Reporting by Vlad Sokhin, freelance photographer for ChildFund Australia
A Category 5 cyclone struck the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on March 13, leaving 75,000 people without shelter and affecting 166,000 people overall, according to latest estimates. ChildFund Australia is providing aid through its partner organization there, Live & Learn Vanuatu. You can help by making a donation to ChildFund’s Vanuatu Emergency Response Fund. Here are some notes from the field:
“I was in a community shelter with my parents,” says 10-year-old James from Efate Island. “When the strong wind came, it was very noisy. I was afraid. Then my sisters and I fell asleep. Next morning, we came to our house, and it was destroyed. My school was destroyed too. Now I sleep with my parents in the tent and can’t attend classes.”
James and his family are among the tens of thousands of people left homeless in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam devastated the archipelago. The family of five is currently living in an improvised tent.
James’ mother, Margaret, says she is worried about feeding her children and generating an income since the family’s crops were wiped out by the cyclone.
“We’ve lost everything — all our crops,” she says. “All we can eat now is fallen bananas and coconuts. Some taro survived too, but it’s not enough for our family. I will not be able to sell fruits and vegetables in the market to make some money. We barely have enough food for ourselves.”
Some schools have reopened in Vanuatu, but with 50 percent of the country’s educational infrastructure destroyed or badly damaged, thousands of children remain unable to attend. At this stage, it is unclear when James will be able to start classes again.
Access to clean water is also an immediate concern for families like James’. Most water tanks have been damaged or destroyed by the cyclone, and wells are contaminated. Some people are forced to walk long distances to fetch or purchase fresh water, while others are so desperate that they are boiling seawater to drink.
James, his 14-year-old sister, Priscilla, and his 3-year-old sister, Ester, are at high risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, which causes severe diarrhea and can lead to death. ChildFund Australia is working with Live & Learn Vanuatu to restore access to clean water to help ensure the health of children and their families in cyclone-ravaged areas.
To help with the continued response effort, please donate today to ChildFund’s Vanuatu Emergency Response Fund.
Reporting and photos: Felipe Cala, ChildFund Alliance; Roberta Cecchetti, Save the Children; Agueda Barreto and Thiago Machado, ChildFund Brasil
Fourteen-year-old Maria Antônia has made a name for herself in her home of Crato, a city in northeastern Brazil, because of her determination and community participation. This week, she had the opportunity to be heard on a world stage: a panel on the prevention of violence against children, at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.
“I see this opportunity as a process of inclusion,” she said before the event, “because young people from 10 different countries will contribute with relevant themes on our point of view, to achieve a better world.”
The March 23 side-event took place during the third gathering of U.N. members to negotiate the post-2015 development agenda, a global set of priorities to tackle such issues as poverty, hunger, inequality and disease in the next 15 years. The goals are expected to be finalized in September. The purpose of the side-event — hosted by the governments of Canada, Guatemala, Japan and Palau — was to highlight the importance of allowing children to grow up in violence-free communities, schools and homes, and to bring their voices to decision-makers in New York.
ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, UNICEF and World Vision International, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children and the Latin America and Caribbean Movement for Children, collaborated to organize the discussion.
Maria Antônia spoke about physical, psychological and sexual violence and children’s own recommendations to prevent and respond to violence, including ways to report incidents safely and increasing social services at schools and health clinics.
“It is very important to improve child-friendly services within the child protection network, so that children feel confident and safe,” she said.
The visit was exciting and somewhat overwhelming for Maria Antônia, who is sponsored through ChildFund and also takes part in community projects with one of our local partners in Brazil. This was her first visit to New York City, and on the first day, she went to Central Park and saw snow for the first time (“It was beautiful,” she said). The next day, Maria Antônia prepared to speak at the U.N. headquarters, a daunting prospect.
