By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This is the third of four posts about the exchange program and our work to improve the sponsorship experience. Read the series.
It’s not exactly easy to have someone come to your office and watch your every move. You could feel like an exotic specimen under a microscope. But when it’s one of your own colleagues from another country who is coming to learn and share equally, it’s a little less intimidating and turns into an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.
For this exchange, Santiago Baldazo, sponsor relations manager for ChildFund’s U.S. programs, hosted Zoraya Albornoz of Ecuador. They traveled together to our South Dakota office; Santiago is based in Texas.
Through discussions with Zoraya, Santiago says he learned a great deal about how Ecuador’s team partners with local communities and partner organizations to build common understanding about goals and expectations of sponsorship and other ChildFund-supported programs. “ChildFund Ecuador has a lot of faith in its very intricate network, which helps the communities become more empowered,” Santiago says.
He is now eager to replicate some of the child-friendly forms and materials that Ecuador uses in community orientations, child enrollment and child letters to sponsors. And Zoraya learned about how the U.S. team is maximizing technology to improve response time with their area offices and local partners. She plans to discuss with her team how to use technology to be in closer contact.
Of course, along with the professional observations, there were cultural ones as well. “It was interesting to see how both countries have indigenous populations that have historically been suppressed, repressed and oppressed by others and how the populations have responded to that,” Santiago notes. “In Ecuador, it seems it has given them the opportunity to raise their concerns, their voices and their solidarity as a people.”
The exchange was a great experience, Santiago reports, filled with opportunities to learn, grow and improve practices. In fact, he notes, “Having a shadow this week felt more like having a mentor, and that is primarily due to our visitor – her experience and knowledge and her personality and support.”
Zoraya was equally appreciative: “In the daily work, we lose the real perspective of our strengths and weaknesses. I saw that we have some things that can be improved in order to reach our goals.”
Tomorrow: In their own words.
Dr. Paul Dauphinais is a psychologist for Turtle Mountain Community Schools in Belcourt, N.D. He wrote this letter earlier this year after attending a tribal outreach gathering for American Indian youth, part of the work ChildFund supports in the United States. Here’s an excerpt.
I had an experience last week that was very moving and gave me great hope for the future of our youth and community. It was a Wednesday in the early evening. I was invited to go to the gym at Dunseith High School. When I arrived, there were children, youth and some of the outreach staff gathered near picnic tables. One of the tables had food that the staff had prepared. I was observing and enjoying the true friendships that the staff and youth showed. A couple of the girls then spontaneously began to serve the youth and staff. They assumed that responsibility without any adult coaxing. It was a pleasant experience.
The gathering really demonstrated to me that each person there genuinely cared for one another, making sure that everyone was served food and satisfied. The children and youth were respectful of each other and it was clearly evident that each one was welcome.
After the meal, several of the team leaders gathered youth in a large circle for the main part of the gathering, the Talking Circle. [Talking Circles are an important component of ChildFund’s cultural restoration initiatives.] The adult leader then began with an introduction of himself and his family in the language of the Anishnabe; he gave an explanation of respect in our cultural world. After this, Paco, a stuffed animal, was handed from person to person to say what respect meant to them and who and what they were respectful of in their lives.
When each youth had finished with their explanations, the rest of the circle applauded, showing respect and acknowledgement of the other person’s perspective. Each person in the circle was offered a turn. The insight that youth demonstrated in their speaking was a pleasure to hear, no matter their age. We have such great leaders-to-be who will be able to have insights into their daily lives and what it means to be Anishnabe/Mitchif. I was very proud to be a part of that group that night. [ChildFund believes that engaging children and youth in initiatives that connect them to positive Lakota values, practices and beliefs strengthens their cultural identity and their resiliency against inherent risks in their environment.]
All week, this past week, I wondered how these youth developed into such respectful and insightful beings; what is this process of growth? Who were they before they became involved with what is called Club Night? How do children mature in this manner – to become so respectful of each other and confident to speak about how one of the gifts of the grandfathers is part of their lives in the presence of others?
Club Night has been happening for many years through the leadership of Claudette McLeod and Turtle Mountain Outreach, and the staff of the Tribal JTPA, Turtle Mountain Youth & Family Center and tribal youth programs.
After the Talking Circle, the youth and staff played a group activity where there was not any bickering about rules or other negative behaviors. Everyone seemed to truly enjoy each other’s companionship, regardless of gender or age. At the end of the evening, the staff remains to assure that each youth has a ride home and that, if someone wants to talk about a concern or share a recent event, they are there.
I just wanted to jump in and be a part!
I thank the group for allowing me to be a part of the group that night.
Club Night will continue to be a part of program services and the dedicated staff will continue to be supportive to the youth. And I thank them for providing this opportunity for our youth.
With help comes hope.
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 Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Since 1952, ChildFund, partnering with local affiliate organizations, has provided sponsorships and programs for some of the poorest communities in the South, Southwest and Northern Plains.
