund team is working in Brazil for several weeks to carry out two pilot projects with netbook technology. We’ll be hearing from the team regularly.

It’s 10 a.m. and I’m driving through the cerrado in Minas Gerias, Brazil, one of the most biologically diverse savannas in the world. As we travel higher and higher, though, the landscape becomes starker and less hospitable until, off in the distance, we spot the town of Diamantina, clinging to a hill and falling off toward a valley. A beautiful example of colonial architecture, the UNESCO World Heritage Site certainly lives up to its name — translated in English as “diamond.”

I am here to participate in two pilot projects with our Brazil National Office to test the use of netbooks at the local level as a tool for streamlining ChildFund’s current sponsorship processes. We are collaborating with NetHope and partner companies Intel and Agilix on these projects.

Ron Wolfe

The first pilot is taking place here in Diamantina, where we’ll use netbooks to assist with collection of data on children who are sponsored and enrolled in ChildFund programs in the area. This pilot is called CPR/CSI, since we will use both the Child Progress Report and the Child Status Index – a broad measurement of a child’s well-being within six categories – to capture data on a selected group of children.

ChildFund’s community mobilizers will initially use the netbooks for a CSI training session, learning the theory behind the index and then practicing case study evaluation. Our staff developed all training materials using a software program called BrainHoney, which allows remote users to train on preloaded modules and then send assessment results or ask questions via the Internet. When their training is complete, community mobilizers will then use the netbooks to efficiently collect data during visits to children’s homes.

The second pilot project will be deployed in two locations — in Vespasiano, an urban setting outside Belo Horizonte, and in Turmalina, a rural community 150 kilometers from Diamantina.  In both settings, the goal is to use the netbooks to deliver educational lessons to the children at a ChildFund community gathering, and to streamline sponsorship administration by electronically collecting enrollment updates and facilitating letter writing to sponsors.

Once again, we’ll use the netbooks to train community mobilizers and facilitators on how to plan community activities and deliver ChildFund-designed lesson plans to the children. As part of the lesson plan, children will produce art, plays and music that we will electronically scan or videotape.

Everyone on the ChildFund team is excited to test these innovative solutions with our partners in the United States and Brazil and, ultimately, to enhance children’s learning opportunities.

Smiles and Laughter – It Doesn’t Get Any Better

Note: Phil Harrell, a longtime ChildFund donor, has been on four Study Tours to visit program areas and his sponsored children. As part of our “31 in 31” series Phil shares his experiences with us, including his latest trip to Brazil. For more information about Brazil, click here, and for more on ChildFund’s Study Tours, click here.

By Phil Harrell
ChildFund International Donor

31 in 31Before I tell you about my latest Study Tour to Brasil (I am using the Brasilian spelling of Brasil), maybe I should tell you how I got started with Study Tours. I had been a sponsor for about a year or so, when I received a postcard in the mail announcing a Study Tour to Brasil. I was sitting in my chair and my dog Bondi was lying in the floor in front of me. I read the information on the card out loud and then said, “I wonder if I should go?”

I look down at Bondi, who lifted her head and winked at me. That was the exact “nod” that I needed, so I picked up the phone and called to make my reservation. This started what has begun as the greatest thing I have ever done – going on Study Tours. I have done four so far and am anxiously looking forward to doing more in the future.

I have been asked to tell you about my experiences on the Study Tours. Specifically, what it was like to meet my sponsored kids for the first time. We had exchanged letters many, many times, so I felt connected to these kids. When I saw them, Camila and Leandro, it was a feeling of similar to seeing my own kids I had not seen for quite some time. There was a feeling of instant caring and love for both of these young smiling Brazilian faces. There was a short period of awkwardness, but that soon disappeared and it became like we had known each other for such a long time. Camila and Leandro were accompanied by their moms. It was such a pleasure to meet the moms. It readily became apparent that these moms were truly grateful for the help that their kids were receiving from a ChildFund International sponsor. We all spent the day together and had such a wonderful time. It was truly remarkable and a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime.

ChildFund International's Study Tours allows participants to meet their sponsored children and visit ChildFund's program areas. For more information about Study Tours, visit

ChildFund International's Study Tours allows participants to meet their sponsored children and visit ChildFund's program areas. For more information about Study Tours, visit

When you go on these Study Tours, you get to see so many awesome and wonderful things, like the Taj Mahal, Victoria Falls, Christ the Emancipator and wild elephants. But, by far, the greatest thing that you get to see is the smile on the kid’s and sponsors’ faces, whether they are meeting for the first time or have met before. The smiles on all the faces add an inspiring touch to the overall greatness of the meetings. Smiles and laughter – it doesn’t ever get any better than that.

Years ago, I would never have dreamed that I would be a part of such a truly fantastic program. Becoming a sponsor has become one of the very best things that I have ever done. It is difficult to explain all the feelings that come from really deep down inside when I think about being a sponsor. These feelings became even greater when I was so blessed to meet my sponsored kids. It was then that I realized that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing – helping children by providing them with financial support that allows them to receive an education and health assistance they would not otherwise have.

On the Study Tours, travelers visit the program centers provided by ChildFund International. After visiting these centers, it becomes so obvious that the staffs at the centers and ChildFund are doing great things with the donations provided by sponsors. Each center provides educational opportunities, medical and dental care, and programs for social development. The dedication of the staffs at these facilities leaves each visitor filled with awe. The staffs do such an incredible job.

If you are thinking about becoming a sponsor, I strongly urge that you do so. I can personally attest that the small amount of the monthly sponsorship cost is doing such great things in the life of your sponsored child. I have been to the ChildFund program areas many times and have seen how the monthly sponsorship fee is used. It is truly remarkable how many great and awesome things that ChildFund is doing with the donated funds.

More on Brazil
Population: 198.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 285,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be the first time South America hosts the event.

The Mama Effect

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