poverty

Our Common Humanity

By Virginia Sowers, Editorial Manager

I often say the best part of my job at ChildFund is collaborating with colleagues around the world, as we seek to better serve children who live in extreme poverty. So it was a real treat to spend last week with ChildFund’s regional communications managers from Africa, Asia and the Americas, gathered with the communications team here in Richmond, Va., to share ideas and up our game for the coming year.

We asked each other lots of questions: What worked? What didn’t work? Why? How can we better integrate? What are the stories we most want to tell about children who need help? How do we assist each other as colleagues? What’s next, as we near our organization’s 75th anniversary?

group shot of communication staff

ChildFund Communications team members (l to r): Jennifer Atkins, Patrica Toquica (Americas region), Tenagne Mekonnen (Africa region); Kate Andrews, Dale Catlett, Tasha Chambers, Julien Anseau (Asia region); Cynthia Price, Virginia Sowers, Christine Ennulat, and Loren Pritchett.

Yes, five days of questioning, brainstorming, deliberating and priority setting is enough to make your head spin by Friday afternoon. But we parted with a deep commitment to moving forward as a team.

program cover from Richmond ForumAnd it was in that musing mindset that I moved into Friday night, attending the Richmond Forum’s speaker series, featuring former president Bill Clinton, now head of the Clinton Foundation. I’d been looking forward to hearing him speak for months, but I had no inkling his message would help me with some dot-connecting.

“We need more community forums like this, citizens coming together to have a conversation,” Clinton said. “We’d make better decisions as a people if we had more nights like this.”

Allowing that the world we live in is increasingly complex, technologically sophisticated and highly interdependent, he asserted that we all “need a framework for thinking about the modern world,” which has a global job shortage, economic inequality, a shifting climate and depleting local resources.

And then he started throwing out (oh, no!) questions for each of us to ponder: What would I like the 21st century to look like? What are the obstacles to shared peace and prosperity? What do you do? Who’s supposed to do it?

The challenges are high, Clinton said, especially for the poor. “Half the world is living on less than $2 a day,” he noted. “Kids under 5 are dying of malaria, dysentery and tuberculosis – diseases of the poor… almost 100 million kids don’t go to school. We’re killing off human potential left and right.”

It’s time to pursue a different strategy, with values that rest on human dignity, Clinton said. “That strategy looks different in poor places than in rich places; and in some countries like India and Brazil, you do both.” Poor places like Haiti, where the Clinton Foundation is at work, need systems, he noted. “Haiti needs to build a system that rewards good behavior with positive results,” referencing the need to invest in entrepreneurial businesses that lead to sustainable job creation.

“At some point when you stop investing in the future, you pay a terrible price,” he said.

Across the world and at home in the U.S., Clinton called for a change in outlook, a change he believes is coming. “We have to revitalize the way we do things and engage in the prospect of renewal,” he said.

But who’s supposed to do it? “My answer is everybody,” Clinton asserted. “The nongovernmental organization (NGO) is a gift America makes to the world.” Yet, he pointed out that it’s not just the large and well-known NGOs that are getting things done at home and abroad.

“The NGO movement is sweeping the world,” he said, adding that the millennial generation, which has been raised to be service-oriented, is helping fuel this movement. And it’s a movement open to all – community groups, citizens groups, churches and faith-based organizations. “If you contribute to the United Way in Richmond, you’re part of an NGO,” he said. “A lot of people doing a little together can have a huge impact…. When we work together, it works.”

Americans Expect Developing Nations to Take More Responsibility for Aid to Children

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

infographic on foreign aid

Click to view the full infographic.

Yesterday, ChildFund released the results of a survey conducted for us by Ipsos Public Affairs. We were interested in what Americans might say when asked whether the recent payroll tax increase would impact their giving levels.

Because we are an international child development agency, we also wanted to know about Americans’ views on providing aid to developing nations. We found that most do not think that the responsibility lies with individual Americans or the U.S. government.

  • 42 percent say that the governments of nations where children are being affected are most responsible for assisting their poor children.
  • 23 percent say nonprofits or advocacy groups are responsible.
  • 22 percent say individuals in nations where children are being affected are responsible.
  • 7 percent say it’s individual Americans’ responsibility.
  • 5 percent say the U.S. government should provide the aid.

One thing I’ve learned during my tenure with ChildFund is that it really does take a village, and sometimes another nation, to combat poverty. Developing nations around the world have made progress in breaking out of patterns of poverty, but the fact is they cannot do it alone and must continue to rely on other nations. ChildFund works to educate those in a position to help.

The Ipsos survey also asked Americans to estimate the amount of U.S. support to foreign countries, which is around 1 percent of the annual federal budget. Americans drastically overestimate the amount: 55 percent think more than 10 percent of the federal budget is allocated to foreign aid. On the other hand, 39 percent think 10 percent or less of the budget is devoted to foreign aid.

