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 Japan.
Love reaches beyond national borders, as we know. In 1948, 65 years ago, when our grandparents were in their youth, Christian Children’s Fund (then known as China’s Children Fund) began assisting children in Japan, where postwar confusion continued. The situation of child-care institutions in Japan at that time was desperately severe. Most of the institutions could not provide children with nutritious food or clothes.
From Postwar Beginnings
The 1940s was a very difficult decade for Japan. There was World War II, and at its end in 1945, the country was in ruins. Many children lost their guardians and relatives. They were literally children living in the streets. CCF brought the love of people in the United States to these destitute Japanese children. CCF demonstrated that love can reach beyond international borders and save suffering children.
The Christian Child Welfare Association was established in 1952 with management assistance from CCF. One piece in a book called “Love Beyond the Frontier” about CCWA’s history attracted my attention. It was written by the director of a child care institution taking care of war orphans after World War II:
“In September of 1949, I received a notice that my institution would soon receive the first subsidy from CCF. Under the very difficult situation which we were in, this was a blessing shower from God. All the workers together with children, remembering sponsors of U.S., offered thanks giving prayers to God. With this donation, we were able to provide children with supplemental food, additional clothes and educational materials.”
Assistance for Japan Meaningful in Several Ways
Japan was among the first recipients of CCF’s assistance. Moreover, ChildFund Japan is the first country office that became independent from Christian Children’s Fund in 1974, and in 1975, we started assisting marginalized children in the Philippines.
In 2005, we made an important decision to disunite from the Christian Child Welfare Association to focus on international development cooperation, although CCWA continues to serve children here in Japan. At that time, we joined the ChildFund Alliance as the 12th member organization. We were able to expand our assistance to children in Sri Lanka in 2006 in collaboration with ChildFund International, and in 2010, we began assisting children in Nepal through the sponsorship program.
As I look back, ChildFund Japan indeed demonstrates love beyond frontiers. Love that reaches beyond national borders is essential for assisting children in need around the world.
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
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 Denmark.
We at BØRNEfonden are very proud to be part of the long-lasting effort made by the members of ChildFund Alliance to ease the grip of poverty for local communities in Africa, Latin America and Asia. While we are now commemorating ChildFund International’s 75 years of important work, last year BØRNEfonden also reached an organizational milestone. We celebrated our 40th anniversary as the Danish representative of the ChildFund Alliance. Last year, as now, there is plenty to celebrate.
First of all, BØRNEfonden remains Denmark’s largest development organization financed by private funds. We have more than 45,000 sponsors supporting 65,000 children and their families in 25 countries.
In recent years, our cooperation with private businesses has become an integral part of our work. Donations from private companies have increased 40 percent since 2010, and investing in development and job creation in Africa has become a matter of greater interest in the Danish private sector.
These numbers tell us that within the Danish population and business life, there is a strong confidence in the way BØRNEfonden works by focusing on long-term development.
Working in West Africa
Many of BØRNEfonden’s sponsors support children in countries where work on the ground is carried out by other members of the Alliance, and we greatly appreciate the collaboration. BØRNEfonden itself has opened offices in five West African countries. After opening in Cape Verde in the late 1980s, offices were established in Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso in the 1990s. In 2003, Mali became the most recent member of BØRNEfonden’s program countries.
Even though there have been many significant occasions worthy to mention here in all of our program countries, BØRNEfonden’s work in Cape Verde stands out.
In 1989, BØRNEfonden initiated its effort in Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa. At that time nearly one-third of all children in the country didn’t start school, and 46 of every 1,000 didn’t live to celebrate their first birthday. Today, these numbers have improved significantly. Currently, 99 percent of all Cape Verdean children start school, and nine out of 10 finish primary school. Infant mortality has dropped to 29 out of 1,000, becoming one of the lowest rates in Africa. Due to the positive development, last year BØRNEfonden began a five-year phase-out of its efforts in Cape Verde, creating a path for leaders in the local community to carry on this work independently.
In 1989, the slogan for the work to be done in Cape Verde was ”Help to Self-Help.” Today in 2013, it is clear that the support from sponsors and donors has paid off in Cape Verde. Not only has this support given individual children and families better chances for a more hopeful future, but it has also contributed to the general development of the country.
As we look forward, this story is important to keep in mind. It reminds us that the work we do actually does work.