“Early in the morning, I could only think that I would not be able to represent children and adolescents,” she recalled. “I felt fear and insecurity. But after my speech, I was congratulated. And that made me very happy. I had the feeling that I did what I had come to do.
“I realize how important it is to improve the entire environment where I live — my home, my community and my school,” she added.
And Maria Antônia is returning home with tales to tell. “My friends will ask me about the city, my experience in a new and different place, but what I really want to talk about is the opportunity to be heard. It’s a dream I could never dream.”
By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
ChildFund’s office in Bolivia recently hosted the daughter of a sponsor, who got to meet 2-year-old Neri and her parents.
Isabel, 18, is Spanish but lives in Germany; her mother, Luisa, has sponsored Neri since July through ChildFund Deutschland, one of our Alliance partners. They sponsor five children in all, one for each member of the family. Luisa needed to stay home to care for her younger son, so Isabel went in her place to Bolivia.
“With these pictures, my mom is going to be jealous of me,” Isabel said. “She really wanted to come here.”
Neri will become a big sister in January, when her mother is expecting her second child. Her father is a truck driver, and the family lives in La Paz, one of Bolivia’s largest cities. During Isabel’s visit, they went to see Mi Teleférico, a new cable-car system, which was very exciting for Neri. It was a sunny day, and the independent little girl was happy to walk by herself.
“Neri’s dream has come true,” her mother said. “She has wanted to get in the Teleférico for months.” Then they went to a children’s park, where Neri ran and played with Isabel and her mother.
“Neri reminds me of my younger brother,” Isabel said. “She has a lot of energy and independence, and it seems she never gets tired!”
Earlier in the trip, Isabel also visited an Early Childhood Development center supported by ChildFund and run by a local partner organization, San José Las Lomas. She had the opportunity to talk to the coordinators and meet children there, and she expressed a lot of interest in their work.
When the sun was going down, the group returned to the neighborhood where Neri’s family lives, again riding Mi Teleférico and enjoying the city’s sights one last time. “This is like her Christmas gift,” Neri’s mother declared. Below, see more pictures from Isabel’s visit, including a trip to the local ECD center. If you’re a sponsor and wish to visit your child in his or her country, call our Sponsor Care team at 1-800-776-6767, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. (ET), Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Violence against children remains a terrible problem, according to children themselves. Today — on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child — hundreds of children say their right to be protected from violence is not being upheld.
Gangs, political strife and child labor are issues in many developing countries, where only 30 percent of children polled say they are always or often protected from doing harmful work.
ChildFund Alliance released the fifth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams report today, a survey of 6,040 children ages 10 to 12 in 44 countries. Poor access to education also is a concern among children in developing countries.
This year, as the United Nations prepares to decide on its post-2015 global agenda, the Alliance, a network of 12 international development organizations (including ChildFund International), has launched a campaign called Free From Violence to motivate world leaders to prioritize the protection of children against violence and exploitation.
“A quarter century ago, leaders across the globe made a commitment to the world’s children, that we would help them reach their full potential by protecting, educating and nurturing them. While much progress has been made, it is abundantly clear that we still have a long way to go. Harming even one child is one child too many,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.
Below, see a slideshow of children holding signs that spell out their rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This gem of a video was created by ChildFund Australia five years ago to honor of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With their kind permission, we’re sharing it in these last few days before the Convention’s 25th anniversary Nov. 20 because we think it’s every bit as relevant now as it was then.
The rights that are set forth in the treaty are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. The language is a bit of a mouthful for children themselves. But they get it, as you’ll see in the video. Enjoy!
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
ChildFund’s president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, will speak tomorrow at the TEDxRVA conference in Richmond, Va. You can view her speech as it streams live online Friday afternoon.
The theme of the event is “re__,” an invitation for our community (Richmond and beyond) to actively participate in making the world better. Anne’s speech, “Freedom From Violence,” focuses on “re-action.” That means more than just reacting to events, but acting again and again to achieve our goals — specifically ending violence against children.
