St. Vincent

‘If I Were President’…Children Have a Few Ideas

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…

child with siblings

“I would provide more libraries and more learning opportunities.” – Antonio, 11, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean)

boy talking to an adult

“I would encourage education for every child and I would multiply school infrastructures in every village where there are maximum numbers of children of school age. This is good because when you are educated you can help yourself and your family. You can get a better job and can go to any part of the world.” – Ibrahima, 12, Guinea

boy eating lunch

“I would provide school supplies for children free of charge.” – Dhanushka, 11, Sri Lanka

boy sitting on planter

“I would build roads in far-away places as well as organize summer camps.” – Erick, 12, Ecuador

girl with goats

“I would create school canteens in order to give the opportunity to many pupils who live very far away from school to eat lunch. And I would provide pupils with school supplies, uniforms and [pay] fees.” – Jeannette, 12, Togo

girl at school

“I would take away all of the weapons so kids don’t get hurt.” – Shalma, 11, United States

girl tending plants

“I would provide  free education for all children between 6 to 18 years.” – Anushree, 11, India

To help these children and others like them achieve their dreams, and maybe one day grow up to be president, consider sponsoring a child.

Reducing Violence Against Children in the Caribbean

by Patricia Toquica, Regional Communications Manager, ChildFund Americas

banner for conferenceAs a member of the Global Movement for Children, ChildFund is actively participating this week in the Sub-Regional Meeting for Follow-up on the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children in the Caribbean, taking place in Kingston, Jamaica, May 14-15.

Marta Santos Pais, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on Violence against Children, and the Honorable Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture, are among the 150 delegates from CARICOM (Caribbean community) member-states, civil society groups and adolescents participating in the meeting.

The initial U.N. study— the most comprehensive global report on violence against children—was presented to the U.N. General Assembly in 2006. It includes several recommendations to protect children against all forms of violence. Sub-regional meetings are being held to monitor and assess progress.

Gelina Fontaine presents on ChildFund’s work to protect children.

Gelina Fontaine, ChildFund Caribbean program manager, presented on ChildFund’s life stages approach and programs to combat violence against children in Dominica and St. Vincent, as well as our active child advocacy work in the region.

speakers on stage

Paul Bode (l), regional director for ChildFund Americas, addresses the sub-regional U.N. meeting on violence against children.

Paul Bode, ChildFund’s regional director for the Americas, is moderating the discussion on information systems and research needed to support public policy strategies and plans to prevent violence against children.

For more than 10 years, ChildFund, as a member of the National Early Child Development Council and the Child Rights Committee, has been contributing to national policy discussion in the Caribbean. Our approach and experience in partnership with local public and private organizations has continuously influenced the National School Crisis Management Policy and the National Child Friendly Schools Approach in both Dominica and St. Vincent.

ChildFund Caribbean is also currently conducting a study on Family, Community and Gender-Based Violence in cooperation with the government of Dominica. We believe the results will contribute to improved public policy and prevention programs that address many forms and effects of violence against children.

Learn more about the Stop Violence in the Caribbean movement, and follow the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Nurturing Children and Teen Mothers in St. Vincent

Reporting by Gelina Fontaine, ChildFund Caribbean

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 learn about ChildFund’s programs in St. Vincent, which, along with Dominica, are under the umbrella of ChildFund Caribbean.

Yesterday we visited ChildFund’s programs in Dominica, next-door neighbor to
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where ChildFund began operations in the early 1980s. Through the years, ChildFund Caribbean has provided a wide variety of services ranging from supporting the establishment of preschool centers, providing health support for infant immunization and proper nutrition and ensuring students enrolled in our programs have school supplies, uniforms, books, bus fare and hot meals.

Young women learn to cook

Teens participate in skills training.

In addition, ChildFund offerings for youth and their parents include skills training such as weaving, basketry, typing, carpentry, electrical wiring, sewing and home management. We’ve also worked to improve the housing status of families enrolled in ChildFund programs.

