Youth in the Americas Embrace Finance Education

By Graeme Thompson, ChildFund Americas Regional Program Coordinator

Is saving even possible in rural, poor communities? That was a question a lot of people asked when the Aflateen program began in ChildFund’s Honduras and Ecuador operations last year. The answer, from the youth themselves, has been a resounding and, perhaps surprising to some, “yes.”


Two youth in ChildFund’s Honduras programs.

Aflateen is a global methodology for introducing social and financial education to youth, ages 14 to 24, and the program is a follow-on from the popular Aflatoun, which reaches children ages 7 to 13. ChildFund offices in Ecuador and Honduras had been working with Aflatoun, so they agreed to pilot the new Aflateen program in 2011.

“It’s an issue we’ve never had before,” recalled one youth participant attending a workshop in Santa Barbara, Honduras. “We’re not taught about these things in school.”

“I learned to spend my money on what was really useful and not just to waste it,” said another participant.

In one activity, youth participants each fill out a chart, identifying money they can earn in a month and what they think they can save. Then they write down the cost of something they want – new shoes, a phone, a month at university. The chart then helps them easily see how much time they will need to save for that item. Saving is difficult, but the youth discover that even very high-cost items are reachable with a good savings plan.

In Honduras, 30 youth went through the program, spending three hours in class every other Saturday. They were led by five of their peers, who studied the teaching guide and revised the activities to suit the local context. The program includes modules on personal exploration, rights and responsibilities, savings and spending. As a capstone, the youth design, implement and, if necessary, raise money for a small community project.

In Ecuador, youth participated in a high-school-based version of the program. Additionally, a radio broadcast version reached hundreds of youth who live in outlying areas. Beyond financial topics, the radio program introduced themes like first relationships, personal self-image and friendships. The show also offered a hotline number so that youth could call in and ask questions.

Youth like the Aflateen program because it’s highly participatory and is tuned to their local experiences and realities. Given the success of the pilots, both Honduras and Ecuador are expanding their programs in the coming year.

Youth Lead the Way

Reporting by ChildFund Bolivia and ChildFund Honduras

On International Youth Day, ChildFund salutes the young people in our programs worldwide who are embracing education, developing their skills and working every day to make their communities better places to live.
In Asia, Africa and the Americas, youth are taking on leadership roles, constantly inspiring us with their insights and enthusiasm.

Today we introduce you to a few of those youth in Honduras and Bolivia. Teenagers like Kevin, Wendy and Jordi who are helping ChildFund Honduras’s local partner, ADACOL, develop a strategic plan to improve conditions in their area. They are developing their public speaking skills and contributing to important community decisions.

In Bolivia, the Obispo Anaya Youth Club recently greeted ChildFund CEO Anne Lynam Goddard, eagerly sharing their achievements in ChildFund’s youth leader program. Through this program, the youth are engaged in news reporting, growing community gardens and protecting the environment in and around the city of Cochabamba.

With children and youth as our partners, we know the world will become a better place.

Three Countries, One Goal: Happier Children!

By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager

I’m flying from Honduras on my way home to the ChildFund Americas regional office in Panama City. The last few weeks have been full of intense traveling and inspiring experiences.

In Jamaica, while participating in the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children follow-up meeting for The Caribbean, I learned so much about what the Caricom countries are doing to fight and prevent violence against the most vulnerable in our societies: children, youth and women. By working together on awareness campaigns and advocacy efforts, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), civil society, governments and institutions—encouraged by children and youth—can raise our voices and stop violence. Raising kids with love, yet with authority and discipline and without corporal punishment, helps children grow into confident and loving adolescents, without fear and without anger or resentment.

smiling children

A group of indigenous children in Guatemala.

A week later, I traveled to Guatemala, where the amazing beauty and richness of the Mayan world overwhelms your heart and your senses. So much color and vibrancy is reflected in the faces and outfits of the indigenous boys, girls and families we visited in their tiny houses hidden in the Guatemalan mountains.

It was inspiring to see so much happiness and hope expressed in the children’s faces, despite the hardships of poverty and deprivation. No water, no sanitation, sometimes not even the chance to continue studying beyond third grade. Still, these children have so much future ahead, and there are so many possibilities to make it brighter if we just help, in any way we can with time, money or knowledge.

