Reporting by ChildFund staff in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda
As we celebrate the Day of the Girl, ChildFund recognizes three young women who were empowered through programs that emphasized the importance of girls. In their youth, they were given opportunities to learn, grow and prosper. Today, we celebrate their accomplishments.
Wotay, 25, grew up in northern Sierra Leone. Despite the poor conditions of her community, she managed to finish both primary and secondary school. Wotay is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Njala University.
In her youth, Wotay was always one of few girls to speak out on the problem of teenage pregnancy (often due to rape and incest) and other child abuse issues in her region.
Now, during her visits home, she continues to advocate and help children in her community, offering them advice and assisting them with writing letters to their sponsors. She also volunteers with ChildFund community partners and is an active public speaker. Although she has an interest in finance, Wotay is currently devoting much of her attention to youth development.
In Caroline’s family, school is viewed as being only for boys. As a result, it was difficult for her to access education as a young girl. It was also a common practice for girls to be circumcised. But a local school administrator was instrumental in preventing Caroline’s circumcision and also guided her to ChildFund’s Psychological Support and Care (PSS) trainings where Caroline gained key insights into the rights of women and children. That knowledge has given her drive and courage to pursue her academic goals.
Although now 20, Caroline is a thriving high school student in Kimalel Day Secondary School in Kenya’s Marigat District. She shares her experiences with other youth who are struggling to get an education. She has been instrumental in encouraging other girls to go to school and helping them understand their rights. Recently, her ideas around inclusion of girls were used to help ChildFund and its local partners map strategy for future community programs. Caroline’s efforts have also contributed to a noticeable reduction in regressive cultural practices in her community where education for girls is not highly valued.
When she finishes her education, she hopes to be a teacher and a community facilitator.
The Police Detective
Growing up in poverty, Christine, 24, was a shy and unhappy little girl who didn’t believe she was good enough to succeed. She often kept quiet and listened to other children speak – she thought they knew better and therefore had more right to be heard. That was before she was sponsored through ChildFund Uganda.
Fast forward a few years, and Christine is a confident, assertive, determined and independent police detective in the crime intelligence division. Christine describes ChildFund as the “miracle that changed her life.” She recalls the letters, greeting cards and gifts from her sponsor Hansen that helped motivate and encourage her to do her best.
When she became of age, Christine assumed responsibility for helping other children like her. She assisted with letter writing and contributed to programs for children in her impoverished community. Those experiences helped shape the leadership skills she uses in her current job.
Christine attributes her communications skills and the ability to love and give to her time with ChildFund Uganda. ”I am able to stand all challenges at work because of the trainings I was involved in,” she says. “I stand for what I believe in. I am not afraid; I am assertive and I know my rights!”
Christine hopes to continue giving back to her community by empowering children and wants to sponsor a child in the future.
By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer
In recent months, more than 62 percent of U.S. states have experienced moderate to exceptional drought, and the children and families in our Oklahoma program areas are feeling the heat.
Crops like soy beans, wheat and corn have withered or died, producing low yields and forcing farmers to sell off livestock they can no longer afford to feed; while seasonal farm hands go without work. “Families who earn income in the summer months by helping with harvesting of hay and crops did not have jobs this summer,” says Linda Ehrhardt, ChildFund’s southern plains area manager.
With an already limited income, families in our Oklahoma program areas are bracing for what experts are predicting to be a nationwide surge in food prices. “Many of our families live on fixed incomes and receive assistance to help them feed their families,” Ehrhardt says. “The amount of that help does not increase every time the prices of groceries increase – leaving our families hungry by the end of the month.”
As ChildFund works with its local partners to monitor the situation and identify ways to support hard-hit families on the home front, we are reminded of the extreme hardships that millions of children and families in our programs in Africa have been experiencing since 2011. The severe drought that began last year in the Horn of Africa is mirrored in the Sahel region and continues to claim lives and destroy crops, livestock and families’ way of life.
of individuals experiencing food insecurity grew to more than 3.75 million. With the help of ChildFund, local NGOs and government agencies, families living in those areas received clean drinking water and food assistance to help feed their children. For many, this was the kind of hope and opportunity needed to rebuild their broken communities, but, today, dry conditions are back.
This year, with the short rains failing and the long rains coming late, once again crop yields have been low in eastern and western Africa. Food prices have spiked and families are in trouble.
This month, known as the lean season, Kenya will see food insecurity reach its peak. In Ethiopia, more than 3.76 million people will require food assistance until December. And in the Gambia, many children will be at risk for malnourishment or worse. Families who have planted crops are out of food and are depending on the small number of crops that will survive the drought. They will scramble for extra scraps and may even eat the seeds they had planned to plant next year. From now until October, food, milk and water will be hard to find.