By Joern Ziegler and Antje Becker, Chief Executive Officers, ChildFund Deutschland
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 Germany.
In 1978, ChildFund Deutschland was established as CCF Kinderhilfswerk (translated from German as “children’s fund”) through the initiative of Karin Astrid Greiner, a Dutch woman married to a German. During an extended stay in Brazil, she witnessed the important work of Christian Children’s Fund.
Back in Germany, she and some friends laid the cornerstone for a child sponsorship organization. CCF Kinderhilfswerk’s foundation era, characterized by a steady growth in sponsorship numbers, lasted till 1993. By then, the organization had grown into full self-financing autonomy. In the following years, ChildFund Deutschland identified new partners in developing countries — genuine nongovernmental organizations in their countries that were not part of an international network.
This type of collaboration — an early beginning to our support of civil society organizations in developing countries — led to many years of close cooperation with organizations in Latvia, Lithuania, Burundi and Congo. Although Latvia and Lithuania are now members of the European Union, which has allowed their partner organizations to support themselves, Burundi and Congo continue to be important program countries for ChildFund Deutschland, with many children in desperate need for support.
During the 1990s, a group of supporters in Northern Italy established an organization to raise funds for ChildFund Deutschland’s activities. Today, this association is well-established as ChildFund Suedtirol and remains associated with ChildFund Deutschland, contributing reliably to the well-being of children. ChildFund Suedtirol’s board made the decision not to establish an administration of its own but to rely on the services available through ChildFund Deutschland.
In 2001, ChildFund Deutschland´s board made a strategic decision to expand the funding and program portfolio of our organization. In addition to the classic child sponsorship system, we built up non-sponsorship donations and grants from the German government and the European Union by 30 percent within five years.
This has allowed more support for more children in more countries. The new approach has led to new partnerships and new activities in a number of East European countries, especially in Ukraine. Our cooperation with a committed Ukrainian partner organization has continued for many years and gives us hope for more support of needy Ukrainian children and youth.
In recent years, ChildFund Deutschland became a founding member and committed supporter of the global ChildFund Alliance. In 2009, we changed our name to ChildFund Deutschland, a step to underline the importance of the global ChildFund Alliance, to make the overall branding more visible and to spread the word about ChildFund’s important work. ChildFund Korea and ChildFund Deutschland were the first two non-English-speaking organizations to introduce the English words ChildFund as part of their names.
Operationally, ChildFund Deutschland closely cooperates with most of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member organizations, the most important partner being ChildFund International. At the same time, we give attention and invest more effort to support partner organizations that are not yet members of the Alliance, especially in the Southern Hemisphere and Eastern Europe.
As we look to the future, ChildFund Deutschland is working to identify new innovative models of funding, programming and partnerships. Part of this process has been the establishment of ChildFund Stiftung, a foundation accepting endowments and building up capital to support ChildFund’s work. Partnerships and other activities within Germany are also part of the plan.
Despite great progress in many areas and countries, achieved through the tireless efforts of many people, thousands and thousands of children continue to need the committed support of donors, sponsors and NGOs. ChildFund Deutschland is willing and ready to meet this challenge!
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Children are interested in law and order, according to ChildFund Alliance’s 2013 Small Voices, Big Dreams survey. We asked 6,500 children ages 10 to 12 in 47 countries about violence, peace, happiness and their heroes, in the fourth year of this global project.
One question was about what they would do if they were in charge of their country. One in three children said they would create stronger anti-violence laws. Three in four believe violence is caused by bad behavior, poverty or alcohol and drugs.
Shravan, 11, of India, says that he would enact “a new stringent law to punish all those who commit crimes on children. I would have police arrest and punish those who ever tease girls while going to school. I would stop the sale of alcohol as it fuels much violence in villages.”
And 40 percent of children in Sierra Leone say they would guarantee children’s personal safety, a high priority for children in Ethiopia and Guatemala as well.
Children also weighed in on what they think is the most important issue for them and their families, a question on the United Nations My World Survey, which is helping global leaders define post-2015 development goals.
A good education is important to 65 percent of the children who answered, with protection against crime and violence, gender equality and better health care also ranking high.
“When the rain comes and floods, I cannot go to school,” says Pedro, 12, of Timor-Leste, where 80 percent of children say everyone should get a good education. “I feel sad because I have no chance to learn new lessons.”