Concluding my travels in Honduras was so rewarding, amid the beautiful tropical mountains in the Santa Barbara region, where ChildFund has been working for almost 30 years. Seeing young boys and girls representing their communities in town hall meetings attended by government officials and other NGOs is the fruit of many years’ labor and investment by ChildFund in these communities.

I wish we adults could have the confidence and abilities of these youth as motivators and public speakers. Their energy and desire to change the world is so contagious and convincing that you just can’t say no! These young girls and boys know their rights, are educated and confident, have big dreams for their futures and will not take no for an answer.

Youth presenter

Youth presenter, Wendy, discusses issues in her community.

While visiting the town of Colinas in Santa Barbara, I felt blessed to meet Yordi, Wendy and Kevin, three young children who come from poor villages. They have sponsors from a country far abroad who not only send resources and letters but also encourage them to keep thriving and dreaming, studying and participating. They see a bright future ahead of them, are proud of themselves and speak with passion and conviction about their dreams.

This is how I know ChildFund’s efforts are worth it. When I’m with the children I know our organization’s work, and the generosity of sponsors and donors from all over the world, really make a difference and contribute to changing lives.

ChildFund Honduras Guide Mothers Program Recognized for Innovation

by Lylli Moya, ChildFund Honduras Communications Officer

ChildFund Honduras has achieved an honorable mention as Best Innovation for its Guide Mother’s program. The award, presented jointly by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the ALAS Foundation (led by the Colombian singer Shakira) recognizes innovations and excellence in early childhood development programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Two mothers and a childChildFund’s Guide Mother’s program was cited for its commitment to children and for engaging families and communities with active participation in children’s development.

The success of the program stems from the voluntary work done by local mothers who assist neighboring families in the communities served by ChildFund Honduras programs. Trained by ChildFund Honduras, the guide mothers pay monthly home visits to provide guidance on children’s development, including communication and language, motor skills, cognitive and socio-emotional development appropriate for the child’s age group.

child playing with blocksThanks to the efforts of 2,095 guide mothers in Honduras, more than 8,600 children under the age of six have benefited.

More than 700 individuals and institutions throughout the Latin America and the Caribbean region submitted nominations for the ALAS-IDB award in the categories of Best Teacher, Best Publication, Best Innovation and Best Center. The ALAS-IDB awards are first of their type in the region and honor professionals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to early childhood development.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Honduras and sponsoring a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A ‘Gardener’ of Children in Honduras

by Lylli Moya, ChildFund Honduras

31 in 31 logoOver 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 meet a community health volunteer in Honduras.

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program.

Jessica at home in Culguaque community.

Jessica Carolina Funez is a 21-year-old community health volunteer in the community of Culguaque, three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Her day starts early as she rises to clean house and prepare food for her family before going to work.

“I am a gardener at the community preschool center,” she says, explaining her job. However, her gardening tools are not the typical shovel and hoe. She is caring for something much more delicate than plants and vegetables. As a “gardener,” her job is to care for preschoolers four days a week.

Jessica (left) and a fellow volunteer wait for mothers to arrive with their children.

She enjoys her job and also volunteering as a community health worker because she gets to help children. After receiving training from ChildFund, Jessica assists with a once-a-month weigh-in session for children under the age of two. “We weigh them, mark the weight on the graph, give counseling to mothers and give the children supplements like iron and zinc.” If a child is underweight or shows signs of slow development, Jessica or one of her fellow volunteers will pay a follow-up visit to the home to provide further information and counseling to the mother. “We help mothers care for their children so that they don’t become malnourished,” she explains.

Jessica and daughter.

Working with other children and attending health training sessions provided through ChildFund, Jessica says she has learned so many things, including how to take better care of her own six-year-old daughter and plan for the future.

Jessica is currently finishing her high school equivalent while studying business administration through a distance-learning program. Her dream is that both she and her daughter can one day attend university and become professionals.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Honduras and how you can sponsor a child.

How Betty Became a Health Monitor

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week and from time to time.

Meet Betty, a 36-year-old community health volunteer who lives in Lepateriquillo, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, traveling by bus. This Honduran community doesn´t have electricity, but it does have running water and latrines.

