By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
As part of our 75th anniversary blog series, we are talking with staff members about how they’ve seen ChildFund make a difference and what they hope to see us achieve in the future.
Since the 1950s, ChildFund has worked in underprivileged communities in the United States, particularly with African-American, Latino and American Indian children. Today, we support projects in Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.
Julia Campbell, program director for ChildFund’s U.S. programs, spoke with us about the commonalities and the differences between the approximately 10,000 children we serve in the U.S. and those who live in other countries. American children’s situations are typically not as dire as they are for children in developing countries, where families often confront severe hunger, a complete lack of health care, dirty water and the spread of deadly disease.
“We in the U.S. are more focused on the softer side,” Julia notes. Self-confidence, community engagement, literacy and education are emphasized here. A major issue, she adds, is a “lack of involvement by parents, who sometimes are intimidated [by their children’s schools]. Inequality of education is a huge issue in the U.S., and a large part of it is determined by race.”
In Oklahoma, ChildFund and its local partners work to bring communities together, which can be difficult when distance between homes is great; in South Dakota, where we work with Lakota children and families, our programs encourage cultural engagement and work to prevent youth suicide. In Mississippi many children and youth have family members in prison, and young people in Texas, whose parents often came from Mexico, are trying to navigate a bicultural world, Julia says.
Although the children are under some pressure to serve as English translators for their parents, “their potential is pretty much endless in this country,” she says, particularly when children and youth learn about opportunities here.
For Julia and her colleagues in the U.S., the primary questions are, “How do we define poverty and tackle lack of engagement?”
ChildFund could not do its work without the assistance of hundreds of local partner organizations in the communities we serve globally. Our partners work with us closely to identify local needs and implement programs to aid children, families and communities.
We are grateful for their partnership every day and their help in all emergency situations that arise — such as in communities afflicted by drought to those overwhelmed by floodwaters. Two local partners from Mississippi, one of the states where ChildFund works with children and families, recently sent us letters of congratulations on our 75th anniversary. We cannot thank them enough for their cooperation over the years as well.
A Message From Operation Shoestring, Jackson, Miss.
Happy 75th Birthday, ChildFund!
Not often in life are we able to feel that the work we have been assigned to do changes the world. It has been a pleasure to be affiliated with ChildFund, an organization that focuses on the needs and well-being of children. Even in the 21st century, the world continues to need an organization that focuses on assuring that the children it serves are not deprived of the opportunity to thrive holistically, physically and psychologically; and that helps them have what they need for the development of their full potential.
We are honored to be a part of ChildFund’s mission, which offers our poorest children guidance, support and a light to success. Can you imagine that a process that started 75 years ago is still relevant today and is still affiliating with like entities to improve the world for generations yet to come?
Operation Shoestring appreciates the opportunity to share in this work with ChildFund, since it affirms our work of teaching children and inspiring families so that we all rise together.
A Message From We Care Community Services, Vicksburg, Miss.
When I think of ChildFund (formerly Christian Children’s Fund), what I first jokingly think of is acronyms and other words … AIMES, SSIMS, FIT, PDF, NPs, photo guide, SITE, home visitors’ log, programs vs. services, enrollment reports, family cards, TUFF, ASPA and strategic directions, just to name a few.
But I also soberly look back and think about my new project affiliation form from the early ’90s (which I still have a copy of) and think about why we have this partnership and how far we have come.
This partnership aligns with We Care’s vision, values and beliefs. Our initial project description read “OUR children, the children of this community are OUR future. Your support through sponsorship activities is an investment in this community’s future.” This resonates as a truth today. Through our partnership with ChildFund, we as an affiliate have strived to offer not only quality services, but also meaningful services across this community.
We would like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to ChildFund as you celebrate your 75th anniversary. As you commemorate this milestone in history, remember that you have not only been a voice for children but also for many a source of survival. Without your presence and compassion, many more children still would be trapped by the hardships poverty imposes. It is because of partnerships such as ChildFund that we are successful.
With your continued support, we will continue to work on ways to make the lives of OUR children easier and healthier, without deprivation or isolation, through empowerment strategies. We know that we can only be successful if the communities that we serve, which you help to support, are thriving, healthy and successful.
With homage and congratulations,
by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
Perhaps like many of you reading this, I check my Facebook page – often. In fact, it’s a core part of my morning routine.
When I arrived, Elaine, our Mississippi area manager, shared some startling statistics about poverty – and, more specifically, the way that institutional systems of oppression in the U.S. and Mississippi have reinforced poverty conditions within the African American community. In the communities where ChildFund works, African Americans disproportionately experience poverty, unemployment/under-employment, incarceration, teen/unwed pregnancy and school suspension/expulsion.
Related to these statistics, we learned what children in our programs personally report feeling, the risks they identified in their lives and the positive resources they seek out in their families, peer groups, schools and communities.
We went on a brief tour of program areas recently affected by Mississippi River flooding, passed dilapidated closed-out storefronts and eventually pulled up in front of a small brick building that was clearly a bank turned library turned community resource center. Yes – the same resource center I had just read about on Facebook that morning. Happy dance.
We met Jasmine, Toneca and Mr. Jamison. We heard firsthand how the resource center came to be — how it truly was an initiative dreamed up, advocated for and enjoyed by the youth themselves. We asked the young ladies who took the lead on this project what differences they were seeing in the community as a result of the resource center. How did other children see and treat them now that that they had made a difference? I was eager to hear why they volunteer at the center and what future goals they have. What else did they need in their communities?
It was a delightful and eye-opening chat. Someone in our group happened to have an Internet-enabled phone, so we showed the girls the ChildFund article about them on Facebook. They giggled with pride seeing their names, faces and story.
Then one moment caught our collective breath. After recapping the history of all that happened with the center and how her life has changed as a result, we asked now 15- year-old Toneca how all of this attention makes her feel. She looked down somewhat sheepishly and paused to reflect on the question. Her eyes rose, she looked the person in the eye and emphatically responded, “Like a hero.”
We sat silently for a second then erupted into applause. She was beaming.
Often life is about subtle timing. I just happened to meet these young ladies in the Mississippi resource center after I had just read about it online. But more important, ChildFund was at work in the community right when a youth leader – a youth hero – was emerging. Perfect timing.