Children also shared who their heroes are. It may come as no surprise that family members are heroes for almost half of the respondents, with political leaders and activists coming in at a distant second place. Superman is a hero to 13 percent of Paraguay respondents.
Hearing children’s voices and opinions on important issues is critical to ChildFund’s mission, as we work to help children become empowered, independent and successful adults.
By Betty Ho, CEO of Taiwan Fund for Children and Families
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 Taiwan.
To help homeless Chinese children after the Sino-Japanese war, Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke, a Presbyterian minister, established the China’s Children Fund in 1938 in Richmond, Va., which would later become Christian Children’s Fund. CCF began assisting orphans, children and families in Taiwan in 1950, bringing nutritional, health and educational services to an impoverished population. In 1964, the CCF Taiwan field office was formally established, and 23 Family Helper Projects were set up to provide services to children and families in need.
In 1985, Chinese Children’s Fund/Taiwan became fully independent from Christian Children’s Fund after the eight-year Self-Reliant Plan implemented by our CEO, Charles Kuo. Two years later, CCF/Taiwan started to provide sponsorships for children in foreign countries, and in Taiwan, we started our Child Protection Program.
In 2002, we changed our name to Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. TFCF is a nonprofit organization entrusted by the government and supported by the public for more than 63 years, when Christian Children’s Fund entered the country. In the early 2000s, we also recognized that it was time for TFCF to extend a helping hand to children in need outside of Taiwan. We established a branch office in Mongolia in 2004, and the Kyrgyzstan and Swaziland branch offices were respectively established in 2012 and 2013. We also cooperated with local nongovernmental organizations to provide community programs in 2011 in China’s Shaan Xi Province.
Here’s an overview of TFCF’s programs:
Domestic Children Sponsorship
Supporting children in need is our commitment to society. This program applies the sponsorship system to provide children from low-income families with monthly subsidies and opportunities to continue their education. The program also aims to empower sponsored children and their families to pursue their independence. Over the past 63 years, we have helped 180,243 children become self-reliant.
Foreign Children Sponsorship
We aim to assist foreign children and families in need through our collaboration with the ChildFund Alliance. Projects and programs have been designed with a focus on children’s needs, such as the nurturing, medication, academic assistance and vocational training. TFCF also cares about establishing a functional and constructive community to effectively help local residents.
Child Protection Program
This program is designated to help children who have suffered physical, sexual or mental abuse or were seriously neglected. We have provided these children with rehabilitation and placement services since 1988. To raise public awareness and provide education on child protection issues, we set up the first Child Protection Resource Center in Taiwan in April 1998.
Early Intervention Program
To better assist developmentally delayed children or those living with other disabilities, we started the Early Intervention Program in 1996 to provide counseling, day care, referrals and other resources for affected families.
Foster Care Program
We initiated our foster care program in 1983, a program offered to children who are abused or unable to be cared for by their families.
Our dream is for all children to live in a happy and sound environment, and we are pleased to join with the ChildFund Alliance to be a global force for children in need.
By Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia
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 Australia.
In 2006, I took my first steps into the world of international development.
Having spent almost a decade at the helm of the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies in Australia, following postgraduate studies and a long career in social work, I had a strong desire to continue working for an organisation focused on improving the lives of vulnerable children. To do this at a global, rather than national, level was an exciting opportunity.
Complexities of Child Protection
My experience thus far had taught me that myriad factors can result in increased vulnerability for children. Nor are these influences confined to national borders. Children suffering from a lack of proper parental care, inadequate food, shelter or clothing, poor health care and low family incomes can be found in each corner of the globe.
However, during my early days with ChildFund, I was quick to discover how extreme deprivation and poverty adds so many additional layers of complexity to the issue of child protection in countries where there is no social safety net in place.
In the communities where ChildFund works, the majority of parents are dedicated to giving their children a better future and determined to provide access to those opportunities unavailable during their own childhoods. Most importantly, parents are desperate to ensure that their children survive to adulthood.
Yet natural disasters, civil upheaval or a chronic lack of basic services are sadly not within their control. It is devastating for any parent to discover that, despite their most concerted efforts, they are not able to provide their children with the protection they rightly deserve. Many parents in developing countries live constantly with this fear.
This is where I believe ChildFund best fulfils its mission — by providing support to families and communities where all other possible options have been exhausted. We have the ability and know-how to fill the missing gaps; provide help, guidance and support with no strings attached; and work alongside communities to ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for children.