In 2011, ChildFund held consultations with children and youth and communities as part of a strategic planning process. Those consultations revealed that the top issues affecting children and youth in St. Vincent are drug abuse, crime and violence, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and lack of a father’s support. Poor parenting practices, poor quality education, unemployment, insufficient awareness of children’s rights and limited support services emerged as the underlying causes of these social ills affecting children, youth and their families.

While continuing support for infant health, early childhood education, ChildFund is now directing additional attention to literacy and a program for teen mothers.

Child and mother

A young mother practices parenting skills.

Many teen girls are becoming mothers at an age where they should be in high school and college, furthering their self-development and improving their potential to secure a job. ChildFund, working through the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Children’s Federation Inc., is supporting the Teen Mothers Program to improve the standard of care and security for infants born to teen parents. The program also nurtures and mobilizes teen moms, helping them adopt good parenting practices all the while improving their own literacy and entrepreneurial skills.

“Working with the teen mothers at St. Vincent and the Grenadines gives us at ChildFund and our partners a great opportunity to reach the hearts and minds of young parents,” says Ana Maria Locsin, national director of ChildFund Caribbean. “It is always heartwarming to interact with these young women as they experience and learn through this engagement that they have better options in life, even while facing the daunting fears and challenges of early pregnancy.”

Son and father

Teen fathers are encouraged to take a hands-on role with their children.

In addition to the goal of reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies, the Teen Mothers Program also encourages teen fathers to become involved in caring for their infant and toddler children, thus reducing the number of cases of absent fathers. Parents and grandparents of these teens also are invited to participate in various programs since it takes a community to raise a child.

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

New National Director Takes Helm of ChildFund Caribbean

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

National Director at press conference

Newly appointed ChildFund Caribbean National Director Ana Maria Locsin speaks at a press conference.

Ana Maria Locsin became national director of ChildFund Caribbean in early August, though her welcome was a bit delayed due to a tropical storm. But once she arrived, it was nonstop action her first week, despite the 12-hour time difference from her native Philippines.

Her first two days on the job were a whirlwind of activity: national office orientation, an official welcome to the region, team debriefs, program field visit, community meetings, CSP review, audit finding reports and a press conference. If memory serves, we did allow her to eat, rest and shower as well.

National director with child in community

On her first day as ChildFund Caribbean national director, Ana Maria Locsin is all smiles posing with a child participating in ChildFund's summer camp program.

In the press conference to introduce her to the local media, Paul Bode, regional director for ChildFund Americas, highlighted Locsin’s long career working in child development. “Ana’s international knowledge, experience and perspectives will be invaluable to Caribbean programs,” he noted.

Most recently, Locsin served as ChildFund’s national director in Afghanistan. She’s also worked with ChildFund in India and the Philippines. Earlier in her career she held international assignments in Vietnam and Timor-Leste.

Locsin holds degrees in development management and business administration. She has also participated in intensive programs in senior leadership; disaster risk reduction and emergency management; child protection; child-centered community development approach; home-based early childhood care and development; adolescent reproductive health; HIV/AIDS/STD; environmental protection; and gender and development.

Locsin says her first two orders of business are to “marry the statistics and demographics” she’s read about with actual site visits. “I want to better understand the country context and to meet community stakeholders, as well as local government officials and members of the media.”

With a new direction and new leadership in place, the first week of August was certainly an exciting time to visit ChildFund Caribbean.

An Inside View of ChildFund’s Work in the Caribbean

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

Staff sit in planning room

ChildFund Caribbean National Director Ana Maria Locsin listens carefully as staff members from our partner organization provide some basic commentary on programming in their region of Dominica.

Developing a Country Strategy Paper (CSP) is an enlightening process — for both ChildFund and the community organizations and community members with whom we forge long-term partnerships. Although some findings are anticipated, others may come as a surprise. The process helps ChildFund prioritize the strategic program areas for children and their communities.

To give you insight into our program direction for Dominica and St. Vincent, here are just a few of the findings from ChildFund Caribbean’s CSP.

Country Context
Dominica and St. Vincent have high migration rates due to limited economic opportunities. The region is also prone to natural disasters, specifically hurricanes. More than 40 percent of population is under 25 years, and approximately 30 percent live below the poverty line. As a result, the population faces many challenges: high rates of teen pregnancy; lack of early education for young children; many female-headed households and widespread sexual abuse.

