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 Sweden.
Sofia, 14, has a friendly smile and an air of confidence. She is the chairperson of the student parliament in her school in central Ethiopia. When she grows up, she hopes to be a doctor. But a year ago this dream was about to disappear.
Sofia’s stepfather and her mother wanted to send her to Saudi Arabia or another foreign country to work. They felt her income was needed to support the family, and this had a higher priority than her education. But Sofia managed to hold her ground. She had learned about the importance of education and the dangers connected with child migration in her youth club in school.
Sofia spoke to her siblings and her teacher, who in turn spoke to her parents — and managed to change their minds. It was a close call because her stepfather had already arranged a false identity card stating her age as 18, and an application for a passport was the next step.
The situation could have turned out differently had Sofia’s school not been taking part in a three-year project working against harmful traditional practices (HTP). Barnfonden is supporting the project, working through ChildFund Ethiopia and a local partner organization.
Hundreds of village leaders, health workers, local officials, religious leaders and school headmasters are part of this project, which is aimed at changing attitudes and behaviors through information and education. The goal is to reach 20,000 children and youths, to increase their knowledge and awareness of the consequences of HTP, a broad definition that includes female circumcision, child marriage, heavy and dangerous child labor and child migration. The project is based in central Ethiopia, with many sponsored children.
Since Barnfonden was started 22 years ago by BØRNEfonden (ChildFund Denmark), we have managed to increase our support to children in need every year. We have developed from being mainly a sponsorship charity to a broader organization that has diverse fundraising sources and many activities that help children in need.
With the help of the ChildFund Alliance, we have started advocacy efforts and raised our voice in the national arena for the causes of child protection and prevention of child violence. Today, we have 25,000 sponsors supporting 27,000 children in 25 countries. With the help of our sponsors, children in need are provided with education, better health care and the means and training to make a living on their own as adults.
To our delight, we also see an increase in funding from institutions and corporate partners, making it possible for us to support projects like the work against harmful traditional practices in Ethiopia. Our ultimate goal is to help even more children and families.
In everything we do, we remind ourselves about the children and families we are working for. And we remain grateful to our faithful sponsors, other supporters and corporate partners.
Important Dates in Barnfonden’s History
2005: Supported more than 20,000 sponsored children
2005: Started a dedicated project in Rajastan, India, in partnership with ChildFund International
2007: Received accreditation as the first member organization of ChildFund Alliance
2009: Started a partnership with ChildFund Australia and its programs in Cambodia
2011: Launched a designated project in Selingue, Mali, in partnership with BØRNEfonden
2011: Celebrated our 20th anniversary
2012: Began a project against harmful traditional practices (HTP) with ChildFund Ethiopia
2013: Supported a children’s rights project in Myanmar (Burma) in partnership with ChildFund Australia
2013: Currently supporting 27,000 sponsored children
Interview by Sierra Winston, ChildFund Communications Intern
This is one in a series of interviews with ChildFund’s national directors in honor of ChildFund International’s 75th anniversary.
Where did you work before ChildFund?
I have done many jobs before working at ChildFund: When I was growing up, I took holidays jobs such as cinema usherette, postal service redirection worker, vegetable and fruit picker, toy shop and gift shop salesperson. Later on in life, I was a teacher in Australia and Africa, and I have also worked for Australian Volunteers and Save the Children.
What is the most difficult situation you have encountered in your job?
The most difficult situation I have encountered in my job is speaking to young people and hearing about the barriers that prevent them from achieving their dreams. The barriers can range from the simple, which ChildFund can address through programs and project activities, to the more challenging, systemic barriers.
ChildFund is working on challenging existing power structures in an appropriate manner, both at the local and national level, but it takes time. There are many visible improvements in the lives of children today in Cambodia, but there is still a lot more to do, especially in rural communities where the wealth gap between the rich and poor has increased at a greater rate than in urban communities.
What successes have you had in your national office?
Some of the successes would have to include establishing the Cambodia program and scaling up activities each year, responding to opportunities that present themselves. Also, hearing that the relationship Cambodia staff have with the royal government of Cambodia is highly valued by authorities.
Authorities at the district, commune and village levels now have firsthand experience of working with children and youth and understanding the value they can bring to development planning. We see members of a youth group reach into their backpacks and pull out the 5-year District Development Plan and identify the priorities that were included as a result of their lobbying. Also, we read in evaluations that youths and households have increased monthly income through ChildFund income-generation training and support activities. A parent approached us to ask if her son could attend youth group trainings even though he is not a youth club member, because she has seen the benefit it gave her eldest daughter.
What motivates you in life?
