The Power to Play

Sarah Makes Her Own Doll

Video by Jake Lyell

In Uganda, videographer Jake Lyell was busy filming families who are struggling to stay together while coping with acute poverty and need. We’ll share these videos with you soon — they’re a tribute to the strength and determination of parents, children and others in their communities, as well as demonstrating the positive effect of outside support. In the meantime, watch Jake’s short video of 11-year-old Sarah, who shows us how she made her own doll.

They’re Ready for Football

Were you among the millions of people watching NFL football yesterday? The Denver-New England game was thrilling, and the Panthers are going to be formidable opponents for the Broncos. Children in the countries where we work also love playing games, especially football (aka soccer in the United States). Enjoy these pictures from Asia, the Americas and Africa. Goooooal!!!!

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Children Create Toys from Trash

by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications

’Tis the season for thinking about toys.

But what if there is no toy store? What if there is no money for toys?

In developing countries, children have shown an amazing amount of creativity when it comes to fashioning toys for play. Some children have taken broken flip-flops, scrap plastic bags, twigs and string and made a toy sailboat.

Other children have created soccer balls using discarded plastic bags and heavy twine. They’ve made kites using paper, string and bamboo.

Many of these innovative toys are on view as part of ChildFund’s traveling exhibit, The Power to Play: From Trash to Treasure. This holiday the exhibit is on display at the Idaho State Historical Museum through Feb. 5, 2011.

“The Idaho Historical Museum acts as a resource for Idaho history as well as a cultural center to expose Idaho citizens to the people of the world,” says Kurt Zwolfer, education specialist for the museum. “By viewing the creativity and resourcefulness exhibited by the children who made these toys, we hope our visitors will have a better understanding of the universal language of play.”

ChildFund's Anne Lynam Goddard (left) meets with museum staff.

“It’s the perfect holiday display,” says Anne Schorzman, events coordinator for the museum. “We think it will inspire many when they come to see the exhibit.”

In addition to the collection of toys, the museum also created interactive pieces, ideal for children visiting the museum. Children can bowl, make beaded snakes and play instruments from everyday items.

ChildFund International has long recognized play as essential to childhood development. Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO says, “We are sharing this toy collection as a visible demonstration of how the power to play helps children thrive and become leaders of enduring change in their communities and the world.”

The toy collection has traveled across the United States with stops at museums and venues in Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Denver and New York.

Children’s Toys Take the Spotlight at ChildFund Event

by Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

ChildFund's Power to Play exhibit at New World Stages runs through Sept. 6.

Toys made by children from around the world took center stage last night in New York City.

ChildFund’s toy exhibit “The Power to Play” opened last night at New World Stages, 340 West 50th St.

Time Out New York and NTDTV covered the opening reception. Donors from the New York area previewed the toys before the exhibit officially opened to the public.

Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund, told the audience, “Every show has a star, and the real stars tonight are the children who made the toys.

“The toys they made offer dramatic proof that – through it all – children can retain their sense of wonder, their desire to play, their indomitable spirit, and their ability to imagine and create…if they are given the support they need,” she continued.

Many of the toys on display tell compelling stories of the particular social, economic or political conditions present in the children’s home countries, while others reflect similarities across regions in type of play and crafting technique. Some children use twigs, plastic bags and string to make kites, cut open soda cans to fashion toy cars and bind dried banana leaves to bring dolls to life.

Among the guests at the opening reception was Dayton Carr, a long-time ChildFund supporter who sponsors two children and has funded a playground in Liberia and a program for disabled children in Belarus.

Mick Foley and his wife Collette attended. Mick, a former wrestler and now author and philanthropist, has funded eight schools in Sierra Leone and community centers in the Philippines and Mexico. He is currently funding a program to help former girl soldiers in Sierra Leone. He sponsors seven children.

ChildFund’s former board chairman Bill Leahey and his wife Chris also were in attendance. They sponsor four children and have funded a library in Ethiopia.

Irene Sanz and Maureen Massey admire the exhibit.

Long-time supporter Irene Sanz and ChildFund board member Maureen Massey and her husband Ivor spent some time reminiscing about their recent ChildFund study tour to Kenya.

Integrated Media Solutions, which sponsors 60 children, hosted the evening’s reception.

As part of the reception, guests were asked to contribute to the building of playgrounds in Afghanistan. An anonymous gift of $10,000 and several additional donations will be used to equip the playgrounds.

The toy exhibit continues through Sept. 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

With previous stops in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston and Atlanta, the toy collection will next head to Idaho in October.

Denver Sponsors Share Their ChildFund Stories

by Stephanie Phillips, ChildFund special assistant

It’s always inspiring to hear from ChildFund’s long-term supporters. At ChildFund’s Power to Play toy exhibit at the Denver Press Club, we were reminded once again of the rewards of child sponsorship.

