Happy Birthday to Everyone!

Reporting and photos from ChildFund Mozambique

In several of Mozambique’s communities where ChildFund works, our local partners hosted birthday parties for children who may never have celebrated their birthdays before. This was possible thanks to a recent campaign by ChildFund International that asked sponsors and other supporters to send birthday cards to children who don’t have sponsors, and more than 1,000 of you responded! By having cake, games and other treats, the unsponsored children didn’t feel left out of the fun. Enjoy the pictures from these celebrations in Zavala, Zandamela and Maputo, where hundreds of children have received birthday cards. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child in Mozambique, here’s more information

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ChildFund Assists Health Care Efforts in Mozambique

By ChildFund Mozambique Staff

One in a series this week for World Health Day (April 7)

Olga Jeje

Dr. Olga Jeje of Gondola, Mozambique.

Olga Jeje has worked in Gondola as a doctor since 2009, and she’s experienced firsthand the partnership between ChildFund and Mozambique’s health department, a collaboration that helps provide basic health services for children and families.

“At the health services department, we work in close coordination with ChildFund, which supports vaccination campaigns against polio and measles, and also in reaching children with supplements of vitamin A,” Olga notes.

ChildFund has supported doctors and other medical personnel with transportation and by facilitating their moves from one clinic to another. As a result, about 8,000 children have benefited in Gondola.

Another result of the partnership between ChildFund and the District Office of Health Gondola has been the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets purchased by ChildFund supporters, benefiting more than 100 children who now have a better chance of avoiding malaria.

Talking to community members, many say that ChildFund’s contribution to local health services has meant a lot.  

“The presence of community health activists in the area, trained by ChildFund through the Community Caring for Children Programme, has been a great opportunity for us, because we now understand the benefits of taking our children to the health centers at the first signs of sickness,” says Julio Domingos, a community leader in Mazicuera. “We now know the importance of managing waste to avoid diseases, such as diarrhea, and we now know how important is to use a mosquito net in order to prevent malaria. We are now aware of the methods of how to prevent HIV and AIDS. We also see community activists paying visits to people living with HIV and AIDS, and we know that this gesture is very important for all of us.”

vaccination campaign

A vaccination campaign in a Gondola clinic.

ChildFund’s 75th Celebrated Around the World

By ChildFund Staff in Kenya, Liberia, Mexico and Mozambique

Many of our national offices have thrown celebrations recently for ChildFund’s 75th anniversary. Here are some photos from these events (featuring lots of ChildFund’s special shade of green), taken by staff members from our offices in Kenya, Liberia, Mexico and Mozambique. Enjoy!

 Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya celebration

Kenya celebration

Maputo, Mozambique

Mozambican children

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico staff members

Monrovia, Liberia

Liberia staff

Liberia cake

A Q&A With Mozambique’s National Director, Chege Ngugi

Interview by Sierra Winston, ChildFund Communications Intern

In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’ll hear from several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries we serve in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Today, we hear from Chege Ngugi of Mozambique

75th ChildFund logoHow long have you been at ChildFund?
Two years.

What is your favorite thing about working at ChildFund? 
Working with local community-based organizations to address the development challenges faced by children and their communities.

What is the most difficult situation you have encountered in your job?
Helping staff see things through a different lens.

What successes have you had in your national office?
Building a cohesive team and an interactive working environment, networking and alliance creation and growing the grants portfolio.

What motivates you in life?  
Seeing the results of our work in the lives of the target group, especially children and women.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Reading, discussing and listening on geopolitical issues.

What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

ChildFund Mozambique

ChildFund’s Mozambique national director, Chege Ngugi (left) visits children in the field.

World Water Day: Fátima’s Story

Reporting by ChildFund Mozambique

 To mark World Water Day on March 22, we’re focusing on the myriad challenges children and families face without a reliable source of clean water.

a girl drinks water from a cup

11-year-old Fátima.

My name is Fátima. I am 11 years old, I live in Gondola, Mozambique, and I attend Bela-Vista Primary School.

Formerly in my school there was no water source, which compelled us to walk long distances with a 20-liter container looking for water in other neighboring communities between 5 and 7 kilometers (3 to 4 miles) away from the school.

Consequently, our lavatories were unclean and classrooms floors were rarely mopped up, which exposed all of us to the risk of catching diseases related to poor hygiene.

Luckily, a water borehole has been dug on our school grounds by ChildFund, so now we are very happy because we do not need to walk long distances to access water anymore. Drinkable water can be obtained 7 to 10 meters (23 to 30 feet) away.

Our classrooms are not dusty anymore because we keep them neat, and our lavatories are always clean. We are less likely to catch diseases, as we now quench our thirst with treated water from the borehole.

women at a water pump

Fatima’s mother (in red coat) gets water at the pump.