Here’s a quote from her talk: “Threats to the most vulnerable and smallest among us — children — come not only from having too little food, but also from having too much violence in their lives. It is not enough to help children survive, but we must also have a world safe for all children to thrive.”
Anne also will share her story about how violence affected her family and encourage the audience to participate in the “Free From Violence and Exploitation Against Children” campaign supported by ChildFund Alliance.
Her presentation will begin at about 1:15 p.m. EDT Friday, and you can stream the video here.
By Paul Brown, CEO, ChildFund New Zealand
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 New Zealand.
How does an international nongovernmental organization in a country of 4 million in the southern Pacific help communities in Africa and Asia break free from poverty?
It becomes a better storyteller.
ChildFund’s shared vision of a world free from child poverty requires positive, long-term change for children and their communities. Ultimately, our success can only be measured with better outcomes for children, but in the early 2000s, ChildFund New Zealand had no way of telling the broader story of how we were achieving our vision. We needed to focus on how we connect our supporters with the children and the communities we serve to tell this story.
Founded in 1990, ChildFund New Zealand has made it possible for New Zealanders to sponsor children in more than 20 countries. By the mid-2000s, New Zealanders were sponsoring children in 881 projects around the world, impacting many lives. Although this kind of reach seemed impressive, it was difficult to amplify and celebrate the impact ChildFund was achieving.
At this time, ChildFund New Zealand had started to secure government support for projects. Our staff had begun to form strong relationships with a number of ChildFund’s national offices and the communities being supported. It became clear from all the parties involved that there was interest in developing ongoing and deeper relationships with select communities as a way to achieve sustainability quickly.
Flowing from this idea, we created our Dedicated Programme Area Partnerships Strategy, which enables ChildFund New Zealand to invest several millions of dollars each year into a targeted area to accomplish the community’s strategic goals. We also began layering grant funding and appeal funding for projects to support ChildFund’s in-country sponsorship programming.
At the same time, ChildFund New Zealand has invested in evolving its Auckland-based team, focusing on analysis and impact measurement and also training all members of the team to improve understanding of development and the context of poverty in the five Dedicated Programme Areas we support.
Today we continue to strengthen these partner connections, and we are even looking to connect these organizations with each other. In November, as part of ChildFund International’s anniversary celebrations, we hosted a workshop with our five partner countries (Kenya, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) to facilitate idea exchange and sharing of best practices.
The last 10 years have brought important change in how we work — and how we think about our work. We have better knowledge of our partner communities. Our closer relationships mean that the team members have more detailed stories and reports to share with our supporters.
This past decade has seen ChildFund New Zealand mature from a mere conduit for funds to a development organisation committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in communities. Our most important decade, however, is arguably the one ahead of us.
Technology is already changing the way sponsors communicate with their sponsored children; our moderated communications must deal with the reality of an interconnected world. The millennial generation expects to see and hear about the impact of their donations almost immediately, not read bullet points in yearly newsletters.
Rather than see these technological and social developments as risks and burdens on our resources, we can view them as opportunities to help remote communities interact with the world in ways that make them seem much less remote, that bring greater empathy and compassion. We can give communities not just a voice but ensure they are part of the global conversation.
And it is exciting and a privilege to be part of an Alliance that is leading this conversation.
Every child has the right to live and thrive in a safe and caring family environment, free from all forms of violence. That’s what the ChildFund Alliance and our other peers believe.
Earlier this month, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted six child-focused agencies — ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, UNICEF and World Vision International — at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss violence against children and ways to prevent it. The goal is to make sure children’s rights are a high priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is set to be agreed upon by United Nations member states in September 2015.
Millions of children experience abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence on a daily basis at home, at school, at work and in their communities. The consequences can be life-long and also spread to other generations; in the worst cases, violence can lead to a child’s death. Violence can also cause economic disadvantages: lost productivity, and a reduced quality of life. Most broadly, it has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.
