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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.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Uganda Is My Home

by Mercy, a youth enrolled in ChildFund International’s Uganda programs

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. a youth in our Uganda programs describes her home.

My name is Mercy, and I am a Muganda girl — a member of Baganda ethnic group. I live and go to school in Uganda’s Kampala District, in the Rubaga Divison. The neighbouring areas are Kasubi, Namungoona and Makerere.

girl washing dishes

One of Mercy's chores at home is to wash dishes.

I live in the city and the main business here is trading. We have many small shops that we call “duukas.” They sell all sorts of things like rice, sugar, posho [maize], biscuits … many things. We also have people who sell things by the roadside like Irish potatoes, bananas, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. There are many cars that pass by.

My community is part of the Baganda Kingdom, which is a principality of Uganda. We have a king called Muwenda Mutebi II and a queen called Sylvia Nagginda. She is very nice. We also have a princess called Ssangalyambogo. She has won many swimming medals, yet she is a young girl.

The king has many palaces but the main one is the Lubiri. He also has an office in a place called Bulange. It is big and has many rooms. My uncle took me there one day.

When there are important functions in Buganda, the king attends. Every year we have a big celebration on the king’s birthday. We have regalia like drums and spears. We used to have royal tombs where our passed kings were buried, but they were burned last year. That day I cried very much.

In Uganda, we have many clans like the Elephant clan, the Grasshopper clan, the Lion clan, the Edible Rat clan. I can’t remember the rest of the clans but there are more than 50. Each clan has a leader. My mother told me that someone cannot marry another person from their clan.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Hopeful Future for Students on Sri Lanka’s Tea Estates

by Sumudu Perera, ChildFund Sri Lanka Communications Officer

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. In Sri Lanka, ChildFund and its local partner T-Field Federation are working to increase educational opportunities for children who live on tea-growing estates in Nuwara Eliya.

Sajeewani is excited. Today she is at school with her father to check her grade five scholarship exam results. Standing beside her father, her eyes follow his finger going down the results sheet. In front of her name is the figure 165 out of 200. A wide smile lights up her face. She has attained her goal of scoring high enough to attend a better school next year.

Sri Lankan studentEnrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Nuwara Eliya district, known for its tea-growing estates, Sajeewani has been taking supplementary classes. An eager student, she made noticeable improvement day by day.

The majority of students who live on Sri Lanka’s tea estates have low academic achievement. In fact, this region has the highest drop-out rate in the country. There are myriad reasons: extreme poverty, parents who are focused on survival, low value placed on education and a common expectation that children work to help support the family.

To better inform the community about the value of education for its children, ChildFund began working with the Parents’ Federation. We recognize that a child’s willingness to learn and a parent’s willingness to support that child often depend on the availability of quality learning opportunities and educational programming.

Cooperating with educational authorities in Nuwara Eliya, ChildFund began to support additional training for teachers. These trainings equip teachers with knowledge and modern methodologies to encourage student participation in the classroom. Instead of using only a traditional teacher-centered approach, teachers are empowered to implement student-centered learning activities.

“The trainings were very useful,” says Sonali, a teacher in Nuwara Eliya. “We understood how important it is to encourage children to participate in classroom activities. Now I practice what I learned in the classroom. The students show a lot of interest in lessons now.”

ChildFund also identified that remedial education was needed to help students who have fallen behind in the regular classroom. Working with its local partner, ChildFund began offering supplementary classes to help students improve their math and language skills, which are compulsory subjects. For average and low-performing students, the supplementary classes give ample time to interact with the teacher and reinforce what they have learned at school.

Special classes for slow learners are another initiative targeting students who perform at a low level in the classroom. A special curriculum was developed working with educational specialists and the educational authority in the area.

“ChildFund’s focus on slow learners is unprecedented in this area,” says Mr. Rajasekaram, Additional Zonal Education director. “Children attending the classes show improvements. The curriculum developed by ChildFund is now being used in other areas.”

Within the Nuwara Eliya district, ChildFund’s educational programs now serve 315 students at 11 locations in the estates. “After ChildFund started their education programs in the estates, we can see children scoring better marks at term tests,” reports Mr. Rajasekaram.

And once children experience success in the classroom, parents become more interested in supporting the child’s ongoing education.

“I got this many marks because I attended supplementary classes. Now I can attend the school in the town. I am very happy”, says Sajeewani.

Meanwhile, ChildFund and the T-Field Federation will continue to work to promote educational opportunities for children in the tea estates for years to come. We are committed to building a hopeful future for the children in the estates.