Because children living in poverty need help no matter where they are, ChildFund serves children both abroad and at home in the U.S., in some of the poorest counties in Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Children need and deserve good nutrition, education and protection. When children flourish, the world becomes a better place for all of us.

ChildFund Projects Up Close in Zambia

Jake Lyell, photojournalist and videographer, provides a behind-the-scenes view as he travels to southern Africa to document the needs of the people of Zambia and report on the successes of ChildFund projects in the area. Enjoy the video.

You Can Resolve Now to Help a Child

By Kate Andrews

Many of us are making resolutions to eat less, exercise more, call our parents on Sundays, get more organized and achieve any number of other positive goals in the new year. In this season of setting resolutions, we ask you to consider sponsoring a child in 2013; don’t let another year slip past.

boy at fence

Felipe

Five-year-old Felipe, who lives near the town of Diamantina, Brazil, doesn’t have access to clean water or enough food. With a $28-a-month sponsorship, you can help children like Felipe live healthier and more stable lives.

2013 calendar graphicStarting this week and running through the middle of January, ChildFund International is working to build our number of sponsors through a New Year’s resolution campaign.

Also of note: Sponsoring a child takes less work than going to the gym five days a week. “There’s always a tendency for people to resolve to eat less or exercise more,” ChildFund’s digital marketing director Timo Selvaraj says, “or to say, ‘Next year I’m going to make a difference.’ Let’s not allow 365 days to go by. It’s a simple message.”

To sponsor a child, please visit our website. It’s a great way to start 2013.

It Gave Me a Sense That Things Really Can Be Fixed

By Mauricio Bianco, ChildFund Brasil

Mauricio Bianco, marketing and fundraising manager for ChildFund Brasil, recently traveled to Ecuador. Today, he shares his impressions in the second of a two-part series. See part one.

children on playground

An ECD program in Misquilli.

After visiting with teenagers in ChildFund programs who produce a newspaper column and a radio show, we traveled to the community of Misquilli, an indigenous community of Quechua origin. We visited an Early Child Development (ECD) center built and maintained by ChildFund Ecuador with child sponsorship resources and government funding. The center serves children under 5.

woman with charts

A trained volunteer helps new mothers.

Many activities strengthen the emotional bond between children and caregivers, and many mothers in the ECD program receive guidance on the importance of breastfeeding. That advice is delivered by “madres-guias” (mother-guides) who visit mothers in the community weekly to discuss health, hygiene and nutrition of young children.

girl in blue hat

A young child attends ECD programs.

Toward the end of the day we traveled to the province of Cotopaxi, bookended at one side by a snowy hill and the other, a volcano.

We went straight to the community of Patutan, which lies about 10 km (6 miles) from the highway leading to Quito. We talked with leaders of six local associations that have partnered with ChildFund since 1995, supporting the work of ChildFund Ecuador, the national government and local social organizations.

green houses

Local greenhouses for growing flowers.

Some communities from the federation are “graduating,” meaning that they will no longer rely on funding from ChildFund Ecuador.

Carnations

Flower export provides needed income for this community.

These communities now have numerous entrepreneurs who started businesses selling flowers, tomatoes, chickens and pigs. The federation of community groups has a credit union that was formed in 2000 with US$120 and now handles more than US$600,000 in loans to local producers (with interest of 18 percent per year). Carnations and roses are exported to the United States, Europe, Russia and parts of Latin America.

community leaders

Community leaders discuss their future plans.

More than 400 families are involved in the flower industry. The Patutan community leaders eloquently discussed sustainability, transparency, income generation, empowerment, water sanitation, family farming, marketing and foreign trade. It was amazing and gave me a sense that things really can be fixed!

All of the community leaders, including women, seem fully aware of their rights in society and are increasingly improving their communities through sustainable growth. Next year, ChildFund Ecuador will end the subsidy for more than 25,000 people in these communities after providing a great deal of training in education, health and community participation.

It’s Scary When the Earth Moves

Reporting by ChildFund Guatemala

On Nov. 7, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake shook the highlands of Guatemala, hitting the communities of San Marcos, Sololá, Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango especially hard. Thousands were injured, 44 were killed, homes crumbled and power and water services were suspended. Esdras, a 12-year-old boy, who lives in a ChildFund-supported community, recalls the day.

boy at home

Esdras recalls the earthquake

“We just saw that everything was moving around,” says Esdras, who lives with his parents and three siblings in San Andrés Chapil, part of San Marco. When the earthquake occurred, part of his house fell down.

He also recalls a small tragedy: “A hen was getting ready to lay an egg when the earthquake occurred, and she died,” Esdras says.