During the eighth session of the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted A World without Violence against Children, along with coordination from the six agencies. ChildFund Alliance, for one, has taken a stand to advocate for children’s issues — particularly freedom from violence and exploitation — to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the prevention and responses to violence against children to the debate about the U.N.’s future priorities, which affect its work in the countries where ChildFund and other agencies work.
Jim Emerson, secretary general of the Alliance, thanked the co-hosts, participating children and the speakers. He highlighted the pervasive presence of violence against children, and the importance of the post-2015 development agenda addressing this issue.
“But it’s not just our organizations saying this,” Emerson noted. “Most importantly, this is a call from children all over the world. Children are asking for an end to physical and humiliating punishment; sexual violence and abuse; harmful child work and child marriage; trafficking and other harmful practices.”
Migena, an Albanian girl who participated in a post-2015 consultation in her home country, organized by SOS Children’s Villages International, also joined the meeting via Skype. She highlighted the need for the next generation of development goals to address the different forms of violence, exploitation and abuse against children, as well as the importance of children’s participation in the process. Raising awareness in communities and getting state agencies more involved in regions where violence occurs are equally important, Migena said. “Children are going to rule the world in the future,” she concluded.
Canada’s and Paraguay’s U.N. ambassadors, Guillermo Rishchynski and José Antonio Dos Santos, both spoke about their countries’ work to bring children’s issues to the attention of the U.N. work group, and their speeches were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Al Jazeera English journalist Femi Oke. The panelists also answered questions from the audience in New York and online.
Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives.
The panelists, among them UNICEF’s chief of child protection, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on violence against children and the World Health Organization representative to the U.N., discussed many aspects of this issue. Susan Bissell of UNICEF noted that it’s important to communicate the fact that violence against children is preventable and that there are concrete solutions to the problem, drawing on successful programs from around the world. She also pointed out that the reduction of child mortality rates could be offset in the future by violence against children.
Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives. Werner Obermeyer of WHO called attention to links between violence against children and other types of violence, which often lead to risk-taking attitudes that cause declines in health.
ChildFund’s Emerson highlighted the importance of this issue for development and remarked that violence against children has a series of economic implications that transcend the direct costs of responding to it. Evidence shows that prevention is much more cost-effective than response.
Santos Pais also read a statement of support from the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, urging governments “to make the protection of children from all forms of violence a high priority goal on the post-2015 agenda, as an issue of utmost international as well as national importance.”
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 Korea.
In 1948, the seed of love and sharing was sown for Korean children who were hungry and ragged, as China’s Children Fund began operations in Korea. That seed would take root and grow to become ChildFund Korea.
At the program’s beginning, 400 children lived in three orphanages started by Verent J. Mills, who was then CCF’s overseas director and later became executive director of the renamed Christian Children’s Fund. This support expanded during and after the Korean War, which raged from 1950 to 1953.
During the period of political and social chaos before and during the war, CCF levied financial and human resources to rescue Korean children. In this age of instability, CCF did not leave the frontlines of child welfare but did its work quietly. For the next 38 years, CCF supported about 100,000 Korean children, allocating approximately $1 billion. Not only did the organization help war orphans at the beginning of its work, but it also helped children who were living at home with their parents.
In 1986, the Korean branch became independent from CCF because of high economic growth in the country, allowing it to become self-sustaining. The end of CCF’s economic support carries an important historical meaning in Korea’s development of child welfare. Since 1986, ChildFund Korea has been constantly changing and progressing as a nonprofit organization, providing sponsorship, foster care and child protection, as well as other necessary services for communities and families.
With support from international organizations and the strong will and effort of Koreans, Korea has accomplished great economic growth. In the 1990s, Koreans formed a social consensus to help children in developing countries, prompting ChildFund Korea to work globally. Starting with Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, we have supported children and families in 21 countries around the world since 1995.