Along this 75-year journey, ChildFund’s approach to helping children has changed and evolved, moving from a focus on orphanages for destitute children, to family support and then to community partnerships that deliver effective development programs. Our child focus has strengthened, and children are actively consulted and encouraged to voice their opinions on plans for their communities. Taking the time to learn from mistakes has also been integral to our development.
We can be proud of what we have achieved so far. According to the World Health Organisation, the likelihood of a child dying before reaching the age of 5 is now approximately 7 percent, compared to 25 percent in 1950. This is a remarkable global achievement.
There is an oft-quoted phrase in our sector: “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would like to think that ChildFund is a member of that village.
Safe Haven for Children in Crisis
On one of my first trips for ChildFund, I visited newly independent Timor-Leste. It was 2006, and I arrived at the tail end of the unsuccessful coup and resulting military and civil violence.
As many as 150,000 people living in and around the capital of Dili had been displaced, with families fleeing the conflict by taking shelter in public buildings, churches and schools before the government was forced to establish internally displaced people, or IDP, camps to cope with the mass migration.
I arrived to see ChildFund at work in a crisis — establishing Child Centred Spaces in the IDP camps to provide children with a safe haven and some sense of normality during the turmoil. The centres impressed me greatly — with no school to attend, these hastily established environments gave children a place to go where they could draw, paint or simply play with their peers.
For parents, the spaces provided supervised care while they searched for other family members, or visited homes to assess the damage. In addition, ChildFund staff could monitor children for signs of extreme distress caused by the recent events — many had been witness to acts of extreme violence.
This visit, my first to a country in conflict, highlighted for me the fragility of life for so many people in the world. Just weeks before, these Timorese families had been at home — working, attending school, caring for children, beginning life anew after years of occupation.
Now, possessions and belongings gone, homes damaged and trapped in a city which had descended into violence and chaos, these same families were living in crowded, makeshift camps, with no jobs to go to, and no government services ready to replace what had been lost.
Eventually, it would be time for them to start again all over again. Fortunately, ChildFund and similar organisations would be there to help pick up the pieces, but this would clearly take time, money and planning — it would not happen overnight.
Seven years later, I am pleased to see how far this young country has come. The mood in the country as it celebrated its first decade of independence last year was full of hope for the future. There are many challenges still ahead, but I hope that political stability and the sheer indomitable will of its people will see this tiny nation emerge from the shadows of its past.
The Difference a Decade Makes
A similar story has unfolded in a Vietnam community. Ten years ago, ChildFund Australia began working in Bac Kan, a remote and mountainous province in Vietnam’s north.
In 1999, families here were able to grow only one rice crop each year, resulting in food scarcity and poor child nutrition. School buildings were in disrepair and enrolment rates low, as many parents could not afford school fees and were discouraged by the very low standard of education. Poor hygiene and a lack of nearby health services meant children were often ill, and child mortality was high.
Over the past decade of working in partnership with ChildFund, a transformation has taken place in this community. Today, construction of gravity-fed water systems and new irrigation canals mean farmers produce four rice harvests annually. Water for household use is easy to access and safe from disease.
A new preschool and primary school, as well as trained teachers and learning materials, have encouraged more children to attend school. Available health care, particularly immunisation programs, has reduced the number of parents losing their children to preventable disease.
It is the collaborative effort of a range of committed individuals who make this possible: community members, donors and child sponsors, as well as ChildFund staff and volunteers. Ending the cycle of poverty can seem an impossible task, but the changes in Bac Kan demonstrate day that positive change can happen — one child, one family and one community at a time.
ChildFund Australia: A Timeline
1985: CCF Australia is founded, focused on supporting CCF’s child sponsorship program.
1990s: CCF Australia continues to support CCF U.S. programs and begins delivering emergency relief.
1994: CCF Australia begins work in Papua New Guinea.
1995: CCF Australia begins work in Vietnam.
2005: CCF Australia changes its name to ChildFund Australia, joining the ChildFund Alliance.
2007: ChildFund Australia begins work in Cambodia.
2010: ChildFund Australia begins work in Laos.
2012: ChildFund Australia begins work in Myanmar.
By Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund International President & CEO
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 Anne Goddard.
“Nothing ever lasts forever,” the old saying goes. I find this applies to all kinds of things in life. So, as we celebrate ChildFund’s 75th year, I am mindful that not all nonprofits and for-profit companies have longevity. I’ve read that the lifespan of successful companies is shrinking – the typical company in existence today will be out of business in 15 years.