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

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Walking to School with Estu in Indonesia

Reporting by Dhina Mutiara, ChildFund Indonesia, and Bertho Pitono, ChildFund’s partner in Central Java

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make 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.

boy with friends walking to school

Estu walks to school with friends.

My name is Estu. I am 14 years old. I live with both of my parents in a hilly area called Giripurwo village in Central Java, Indonesia. I live in a remote area that is really hard to reach by any vehicle. That is why people in my village have to walk to go in and out of the village. I am one of them.

Currently, I am studying on second level at Islamic Public Junior High School, which is located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from my house. Every morning, my friends and I will walk approximately one and a half hours to reach the school. We usually go out at 5:30 a.m., because my school starts at 7 a.m. I don’t want to be tardy.

boys take in view

A five-minute rest before the trek continues.

The first 3 kilometers, we have to walk through the hilly part of the area. This part is really hard to go through, and it gets worse in rainy season. My friends and I usually take a 5-minute break from our long walk and enjoy the beautiful view from the mountaintop. The last 1 kilometer is easier to get through because it is not as hilly, and there is a road that leads to my school.

Estu walks to school

It takes Estu 1.5 hours to walk to school.

If you ask me whether I’m tired or not, of course I’m tired. But that route is the shortest route to get to my school. I have been doing it all of my life, so I am used to it. I mostly forget how far my school is because I always go to school with my friends. We tell stories and pranks to keep ourselves entertained along the long walk.

One day I want to be a doctor and make my parents happy. Those are the reasons why I stay in school. I hope I can have a scholarship to be a doctor.

My school ends at 1:30 p.m., and I have to go through the same route to get home.

Once I get to my house, I help my parents. I will help my mother wash the dishes. After that, I will help my father feed our livestock. We have two goats at our house. In the afternoon, I will go to the hilly forest to cut some grass and bring the grass home for my goats.

On weekends, I will go to the art center that ChildFund supports not far from my house, where I learn how to dance, play some music and meet my friends from other villages.

I enjoy all of my daily routine, even though it is tiring. I have learned how to be grateful and responsible for everything that I have.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Indonesia and sponsoring a child.

A Youth Full of Dreams

by Mesfin Agonafir, ChildFund Ethiopia

In Ethiopia’s poorest communities, many unemployed youth are struggling to obtain the basics of survival – food, shelter, clothing.

Ethiopian youth

Mister dreams of self-reliance.

Mister, an energetic young woman of 21, knows the struggle well. Yet, she refuses to give up on her dream of becoming self-reliant.

Although Mister and her close friends successfully passed Ethiopia’s national examination in grade ten, they lacked the resources to enter technical or vocational schools. Instead, they became jobless.

“Because I am from a poor family background, I was disappointed and was helpless and dependent on my sister,” Mister recalls of that difficult time in her life.

Then she and her friends learned that ChildFund was offering training in hair dressing and beauty salon operations. After completing training and being equipped with necessary materials, Mister and six friends started work in a beauty salon of their own, constructed with assistance from ChildFund in 2008.

Hair stylist with client

Mister's goal is to provide other young women with jobs.

“God has helped me, bringing ChildFund to my assistance to open this beauty salon,” she says. “I have made lots of progress in my life since then. My fate would have been a house maid, but ChildFund enables me to be self-reliant.”

Mister and her friends are now assessing the market to expand their “Sisters Beauty Salon” business to a second location on the other corner of Debre Berhan Town.

One day, soon, Mister plans to open a hairdressing training center. “My vision is to live a better life than this. I am planning to open my own business and employ many disadvantaged girls in the town.”

Children Dream Big Even When Facing Harsh Realities

by LaTasha Chambers, ChildFund Communications Associate

Despite living in some of the most impoverished areas of the world, children remain optimistic about their futures, according to a new survey commissioned by the ChildFund Alliance.

The second annual Small Voices, Big Dreams global survey provides insight into the minds of some of the world’s most vulnerable and overlooked children from 44 countries.

Almost one in two children in developing countries is focused on a future career requiring a college education, recognizing that education can break the cycle of poverty. One-fifth (22.5 percent) of children who live in developing countries would like to be teachers when they grow up, while 20 percent want to be doctors.

Ethiopian girlHowever, with these children’s optimism comes the reality of daily encounters with crime, hunger and disease. One 11-year-old from Ethiopia shares, “One thing I mostly worry about is HIV/AIDS.” Answers like this from children living in developing countries were not uncommon and reveal the plight many of them face.