Focusing our attention on the suffering in both eastern and western Africa, ChildFund will provide the necessary assistance to help families and children endure the drought season. It is paramount that we continue to provide access to clean water, sanitation and assistance with agricultural tools and activities but remedying food insecurity is even more pressing. ChildFund will provide food distributions, nutritional support and monitoring, as well as psychosocial support to help those experiencing the realities of drought.
For more information on how you can help children and families dealing with drought in our program areas, visit http://www.childfund.org/emergency_updates/ and help change a life.
By Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
Esther Ndungu in our finance department and Eunice Kilundo in programs were good sports and agreed to share their stories.
How was it growing up using your left hand?
Esther: People used to imitate me; some would get very mad and say my parents failed to teach me how to use my right hand.
Eunice: Throughout my school life, including college, my classmates teased and made fun of me by imitating me as I wrote and as I played (throwing a ball with “the hand”). They found it funny as I tried to write while seated at a right-hand desk. I could even catch some of them staring as I ate! I guess they thought I would miss my mouth or something.
What have you heard about left-handedness?
Esther: Left-handed are bright people and they are lucky. They think with both sides of the brain…that they are very smart. They die early….
Eunice: I grew up feeling different, strange. My unsuccessful attempt to “change my hand” frustrated me. By and by, my perception changed. I now find it humorous when people get surprised that I am a leftie! I try teaching them the “art” of throwing a ball, eating without missing my mouth. It’s nice to tickle people once in a while by doing something so natural to me… being me.
Any thoughts you have about being left-handed?
Esther: We are unique people in our own way.
Eunice: They can do anything and everything. Just try and find us the left (not right) scissors, enough lecture room seats and allow us to be. To my fellow lefties: Guys, take it easy and go for anything including the presidency: George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama did!
Happy Left-Handers Day!
By Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
In the spirit of this year’s International Youth Day theme, Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth, ChildFund Kenya invited its team of interns to share their thoughts on working with ChildFund this summer. The Kenya office provided various hands-on learning opportunities to help prepare these young people for future employment. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences.
Magdalene works with the APHIA Plus Program (AIDS Population and Health Integrated Assistance Plus) and has gained a new sense of professional confidence. “I have enjoyed the opportunity. The team has much trust and confidence in me. My supervisor has guided me well, and I am able to take up new challenges. It makes me feel so proud to be associated with ChildFund.”
Sammy felt like a part of the ChildFund team from the very start. “The welcome was awesome! There’s awesome teamwork and the facilities are great. Being in ChildFund makes you grow in all aspects and my experience has been nothing but splendid.”
Elton enjoys the learning opportunities offered by colleagues in the SR department. “The first time I came here, there was a lot of work; being new at it, I wondered if I could perform. I was immediately trained, supported and encouraged. I enjoy the different lunch treats and our many health talks.”
Eric, from the IT department, sees beyond the technical side of his job and realizes the importance of philanthropic work. “ChildFund is an organization that touches lots of lives out there in a very positive way. I have always had a heart to help the needy in whatever way possible, even as a student. I think with the great support from local and international well-wishers, ChildFund can continue to greatly increase the realization of Kenya’s vision.”
Daphine was able to get a behind-the-scenes look while working in the finance department. “When we had a finance meeting, chaired by our finance director, it was so engaging and interactive. I had never attended such a meeting. It felt really good to be included, and I learned a lot regarding my job and building relationships with colleagues.”
When asked her thoughts on organizations partnering with young people, she said, “Youths should be given the opportunity in organizations that nurture their skills and talents. They should be involved in social activities that allow free interaction with their peers to help improve their self-esteem and desire to change their lives.”
And we agree.
As we get ready to celebrate International Youth Day, ChildFund Kenya will continue to motivate our young people in our office and in our programs to join conversations relevant to their daily lives, contribute to ideas that will solve global youth issues and celebrate the power of global collaboration.
Reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
Each year, the U.N. recognizes Aug. 12 as International Youth Day (IYD). Focusing on global initiatives to create and strengthen partnerships with youth, this day is a celebration of the innovation and capabilities of young people to change the world. Activists, philanthropists, politicians and academics will collaborate with young women and men from around the world to address issues such as political inclusion, employment, entrepreneurship, protection of rights and education.
Partnering with youth is a key part of ChildFund’s mission. The work we do around the world encourages young people to use their voices and advocate for their rights to help solve issues in their own communities. Oftentimes, higher education is a youth’s best means to break the cycle of poverty and also give back to the next generation. With the help of dedicated sponsors, youth in ChildFund programs have increased opportunity to not only finish high school but also obtain post-secondary degrees. This has been Kaltuma’s experience.