Since the recession started six years ago, I know of several nonprofits that have had to close their doors. Some closed due to financial and other problems. Others took a very positive step and merged with similar organizations to more effectively deliver on their missions. None closed because their mission had been achieved.
ChildFund International is still thriving after 75 years. I give a lot of the credit to our founder, Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke. He was a man of vision, with a passion for helping children living in poverty. A strategic thinker, Clarke was often described as having a “knack for fundraising.” At the age of 51, he founded an organization that was built to last.
Most people would be surprised to learn that Dr. Clarke established our organization to help children in China, now a world superpower with an economy envied by many. China pulled (and pushed) 680 million people out of poverty from 1981 to 2010, and has reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84 percent to 10 percent, according to the Economist.
But the China of 1938 was very different than today. The country was devastated after the second Sino-Japanese war; famine, atrocities and bombings had destroyed the lives of millions. Children, being the most vulnerable, suffered the most. An estimated 1 to 2 million children died from 1937 to 1940 in China.
Compelled to fight for children’s survival, Dr. Clarke believed that warm-hearted, generous Americans would help. So he established what was then known as China’s Children Fund. Within six months of start-up, the organization raised enough funds to send its first support to China – $2,000. Within a year, $13,000 was sent to the KuKong Orphanage to help care for children.
Even the onset of World War II did not stop CCF and Dr. Clarke from continuing the mission. By the final year of the war in 1945 – a mere eight years after the organization began – CCF sent the amazing sum of $372,217 to China to help children in the areas not occupied by Japan.
In 1949, when the Communists came to power, CCF was forced to abruptly leave the country and end its assistance to the 5,113 Chinese children it was caring for in dozens of orphanages. The fate of most of those children was never known. But, amazingly, 280 children managed to walk 60 miles, crossing the border into Hong Kong, then under British rule, where they eventually went to live in a new orphanage CCF established.
Just as China is different today than in the 1930s and ’40s, ChildFund is different in many respects from the days of China’s Children Fund. We have grown to be a $250 million organization that helps 18.1 million children and family members in 30 countries around the globe. We’re also a member of the ChildFund Alliance, 12 like-minded organizations working together to expand our reach to more countries. Our collective commitment to helping children remains as passionate as ever.
But because nothing lasts forever, I never take for granted that ChildFund will continue for another 75 years. The decisions we make today will impact the ChildFund of tomorrow. We must continue to evolve as an organization, meeting the needs of children in a rapidly changing and complex world.
Maybe one thing does last forever – the warm-hearted generosity of people who help children living in poverty. That part of our shared humanity is truly enduring.
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.”
Member organizations of the ChildFund Alliance believe a focus on child protection can foster a global mindset that prioritizes and protects children. To this end, we are working hard to ensure that child protection appears among the global priorities that will follow the Millennium Development Goals for reducing poverty worldwide.
The children on whose behalf we are acting, it turns out, have much to add to the conversation. This year, the ChildFund Alliance held more than 50 focus groups with more than 1,300 children in 41 of the 58 countries where Alliance member organizations, including ChildFund International, serve children.
The first question we asked them was, “What makes you feel free?”
A 15-year-old girl in Bolivia answered, “I feel free when I reach my dreams and the elders don’t tell me to shut my mouth.”
The rest of the questions largely built on the first: What makes you feel free from violence and exploitation? To take action to stop them? What can world leaders and adults do? What are your risks?
Too many children experience violence and exploitation, most often sexual violence, exploitative labor conditions and physical and humiliating punishment. Even in school, sexual harassment and corporal punishment are everyday occurrences; still, children also cite access to education as a primary key to their keeping safe from violence and exploitation.
“If I were president, I would build a very nice school in every village,” says a 12-year-old Laotian boy.
Children have ideas about how the situation might be improved, and they are clear that they want a role in that change. They call upon legislators to create and enforce laws to protect them, and upon all adults to learn about the issue, to listen to children and to respect them.
“I don’t understand why we are treated inhumanely and not considered citizens,” says one girl, 13, from Nepal.
A 15-year-old boy from Liberia says it another way: “Overlooking me is violence.”
Please sign the ChildFund Alliance’s Free From Violence and Exploitation petition. Thank you for caring about children.