Honduran family in front of house

Community Health Volunteer Betty with her familly at their home in Lepateriquilo community.

Betty and her husband have four children between the ages of 8 and 16, all of whom attend school. The family earns a living from working their own land and selling a few cattle. Betty also operates a small store in her house, selling basic products to community members.

So we ask Betty why she decided to volunteer as a health monitor for her community. “It was because of my husband – he was the first to take the training. But when he couldn’t attend due to his work in the fields, he started asking me to attend on his behalf.”

That’s when Betty learned how to weigh children and fill out the children’s growth charts, assessing whether they were developing at a normal rate.

When ChildFund’s partner organization had a new opening for a health monitor, they invited Betty. She has since completed all of the training modules in the USAID AIN-C (Atencion Integral a la Ninez en la Comunidad – Integrated Community Child Health program).

Just ask her about the curriculum: Growth Monitoring, Care for the Sick Child, Care for the Pregnant Woman and the Newborn, Information Systems, Feeding Children under Two Years of Age, Feeding Pregnant women.

What does she enjoy most about being a health volunteer? “The home visits to the newborns,” she says, without hesitation. But one of the things Betty says she doesn’t like is when children in the community “lose weight because the mothers would not follow her recommendations.”

It’s volunteers like Betty who will keep this community on a healthy track.

A Team Effort to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Honduras

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

woman sweeping

Suyapa does her house chores in Culguaque.

Suyapa, a young mother in her early 30s, lives in Culguaquel, a small community dedicated to cultivating coffee, which thrives in the cool climate. Located about 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, Culguaquel is accessible by bus and car. Yet, there is no electricity in this community.

The mother of seven young children, Suyapa lives with her husband, José, in a small home, with adobe walls, a dirt floor and a tiled roof. Her husband, a day laborer, earns less than 50 cents per day, and Suyapa, who left school after first grade, stays home to care for the children and manage the household. Keeping up with five boys and two girls is no small amount of work. All of the children are enrolled in ChildFund programs, and two are sponsored.

woman tending fireAlthough her children are relatively healthy, Suyapa is happy to see more health services now coming to her community. She is attending educational sessions offered through ChildFund and its partner. “They tell me about my children’s nutrition [needs] and give me advice on how to care for them, and they receive vitamins,” she says.

The History of a Honduran Midwife

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

At 73, Maria knows a thing or two about life. Although she completed just two years of primary school, and can only sign her name, Maria has a wealth of knowledge, especially when it comes to mothers and babies.

Her community of Culguaque, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, has one health care center staffed by a nurse auxiliary.

But most women Maria’s age didn’t go to a health center for care during child birth. Instead they relied on a midwife.

Grandmother and grandaughter

Traditional Birth Attendant Maria with her granddaughter at her home in Culguaque.

“My mother was a midwife,” Maria explains. “One day my mother was called by a family to assist a birth and I accompanied her.” Maria’s mother was sick and requested her 32-year-old daughter’s help. “She kept telling me, ‘learn, my daughter, because I’m very close to dying.’”

Woman in her homeStarting at that time, Maria began accompanying her mother to assist her in all the community births. When her mother died, Maria took on the elder’s role, responding to all the families who requested her services as a midwife.

Some years later, when the Health Care Center nurse found out that Maria assisted with births, she came to her house and invited her to participate in a midwives training program.

Maria says that it had been more than 20 years since she received training from the Ministry of Health via the Health Care Center. Last fall, she was happy to get a refresher course from ChildFund, as it implements a maternal and child health program in her community. “I enjoy attending these training sessions because I used to be very bashful. With the training, I’ve learned to be more outgoing and I learn more.”

Woman in front of houseFor the most part, being a midwife is enjoyable work for Maria, who has been widowed for two years and has two living daughters and an adopted daughter. But the difficult part, she says, is “when a woman can’t deliver her baby.”

If that is the case, Maria knows to refer the patient to the closest hospital. Most of the time she goes along with the woman and her family, to reassure them and to be an advocate. If she can save the life of a child, then it’s been a good day.

Growing Up in ChildFund

by Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Writer

I’ve been writing for ChildFund for a year now. One thing I’ve heard again and again from colleagues and other people I interview for articles is that going out into the field is the best way to really understand ChildFund’s work.