“I am afraid of another earthquake,” he adds. “I felt every earthquake since the first day. When the strong earthquake hit, my mother and I were here inside the house. We just saw that everything was moving around. I was worried for my family, because there was no phone signal, no water and no power. Many houses near mine fell down, too,” he says.

Boy in kitchen

Esdras in his damaged home.

Because he loves to draw, Esdras dreams of becoming a designer of houses and other buildings. Lately, he’s been drawing objects moving as he thinks about the earthquake and its aftershocks. “I wish that we do not have more earthquakes. They say in the news that there have been almost 200 aftershocks since Nov. 7, and I’m very afraid,” he says.

To support victims of the earthquake like Esdras, ChildFund Guatemala has committed up to US$250,000 to help rebuild the houses of 550 families who lost their homes. In addition, ChildFund plans to provide psychosocial support to more than 12,500 affected children in the Guatemalan states of Sololá, Quetzaltenango and San Marcos.

Post-traumatic stress is one of the most devastating impacts of an earthquake on children. By providing emotional support and safe places to gather and play, ChildFund helps children cope with post-traumatic stress, address their fears and recover the confidence needed to go on with their daily lives.

To assist children like Esdras and their families get back on their feet and rebuild their houses, please consider a donation to the ChildAlert Emergency Fund.

Looking for Meaning Beyond Black Friday

By Kate Andrews

Are you planning to hit the doorbuster sales on Black Friday (or, as these events creep into Thanksgiving, Gray Thursday)? You may already have your game plan: dashing first to the electronics department, or maybe toward the toy section, depending on what you’re after. We want you to take a minute and consider buying some necessities for a child who won’t get a video game or an electric scooter for Christmas. She may be hoping for a mattress instead.

ChildFund International has its own gift guide for people in need around the world, with prices that can fit almost any budget. Plus, these gifts will make you — and others — feel good for much longer than a month. We’ve prepared some comparisons:

For $40, you can buy a Blu-ray player. Or for $35, you can purchase a “Mama Kit” for a pregnant woman in Uganda. This gift helps ensure that she will have a safer delivery with supplies that she can use during and after the birth of her child.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” is the most popular video game in the country right now. It costs about $60. A mattress, which can keep two small siblings from sleeping on a dirt floor in Ethiopia or Uganda, costs $39. The bedding is made locally, so you’re also helping the community’s economy.

Some of you may buy a piece of jewelry, say, a pair of diamond stud earrings, which are about $200 on sale. Consider feeding 30 orphans for a week in India. Cost: $120.

Furby is back, and it’s one of the most popular toys for this holiday season. These robotic plush toys are $60. For the same cost, you can purchase real animals that can help a family: six chickens for $58, or a pair of rabbits for $59. Children in Kenya raise the baby rabbits, which they sell. Often the money goes toward school supplies or other important needs.

Of course, you may be considering some high-ticket items. A tablet, perhaps, or a television? The newest version of the iPad costs about $500 on sale. A dairy cow costs $497, providing nourishment and income to a family in Ethiopia, the Philippines or Sri Lanka. A wheelchair for a child in Ethiopia costs $398.
A television can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,500 for a top-of-the-line LED TV with a 55-inch screen. Consider putting some money toward a hand pump that will provide water for an entire Indian village. Price tag: $1,429.

We at ChildFund want you to have a wonderful holiday season, with plenty of time with loved ones and good cheer. As you are giving thanks for your good fortune, we ask that you consider those who are in need. For more donation suggestions, please visit ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope online catalog.

Children Share Their Hopes, Dreams, Fears

by Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

In the Victorian era, children were to be seen and not heard. Today, we know it’s important to listen to children. At ChildFund, we really listen to children. We just heard from more than 6,000!

We asked them about their hopes, dreams and fears. We even asked them about the environment. It’s part of our third annual survey of children conducted with other members of ChildFund Alliance.

illustration of childThe Small Voices, Big Dreams survey found that 10- to 12-year-olds from Africa, Asia and the Americas put an overwhelming emphasis on their schooling, have admirable aspirations for their future and have personally experienced such natural disasters as drought, flood or fire.

What struck me as I read the results was the wisdom of these children from 47 countries. They are well aware of what they need for a brighter future. If they were president of their countries, they said their priorities would include improving education, curtailing pollution and planting more trees.

One in two children in developing countries said she or he would improve education or provide greater enrichment opportunities. This answer really hits me hard. Having visited some of our programs around the world, I know how important education is to a brighter future. And each day, as I pass the reconstructed Kenyan classroom in ChildFund’s headquarters lobby, I am reminded of the constant lack. Too often children have only pencil nubs to write with, not enough notebooks to write in and few books to read. Chalkboards are cracked, maps are tattered and classrooms are terribly overcrowded. Despite such conditions, children show up every day ready to learn.