This lady pictured in the red coat is my mother. She is pumping the water up here at my school for us to use at home. The beneficiaries of the water are not only schoolchildren but also the neighboring community.  We don’t need to walk long distances looking for water to drink, to cook, to wash our clothes and to give our animals to drink.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Visiting an Early Childhood Community Center in Mozambique

By Melissa Bonotto, ChildFund Ireland

Machava, a 32-year-old community leader, has been working with children for 10 years. He first started talking with village children under a tree close to his house. Then, ChildFund Mozambique built a resource center close by in 2009, and Machava had the chance to use it for his daily meeting with pupils. He also teaches adult education and is a student himself. He had to stop his studies during the Mozambican Civil War, but he is delighted to tell us that he managed to go back to school. He will complete the final year in secondary school next year.

Bringing new books

Machava and I show the children their new books.

As part of the Communities Caring for Children Programme (CCCP) launched last week by ChildFund Ireland and ChildFund Mozambique, this resource center has been adapted to become an early childhood development center. Flush toilets and basins with running water have been installed at children’s level and the center has been made more child-friendly. Zaza, a talented local artist painted colorful and animated pictures on the walls. A small playground is in the works, as is training for center facilitators.

Machava remembers the time he didn’t have any of this. “Children used to sit on the ground. We didn’t have a blackboard or chalk. Also, they were exposed to bad people. Now they are safe and secure in the center.” He teaches subjects such as Portuguese and math, but he acknowledges that the children´s favorite activities are dancing and singing.

Currently, 85 children are enrolled: 50 girls and 35 boys, age 3 to 6 years old. Children stay in the resource centre from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Parents who can afford it make a monthly contribution of 10 meticais (less than 35 cents in U.S. currency). Those who are enrolled in ChildFund’s sponsorship program receive a school bag containing a notebook, two pencils and a sharpener.

Children with new books and bags

During playtime, the children enjoyed their new books and bags.

When we went to the center, we brought some toys, games, books and activities to share with the children. The children were fascinated with bubbles, Irish stickers and pop-up books. We had the chance to tell a story and we also listened to stories told by the children. Maria, a young girl, told a story about “a boy who was friends with a monkey. One day the boy said he wanted to steal something, but the monkey said he should not do it because it was not nice!”

We watched them singing and dancing enthusiastically and animatedly. Just as Machava said, they love it!

Through the CCCP program, ChildFund seeks three primary outcomes for children:
• improve the quality of the services related to ECD
• strengthen community structures
• develop a culture of learning.

Four additional ECD centers are planned in Gondola before 2015, funded by ChildFund and Irish Aid.

In Mozambique, Communities Save and Prosper

By Melissa Bonotto, ChildFund Ireland

VSL Group

Members of Village Savings and Loans group gather for their weekly meeting.

It’s the end of another week and villagers from the Gondola district in Mozambique are gathered at their usual meeting spot. They each have their meticais – the local currency – and are eager to participate in today’s Village Savings and Loans (VSL) meeting. After the official welcome by the organization’s 23-year-old president Aida, they begin shouting out numbers, adding their money to the pool and cheering — happy to be investing in the future of their community.

Through a partnership with the local KureraWana Association, ChildFund Ireland and ChildFund Mozambique have encouraged VSL groups to invest in early childhood development as part of their new Communities Caring for Children Programme (CCCP). CCCP coordinator, Alberto, says “The community became so excited that they could not wait.” Some VSL groups began saving before the program’s official start date and will soon be able to support childhood development initiatives in the area. With an early start, most VSLs have saving down to a science.

Each group, consisting of about 15 to 25 members, meets weekly to make deposits into a communal fund. Participants must contribute at least one share each week, but they are allowed to give up to five. One share is equal to 20 meticais – or US$1.

Calculating interest in the group

A VSL group member calculates interests in the ground.

Members can borrow up to three times the amount they have contributed but only at the last meeting of the month. Borrowers have three months to pay down their loan, and do so at a 10 percent interest rate. Members follow clearly prescribed guidelines to participate and start each meeting by reciting the rules and penalties so that everyone in attendance understands.

With financial guidance, individuals use these loans to maintain or jumpstart new businesses and community programs. “These groups have been targeted for business management training during the program,” says Jean, a ChildFund Ireland grants officer. “So their loans are managed appropriately and used for viable businesses.”

Money counters

Two money counters add up the contributions.

Each group is supported by a secretary, two cashiers, a “money-box” guard and multiple key guards. All participants, identified by a number, announce how much they have saved for the week. The secretary records the amount in a ledger and members of the group cheer for their fellow banker’s accomplishments.

Beyond entrepreneurship, VSLs also encourage emergency preparation through savings. At every meeting, each participant contributes 5 meticais to a social fund that can be used as a donation to a member in times of need.

Clapping for savings

Members clap for the person who saved the most this week.

As their savings grow, VSL groups will help reshape the economic capacity of their communities and empower individuals to reach financial stability. Group members will start new businesses, providing services their neighborhoods need desperately, as well as support key community initiatives that will benefit the families and children of their community.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Visit with Genito in Mozambique

Reporting by Arcenio Matimbe, ChildFund Mozambique

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 visit Mozambique for a birthday celebration.