To return the love and help that we have received at difficult times, ChildFund Korea took a further step by opening offices in South Sudan and North Korea. ChildFund Korea provided North Korean children with hygiene kits, nutritional food and clothing and built a bakery in Pyongyang that produced 10,000 loaves of bread every day from 2005 to 2009. Also, ChildFund Korea supported health care programs to reduce disease and improve the health of children in North Korea, and we continue to provide various services when possible.
During our global expansion, ChildFund Korea’s domestic programs shifted direction as well, adapting to changes in need and the social environment. As reported cases of physical and sexual violence against children increased, ChildFund Korea adapted the Child Assault Program from the United States and trained 259,559 students, teachers and parents at 600 schools, a total of 10,151 training sessions. So far, 603 CAP teachers have been certified.
In 2011, ChildFund Korea started an advocacy campaign called Nayoung’s Wish, named for a girl who lives with a disability after a sexual assault at the age of 8. ChildFund Korea submitted about 500,000 signatures to South Korea’s congress to promote the abolishment of the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors and the disabled, which was pending in court at the time.
Finally, the statute was changed. ChildFund Korea has built on this success and is engaged in other advocacy campaigns related to school violence, bullying and child protection.
As we reach our own 65th anniversary, ChildFund Korea allocates more than 130 billion won (US$121 million) a year to support children, and we have more than 240,000 sponsors, 1,100 staff members and 70 program offices. ChildFund Korea has helped Koreans to be active participants in assisting children living in poverty and has strengthened the motivation of Koreans to support global programs, carrying on the legacy of Christian Children’s Fund.
We are honored to be a valuable member of Korean NGOs that emerged as donors after a time of being recipients of aid.
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 Ireland.
September 2013 marked my 10th year as chief executive officer of ChildFund Ireland. Throughout the past decade I have been lucky enough to witness immensely positive changes throughout both our own organisation and the wider ChildFund Alliance. This piece is far too short to mention them all, so I will share highlights from the past decade.
On the sponsorship front, we worked hard to streamline sponsorship funds and focus on 11 countries, as compared to 27 in 2003. This means we now can really see an impact that Irish sponsorship funds have on ChildFund work in the field. I have always been a great believer in child sponsorship. On a personal level, I am proud to have helped form the Sponsor Relations Network, which brings even greater efficiencies for the Alliance, our national offices and our sponsors.
In terms of grants, ChildFund Ireland received its first grant of €95,000 from Irish Aid in 2003 for a 12-month project in Kenya. In the intervening years, our relationship with Irish Aid has grown, and we now have a four-year multiannual funding agreement that focusses on early childhood development in three countries in Africa, building on the sponsorship-funded programme in the same areas.
Our first forays into the online world came in 2004 with the launch of our first website. This year, we carried out a major overhaul of the site. Visual appeal and navigability have been greatly improved through extensive use of colour, animation and a more intuitive layout, and a whole host of new features have been added. Our social media presence has progressed from limited use of a single platform (Facebook) in 2010 to daily updates on Twitter, photo-sharing on Pinterest and engaging an active community on Facebook.
In just the last few months, we have introduced a digital newsletter to share our favourite articles with supporters on our email database and created our first Facebook advertising campaign in aid of the ChildFund Alliance Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign. The combination of all of these efforts has meant that traffic to our website has roughly tripled, and readership of articles has multiplied from a few hundred to several thousand per article.
The economic situation in Ireland is well-publicised and has impacted ChildFund’s supporter base. However, perhaps due to the nature of child sponsorship, our cancellation rate has been well below what might have been expected. We are embracing the challenge, and I am indebted to the hard work of my team and the loyalty of our supporters during this difficult time.
Moreover, our increasing public profile means we are well placed to take advantage of the coming improvement in national economic fortunes. I, myself, have enjoyed every year of my time at ChildFund Ireland, and I look forward to many more.
Slán go foill … (good-bye for now).