By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Manager, ChildFund Americas
Nicole recently visited our Mexico office, where she met with children in ChildFund programs. This week, she is sharing highlights from her visit.
Much of ChildFund’s work in the field depends on volunteers, who are typically community members trained to encourage healthy development in children in a variety of ways. Here’s one mother who’s doing her part in Mexico.
Eli, the mother of two girls and a third baby on the way, is a volunteer with one of our local partner organizations in the state of Oaxaca. We met her two daughters, who are among 30 wildly energetic children, ages 6 to 12, participating in the Activate (Get Active) after-school program. Eli has her hands full trying to maintain order.
The session begins with a game called “the mailman.” The children circle up outside on a basketball court, and the leader calls out, “The mailman brought a letter for a child with … a ponytail! Blue jeans! Red shirt!” The children scurry to the correct position in the circle, depending on their hairstyle or clothing. Younger children learn to identify categories through the game, and everyone burns some energy.
We then venture inside to a large room that the municipal government lends to the local partner. It’s centrally located and safe, so the children have an easily accessible space for learning, and the partner doesn’t have to put funding and effort toward construction or maintenance of a building. Inside these walls, creativity flows.
Now the children work together to create a new fairy tale, which winds up being called “Little Red Riding Hood and the Boy in the Blue Cape.”
Eli walks around the room asking children to provide the next line in the story, building on what the last child said. The story, intricate with details, twists and plot turns, grows and grows, and another adult volunteer writes the story on a blackboard — but with intentional spelling and grammar mistakes. After the story is finished, the children tell her how to correct the story: where an accent was missing, where a comma needed to be added, where an S needed to be changed to a Z.
As a facilitator, Eli supervises four sessions a week: two for children ages 6 to 12 like the one we saw, and two sessions for youth, age 13 and older.
These sessions are meant to be different from school, Eli says, because in class, the children have to be formal and quiet. But in these programs, they get to let their energy and creativity soar. As a facilitator, she receives a small stipend of approximately US$50 a month to help her family. But the payback is more than monetary; Eli describes the children as her friends, and she loves when they run up to her and give her big hugs when she walks through the community.
After the fairy tale session, the children have another recess outside. This time, the basketball court is turned into an obstacle course with a fabric tunnel, foam rollers, large boxes and rings. They jump, hopscotch and crawl through the course, ultimately sitting in a throne made from cushions. Then it’s time to go home.
Eli says she has a new purpose and higher confidence with the skills she has learned as a facilitator, and she feels empowered to be a leader in her community. More important, Eli says the training has helped her to be a better mother to her own children.
By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Manager, ChildFund Americas
Nicole recently visited our Mexico office, where she met with children in ChildFund programs. This week, she will be sharing highlights from her visit.
Gisela, 13, is the youngest of three siblings. Her parents sew soccer balls by hand for a living, a common profession in this rural community high in the hills of the state of Oaxaca.
It takes about 10 hours to sew one ball, which will bring 11 pesos (just a little less than US$1). With each parent making one ball per day, Gisela’s family of five must survive on less than $2 a day. Her parents’ hands are badly worn and blistered from pushing needles through the thick leather.
Though she already knows how to sew balls too, Gisela has other dreams for her future. When asked what she hopes to do one day, she replies with a coy smile that she would like to be a kindergarten teacher, not a ball maker. “I want to teach [children] to paint and about using vowels and how to write their names,” she adds.
Gisela is shy, but she describes herself as “friendly, respectful, intelligent, honest and affectionate,” noting that “these qualities are important for any human being and that, above all, we should treat others well.” She sees these qualities in her U.S. sponsors.
Often, Gisela receives letters from the teenage daughter of her sponsor family. Gisela has all of the family’s letters and photos safely tucked away in an envelope that she made just for this purpose. The envelope is labeled “Beautiful Details.” She has folded and refolded each letter so many times that the paper has worn thin around the crease marks. The photos are a little dog-eared at the corners, and you can see fingerprints all over the matte finish. These are Gisela’s treasures, and she keeps them well-guarded.
