By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Country music duo Thompson Square visited Honduras last week to meet Emerson, a 4-year-old boy they recently sponsored through ChildFund International. Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who also are husband and wife, say that they are “totally changed” by the visit, which allowed them to see how children and their families survive on few resources and yet have much love and joy to give.
The pair, who promote ChildFund’s child development work through ChildFund’s LIVE! artist program, traveled to Honduras to meet Emerson and his family and also took the opportunity to shoot a video for their recent hit single, “Glass.”
After almost two hours of bumpy back-road travel through the beautiful green mountains, Keifer and Shawna reached Emerson’s house near the town of Lepaterique in the central Honduran province of Francisco Morazán.
Shawna and Keifer, joined by a film crew and ChildFund staff members, received a warm greeting from Emerson’s family. Soon, they were playing soccer with Emerson and his brother, Christian; learning how to make corn tortillas with the mother, Ana; and singing songs for the family. The children proudly showed their visitors a little playhouse they had built in their backyard with sticks and stones.
“You honor us with your visit to our humble home,” said the great-grandfather of the family, 93-year-old Maximino. “We are poor, and your coming here means a lot to us. May God bless you in your way.”
“There’s no feeling in the world like this,” Shawna said after meeting Emerson and his family. The experience, she added, “definitely makes you realize what is important in life, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s family.”
“This has been one of the most amazing days we have ever had,” Keifer added.
In addition to visiting Emerson, Keifer and Shawna had the opportunity to see ChildFund programs in action while visiting the local school. There they observed children, ages 8 to 10, tutoring their peers and sharing stories and drawings. The duo’s acoustic performance of “Glass” delighted the students.
After visiting other families in the community and handing out toys and candy to children along the way, Shawna and Keifer received a Honduran farewell on the edge of a beautiful lake. Following a meal of traditional food, it was the couple’s turn to be entertained with music and dance performed by children and youth participating in ChildFund programs that focus on strengthening self-esteem, leadership skills and cultural identity.
The reigning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year is now back on tour, with a schedule that includes concerts in more than 100 U.S. cities. They will continue sharing with their fans the life-changing experience of sponsoring a child through ChildFund, inviting them to say “yes” to a child like Emerson.
By ChildFund Ethiopia staff
Gegsebo Redi, 24, lives in Silti Aynage, Ethiopia. He is a formerly sponsored child and an alumnus of the Silti Aynage Child and Family Development Association, an organization that partners with ChildFund.
Gegsebo completed high school in 2006. He was an outstanding student and scored straight A’s. But Gegsebo’s family couldn’t afford the next step in his education — attending university preparatory classes away from home. They couldn’t cover the cost of his transportation or his living expenses.
“I had no chance,” Gegsebo recalls, “except missing the opportunity of the pre-university course and looking for other options around my village.” Recognizing Gegsebo’s potential, ChildFund’s local partner offered financial assistance to cover housing and living expenses while he attended classes. “They encouraged me to continue my education and to join the university. I have no words to thank them for enabling me to reach my current position.”
He has now completed studies at Hawasa University, earning a degree in rural development offered in cooperation with the Ethiopian government’s agriculture department. Today, Gegsebo is employed at Silti Aynage’s agriculture office and earns a salary that also allows him to also support his brother, who is still in school.
“I would like to thank the association for helping me to improve my life,” Gegsebo says. “They were helping me by being my family in many ways. In the future, I want to support children either by my profession or financially. I would also like to continue my education since our country is expecting much from young people like me.”
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
In this small agricultural village in Eastern Luzon, children below schooling age don’t own closed-toe shoes. In many low-income communities across the Philippines, pragmatism leads children to wear flip-flops, which are relatively inexpensive and remarkably durable. Even when their parents can afford a pair of shoes, children still go about their casual business in flip-flops, preserving their shoes for school, church or other formal occasions.
Many young people in this village, much like other parts of the country, will own their first pair of shoes only when they begin school, where shoes are part of the uniform.
Nonetheless, on the porch of a small home in this village, children younger than 5 learn to tie their shoes long before they ever own any. These children attend a home-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) program ChildFund supports in areas unreached by government day care centers. Home-based ECD sites like this are known as Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP) centers, staffed by local volunteers. They are not professional day care workers or educators, but ChildFund trains them to be effective and innovative.
Innovate is just what Mabeth did. The SNP volunteer started with rolls of colored paper, felt markers and all the creativity she could pool together to make her front porch a learning environment for children. She hung paper cut-outs illustrating animals and objects that correspond to letters in the alphabet. In place of printed charts describing parts of the body, Mabeth’s front porch has hand-drawn illustrations. Mobiles hang from the ceiling describing different emotions children experience, such as happy, sad, and scared.
One cardboard box stores all the children’s shoes — shoes made from paper. They have a double-layer of colored paper for a sole and a loop of paper on top. Colored string is used for laces. “Poor children [in this neighborhood] often don’t have shoes, and I feel it’s important they learn to tie their laces like other children do,” Mabeth says.