Born into a family of five children, Kaltuma, 22, is the only member to excel beyond high school. With the help of her sponsor, Susan, Kaltuma is now beginning her second year at Kenya Methodist University. She is studying to receive a degree in clinical medicine; a goal that her sponsor has encouraged her to pursue since high school.
“I am very proud of the support I have received. Someone very far believed in me,” Kaltuma says. “[Susan] made sure there were not obstacles regarding my education.”
Kaltuma’s mother also encourages her to study hard because she knows the benefits of education. “My mother keeps encouraging me to finish my studies,” Kaltuma says. “She tells me with education, my life will be better than hers.”
Kaltuma is one of very few girls in her clinical medicine class and the only student from her community. She is proud of her accomplishments and looks forward to a better future. Upon obtaining her degree, she hopes to land a job in the medical field, have a family of her own, and above all, help young people like herself.
When asked her thoughts on the International Youth Day, she said, “Support a young person today, so that they can be better people and better parents tomorrow.”
Recognizing the woman who has supported her education for many years, Kaltuma insisted on writing a letter to her sponsor before we left. In the letter, she tells Susan how well she did on her latest exam and thanks her for her help.
Having children in our ChildFund programs participate in the Day of the African Child ceremonies at the African Union earlier this month was a shining moment. We asked Joan Ng’ang’a, communications officer for ChildFund Kenya, to post about the experience of traveling with the children from Kenya to Ethiopia.
Wednesday, 13 June
It is 11 a.m. when Jane and James meet for the first time. Discussing what they hope to get out of the trip, their respective projects, and the excitement of flying for the first time, both students are anxious to start their voyage.
One hour before check-in, Jane and James get their passports. They have waited a long time but it is worth it. We get to the airport at 4:20 p.m., check in and proceed to gate number 7 for boarding.
“You mean, they just jump off the ground,” James questions, as he watches a plane take off for the first time. We all laugh. Our flight takes off as scheduled at 6:20 p.m.
We land at Bole Airport in Ethiopia around 8:40 p.m. and are warmly greeted by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund’s regional communications manager in Africa. It’s been nearly a year since our last meeting, so I am excited to see her and she is happy to finally meet Jane and James. After dinner, the children run off to recite their work. Everyone is in bed by 10 p.m.; it has been a long day.
Thursday 14 June
On Thursday, we rise with the sun around 6 a.m. We enjoy a good breakfast and meet the team from Gambia for introductions. We meet Abdulahi and Ramatoulie for the first time. Together, we ride to the U.N. complex in our van. We really like our van because it displays our countries’ names.
Today is the day that all the children, from Ethiopia, The Gambia and Kenya, will compete in a Q&A before the African Union. They will also be able to share their prepared art work. Both Jane and James read their poems. We conclude the day with a lunch and a visit to the Gambian embassy. It has been an exciting first day.
Friday 15 June
On Friday, by 7:30 a.m., we have all had breakfast and the children have dressed in their traditional attire. The fabrics and colors of their clothing display their rich African culture. They are proud to represent their countries.
On our way in, James sees the Kenyan flag and we take some pictures. I am truly humbled to finally arrive at the African Union, a place I had only read about over the last 10 years. We take even more photos!
Our sessions begin at 10 a.m. with opening remarks from the Commissioner of Social Affairs, followed by more speeches from the organizers and representatives from the government of Ethiopia and ChildFund International. Like celebrities, the children get interviewed by two radio stations. Someone from a local newspaper interviews James, as well. Before long, the children are treated to tea time. They really like the break and enjoy their cake and soda.
After lunch, we tour the University of Addis Ababa’s museum. There we absorb the history and culture of Ethiopia. We are all fascinated by the stuffed lion at the entrance of the museum. It looked so real!
Saturday 16 June
Today is the actual anniversary of the uprising in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976. But since it’s a weekend, the children are allowed to sleep until 7:30 a.m. After breakfast, we all head to the Arada community to visit a children’s art club. Abdulahi speaks on behalf of the group. He briefly recaps the last two days of our stay in Ethiopia and the children get to know each other. Split into four groups, the children break off to view and learn more about pieces of art posted in the club. Some of us learn a new word, today: Jambo – hello in Swahili.