When Gisela’s U.S. friend was taking high school Spanish classes, she sometimes wrote in Spanish, which made Gisela smile because then she could read the letters without the usual translation from ChildFund Mexico’s national office. But since Gisela is learning some English in school, she also likes to try to read the letters in English to help her practice. Now, she can pick out words in the letters like “mother,” “father” and “blue.”
Her sponsor family wrote to Gisela about holidays in the United States like Thanksgiving, Halloween and Independence Day, as well as their daily lives: school, sports, dancing, pets and weather changes. These are all topics Gisela wrote back about as well, but sharing the traditions around Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) instead of Halloween and Mexican Independence Day in September instead of the Fourth of July. In her community, there is a rainy season and a dry season, as well as basketball, volleyball and dancing at festivals. Gisela even has her own animals to look after: chickens, pigs and two dogs.
Through ongoing communication with her sponsor family, Gisela has gained happiness, confidence and a new understanding of a different world of possibilities. For much of the time we spent together, she was reserved and quiet, but when she spoke about her sponsor family, she was all smiles.
By Gabriela Ramirez Hernandez, ChildFund Mexico
The United Nations declared Aug. 12 as International Youth Day in 1999, so ChildFund is taking this week to focus on challenges that especially affect teens and young adults, as well as celebrate young people who are showing strong leadership in the countries we serve.
Chucho started life with many challenges, growing up in an impoverished community in Michoacan, Mexico. His father died when he was only 2, and his mother passed away from cancer when he was 11. Fortunately, his aunt took him in and he also became more engaged with ChildFund programs.
Today, Chucho, whose given name is Jesús, is 21 years old. He is a dance instructor, gives workshops on environmental education, studies marketing at college and volunteers for environmental causes.
Chucho began his affiliation with ChildFund México at the age of 6. He started by being involved in skills development programs, and as he grew older, he participated in sporting events, celebrations, reading programs and after-school tutoring.
As time passed, Chucho realized that he was changing on the inside. He was less introverted, he was able to speak in public without embarrassment, and he felt more confident.
After completing elementary school, he began practicing oratory, participating in competitions and winning first place several times. “What I wanted the most was to show my family that every effort has good results,” he says. Chucho also discovered his passion: dancing.
But life was still complicated, because he had no money to continue studying. At the age of 14 he decided to enter the National Council for Educational Development (CONAFE) and started working as a teacher’s aide in his community.
“I worked very hard in order to convince the children to participate in various competitions, to organize contests with other schools, and they always won something,” Chucho says. “I wanted to share with them one of the most important things I had learned in ChildFund Mexico: that everything is possible if you work hard for it.”
At the age of 15, Chucho received recognition from the council as the top teachers’ aide. His ChildFund sponsor, who still supports him today, expressed her pride in him too.
Then one day, Chucho received a proposal to become the youth leader of the local partner organization, Valle Verde, which works with ChildFund México. He accepted without hesitation and began to organize all kinds of events, recognizing that young people need support and motivation.
As he entered high school, Chucho chose to do community service for an organization called Biocinosis, which focuses on environmental education. Another organization, Reforestemos Mexico, invited Chucho to join in reforestation and recycling programs, further building his knowledge.
In 2012, Chucho received the Youth Merit Award of Michoacán. This is an award given to young people who are great leaders in different fields. He received the award from the governor of Michoacán, and Chucho was on the radio and television news.
Clearly, Chucho has the potential to achieve many more goals as an adult.
“All the things I have done and what I am today is thanks to ChildFund Mexico,” he says. “They taught me so many things, and they took care of me when my parents died. They are my family. Now I want to continue working with young people so we can improve our community together.”
By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This post concludes our four-part series about the exchange program designed to improve the sponsorship experience. Read the series.
Our weeklong exchange program for sponsor relations managers in the Americas opened the door to in-depth conversations on policies, practices, processes, operations and cultures. Each sponsor relations manager now has an action plan to implement a promising practice gleaned during the exchange.
