By Erin Nicholson, ChildFund Staff Writer
Last year in Belarus, a young man named Vlad passed the Baranovichi University entrance exams. A significant but fairly routine achievement, perhaps, except that Vlad was born with cerebral palsy. And in Belarus, his acceptance into college was nothing short of groundbreaking.
Although cognitively Vlad is very capable — he can quote Dumas with ease and loves classical literature by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky — the palsy makes his speech unclear, and he has trouble writing or using a keyboard. He almost missed out on going to college altogether; over and over he was prevented from taking entrance exams because students weren’t allowed any kind of assistance during the tests.
His break finally came after the vice rector of Baranovichi University attended a ChildFund-supported training on inclusive education, the USAID-funded project Community Services to Vulnerable Groups. She shared her new knowledge with colleagues, and Vlad was able to take the exam by answering questions verbally. He passed and even had the highest scores among all applicants that year.
In Belarus, more than 26,000 children are considered to have a disability and as many as 120,000 have special educational needs, according to UNICEF. These are alarmingly high numbers, especially for a country with just under 9.5 million people, and have nearly tripled since 1990. A complex mix of problems may be to blame, including the lingering effects of post-Soviet Union economic depression and the trauma of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion nearly 30 years ago.
There is not any direct evidence proving that long-term radiation exposure caused an increase in health problems in Belarus, but the economic devastation following the disaster resulted in widespread post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety throughout the population. Along with chronically high unemployment, the prevalence of smoking, alcoholism and overall poor nutrition contribute to an increase in disease and disabilities.
And in a country with limited economic resources, the infrastructure to support children who need assistance just isn’t there. So what happens to them? Institutionalization and exclusion from family and society is common, and children with disabilities, who are often seen as a burden or even an embarrassment, overwhelm orphanages. Rarely do they receive the physical, cognitive and emotional support they need — much less an education. The communities in Belarus where we work have seen some improvement, with the number of institutionalized children dropping to an average of 6 percent in 2009, down from the national average of 25 percent.
With the right support, life for these children can be better. As of 2012, 4,000 children and family members benefited from the USAID-funded inclusive education project. Vlad is gaining an education, as well as future opportunities and more independence. After college, he hopes to become a lawyer and fight for the rights of people with disabilities.
Recently, Belarus leaders have begun to prioritize inclusive education for children with disabilities, thanks in part to groundbreaking cases like Vlad’s and the work by ChildFund and other groups. More children are in a position to become leaders and have greater hope for the future, just like Vlad hopes to be.
Consider contributing to ChildFund’s Fund a Project for children living with disabilities in Belarus, giving them access to necessary classroom equipment. You can keep the momentum going for Vlad and other young people.
ChildFund and Nokero International, Ltd. have partnered to expand educational opportunity to 1,200 girls and 800 boys from a nomadic tribe in northern Afghanistan.
Our first effort with Nokero, in 2012, was to provide safe, inexpensive solar-powered lights to schoolchildren in Liberia. This time, we’re taking advantage of another quality of Nokero’s lights: their portability.
In northern Afghanistan, the nomadic Kuchi people move with the seasons, herding animals and bartering along the way. As one of Afghanistan’s most marginalized ethnic groups, they face extreme poverty and instability.
Since they settle only temporarily in rural, isolated regions, the Kuchis go months at a time without basic services like electricity and education. The literacy rate among the Kuchi men is less than 7 percent, and among women, it’s less than 2. Less than 2 percent of Kuchi girls are able to enroll in school.
This project supports a larger grant initiative to expand educational opportunities for 2,000 Kuchi children. It has two components:
625 Nokero solar-powered lamps and chargers that students can use to study, even when they’re in remote locations without electricity
peer-led study clubs that will be monitored by trained mentors and teachers so that students can continue their studies while on the move
Lights and study groups will empower children — especially girls — to sustain their learning without abandoning their nomadic way of life.
But to make this happen, we need your help to raise $8,864 by March 1 for our Fund a Project, Solar Lights and Study Clubs for Kuchi Children.
Join hands with other like-minded people and bring this project to life. And don’t forget to share the link with your family and friends.