Children at this SNP site may not yet own closed-toe shoes, but the innovation of ChildFund volunteers helps make sure they have many opportunities for development early in their childhood.
By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
As a child, I loved receiving mail – yes, the kind with stamps. I had several international pen pals, and my friends sent postcards when they took vacations, even if it was simply to the shore. I also subscribed to magazines and book clubs, so I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the mail carrier.
Today, most people communicate by text and email. Those who sponsor a child, though, know the wonderful feeling when a letter arrives with an international postmark and stamp. It means a letter has arrived from their sponsored child.
What happens when you send your letter to your child? It’s not as simple as putting the letter in the mail and it being delivered by a mail carrier on the other end. The letters arrive at a central point — usually the ChildFund office in the child’s country. The letters then need to be delivered to communities, which can be miles apart.
On a recent trip to Ecuador, my coworkers and I met with several youth who help deliver the sponsor letters within their communities. Catarina, who is 15, says she delivers between 10 and 12 letters each week within her community.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I like delivering the letters and making others smile.” She says the letters come from around the world, and she enjoys seeing all of postmarks from the different countries.
After the letters are delivered, Catarina says the child who receives it will write a reply. Depending on the age of the child, Catarina and others will help guide the child. They’ll suggest topics to cover, such as writing about their favorite school subjects or talking about their siblings.
Catarina also is sponsored and she loves receiving letters from her sponsor, too.
It’s good to know that a simple letter can bring so much joy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guest Post by Pete Olson
Pete Olson is an American Formula car racer in the Asia Formula Renault Series. Olson’s Race for Children campaign is to raise awareness around the issue of child poverty while encouraging fans to become child sponsors. Olson shares his recent trip to meet sponsored child Trang.
After a decade of sponsoring various children through ChildFund, I finally made the decision to meet my sponsored child, Trang, and it was so worth it. Beyond the pictures and the letters from half a world away, my trip to Vietnam made my sponsorship experience that much more tangible. For the first time, I saw, in person, what my sponsorship had done for the little girl I’ve been communicating with over these past years.
To put it simply, meeting Trang is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.
My visit made me realize, more than ever, just how privileged I’ve been in my life. I have been very lucky to have so many opportunities, many of which I’ve taken for granted. The benefits my sponsorship are helping provide to Trang are things I’ve always been accustomed to having.
For instance, I saw how ChildFund has helped build a medical center in the village to provide basic health care; they’ve built a fresh water system so the community doesn’t have to walk to a stream to collect drinking and cooking water; and they’ve installed toilet facilities in the village to provide access to basic sanitation. It was eye-opening to realize these standard amenities were previously nonexistent in this community. But I was more shocked to learn from a ChildFund representative that some children have to walk over the surrounding hills to get to and from school each day. That’s probably an hour hike over – and we complain about the Stairmaster!
We gripe so much about trivial things when so many of our basic needs are met. We only have to do a little comparison with those who lack those conveniences to realize how thankful we should all be for what we have and often take for granted.
It is a shame that there are so many inequalities in the world, but I know that I can do my part, no matter how small, to help children like Trang to improve their lives. I sincerely hope that through the Racing for Children program and my own personal efforts, we can find many more sponsors for children like Trang. If more people were moved in the way that I was last month in Vietnam, I have no doubt they would contribute.
I’m already looking forward to going back to visit Trang and her community. I am so glad I made the effort. To think that I have been able to help so much with what we Americans think of as so little – it is really something.
Formula One World Champion race driver, Aytron Senna said it best, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”
Indeed it is our duty, and yet our privilege – we should all do our part. Help a child in need by becoming a sponsor through ChildFund International.
By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
In our age of email, blogs, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, letter writing is mostly a lost art. Yet for generations, people have corresponded with each other. Scholars now study the many letters written by ordinary people to formulate their social and cultural histories.
When did you last take up pen and paper to write a letter? Remember how you paused a moment to hold your loved one in your heart before your words took shape on paper? Letters are gifts. And that’s the point of National Letter Writing Day, celebrated each Dec. 7.
For the children we sponsor, letters are an extra-special gift. They’re tangible symbols of our care and concern, so treasured that, if you visit a sponsored child’s home, you’re likely to find it displayed. You might see the wall of a mud hut completely covered with a sponsor’s cards and letters, or discover years of correspondence bound up in precious silk or leather for safekeeping. Often our words transform these children’s worlds, filling young hearts with hopes and dreams. Their lives will never be the same.
Whether this is your first or 50th time corresponding with your sponsored child, consider sending a letter or postcard today. Overseas postage is $1.05, for either a postcard or a standard-sized envelope of 1 ounce or less. You can order your stamps online in blocks of four, 10 or 20.