Winter is an especially challenging time for children and families in western communities. When an ice storm hits in Oklahoma, it can debilitate a community for a week or more due to downed power lines. Rural roads become unsafe for travel. Adults can’t get to work, thus losing valuable income for food and necessities. Children can’t get to school, missing valuable learning time and peer interaction. In South and North Dakota the winters can last from September to May, with a small window of spring and summer.
This week, in the wake of a blizzard that is tracking across the U.S., parts of North Dakota and South Dakota experienced bitterly cold temperatures with wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below zero.
As the winter season drags out in the Dakotas, it becomes increasingly difficult for many families to afford the rising cost of propane to heat their homes. Water systems freeze. Pipes burst. Children sometimes lack winter clothing, or require support in obtaining warm coats and boots required for survival in the extreme weather conditions.
Although most ChildFund programs in the U.S. focus on after-school activities for children and youth, we have held emergency drives in the Northern Plains to provide water, food and other emergency aid when a bad winter storm hits. ChildFund area offices also act as advocates, linking communities with resources. As ChildFund services in the U.S. continue to expand, we are working with communities to strategically prepare for weather emergencies.
Sponsoring a child in the U.S. is a wonderful way to help. It costs $35 per month, which is a bit higher than for other countries in which ChildFund works due to higher costs of providing services here at home.
For more information about U.S. child sponsorship, call 800-776-6767, or visit the child sponsorship section of our website. (FYI: We don’t show online photographs of U.S. children to protect their privacy and ensure their safety.)
By David Hylton
Public Relations Specialist
To kick off this blog series, which will crisscross the globe during the month of October, we start in our own backyard. One of the biggest myths about ChildFund International is that we only help children overseas. That couldn’t be more wrong. We’ve been providing aid to U.S. children for more than 50 years. In fact, our programs in the United States reach some of the poorest counties in Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.
In the U.S., we collaborate with grassroots organizations that have an intimate understanding of the local community and the needs of the children and families. ChildFund and its partners focus on programs such as physical fitness, diabetes prevention, after-school care, computer skills training, youth councils and neighborhood revitalization.
One of our U.S. success stories comes from former sponsored child Joe Brings Plenty in South Dakota. He is now a tribal chairman and a leading advocate for ChildFund’s programs that began in 2008 at the Cheyenne River Reservation.
“I want the youth today to have the experiences that I had,” he says. As evidence, he shows visitors a photo of himself as a boy wearing a red sweater. The photo was taken during his community choir’s visit to a local prison. As a choir performer, he was instructed to wear “something nice.” The red sweater, a gift from his ChildFund sponsor, was the only nice thing he owned. It was also the only Christmas gift he received that year.
Years later, Joe continues to be touched by what the sweater represented to him as a child growing up on a reservation. For him, the sweater is a symbol that people care about Indian issues and that they share the same values of compassion and generosity.
More on the U.S.
Population: 304 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 58,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The first “American Indian Day” was declared by the State of New York in 1916, but a month-long recognition of American Indians was not achieved until 1990. Native American Indian Heritage Month is celebrated in November.
Next in our “31 in 31” series: Meet a kite maker in Indonesia
Shauntay Hinton, who was crowned Miss USA in 2002 and has appeared on TV shows such as “Heroes” and “Criminal Minds,” is a formerly sponsored child through ChildFund International. She was enrolled in the Brickfire Project in Mississippi and attended Brickfire’s after-school program until she completed high school.
Today Shauntay shares her childhood memories with us:
This week I attended a Labor Day barbecue hosted by my management company at a really elegant residence in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a community on the west side of Los Angeles. I looked around at the setting and the other “celebrities” there and felt like I was a really long way from Starkville, Miss.
In fact, when one of the other guests happened to ask me where I grew up, and I told her Mississippi, she responded “Wow! Really? How awful was that?” To which I replied “Not at all. I must have gotten lucky!”
I explained that growing up in Starkville, we had a strong sense of community. For example, when I was very little, I attended a day care center called Project Brickfire. Project Brickfire was a conduit organization for ChildFund International and operated as part day care center/part community center with programs to promote the educational and social development of children.
I went on to give her an earful about how before I even knew who Oprah Winfrey was, when I was about 5 years old, I was cast in a play at Project Brickfire as the host of a talk show who interviewed historical figures including Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. George Washington Carver regarding their contributions to American History. And boy oh boy, did they create a monster!
I made my mind up to never know a life without being on stage in some capacity. So to make a long story short, I think I got my point across to that other guest – if I hadn’t grown up in small-town Mississippi as a ChildFund sponsored child, I might not have been standing there talking to her at some fancy shindig in lovely Pacific Palisades that afternoon.
With programs emphasizing the arts and creative expression like plays, field trips and guest speakers, even providing a pen pal from across the world, ChildFund International helped me develop self confidence in front of an audience early on. Without question, my start as a sponsored child was essential to shaping my path toward a career in broadcasting because of the encouragement, instruction and support I received from the staff of Project Brickfire.
To read more about Shauntay’s experience with ChildFund International, click here. For more on “The Power to Play,” visit www.ChildFund.org/toys. Are you a formerly sponsored children through ChildFund? If so, and you would like to tell your story, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your information.