Deprived, Excluded and Vulnerable Children
A social stigma exists for those living in squatter settlements. Children and youth have low self-esteem, and economic hardships lead to parental stress and child abuse. Overcrowded homes with extended family members often lead to increased sexual abuse. Among those interviewed for the CSP, 86 percent reported experiencing corporal punishment in schools. Teens who become pregnant are routinely kicked out of school. The majority of youth lack adequate skills to get a job.

Strengths and Gaps
ChildFund works in the poorest areas of Dominica and St. Vincent; we have a long history of on-the-ground support and partnerships in the Caribbean. Strategic goals include expanding our reach to more countries within the region. To achieve this aim, we will need more team building across islands, additional financial resources and increased public relations and communications efforts.

Strategic Directions
The CSP will help ChildFund set clear strategic objectives for each age group of children we serve. We’re also seeking to have greater community and societal impact, which means we’ll need more partners and supporters to help accomplish our goals efficiently and effectively.

One of Nicole's favorite parts of field visit is getting on the floor and interacting with the children participating in our programs.

Monitoring and Evaluation Plan
For each objective in its CSP, ChildFund Caribbean has identified indicators of success and methods to measure those indicators. At pre-set check points, the staff will meet to evaluate progress to date and adjust plans as needed to ensure children and communities are receiving maximum benefit from ChildFund programs.

Tomorrow: ChildFund Caribbean’s new national director.

ChildFund Caribbean Strives for Sustainable Change for Children

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

A view of Dominica's coastline

During a community discussion, a look out the window reveals the true beauty of the Dominican coastline. What is not seen is the high levels of poverty and unemployment.

Earlier this month, several ChildFund Americas regional staff weathered the storm (literally hunkering down to see what tropical storm Emily would bring our way) to visit our Caribbean office, meet with staff and tour field programs in Dominica and St. Vincent.

The purpose of our trip was twofold: to review the draft Country Strategy Paper (CSP) and provide a brief orientation to the new ChildFund Caribbean national director.

In Dominica, a young mother hangs laundry out to dry.

In these two island countries, we’re working to bring significant and sustainable change to children, youth, families and communities.

Paul Bode, ChildFund’s regional director of the Americas, often states that to make significant changes through our programs, we need clear direction and strong leadership.

As part of ChildFund’s strategic planning process, each National Office writes a CSP that captures the full scope of where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we want to go. It’s our roadmap for success, merging ChildFund’s big-picture strategy with locally identified needs for children and communities.

The CSP process involves

  • stakeholder analysis (meetings with communities, families, program partners, government agencies, other NGOs who work in the country and potential funders to identify the needs/desires of each group)
  • secondary data review (analyzing existing reports, statistics and other available information to better understand the context of services needed in the country)
  • capacity assessment (identifying human, financial and system resources essential to our work)
  • direction setting (determining the strategic path ChildFund will take to bring about changes in the lives of children and youth and what we need to make that happen).

The process is labor intensive and can take upwards of six months to complete. Yet, it’s a worthwhile investment to ensure we have a common understanding of priorities and direction going forward.

More to come on the specifics of the ChildFund Caribbean CSP.

ChildFund Teen Mother Program Addresses Root Causes

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

“Teenage pregnancy is an epidemic,” Zoey tells me. “It is stealing our futures. It is the most important thing we need to prevent.”

Teen mother

Zoey and her son, Federique

Enrolled in ChildFund’s teen mother program in St. Vincent, Zoey also works as a project volunteer. The program focuses on self-esteem, self-worth and forgiveness, with skills development, material resources/support and awareness-raising components. In some areas where we work, communities are reporting that upward of 50 percent of women were age 15 to 19 when they had their first child.

Many factors are at play: extreme poverty that leads girls and boys to trade sex for food and necessities; rape and incest; abandonment of pregnant women by men; a law that sets the age of sexual consent at age 15; and single mothers raising children who grow up only to repeat the cycle.

When girls become pregnant, they often lose access to education, as both public and private schools tend to turn them out. Even if they manage to stay in school, other students and even teachers ostracize the young mothers.