Mozambique is one of the least developed countries in the world, with 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. With most rural families relying on subsistence farming for a livelihood, it’s rare for Mozambique children to receive treats.

boy with birthday cakeBefore Genito was matched with a ChildFund sponsor in 2009, he admits that he didn’t know about birthday celebrations.

But when his U.S. sponsor began to send him cards, stickers and other small gifts, he soon caught on that a birthday was meant to be a happy occasion.

Now he knows when his birthday is and how to mark the day. “I like to celebrate my birthday. My sponsor always sends me gifts, and on this day I eat cake, biscuits and soft drink,” he exclaims.

boy with birthday card and stickersAt Genito’s home there is a broken freezer where he pastes the stickers received from his sponsor. The front panel is now a menagerie.

How to celebrate birthdays is just one of the things, Genito has learned from his sponsor in the last few years. “I like my sponsor because she teaches me to grow as a good boy.”

It’s encouragement that Genito carries with him every day of the year. “I love you my sponsor,” he says, flashing a shy smile.

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

Give Priority for Children in Africa

Guest post by Dinis

Dinis, 13, is the children’s representative from Mozambique’s Gondola district where ChildFund operates. Last week, he addressed government officials at the African Child Policy Forum, which examined how African governments are performing with regard to budgeting for children’s needs.

Group shot of forum attendees

Dinis (far right) joins discussions at African Child Policy Forum.

Children need more budget. The schools we have are not enough. Not only are our schools far away from home, they are without any [restroom] facilities. Students are crowded in class but teachers are few.

We children are exposed to abuse because our schools are far from our homes. Girls face rape [when they walk far distances], and boys are forced to do farming around home [instead of attending school].

Boy at conference

Dinis speaks at the African Child Policy Forum, held in collaboration with the Chissano Foundation and ChildFund.

All these problems are because the government didn’t budget enough for us. It is time for government to give us priority and budget for us. We need to be educated to receive tomorrow’s Mozambique.

Increase our school facilities and the number of teachers. Please put emphasis on quality education, train our parents and include the disabled.

Thank you.

An Urgent Call: Create Opportunity for Africa’s Youth

by Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa

man at desk

Jumbe Sebunya

This post is adapted from remarks at the African Child Policy Forum held in Maputo, Mozambique, last week.

With roughly half of Africa’s population under the age of 24 (and closer to three-quarters of the population in many of our countries) child development issues are more relevant to the African continent than to many others — and are more urgent than ever.

Between now and 2025, more than half a billion young women and men will enter the labor force in Africa, and currently there are not half a billion new jobs waiting for them. For governments and other key stakeholders, this raises formidable policy questions:

  • Is there a clear relationship between development planning and demography in our policies and practice?
  • Are there positive interventions planned by sector ministries, civil society organizations and the private sector to reflect these demographic trends, in terms of training, employment and education activities?
  • What should be the measurable positive outcomes of successfully engaging even a fraction of these young people in our socio-economic activities?
  • What is the worst possible scenario if the labor entrants — half a billion plus — are marginalized, powerless and excluded?
  • Is the recent declaration by the African Union heads of state on “Accelerating Youth Employment for Sustainable Development” a political rhetoric or a policy reality?

ChildFund, for more than 70 years, has been struggling with these questions but also inspired and driven by the potential that is inherent in children.

We work with deprived, excluded and vulnerable children so that they have the capacity to improve their lives and the opportunity to become young adults, parents and leaders who bring lasting and positive change to their communities. ChildFund’s distinctive approach is child-centered. We work with children, families, local organizations, government agencies and communities on clearly defined core outcomes for children throughout their life cycle from birth to young adulthood up to 24 years of age.

ChildFund core commitment is focused on child-centered developmental changes that seek positive outcomes for children at every stage of their lives: at infancy (0 – 5 years), through programs that promote health and security; at a young age (6 – 14 years), by focusing on child sponsorship programs and other activities that promote educated and confident children; and at young adulthood (15 – 24 years), by offering leadership and socio-economic skill development programs.

In 2010, ChildFund reached millions of infants, children and youth in 31 countries. Of these children, 56 percent are from Africa, 12 percent are in the Americas, 31 percent live in Asia and 1 percent are in Europe.

ChildFund Mozambique is at an early stage of development interventions, representing only about 1 percent of the total children and youth who have benefited from ChildFund’s work in Africa. We have, however, developed promising programs in Mozambique.

A good example is our Early Childhood Development (ECD) program, which is focused on the first eight years of a child’s life. These are critical years in establishing the foundation upon which the child grows and develops.

ChildFund Mozambique ECD programs build local capacities of families, communities and government agencies. Specifically, we are working in Mozambique’s Zavala and Gondola districts to create an environment where young children can grow and develop their potential. The ECD program, which is implemented through local associations, focuses on strengthening the synergies among children’s health, nutrition, protection, stimulation, psychosocial support and age-appropriate play and learning.

At ChildFund, we believe that the well-being of children leads to the well-being of the world. To achieve long-lasting change, you need partnership at all levels with strong networks of families and local organizations as well as a broad constituency at national and global levels so that we all join hands to champion the overall well-being of children.

Tomorrow: We hear from a youth who spoke at the forum.

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