In Ecuador, children under 5 make up 10 percent of the total population, and 23 percent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition.
But in a small community north of Pichincha, we find Samira, a cheerful and lively 2-year-old girl who lives with her mother, Diana, and her grandparents, Maria and Miguel.
Maria and Diana participate in ChildFund’s early childhood development programs in their community. Diana has participated since she was pregnant, and when her baby girl was born, she already knew Samira needed the right kind of food. Maria tells us that Samira is the family’s “guinea pig” because they put into practice everything they have learned in raising her.
“My daughter does not get sick as other children do,” says Diana. “When the other children have had strong flu, she didn’t get it. She is a very healthy girl. She likes to eat soup. She really likes beans and corn, and she eats all kinds of fruits.”
Samira has access to this healthy diet thanks to another ChildFund-supported effort: Maria’s family garden. In her 30-square-meter plot, Maria cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables. These form the basis of the family’s diet.
We hope to provide this opportunity to 70 more families in Pichincha through our Ecuador gardens Fund a Project. These endeavors assist communities with specific needs like treated mosquito nets or winterization kits.
With your help, the garden project will provide these families with a sustainable source of nutrition, helping to address health challenges common to this region. Each family will receive fruit and vegetable seedlings with supplies and training for growing their own gardens. Using recyclable materials and avoiding pesticides, families will create their gardens in a sustainable, safe way.
As a result, children will have better access to vitamin-rich produce, which will protect them from malnutrition and illness. And the sale of surplus fruits and vegetables will boost each family’s income by as much as $40 per month. We need about $5,000 to reach our goal to start these families on a healthier path. Please consider making a donation.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund International writer
On Earth Day and every day, ChildFund approaches its work with one overall mission in mind: helping communities become self-sufficient. That’s why we work with local partner organizations and provide training to community members wherever we go — so they’ll be able to succeed over the long term, allowing ChildFund to assist others in need.
In northern Ecuador’s Pichincha province, 200 families need a helping hand. ChildFund’s goal is to help them start and improve fruit and vegetable gardens, a program that will not only feed children but also set their families on the path to self-sufficiency. This Fund a Project, started in February, will provide vegetable and fruit seedlings, agricultural supplies and educational workshops. Our goal is to have 200 gardens in the region by August, which will directly help 750 children and 500 youth.
This is where your help comes in; our goal is to raise $42,600 by August. Children in this region of Ecuador sometimes suffer from undernutrition, and families often don’t make enough income to cover basic needs. A thriving home garden will provide families with a diverse supply of vegetables and fruit — instead of just corn, the most common regional crop — and give them the chance to sell the excess crops, increasing the family’s income by an estimated 30 percent.
With greater income, children will have more educational opportunities, and parents will be able to provide the basics: health care, clothing and bedding. In northern Ecuador, a garden represents hope and independence.
Will you help fund this project?
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
The idea was to provide an easy way for donors to contribute a little or a lot toward their favorite project, whether that was helping build playgrounds, grow community gardens or establish a goat herd. Banding together these groups of donors—whose individual members will probably never know each other—have fully funded eight projects to date.
Let’s celebrate their successes:
Ten donors chipped in a collective $2,685 to provide dairy goats to rural Kenyan families. The goats are a sustainable, renewable resource, providing much-needed supplemental nutrition for children.
In Zambia, $41,083, contributed by six people, is providing bed nets and malaria education to significantly reduce the incidence of this deadly disease.
Five supporters gave a total of $2,857 to provide water pumps benefiting 15 families in rural regions of Timor Leste. The pumps will offer better access to a clean-water source.
Twelve donors put up $28,400 to build community health huts in Senegal to help combat malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Thirty-six supporters raised $25,000 for wells and water pumps for the Busia district of Uganda. These fresh water sources will reduce waterborne diseases and make water more accessible to 600 people.
In South Dakota, $5,682, donated by 33 people, will be used to grow six community gardens, improving the nutrition of some 200 children.
Four donors united to provide $25,670 for a community risk-prevention program to help children on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
To expand the successful Pamoja child-nutrition project in Kenya, nine supporters gave $18,648. The expanded program will supplement the nutritional needs and reduce the levels of malnutrition in preschool children within the Mukuru settlement.