Here are some of their final reflections on the experience:
Ana Handrez, of Honduras, who visited Mexico: In the 19 years I have worked with ChildFund, this was my first time visiting another country specifically to discuss sponsorship issues and experiences. I was very surprised to see the engagement and initiatives from ChildFund Mexico’s local partner organizations. They knew their policies very well, and they were very proud to share their ideas of engaging children in sponsorship activities. It was amazing! The visit was worth every single day.
Valeria Suarez (Mexico): Ana’s visit was an enriching experience for Mexico’s office and especially for the sponsorship team. The national office and field sponsorship staff realized that even though each country has “particularities,” both share similar conditions, processes, histories and results. We enjoyed showing Ana how things are done here in Mexico, how sponsorship processes and visions have changed in the past few years, and how results have started to be achieved. We learned from her how processing times should be improved to continue enhancing the sponsorship experience, and Ana learned from us how creativity and working closely with children can provide better information for sponsors.
Cynthie Tavernier-Jervier, of the Caribbean, who visited Guatemala: This week makes me want to continue to make the sponsorship position more and more effective. I realized again how important the part that we play in programs actually coming to fruition to meet the needs (educational, social, health) of the less fortunate of our countries. So, a wonderful thing about my job is helping to bring benefits to less fortunate children and families and making a difference.
Diana Benitez (Guatemala): The exchange is an opportunity to know in situ the sponsorship processes. I see this experience as very exciting and enriching. Although Dominica and Guatemala have very different contexts, the sponsorship processes are similar. This exchange will impact our work going forward.
Dov Rosenmann, of Brazil, who visited Bolivia: This was an opportunity to reflect on our current practices and identify key areas of improvement for immediate implementation. I consider myself a beginner in sponsorship management in ChildFund, and being in Bolivia with an experienced team is, for me, a unique chance to directly ask questions and take in knowledge. On the other hand, I hope I was able to share with my Bolivian peers more about Brazil’s experience in managing sponsorship. As for what has been the best part of the exchange, for me it was seeing the youth participation at the local level and learning about Bolivia’s communication corners. Both were very inspiring and definitely an initiative to be multiplied in other countries.
Rosario Miranda (Bolivia): My expectation was to learn by comparing processes and seeing opportunities of improvement. Both national offices have similar interests and efforts toward integrated sponsorship and program activities to contribute to children’s development. Having Dov visit our national office and four local partner organizations was a wonderful educational exchange experience. We were able to compare operations and provide valuable information to improve each other’s sponsorship processes and developmental activities with children.
Santiago Baldazo, of the United States, who hosted Ecuador: This was a great experience. Although in planning for the week, we assumed that discussing sponsorship processes when both countries were already very familiar with the procedures would be somewhat tedious. But, while we shared the “how” of the sponsorship processes, it was very valuable for us to have the opportunity to discuss the “why” as well.
Zoraya Albornoz (Ecuador): Staff in both offices work hard to give children the chance of better opportunities for their lives. Through this experience, I was able to better understand the way other offices work and realize the good things we have in our own operations as well as the importance of working closer to the local partners. In the daily work we lose the real perspective of our strengths and weakness. I saw that we have some things that can be improved in order to reach our goals.
Learn more about all of the countries where ChildFund works around the globe.
Reporting by ChildFund Mexico
ChildFund Mexico is teaming up with ArcelorMittal Mexico, a multinational steel manufacturer, to improve conditions for children in six communities in Michoacán, Mexico.
The new community-development project, launched in late June, will directly benefit 1,300 Mexican children and reach more than 7,000 people in the town of Lázaro Cárdenas over the next nine years. The project’s main purpose is to develop sustainable improvements in education, health, nutrition and livelihoods.
With funding from ArcelorMittal, a new community center has been established, as well as four smaller meeting points in other areas, giving children and adults places to discuss their communities’ needs. The goal is for residents to take the lead in evolving their groups into independent community organizations over the next several years.
“Through the Integral Community Development Project of Lázaro Cárdenas, we look to promote the well-being and socio-economic growth of the communities where one of our main operations is located,” said Felicidad Cristóbal, global director of the ArcelorMittal Foundation, the company’s social investment arm. “ArcelorMittal is one of the main companies in Mexico with a long-term strategy for corporate social responsibility supporting self-sustainable development processes. That’s why we value the partnership we have established,” says Virginia Vargas, ChildFund’s national director in Mexico.