Long-time sponsor Jean O'Toole

Long-time donor Jean O’Toole from Fort Collins, Colo., has sponsored 19 children through ChildFund for more than 40 years. She summed up what she thought being a supporter was all about: “I am everybody who sponsors a child. I am a small brick in the bottom row of the foundation of ChildFund International. Without the bottom row you couldn’t have the top of the pyramid,” O’Toole said.

She also shared photo albums and scrapbooks from her years of sponsoring children around the world. O’Toole has kept every letter and picture she has received from her sponsored children—including the original ad that sparked her interest in the organization 40 years ago.

Eric Seversen, another long-time sponsor from Boulder, performed his song, “Power to Play,” which he wrote to complement ChildFund’s Power to Play video featuring children constructing toys for the exhibit.

Eric Seversen performs.

Seversen’s song is written as if though the eyes of the children who made the toys: All I have known is poverty and fear, but I could be a pilot, or a teacher or engineer! The power to play…

As Seversen’s song ended, all eyes glanced over at the toys on the exhibit tables. Everyone knew that the children who had made the toys face the hardship of poverty every day. Children used their resilience and creativity to make toys to entertain themselves, develop their skills and persevere through life.

The Power of Play exhibit acknowledges children’s struggle and celebrates their achievements.

ChildFund’s Power to Play Exhibit Visits Denver

by Stephanie Phillips, ChildFund special assistant

The dim evening light filters through the windows of the Denver Press Club spotlighting the tables of toys. These aren’t ordinary toys found in local toy shops—these are unique toys constructed of recycled materials, made by the hands of children from around the world.

Hand-made toys reflect children's innovation.

ChildFund International’s traveling toy exhibit, the Power to Play, made a stop at the Denver press club last week. The exhibit was not only an opportunity for donors in the Denver area to view the toys but also to gather and celebrate their commitment to ChildFund. Many of the donors attending the reception have been sponsoring children for more than 30 years.

As attendees walked around the room, they marveled not only at the ingenuity and creativity the children used to craft the toys but also at the materials they used. All of the toys in the Power to Play exhibit are made from materials people throw away on a daily basis—plastic bags, tin cans, scrap wood and empty containers.

“We want as many people as possible to see this exhibit, because it is not an ordinary exhibit—it is extraordinary because kids have made these toys with their own hands. I call them the original environmentalists,” said ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard, who greeted donors at the event.

Donors meet with Anne Lynam Goddard.

Athena Boulgarides, Regional Development Officer for ChildFund, explained how play helps children’s development. “Play is an astonishing gift that children give themselves,” she said. “Through play they solve problems and test new ideas. Play is the key to the future of their psychosocial development, emotional development—and honoring that is a gift.”

Gaining Experience Outside the Classroom

by Kathryn Glushefski, Communications and Public Affairs Intern

The Communications team is in denial as our three terrific interns from Virginia Commonwealth University prepare to depart. They are blogging this week about their ChildFund experience.

My internship at ChildFund International wraps up Friday. Since January, I’ve worked in the Communications and Public Affairs Division while also completing the final requirements for my bachelor’s degree.

Getting hands-on experience with a PR campaign

From my first day, I was welcomed into the ChildFund family and quickly immersed in my assignments. It was exciting. I was finally out of the classroom and applying what I had learned to a real-world situation.

I quickly became acquainted with the Communications team and was also given the opportunity to interview four other ChildFund employees from neighboring departments. Each person I met had a unique story to tell, and I enjoyed writing features about their experiences throughout their careers and with ChildFund.

A considerable amount of my time was spent working on the Power to Play project, which is a unique collection of toys handmade by ChildFund children. ChildFund has developed a public relations campaign around the traveling exhibit. While working on the campaign, I was able to see and touch toys made by children of all ages. It was humbling to say the least. These toys truly illustrate how resourceful and adaptable children are.

For this assignment, I worked closely with Ellie Whinnery, public relations manager, on developing inventories for new exhibit venues and compiling press kits to achieve media coverage.

It was wonderful to work so closely with a campaign. Not only was the work educational and relevant to my career interests, it was truly enjoyable, rewarding and inspirational. This experience has been more than I could have hoped for.

On May 22, I will be graduating with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in public relations. I have no doubt that this opportunity at ChildFund has prepared me for whatever lies in my future.

To everyone I have met and for all that I have learned throughout this journey—thank you!

Children’s ‘Power to Play’ Inspires Songwriter

by Eric Severson

Eric Severson is the author and performer of the song “The Power to Play,” which he wrote to accompany ChildFund’s video and innovative program of the same name.

I have been donating to ChildFund International since I was in college, which is long enough to have seen several of my sponsored children grow up and be replaced with a new set of wonderful and deserving kids.

Through the years, I’ve always been extremely impressed by ChildFund’s sincerity, passion and highly efficient operation. In an age when humanitarian resources too often have been misused, ChildFund has always kept its fundraising and administrative costs extremely low, allowing the children to receive a maximum amount of help. I know it also makes a huge difference to these children to have a real human being providing their support – with a name and face they know – not just a nameless, faceless “donor” in the background.