My first trip to the field in late June took me to Honduras, where ChildFund offers many programs benefiting children and their families.

My mind still swirls with all I learned there. Certain moments light up, though — times when the importance of what we’re doing in the field really hit home for me. It happened whenever I encountered young people who have grown up in ChildFund’s programs and are giving back.

boy points to picture in book held by woman

Merlissa, a trained guide mother, makes sure children are developmentally on track.

Merlissa is just one example. She volunteers in her village as a ChildFund-trained “guide mother,” which means, basically, that she visits young children in their homes and plays with them. But it’s more accurate to say that she works with them, because the activities Merlissa brings are specially designed to stimulate young children’s development and prepare them for preschool.

In each session, depending on her charge’s age, Merlissa might have the child manipulate small objects, identify pictures in a book, walk a straight line and show she can feed herself and follow instructions (“Put the green car on the lower level of the table and the purple ball on top …”).

photo of boy demonstrating balance skills

Milton easily walks a straight line along the string Merlissa has laid on the floor.

On this particular day, in the small, dimly lit main room of one family’s home, she’s working with a 3-year-old boy named Milton, who performs all tasks with dispatch. “He’s very advanced for his age,” Merlissa says. Milton strides up and down a length of string Merlissa has laid on the floor, then waits for his next instructions with a steady, wide-eyed gaze.

Looking on are a boy and girl, older siblings of another boy who will work with Merlissa later (but who’s too shy to do so while I’m present!). These two, I’m told, are both first in their classes at school, and their mother credits it to their work with a guide mother.

baby on blanket

Merlissa crackles shiny paper to see whether the baby turns toward it.

After she finishes with Milton, Merlissa begins work with his 4-month-old baby sister. Not a happy camper — she has a little fever — but soon she’s distracted by the shiny paper Merlissa crinkles just out of view, inviting her to turn toward the sparkle and follow it with her eyes, just as a baby her age should.

Afterward, we ask Merlissa whether her own children are in school. She tells us she has none — that she’s 21, that she grew up in ChildFund’s programs in the village and that she enjoys giving back.

And now it’s time for her to continue doing so, with the other little boy who has waited through Milton’s session. I walk into the sunshine, smiling at what ChildFund sets into motion for so many young people — who pass it along to their young neighbors.

It’s Time to Reclaim My Town from Crime

Guest post by Francisco, a youth reporter from ChildFund’s Reitoca project area in Honduras. This article originally appeared in the “Free Expression” column of the La Cronica newspaper produced by Honduran youth.

Francisco at work on his column.

I live in Reitoca, a municipality located 85 km (53 miles) south of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. With an estimated population of 15,725, Reitoca is part of a nation filled with natural beauty. We are known for our famous thermal waters and refreshing waterfalls.

Contrasting to such beauty, there are scenarios that worry me greatly. As I wake up every morning, I sense and am exposed to high levels of violence and crime in this once tranquil and safe place. Not so long ago, we used to sleep confidently, doors and windows open. The morning after, everything would be in place, just as we left it. These are now only memories of a safe town we used to live in.

Reitoca is now very dangerous. This year alone I’ve already witnessed 27 robberies. Common crimes are assaults, as thieves seek to steal money and cell phones. Other offenders trespass on private property to steal crops and hens from responsible families who’ve made an extra effort in saving to grow their own.

Again, this is only what I’ve witnessed, who knows how many more crimes occur on a daily level?

Our municipality is aware of the growing crime numbers, and what’s even worse is that criminals continue to steal without the fear of being punished. It’s shameful that visitors and tourists express they’re scared of walking around during the evenings because it is dangerous.

Our youth and the rest of the population want there to be peace and security. We dream of a safe town free of crime.

It’s time to wake up and end the “If-it-doesn’t-affect-me-it’s-not-my-problem” attitude. It’s time to join efforts and ideas, and together with local authorities finally resolve this problem that affects us all.

Editor’s note: A top priority for ChildFund Honduras is providing children and youth with leadership and advocacy skills, which is why Francisco wrote about what is taking place in his town. He and his peers may then strategically work together — often with adult community leaders — to bring about change in their communities.

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