Amazing things are happening for children through ChildFund’s Fund a Project. Won’t you join us?
by Virginia Sowers
It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they work together.
In just three months, 22 generous ChildFund supporters have raised $62,588 to reduce malaria in Zambia, feed malnourished children in Kenya and bring fresh water to rural communities in Timor Leste.
These supporters likely will never cross paths, but they all shared a common quest through Fund a Project, which identifies critical needs in ChildFund program countries.
For the project in Nambala, Zambia, five ChildFund contributors and one major donor have put up more than $41,000 for malaria prevention and education. The program will significantly increase the number of treated bed nets in Nambala. A much larger trained force of malaria agents will also educate households on prevention and management.
In Kenya, ChildFund’s successful Pamoja nutritional support program will continue and expand to the Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi, thanks to the generosity of a major donor and 10 contributors who gave more than $18,000.
The program will supplement the nutritional needs and reduce the levels of malnutrition in preschool children within the settlement. Funds will also cover the costs of transporting and distributing the supplement, employing cooks to properly prepare foods for the children and monitoring children’s progress to ensure the reversal of malnutrition.
In Timor Leste, children will no longer have to walk up to 40 minutes to reach a source of potable water and then carry a supply home to their families. With more than $2,800 from five contributors, ChildFund will be providing a nearby source of clean water for approximately 15 rural families. Without such long treks for water, children will have more time to study, play and help with other family chores.
All three projects should be under way this spring and summer.
More worthy projects await funding. So, what else can we do together?
by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
Wow! Two weeks into ChildFund International’s Fund a Project, and one of the projects is already fully funded. Thank you!
In Timor Leste, children and families have to walk for up to 40 minutes to reach a water source for potable water. So, one of our priority projects was water pumps for these rural families. The cost was $2,857 and thanks to you, it’s now funded.
Installing water pumps within or near the communities is about much more than ending the trek to get water. It means that the children and families will have access to water that does not make them sick, cutting down on diseases that can be deadly.
It means that children won’t spend their time walking to get water and won’t be so tired. Ultimately, this means that it will be much easier for children to go to school, to interact with other children, to learn and grow.
And that’s only one project. Eight other projects remain to be funded. As these projects are funded, new ones will take their place. Each project requires thousands of dollars to make them happen. For those of us who want to make a difference, but aren’t able to make a large one-time donation, Fund a Project is perfect.
Each person gives what he or she is comfortable with contributing and, collectively, the donations add up to fund the project. It’s a great way for a few, or many, of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life.
The barometers on each of the projects are moving. I gave to the playgrounds in Afghanistan, which is now about 1 percent funded – a start. I’d love to see the barometer move up more quickly. I may have to give up one of my weekly coffee runs and help inch the barometer closer to “funded.”
How will you make a difference?
by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
I’ve been working for ChildFund for a little over a year, and I’m impressed by those donors who can help a community by building a school, supplying a water pump or providing materials for a health hut.
These are significant contributions that usually require several thousand dollars to make them happen. How fortunate we are to have these individual donors.
For those of us who want to make a meaningful contribution but may not have the resources to do so individually, ChildFund has developed a collective tool, Fund a Project.
It’s a great way for a few or many of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life. I’m drawn to the playground equipment for parks in Afghanistan. I can’t even imagine what life is like for those children, but how incredible will it be for children to have a place to play and forget about conflict?
A little more than $50,000 is needed for the playground equipment. I’ve made a $10 donation to get the project started. With the help of others making similar donations, it won’t be long until the children in these Afghanistan communities are having fun on a playground.
If you’re also looking to make an impact, consider helping provide water pumps for rural families in Timor Leste or supplies for community gardens in the United States. The water pumps cost $2,800 while the community gardens are $7,000.
The two most expensive endeavors of Fund a Project are malaria-prevention programs in Zambia at $41,000, and a global youth employment and livelihood initiative for $100,000. They are both worthy goals for collective efforts.
I like the idea of funding a program that positively impacts children. And I like knowing that I’m doing it with many others, even though I will probably never meet them or know who they are. But that’s OK because we all want the same thing — a better world for these children.