I am now absolutely thrilled to be able to contribute another side of me – my songwriting and music – to help this wonderful cause. Though most of my songs have focused on humanitarian subjects, it was only this year that I thought to use these efforts directly to benefit ChildFund. What a wonderful insight that was!

Earlier this year, I had written a song called “Children of the World,” which I officially dedicated to ChildFund International. As the words of the song’s chorus indicate, it was all about our tendency toward apathy and indecision in responding to charitable causes:

Children of the world, when will we see
That you are more than just a photograph, or ads on our TV?
Children of the world, will we find a way?
Tomorrow may not come for you, you need our help today.

My favorite part of the song, however, is the “bridge” section, which I see as the essence of what ChildFund International does so well in fostering personal relationships between donors and their sponsored children:

If I could only see these kids, as if they all were my own kids,
I would not hesitate to right this wrong.
I’d reach out to them with my all, hug them tightly close to me,
And wonder why I waited for so long.

This song got the attention of Athena Boulgarides, my regional ChildFund development officer, and we began to talk about what else I might do to help in a more central and impactful way. When Athena explained the “Power to Play” program – and I watched the video of kids building toys – I was absolutely awestruck by the power of this vision and by its obvious results on the children. With encouragement from Athena, I decided to take on the project of writing the music to go along with this powerful video.

The project presented two major challenges. First, though I wanted the music to be hopeful and inspiring – not sad – I didn’t want to gloss over the heartbreaking existence these kids were coming from. It had to be music that made you smile and feel good – but while tears were falling from your eyes at the same time. The music went through a number of iterations before I finally found something that I liked – and there were one or two points in the process where I became so discouraged I wondered if I’d ever find that delicate and elusive balance of emotions.

Second, since the video was not made with my music in mind, I had to work hard to match the lyrics and themes in the song as closely as I could to the actual timing of the video. For this purpose I made a chart of the exact timings of each scene and transition in the video, and wrote the words and music at each point to align as closely as I could with what was on the screen. Because songs need to have predictable structure of verses and choruses and so forth, this was an inexact exercise at best – but with a bit of poetic license, I was able to come closer than I originally thought I could.

I hope the result speaks for itself, and that I have managed to produce something that will make a big difference to ChildFund and its ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of potential donors and sponsors. This is such an amazing and important program, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of it.

To the Beat of a Different Drum

By ChildFund Sri Lanka Staff

31 in 31He runs to his mother and father returning from the paddy fields and clutches their hands. The toy drum hangs from his neck. His energy and smiley face soon fade away the tired look on his parents’ faces. He starts to beat the drum and sing a song bringing a new life into the tired parents. He is Kolitha, a 4-year-old boy who lives in a remote village in Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka, the next stop of our “31 in 31” blog series.

Sri Lanka, a country we have worked in since 1985, is a war-torn country where good news can be tough to find. This, however, is a story we have shared with visitors to our traveling toy exhibit, “The Power to Play – from Trash to Treasure.”

Kolitha (in the light blue) and his friends sing songs and beat their drums in Sri Lanka.

Kolitha (in the light blue) and his friends sing songs and beat their drums in Sri Lanka.

Kolitha’s parents are farmers working in paddy cultivation. The income they earn from farming is very low. This makes it hard for them meeting the needs of the family. They can provide their children only with basic necessities. So Kolitha and his sister always make improvised toys and sports equipments when it comes to play.

With a born enthusiasm to explore things, Kolitha is always a busy child. He loves to play with the children in his village. He loves to sing songs with his friends. Kolitha attends an education center in the village supported by the ChildFund project. The teacher at the center describes Kolitha as a very enthusiastic and creative child. She says that he actively participates in singing, dancing and other group activities at the center.

Kolitha’s inspiration for his bamboo drum came from attending his sister’s dancing class conducted by the project. One day, Kolitha came with his mother to watch his sister dancing. The drum played at the class impressed him so much that he first started to beat at the table when he went home. Then he started to try to make a drum that looked like the one at the dancing class. He had heard about bamboo drums at the education center. He pestered his tired father to accompany him to the stream where bamboo trees grow and brought home a piece of bamboo.

At home, his sister dances to songs he sings beating the drum. His parents also join the children clapping to songs. Kolitha takes the drum with him when he visits his friends. They sit under the shade of a tree and sing songs until their parents start coming looking for them. The bamboo drum that Kolitha made has attracted his friends to make their own drums. Kolitha has helped his friends in this and each of them has one now. He says happily that he wants to be a musician one day.

For more information about our work in Sri Lanka, click here. To read more stories involving “The Power to Play,” click here.

More on Sri Lanka
Population: 21.3 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 750,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of rubber. The rubber industry took hold in the country in the late 1800s, when the island was known as Ceylon and was ruled by the British.

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