By Gabriela Ramirez Hernandez, ChildFund Mexico
Imagine having a soccer ball that produces light, just by playing with it. If you are a child with no electricity in your house, this seemingly magical ball will help you do your homework or light up the dinner table. Your family won’t have to spend money on candles.
The Soccket ball, produced by Uncharted Play, a U.S.-based social-enterprise company, generates light after a couple of hours’ play; kicking it for half an hour supplies enough kinetic energy to power a small lamp for three hours. The founders of Uncharted Play, which has been honored by the Clinton Foundation for its innovation, invented the Soccket for a class at Harvard University.
ChildFund, Uncharted Play and Fundación Televisa are working together to supply Socckets to families who live without electrical power in the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca. Today, about 180 children in these indigenous communities have a Soccket in their homes. Not only do these children have a new toy (a luxury), but their families also have a light source for reading and sewing at night.
ChildFund Mexico is evaluating the project and considering providing Socckets to additional communities.
By Gabriela Ramírez, ChildFund Mexico Communications Officer, and Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
The beginning of November marks a special celebration in most Latin American countries: the Day of the Dead. The first two days of the month are dedicated to remembering and honoring loved ones who have passed away. These celebrations have their origins in the pre-Hispanic era and symbolize death and rebirth.
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to celebrate this occasion with the Quechua communities while visiting ChildFund programs in Ecuador. Specifically, Nov. 1 is dedicated to honoring infants, while Nov. 2 is devoted to remembering deceased adults.
One of the most common customs is the making of altars to welcome departed spirits home. Vigils are held, and families go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and to present them with offerings and flowers. Ceremonial foods include the colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge, and the guagua de pan (guagua means child in Quechua language), a bread shaped as a little child, wrapped in traditional clothing and beautifully decorated as a symbol of remembrance of those infants who passed away.
Sharing the traditional foods and customs with the mothers, children and elders in the community made us reflect on the precious lives of children and sadly reminded us of the many children who die every day, especially in developing countries due to lack of water, sanitation, food or proper care. Each day, nearly 19,000 children die before their fifth birthday. That’s almost 800 every hour, according to World Health Organization’s 2011 stats.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead – also very important in other countries where ChildFund works in the Americas including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia – was a special opportunity to honor the many children who didn’t make it to their fifth birthday. It reaffirmed our commitment to work toward providing access to health care and nutrition, educating caregivers and creating safe environments for the growth and development of millions of children born into challenging conditions around the world.
This is our commitment. We want more children to be able to celebrate the Day of the Dead, and not just be remembered on that date.
By Gabriela Ramirez, ChildFund Mexico
Jacqueline lives in Mexico’s state of Mesha a Choossto, home to the indigenous Mazahua people. It is a place between mountains, pine trees and cactus. A place where you feel the cold air that blows to the bone, no matter the time of year.
A cheerful countenance belies the fact that Jacqueline, 14, has a serious illness: pulmonary stenosis, an abnormal development of the fetal heart that affects blood flow to the lungs.
Because of this condition, Jacqueline has little appetite; can´t breathe well; gets tired quickly; can´t walk, run or play; or express strong emotions.
No and no and no!
With medical operations starting when she was 8 months old, Jacqueline´s life has not been easy.
At first, going to school meant being carried in the arms of her mother. But Jacqueline was eager to walk and she did it, slowly but surely taking long breaths.
In school, she doesn’t go out at recess time to play with other children, yet she has faithful friends who share lunch and spend time with her talking and laughing.
But not all days are good. Jacqueline has been a victim of discrimination by peers at school. Some of her classmates made fun of her condition. She would ask her mother: “Why am I going through all this? Why do they tell me that I’m going to die?”
Her mother, with tears in her eyes, could only hug her hard.
And then Jacqueline found another source of support—ChildFund and its partner organization in her community, Tziti’u a Mesha a Choossto I.A.P., where she now receives care and attention. She also has a sponsor who provided funds for a specially fitted bicycle. Jacqueline’s mother now has a better way to transport her daughter to school.
