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?”
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 Linda Ehrhardt, U.S. Southern Plains Area Manager
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. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.
Most people think of Christmas as a time to spend with family. Unfortunately, children who reside in foster homes do not have that luxury. To brighten the holidays for the foster-care children who reside in Adair County, Okla., ChildFund’s Southern Plains Area Office partnered with several local civic organizations to host a Christmas party in the children’s honor.
Many of the 36 children attending had never had a chance to meet Santa or sit on his lap. Most have never had a party given just for them or received presents wrapped with pretty paper and bows.
As families gathered in the Westville Pentecostal Church meeting hall, there were bright smiles as far as you could see. Foster parents and the children sat and visited before lining up to fill their plates. The delicious meal was donated and prepared by Matthew 25 House, Adair County Foster Care Association, Little Debbie’s Corp. and Harps Grocery. Adair County Child Welfare staff members served the families.
While the foster parents enjoyed a meal that they, for once, did not have to cook, the children squirmed and wiggled in their seats. They would take bites here and there, but it was hard to think about eating with all the excitement and buzz that a special guest was expected to soon arrive. Community members and a few of the older foster children attempted to keep the younger ones entertained by painting characters on faces and hands.
A noise was heard outside…. What was that? A fire engine? Surely not a fire on this special evening! The children raced to the door just in time to see – to their surprise – Santa and Mrs. Claus climbing down from the big Westville Fire Department fire engine.
The noise level went high, with shrill giggles and laughter. “It’s Santa Claus…it really is him!” With awe on his face, one little blond boy walked right up to Santa, reached out and touched his ample belly. He turned back to his friends, grinning from ear to ear. Apparently, a belly that shook like jelly was confirmation that Santa really was real.
We managed to get the children seated on the carpet and Santa in his chair. The Jolly Elf then called the children up one by one to receive gifts and a stocking filled with goodies. The local Vo-Tech center’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) nursing group donated the presents. The student group hosted fundraisers throughout the year so they could buy gifts for the children. ChildFund’s Southern Plains Area Office provided the stockings and goodies.
Everyone went home happy that December night. I left humbled by the magic of the evening. Our community had come together to honor the dedicated foster parents in our area and to celebrate children who are too often overlooked.
Although the thought saddened me that these children would not be able to spend Christmas with their own parents, I was overjoyed to see the love these children receive from their foster families. That evening, our community ensured that these children were not excluded from the magic of giving – not just presents, but unconditional love, affection and acceptance.