The good news is that child sponsorship helps improve educational opportunities. Children have revitalized schools and an adequate supply of pencils and books for writing and reading. They have trained teachers who are excited to teach and help students grow in their confidence. In fact, many of the children surveyed said they want to become a teacher (24%) or a doctor (27%). They aspire to careers that they know will make a difference in their lives and in their community. The professions are in contrast to children in the U.S., who most wanted to become pro athletes (18%).

young girl in front of houseAnd while the survey found that at least one in three children from developing countries has experienced drought (40%), flood (33%) or forest/bush fire (30%), their biggest ecological concern was the growing threat of pollution on the environment. One in four children cited various forms of pollution as the “environmental problem they worry about most.”

When asked what one thing they would do to change the environment around their community, 28 percent of children in developing nations said they would plant more trees and build more parks. A similar number (29%) of children in developed countries said their top priority would be to reduce or stop littering.

As we reaffirm every year in the Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, children have important things to say and we must listen to their concerns and their ideas.

Learn more about the survey and download a copy of the full report.

Gift of Love & Hope Helps Nourish Bolivian Families

Reporting by ChildFund Bolivia

Of Maria Elena’s nine children, she and her husband still have six growing under their care on the outskirts of a big city in Bolivia. All girls, their names are Angelica, Eva, Margot, Gabriela, Rosmary and Nazareth.

Family with cow

Maria Elena and her daughters with their cow, Regina.

And then there is Regina. She belongs to them all, thanks to a contribution through ChildFund.

A few years ago, Maria Elena’s family received a cow through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. The girls named her Regina. Maria Elena says Regina was the “greatest surprise and blessing” of their lives.

The cow provided a steady supply of fresh milk for the girls during their growing years, with enough extra that Maria Elena was able to share milk with the community center each week. This helped ChildFund’s local partner organization, Lucerito, in its programs to reduce malnutrition, which is one of the main causes of child mortality in the area. Lucerito also offers after-school support activities, access to health care and skills development workshops. Several of Maria Elena’s girls participate in the programs.

When Regina has baby calves, Maria Elena and her family give them to other families, creating a chain of benefits that has extended and multiplied — literally — within the community.

This gift of love continues to yield more gifts of love, making a difference in the lives of many growing children who live in extreme poverty in Bolivia.

Please visit our online catalog and choose a special gift for a child in ChildFund’s programs.

Family Struggled to Prepare a Daily Meal

By Saroj Kumar Pattnaik, ChildFund India

Being born into an extremely poor family tends to reduce a child’s chances for a promising future. Years aoo, that seemed to be the case for Kesavaiah, a 6-year-old boy living in a remote tribal village in the Annanthpur district of southern India’s state of Andhra Pradesh.

Kesavaiah’s father, an agricultural laborer, was the only breadwinner for his five-member family. Insufficient income and paucity of alternative livelihood options often forced the family to struggle to prepare a full meal for all. Going to school and truly enjoying childhood was just a distant dream for Kesavaiah and his two sisters.

But things changed gradually for Kesavaiah after he was enrolled in ChildFund India’s Early Childhood Development program in 1996. Praja Seva Samaj (PSS), ChildFund’s local partner, matched young Kesavaiah with a sponsor, who provided additional funds so Kesavaiah and his sisters could attend the village school.

youth from India

Kesavaiah

“I still remember the days when my father was struggling to arrange a square meal for each of our family. My mother was also working as a daily laborer just to satisfy our hunger. Many a time we went to sleep at night after just drinking water,” recalls Kesavaiah, who has now completed his technical degree and aspires to become a top mechanical engineer.

He notes that it was the timely support from ChildFund and its local partner PSS that helped transform him from a pessimist to a dreamer.

“I never thought that I would able to complete my primary education as the conditions were not allowing that to happen. It was the moral and material support by ChildFund India and PSS that helped me to come so far in life,” he says.

“Their assistance and advice have not only allowed me to become the first person in our community to see a college, but they also have proved to be a solid platform for my sisters to continue their studies,” he adds.

Kesavaiah, who has understood the value of money since childhood, took full advantage of the sponsorship assistance, never neglecting his studies. He was the top student throughout his primary and intermediate education, earning a full scholarship to technical college.

In addition to his academic achievements, Kesavaiah, now 23, has been an active member of the local Children’s Club supported by ChildFund. His perseverance and tenacity to achieve have become an inspiration for others in his village.

Kesavaiah’s mother, Venkataramamma wants her son to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer. “I am so proud for my son. He has been a reason for hope for all of us, and I am very much thankful to ChildFund for making this happen.”

Village leader Pakker Naik concurs. “[ChildFund] has been focusing on many issues with interventions at the school level and village level. We are now seeing this positive impact among children today. I would say proudly that Kesavaiah is the first engineer in our village.”

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