Although Zoey speaks passionately about the mistakes she has made, she is equally vocal about the love for her son, Frederique, and her commitment to giving him a better life than she had growing up. She explains: “Just because I have a child, it cannot hold me back. I can pick myself up and dust myself off. I could go back to the bad decisions I made before, but I want to have a different future for myself and my son.”

Zoey’s had to pick herself up many times. She tells about being sexually abused when she was a child, about her mother kicking her out of the house, about the father of her child denying his paternity. She speaks about these hardships not to gain sympathy, but to share her story and bear witness to the power of change. “See the mistakes I made, and choose a different path,” she advises her peers.

Youth group

St. Vincent youth group members

The youth group includes male and female teens, both with and without children. Some are there to spread the word about pregnancy prevention, and some are seeking support from others who have traveled the same paths and borne the same scrutiny and judgment.

All of the teens are eager to transform their realities, the behaviors of their peers and the futures of their communities. They want to have an impact, and ChildFund is helping ensure they have a voice.

Next week: Nicole visits ChildFund programs in neighboring Dominica.

Where the Pavement Ends, ChildFund’s Work Begins

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

The cruise ship lumbers into port, parting the crystal blue waters. Every color of the rainbow is represented in the scattered hillside homes. The weather is perfect — mild 90s with the slightest of breeze tussling my hair. The palm trees sway, seemingly to the beat of calypso music in the distance.

I am in Kingstown, the Caribbean capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

St. Vincent povertyNo, this is not a tourist brochure; it’s the beautiful backdrop for a country with shocking economic disparity. Scenic and idyllic, St. Vincent is paradise to the thousands of tourists who pass through every year. But tucked away in the crevices and crannies of the hillside mansions is the St. Vincent I came to visit. Where the pavement ends, ChildFund’s work begins.

St. Vincent childWe have approximately 3,000 children enrolled in our programs in St. Vincent through our ChildFund Caribbean national office. These children represent families and entire communities that are fighting harsh realities, hoping to make a change in this generation and create a way forward for the next.

Reflecting on a recent community planning event where children and parents identify risks and resources, I asked a small group of children about their greatest concerns. One girl, with eyes downcast, whispered, “Drugs, violence, prostitution, rape and pregnancy.”

St. Vincent children

I was a bit taken aback that these answers came so quickly to a child 8 years of age. Her candid response provides a glimmer of insight into what her reality is and what she observes in her own family and community.

But then she said something even more powerful: “I want to find ways to make it better – to erase negatives and just have positives.”

Tomorrow: More on ChildFund’s work in St. Vincent.

Youth Find New Ways to Express Themselves

31 in 31Yesterday we met Denzel Matthew, a 16-year-old boy from Dominica who turned his life around to help others. The help he is providing to younger children is greatly needed in that country, as well as in nearby St. Vincent in the Caribbean.

ChildFund Caribbean, which runs programs in both Dominica and St. Vincent, reported recently that violence among youth in schools has become a major issue.

“The youth are expressing their restlessness through violence with each other, their teachers, parents and even community members,” says ChildFund Caribbean National Director Francis Joseph. “The list of juvenile offenders is increasing in each country.”

However, there are signs of hope, as you read about yesterday with Denzel. The photography course is just one example of how ChildFund programs work to give youth alternative ways of expressing themselves without turning to violence.

“Consistently from one school to the next, we saw youth becoming friends and finding that common passion for life, for a skill, for opportunity given, for the chance to see life and see their future in a different light,” Francis says.

Youth who participate in ChildFund programs typically become closer to their parents and caregivers; many become more actively engaged in learning.

“Many of them are now excited about being at school. This is a small step we’re taking toward a long-term partnership with the youth through their school system to get them excited about learning, leadership and self-improvement,” Francis says.

For more information about these two countries, click here.

More on St. Vincent and Dominica
Population: 177,000
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 36,000 children and families
Did You Know?: St. Vincent and the Grenadines are celebrating 30 years of independence in 2009, following centuries of French and British rule. St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain statehood status on October 27, 1979.

What’s next: We meet children in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan.

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