Our van picks us up at 5:30 p.m. and takes us to the awards ceremony and closing reception at the African Union. A surprise to us, Tenagne brings ice cream! We arrive at the AU and meet ChildFund’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Jumbe Sebunya, with whom the children take photos. The highlight of the evening is the presenting of awards by ChildFund. We are excited when Jane wins first place in literature in the high school group and James wins first place in literature for the middle school group. We take more photos than ever at this event!
Monday 18 June
It is 8:15 a.m. and we have arrived at the airport. We depart from gate number 7 and before long, the plane lands in Nairobi. We are finally home. James and Jane meet with ChildFund Kenya National Director Victor Koyi for a debrief. They tell him about their exciting trip, yet we all express happiness to be home!
by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya
Last year, Kenya’s Turkana region was the hub of disaster. The drought had bitten hard, as evidenced by the bare landscape, pocked with livestock carcasses and dried up vegetation. Families moved away from their homes in search of food, water and pasture for the livestock that remained.
Children and women bore the brunt of the disaster as malnutrition, illnesses and death became common. This was not the first drought experienced in the area. But it was the worst in many, many years. A strong community was brought to its knees by disease, hunger and desperation.
To survive, many families began to embrace farming as an alternative to a nomadic pastoral lifestyle. With agricultural training and support from ChildFund, women are farming huge gardens that now stretch along River Turkwell. And they are producing enough maize, sorghum, beans and vegetables to feed their families. These gardens have attracted settlements of traditional pastoralists. Through the sale of crops such as sorghum, household incomes and food security are increasing. Children are growing healthy and strong.
Excitement ran high in the community when Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund’s regional director for East and South Africa, recently visited the garden projects. As they carried Jumbe shoulder high, the women sang of their past struggles. They also sang of the great joy they now feel as a result of the hard work and the change they have embraced.
Dedicated to their children’s survival,these resilient women are saving a generation.
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we travel with Missions in Action to ChildFund’s programs Kenya.
More than 400 people perished when fire erupted in a large urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2011. The fire added an extra layer of hardship to an already difficult living environment.
Alex Boylan, the host of the web reality series Missions in Action (MIA), travels to the Mukuru community to check in with children and families who are recovering from the fire. Many children like Steven are receiving assistance from ChildFund programs made possible through sponsorship support.
Watch the video on MIAtv.
by Karen Chieng, ChildFund Kenya intern
They may not be based at the North Pole, but ChildFund employees are paving the way for a happy holiday for children in our programs.
Right now, ChildFund offices around the world are abuzz with various activities. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for our organization. As much as opportunities to be of service to others surround us every day, our commitment becomes heightened during this season of giving.
As sponsors continue to show their love and support toward the children by sending Christmas and holiday greetings, ChildFund employees are happy to play the role of Santa’s helpers. In each of our national offices, a team is busily working to ensure that children receive their letters in time to celebrate the season. After all, photos, cards and letters are the crucial links in the chain of friendship between sponsors and children.
So as the mail keeps pouring in from thoughtful sponsors, we’re making our list and checking it twice to ensure speedy delivery. We know children are eagerly awaiting the latest news, updates and small gifts from their sponsors.
We take joy in spreading good cheer and love this time of year.
by Karen Chieng, ChildFund Kenya intern
Alfred Wambua Kimanthi, 46, loves his work as deputy head teacher at Kyangwithi Secondary School in Kitui, Kenya. When he pauses to reflect and tell his story, he notes that his life could have turned out much differently.
Growing up in abject poverty under the care of his grandfather who could barely provide basic necessities, Alfred, nonetheless, held the dream of becoming a teacher close to his heart.
His first break came in primary school when he was enrolled in ChildFund’s sponsorship program. He later managed to sit for his final exams and passed with flying colors, attaining his Certificate for Primary Education. “I remain indebted to my sponsor whose assistance enabled me to successfully complete my studies, a launch pad that set me toward my dream of becoming an educator,” says Alfred.
As he continues to tell his story, one can hardly miss the bevy of students constantly coming up to him for consultation. “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where the influence stops,” he says. It’s an adage he has come to know well in his profession.
One of his most memorable experiences as a physics and mathematics teacher was contributing to the rise of female enrollment at a school he was posted to in northeastern Kenya. This is an area rife with the cultural practice of early marriage for girls, since education is often deemed fit for the male child only.
Working closely with local authorities, Alfred persuaded community leaders and families to allow girls to attend school. He also engineered the promotion of science education for girls, succeeding in making physics the number two best-performed subject at an all-girls school in Kitui. The school became known for the quality of its science education, contributing to an increased number of female engineers in the area.
At his current teaching post, Alfred continues to pass the baton to eager learners. He credits ChildFund for its drive to empower young minds through knowledge. It’s a mission he shares with passion.