What to write? If you’re getting ready for Christmas, describe your own traditions. In most cultures, holidays are primarily about time spent with family and friends. So if your child happens to be Christian, ask about their own celebration. (In Belarus and Ethiopia, where Christians follow the Orthodox calendar, the date for Christmas is Jan. 7.)
For Muslim children, Muhammad’s birthday — called Maouloud or Milad an’Nabi — is celebrated on Jan. 24. In many countries where ChildFund serves, this is a public holiday.
Children in Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Indonesia celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 9 or 10 this coming year; 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Vietnamese call the New Year Tet; to Indonesians, it’s Imlek.
Sri Lankans celebrate harvest thanksgiving day, Tamil Thai Pongal, on Jan. 14. Thai is the name of the first month in their lunar calendar, and Pongal is a special rice pudding they eat on that day. Holi, India’s harvest festival, arrives March 27.
What can you enclose with your letter? Keep “flat and light” in mind. For younger children, stickers, origami paper or balloons are fine gifts. Older ones might enjoy a short poem or story about your culture or holiday traditions. This gives them an opportunity to respond in kind. You may find some stories in common. The B’rer Rabbit tales, for example, are based on West African folklore about a trickster hare called Leuk – Leuk, le lièvre, in French.
Anything that encourages your child’s creativity or critical thinking is a perfect complement to your letter. Send crossword puzzles in their native language, Word Search games, Sudoku charts and coloring book pages.
Most of all, have fun! Letter writing is both an art and a gift of love.
By Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
For the past few years, the ChildFund Alliance (a 12-member organization that includes ChildFund International) has been asking children to tell us what they would do if they were president or the leader of their country. As you can imagine, 11- to 12-year-olds have some definite ideas.
As U.S. voters go to the polls today to elect the next president of the United States, we wanted to share with you some very good ideas for changing the world offered up by children who have a lot of important things to say when asked.
If I Were President…
To help these children and others like them achieve their dreams, and maybe one day grow up to be president, consider sponsoring a child.
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Marvin hails from a small coastal town in Northern Mindanao, the southernmost group of islands in the Philippines. In his hometown, people farm if they live inland or fish if they live near the shore. His father’s occupation is the latter, and 13-year-old Marvin’s family has tried to live within what the sea grants or denies. On a good day, the proceeds from the day’s catch are typically not enough to cover the family’s basic needs, including school fees for the children. On bad days, when Marvin’s father cannot sell much at the market to earn cash, the family can at least share the fish among themselves.
There are even worse days, however, when storms are at sea, and a rough tide keeps fishermen at shore. On days like these, Marvin’s father drives a commuter tricycle—a three-wheeled taxi. Earnings are not much because storms keep people off the road as much as they keep fishermen on land. His father also has to pay rent to the tricycle’s owner for each day of use.
Although public school education in the Philippines is officially free, each semester students like Marvin have come to expect an assortment of extraneous fees that make attending school expensive.
Small school budgets often mean that administrators shift many costs to students in the form of miscellaneous fees for registration, student ID, computer and library usage and special projects. Families also must pay for their children’s school uniforms, notebooks, pens and crayons, bus fare, recess snacks and lunch.
When his family couldn’t make ends meet, Marvin would forego the bus and his school lunch, walking to school and packing what food he could from home.
The cost of Marvin’s schooling weighs on his family, especially when his father’s earnings are down. “My parents sometimes fight over expenses, including the cost of keeping me in school,” Marvin shares. “Sometimes my father says it would be better if I’d stop schooling,” he says, noting the he recognizes that he could be helping his father earn money, instead of costing him money.
Marvin doesn’t know how to approach his father when he encounters a new expense at school. “I made it into a science class [in the honor’s program], but that required me to come to school in full uniform [other students wear only certain basic pieces], and I didn’t know where to get the 500 Pesos (US$12) to complete mine.”
Thankfully, Marvin has received help he didn’t expect. He’s been sponsored by his “Aunt” Janie through ChildFund since fourth grade. Recently, Aunt Janie sent Marvin a helpful boost just when he needed it most—extra funds for a full school uniform—a great gift he means to thank her for in his next letter. Now, he can attend the honors science class.
Marvin says ChildFund played a role in his admission into the science class. “I used to be real shy and timid,” he says, noting that he gained self-assurance by going to ChildFund’s summer camp and participating in leadership training activities. That confidence has led him a second term as president of his community’s youth organization. He’s also a youth representative on the National Anti-Poverty Commission. “I’m able to raise my community’s problems to the authorities,” Marvin says.
Newfound confidence and his gratitude for his sponsor’s support have moved him to excel at school. He tries to avoid ever being late for school, lest it seem he’s squandering the opportunities he’s fortunate to have. Even though his perseverance in school has led to greater expenses, Marvin remains grateful for his sponsor’s support that sees him through still.
If you’d like to sponsor a child like Marvin, visit ChildFund’s website. Your small contribution makes a big difference.