When Jacqueline came to ChildFund Mexico, her condition was deteriorating progressively, and she had to spend more time at home lying down.
With the support of ChildFund’s partner organization, Jacqueline was referred to Children’s Hospital in Mexico City for yet another operation. Although her condition has improved, another operation will be needed soon.
That makes her sad, but Jacqueline says she wants to keep improving her quality of life. She wants to study. She wants to be an example to her siblings and a help to her parents. And she is convinced that her illness will not get her down.
Perhaps the mark left by the doctors on her chest after the operation is an “I” for invincible.
Reporting by Antonio Barranco
Hello. I’m 15 years old. I live in Saucitlán de Morelos community in the state of Oaxaca.
I live with my grandparents, my uncle, my sister and my mother. My uncle raises cattle and grows corn and beans for the family. From the corn harvest, my mother makes warm tortillas, and my grandmother cooks beans that are very delicious with her special hot sauce.
I finished junior high, and now I’m going to high school. I think I would be a great psychologist, because I think it would be interesting to help people who have psychological problems and fears to clear their mind of them. Some people have difficulty overcoming traumas or fears that keep them far removed from reality.
On afternoons when I have free time, I go to the library to read biographies of important people. I also like to draw and listen to music.
Reporting by ChildFund Mexico
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 spend time with children and youth in Mexico.
Although Mexico boasts the 12th largest of the world’s economies, the country’s income disparity keeps millions below the poverty level. Where ChildFund works, predominantly in the southern part of the country, only 6 percent of people have sufficient income to support their families.
Since ChildFund began operations in Mexico in 1955, much of our work has focused on safe water, health care and malnutrition. In addition, we’ve worked to improve educational opportunities for children.
Let’s listen in as children and youth in ChildFund Mexico programs share insights into their daily lives and their dreams.
My name is Edwin, I’m 9 years old and I’m in fourth grade elementary school in Tepelmeme (state of Oaxaca). Every day I go to school; I like to study and want to be a doctor to give financial aid to my family and get help for my friends and all of those children who are sick. I like to help others and I’d like to have my own medical clinic and a football team.
I am Nadia and I am 12. I live with my parents and I like my community because I go to the games and church. I like so much the traditions. At home I help my mother to wash dishes, and I wash my own clothes. I like school, I’m in sixth grade elementary school, and I want to keep studying to become a physical education teacher.
I’m Gloria. I like to live in my community; what I don’t like is violence, robbers and pollution. I study in fourth grade elementary school and go to the shelter in the community where I eat. The fruit I like most is the strawberry. At home I do housework. I wash dishes, make the bed and keep the clothes. When I grow up I’d like to become a singer and people will recognize me, that’s why I have to be prepared and practice a lot.
Hello! My name is Leonel. I attend to the Tizaac program of ChildFund Mexico and have a sponsor who writes and I write back. From when I was a baby, my parents give me encouragement to move forward in life. The [ChildFund] program helps my education and gives me values to be better child and citizen. During the year, I weigh and measure to check if I’m healthy. And what I like most are the football tournaments and the computation classes because they teach me to use programs, and I create images, posters and my most beautiful works of the school. I want to be a lawyer and defend good people.
My name is Emma and I’m 15 years old and in high school. I belong to Tizaac ChildFund Mexico Program since I was younger. I like to participate in the workshops with psychologists because they have helped me to be stronger and understand better the important things in life. In ChildFund Mexico’s program I have received so many supports like a bed, and ecological oven for my home and some birthday and Christmas presents. I dream about going to college, graduating in psychology and then going back to work in my community. In the future, I’d like to work and serve in the community organization to help those children as I was helped.
My name is Brando. I study in the third grade of junior high school in my community. My passion is music. From an early age I wanted to learn to play the trombone. Now through the Tizaac program of ChildFund Mexico, I have registered with the centro de estudios de banda. Children from different communities who took classes in music come together in the ensemble. I’m very happy because in CECAMBA they gave us new instruments to learn. I’m now learning to play the trombone, and I’m also taking vocational training. My dream is to study for a great degree but never leave the music.