By contrast, children in developed countries who participated in the survey expressed few fears – illness and receiving an inadequate education were almost foreign to them. A majority of children in developed nations aspire to be athletes and artists.

“American children have the luxury of setting their career hopes high, but those in developing countries are focused on the single best way to disrupt the cycle of poverty — education, says Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International. “What gives these children, as young as 10 years old, the permission to dream is the recognition that improving their lives is tied closely to the opportunity to learn. Sadly, for too many of these children, that opportunity does not exist. That is why so many ChildFund Alliance member organizations focus so much of our efforts on education.”

In the U.S. the dream of becoming whatever you want to be, even the president of the country, is so real because of the many opportunities that exist.

Afghanistan girlWhen children in developing countries were asked what they would do if they were the leader of their countries, a young girl in Afghanistan responded: “I will not be able to become the president of the Afghanistan, as a woman doesn’t have the right to be the president of Afghanistan.”

We still have much work to do ensure children everywhere are able not only to dream the biggest dream but also to make those dreams reality.

My Life in Masindi, Uganda

Guest post by Ivan, a child enrolled in ChildFund’s Uganda programs

boy with book

Ivan studies his science text.

I live in the Yelekeni community in Uganda’s Masindi area. I am 11 and in form six at school.

My community is found in the mid-western part of Uganda. Our area is blessed with a good climate that favours agriculture so much that we have two growing seasons in a year. The most stable foods are beans and maize.

By culture, I am Acholi, and being a boy we spend most of our time hunting for wild animals during dry season and making evening fire for the elders. Girls are responsible for collecting firewood, cooking and grinding grains, using our local grinding stones.

During birth, according to my culture, baby boys spend three days in the house and girls spend four without being brought out. On the day of bringing the baby out, a small party is held for naming the baby. The name is given by the elders.

During burials, men are not seen to be crying. And it is men who participate mostly in the burial exercise. During marriage, it is the men who take the dowry to the bridegroom’s family.

Hand-drawn mapFor a child in my community, one has to wake up and groom in the morning, sweep the compound, brush your teeth, wash your face and dress up for school. During weekends and holidays, we wake up at 6 a.m., go to the garden to either dig, weed or harvest crops, then come home at 2 p.m. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., we play football.

Some families have just one meal in a day, which is in the evening.

At 7 p.m., we bathe and then go to sleep.

Thanks so much for sharing with you my story, and greetings from Masindi area.

The World Needs More Toilets

pit latrine

A pit latrine in Ethiopia

Americans take their bathrooms for granted, but for 2.6 billion people worldwide, a toilet is a luxury. To raise awareness of global sanitation needs, Nov. 19 is designated World Toilet Day.

“Children often suffer the most because of limited access to clean water and poor sanitation,” said Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s vice president for program development. “Poor sanitary conditions lead to more disease and less food, and precious family income must be spent on purchasing water or dealing with the effects of illness.”

A toilet in Vietnam

Responding to water and sanitation issues is a primary component of ChildFund’s work to help children around the world.

Beginning in 2008, ChildFund helped Nam Phong, a village of 3,600 in Vietnam, construct latrines and water supply systems. Community members were also taught to adopt hygienic practices, which helped clean up streams and roads in the community.

In Timor-Leste, where 70 percent of people have no access to sanitary bathrooms, ChildFund built latrines, a community bathroom and provided hygiene training to children and families. In Afghanistan, we are partnering with UNICEF to teach children about sanitation and hand washing. ChildFund Afghanistan has assisted some 6,000 former IDPs (internally displaced people), refugees and vulnerable families lacking quality housing and bathrooms. We’ve provided building materials and a small economic incentive to help families construct a two-room house and latrine.

An initiative to install latrines in elementary schools in Mexico provides students privacy and protection, increasing their likelihood of staying in school. Girls in particular are less likely to attend school if there are no bathrooms.

“Improved sanitation in schools, better access to clean water and knowledge about how to prevent waterborne disease helps ensure the health and development of the world’s children,” Bouchie said.

Celebrate World Toilet Day and help flush out poverty.

Walking for Children: A Family’s Quest to Cross India

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

logoWhen the Petrucco family of Australia begins its walk across India in December, their journey will allow them to experience the wonders of life as well as to face its challenges.

