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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Before 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.
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.