I am motivated by hope and possibility. Even in very difficult circumstances, young people will often have ideas and want to be involved in community planning.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Like so many people I know, I am often trying to have greater balance in my life. I spend time with family and friends, I read, I get involved in my local community wherever I am living, try to do something new every year. A friend and I have committed to each identify resolutions to focus on each month, but we’ve also learnt that we often have to revise or reschedule resolutions. Perhaps we’ll get better at this as time goes on.
Who is your role model?
My mother, who believed that it didn’t matter what religion you were but whether you helped your neighbor when they were in need. I am not sure if she would have called herself a feminist, but she had the same expectations of my brother and me to help around the house; only after I left home did I realize this was not a common expectation across all families.
What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
Different quotes have been important to me at different times in my life. Today an Australian Aboriginal proverb resonates: “Those who lose dreaming are lost.”
by ChildFund Cambodia
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we catch up with Phalla, a youth in Cambodia.
In many rural villages of Cambodia, young people are forced to migrate to urban centers in search of work. For Phalla, now 23 years old, this journey has been made twice – first, to work alongside her father in construction and a second time as an unskilled laborer in a garment factory.
To generate more livelihood opportunities, ChildFund Cambodia has been implementing the Youth for Development program in Svay Yea commune. This provides vocational training to young people as well as leadership, life skills and business training.
After losing her father, Phalla returned again to her village, but earned very little from farming and selling sugar palm. After joining the ChildFund youth program, Phalla chose sewing as her training course, and eventually, she and five other trainees established their own tailor shops. ChildFund provided each of them with sewing machines and materials, as well as ongoing business mentoring.
Phalla’s entrepreneurship doesn’t end there – she now generates a second income by raising chickens and ducks at home. “In the past, I usually followed others without having a clear goal. Now I have a specific livelihood that allows me to stay in the community with my family,” she says.
Because of her commitment, Phalla has also been selected to be a community resource trainer, so that she can pass on her knowledge and skills to younger people in her community.
Today our “31 in 31” series heads to Cambodia, a country where we have worked for about a year with ChildFund Alliance partner ChildFund Australia. For insight into Cambodia, we’ll let the children do the talking.
Brothers Cheat (right) and Chin
My name is Cheat. I live in the Chamkar Chek village in the Svay Chrum district of Cambodia and study in first grade at Chouk Meas primary school.
I am 7 years old and I have four siblings — three older brothers and one younger brother. My mother does housework and my father works in Phnom Penh as a construction worker with two of my older brothers.
Everyday I come to school with my younger brother. His name is Chin; he is 5 years old. I have to look after him when my other brother and mother are busy or not at home.
I like playing hide and seek games with my classmates, or sometimes I just sit and watch them chase each other. I want to have my school look better or get a new school because I want my younger brother also to have a good place to study.
Everyday when I go back home after school I help my mother and brothers collect firewood for cooking, look after my younger brother and graze the cows.
When I grow up, I want to have a job working as a construction worker like my father and brothers so that I can earn money to help my family.
My name is Seap and I am 7 years old. I have two older sisters and study in the first grade at Chouk Meas primary school. My mother works in a garment factory in Phnom Penh, and my father is a moto dup (motor taxi) driver in Phnom Penh also.
My sisters and I live with grandparents. I go to school on foot, but sometimes my grandfather drives me to school with his motor bike.
I like playing high jump at school with other children. I like coming to school because I have many friends. I want to look after my school well so that we have a good place to study.
My grandmother does the cooking at home for us. When I go back home after class, I help my grandmother and sisters wash dishes and collect firewood near the house for cooking.
When I grow up I want to work in the garment factory with my mother.
Kador (right) and Yich
My name is Kador. I live in Sikar village in the Svay Chrum district of Cambodia. I am 10 years old and live with my mother. I have one younger brother and two younger sisters.
I am studying in first grade at Chouk Meas primary school. When I was younger, I was sick a lot and that is why my mother did no let me go to school until I was 10.
My father works as a taxi driver in Svay Rieng town and my mother stays at home.
Everyday I come to school with my younger sister, Yich. She is 7 years old and I want her to go to school with me because I want her not to be afraid of school when she starts first grade next year. We walk about 1,500 meters from our house to school.
I like my school, but also want to have a new school so that other children can come to study. Besides study, I look after my younger sister, collect firewood and help my mother do housework.
My younger sister wants to go to work in the garment factory when she grows up. I want to find a job as a construction worker so that I can earn money.
For more information about Cambodia, click here.
What’s next: We venture back to Africa to visit Uganda.
More on Cambodia
Population: 14.5 million
Did You Know?: Cambodia is home to the Tonlé Sap, a river that changes its flow of direction twice a year.