Not unlike the pilgrims who traverse the Camino de Santiago (the way of St. James) across Europe or Mahatma Gandhi, who walked on behalf of the poorest of the poor, the Petruccos’ footsteps will be a meditative mission. Their goal is to make a difference in the lives of India’s most vulnerable children by raising funds through ChildFund Australia. They also anticipate a life-changing experience as a family.

family group

Petrucco family

“It’s the most challenging goal we have set for ourselves as a family, says Nick Petrucco. He and his wife, Bec, their three children, Nick’s parents and sister, along with other family members and close associates have been fundraising and preparing carefully for the ultimate trek. “Together we plan to walk from the west coast to the east coast of India, some 800 kilometers [nearly 500 miles),” he says. “What makes this so incredibly special is the opportunity to experience all of this together as a family.”

The plan is to have a daily walking team as well as a support team, with the goal of traveling about 25 km (15 miles) per day. Nick, his eldest daughter, aptly named India, and Nick’s stepfather are committed to walking every step of the way. Bec and the younger children (Maggie, age 9, and Gus, age 3) will walk as much as they can, accompanied by other family members.

In early December, the group will start from a seaside town in Kerala (West India), walk through Bangalore (central India) and finish in Chennai (East India) in mid-January, visiting ChildFund programs along the route.

Although the family has traveled extensively in Asia, the U.S. and Australia, crossing India on foot will be a first. “Never before have we attempted an adventure on this scale. We are just an everyday family, certainly not athletes or intrepid explorers,” says Nick.

“This trip is about bringing together all of our passions: spending time together as a family, making a real difference in the lives of disadvantaged children and experiencing new people, cultures and places through our travels,” he says.

Follow the journey and offer your support on the Petrucco’s blog and Facebook site.

Will You Speak Out for Children?

by Rory Anderson, ChildFund’s Director of External Relations

A vote on the International Affairs budget is likely to come before the U.S. Senate early next week. ChildFund and numerous other international development organizations believe further cuts will jeopardize the lives of children who already live in poverty.

Please take a moment to check the list of key senators to contact and be a voice for vulnerable children. An email or call from you today, this weekend or on Monday will really help. We’ve included the senator’s phone and fax numbers as well as the email of the lead staff on foreign policy. Senate offices do monitor and tabulate the feedback and concerns of their constituents. Even if they don’t immediately respond, your e-mail is registered, and your voice is heard. Thank you for speaking out for children.

When calling your senator:

  • Call the phone number above and tell the person answering the phone that you are a constituent from (your hometown).
  • Say that you’re calling to urge your Senator to oppose all additional cuts to the International Affairs Budget.
  • Use the additional talking points below if you’d like.

Talking Points on Senate Action on the FY12 International Affairs Budget

  • International Affairs programs help tackle the root causes of poverty, conflict and extremism, respond to humanitarian crises, and also build new markets for U.S. goods and services.
  • But these programs are being forced to shoulder disproportionately deep budget cuts – cuts that are not in our nation’s best interests.
  • The International Affairs Budget absorbed nearly 20 percent of the total spending cuts in the final FY11 spending agreement earlier this year, even though it’s only 1.4 percent of the budget.
  • With the FY12 State-Foreign Operations bill on the Senate floor, the International Affairs Budget is vulnerable to amendments that would make additional deep cuts.
  • These amendments, if adopted, could result in the steepest cuts to International Affairs programs since the height of the Cold War.
  • These are real cuts with harmful consequences, especially for vulnerable children – the children whom ChildFund serves.
  • We urge you to oppose any cutting amendments to the FY12 State-Foreign Operations bill during Senate floor consideration.

Suggested Text When E-mailing Your Senator (please personalize and share your own thoughts):

Date ___________

Dear Senator __________:

As Congress and the Super Committee work to reduce our nation’s deficits, I respectfully urge you to oppose any cuts to the International Affairs budget, which funds programs for hungry and poor children around the world.

Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people are hungry, and one child dies every 3.6 seconds from poverty, hunger and preventable diseases. This isn’t the time for Congress to cut programs that provide vital assistance to those in need.

Programs for hungry and poor people make up only a fraction of the federal budget, but they have a tremendous impact. Yet the International Affairs Budget that funds these programs absorbed nearly 20 percent of the total spending cuts in the final FY11 spending agreement earlier this year, even though it’s only 1.4 percent of the budget. A vote on the International Affairs budget, which will come up for a vote in the Senate any day, is vulnerable to amendments that would make additional deep cuts.

International poverty-focused development assistance reduces the likelihood of conflict and strengthens our national security. Moreover, cuts to poverty-focused development assistance will restrict our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.

We must care for and protect the most vulnerable children. As you consider deficit-reduction proposals, I ask you to take a balanced and fair approach and consider all areas of the budget, including revenues. Please form a circle of protection around funding for hungry and poor people at home and abroad.


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