A mother and child in Senegal. Photo by Jake Lyell.
There is a commercial I frequently see on TV selling financial planning services. A husband and wife sit in front of the desk of the financial planner, and he explains how he can help them plan their finances and reach their dreams. The couple, immediately and simultaneously, utters their dreams out loud: him, a motorcycle, and her, a home remodel.
Whenever I see this ad, I think about how true it is! This ad encapsulates one of the many stereotypical but yet true differences between men and women. Women often prioritize their home and family, and men often have other interests (in my personal experiences, a cooler, newer, faster car or motorbike can be one of them). That’s not a negative on men; we are just hard-wired differently.
I know the same is true for men and women in countries and communities living in poverty around the globe. Mothers have the greatest impact on how well children survive and thrive in life. At ChildFund, we call it the Mama Effect.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we are launching the Mama Effect campaign today. Our theory is that when a mother is healthy, safe and empowered, her children are likely to follow in her footsteps. We’re aiming to raise $80,000 to make life a little easier for mothers, helping their sons and daughters have a brighter future. To learn more, visit our donations page.
Personally, I love the name Mama. My kids generally call me Mom, but when they are being especially affectionate, they call me Mama. That name always sends a little thrill through me.
Our partner in this new program is ChildFund, with whom we’ve worked in many settings and countries to provide clean water. Our partnership efforts mirror the CSDW Program’s overall focus areas as we’ve provided clean water in emergencies - droughts in Kenya, floods in Mozambique, and after volcanic eruptions in Indonesia - and in rural communities without sustained access to clean water in Sierra Leone and Zambia.
We’re thrilled and proud to hear that Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water project has delivered its 7 billionth liter of water to a family in Brazil. ChildFund has had a longtime partnership with P&G in efforts to disrupt poverty worldwide, and this project — part of P&G’s commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative to save one life an hour by 2020 — is very close to our hearts. Clean water is a necessity for children everywhere to achieve their potential.
The dreaded and deadly Ebola virus has raised its ugly head again. This time the breakout has occurred in West Africa, starting in the country of Guinea and spreading rapidly to neighboring Liberia. Sandwiched between these two countries, Sierra Leone’s people are naturally nervous it could cross its borders as well. ChildFund works with children, families and communities in all three of these countries, and we have started educating communities so they can protect themselves.
According to Davidson Jonah, our field operations support director, ChildFund has mounted a response to the outbreak in these three countries, providing hygiene kits to families and running awareness-raising activities. We are working with the national governments, the World Health Organisation, Doctors Without Borders and other health-related NGOs.
The medical answer to “Where did this virus come from?” is easy yet frustrating: They don’t know. The real-world answer is also simple: poverty. The virus lives and travels around in animals of the forest; no one is sure which ones, but bats are suspected. From time to time, the virus is transmitted to humans. How? Because poor, hungry people eat bats, apes and other wild animals — found dead or captured alive — because they have little other food to eat. The virus has to find a home in only one human host before it can start spreading rapidly to others through bodily fluids.
A U.S. Army researcher works with the Ebola virus, 2011.
Because Ebola is so threatening to our closely intertwined world and so deadly to whoever gets infected (death rates are often as high as 60 percent to 80 percent for those infected), I’m confident that WHO staff and our own CDC officials are already making progress in these countries. By providing their impressive technical and logistical knowledge, they will be able to isolate those infected, stop further transmission and find the first case. That index case will help answer the medical question — “Where did this virus come from?”
But what about that underlying cause of extreme poverty and hunger? Is the world doing enough to answer that question and solve that problem? Hunger and poverty are not as deadly as the Ebola virus but they’re no less serious, particularly to the one out of every four children in the world who are malnourished. Many of them would eat a bat or an ape if they could, rather than letting their stomachs go empty.
Today I’m giving my first TEDx talk in Richmond, Va., about violence against children. The preparation has been intense. I have done a lot of public speaking in my career, and I really enjoy it. I’m passionate about my work with ChildFund, and I love having an opportunity to tell people something about the work we do with children. Often I get much more excited than nervous when I speak. I get energy from speaking with and to other people, including audiences, which adds to my excitement.
But for today, I admit I’m a bit nervous. Who hasn’t watched a great TED talk and been impressed with the quality of the presentation? TED has set a high standard. TED talks rely on your memory – no notes or teleprompters allowed. What if I forget what I’m supposed to say? Everyone says just relax and have fun. That’s easy for them to say – they won’t be up in front of the audience and cameras. Wish me luck! If you’re interested, the talk will be streamed live around 1:15 p.m. EDT.
In the annual shareholder letter of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released recently, the couple made a confident prediction that has raised more than a few eyebrows and invited a chorus of cynics….
"The less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget that is spent on foreign aid (about $30 billion), is helping build foundational changes in countries around the world: building schools, roads and irrigation systems, providing life-saving vaccines, family planning and other vital healthcare services."
“This is a call from children all over the world,” ChildFund Alliance Secretary General Jim Emerson said. “Children are asking for an end to physical and humiliating punishment; sexual violence and abuse; harmful child work and child marriage; trafficking and other harmful practices.” Read more about this effort here on ChildFund’s blog.
Sunday, Feb. 16 marked the 100th day since Super Typhoon Yolanda — as Typhoon Haiyan is known in the Philippines — tore a path through the central Visayas region. One hundred days later, and the destruction I’ve seen since stepping off the plane almost makes it feel like Yolanda is still here. For such a small country, everything is larger than life here in the Philippines.
Hubert Par, a ChildFund sponsor relations officer who also serves on the Emergency Response Team, filled us in on the status of our response efforts in the Philippines, particularly in Tacloban City, where the devastation remains significant. The rest of the team in Tacloban introduced themselves, quickly affirming my confidence the relief campaign here was in good hands. Hubert mentioned that a local school would have a small presentation for us.
I hopped in the van that would take me to the Sto. Niño Special Education Center, an elementary school for differently abled children. This school, like many others throughout the island of Leyte, served as an evacuation center for hundreds of families displaced by Yolanda. ChildFund had established a Child-Centered Space, a safe place where ChildFund staff and volunteers could address children’s fears and emotions in the wake of the super typhoon, and also connect with teachers and local government for the protection of children living under these difficult circumstances.
A warm greeting at Sto. Niño for Anne and Philippines National Director Katherine Manik
When the van pulled into the school gates, I was greeted with a huge surprise: Several hundred students at Sto. Niño, their teachers and many parents had gathered in the school courtyard to greet me. I was ushered toward a podium, where a group of children began reading a story to the audience, describing my background.
A dance number and a few songs performed by hearing-impaired children followed the introduction. Hubert had called this a small presentation, but this was an amazing full-blown performance they’d prepared. I looked to the ChildFund staff members around me, and they seemed equally surprised over how big this “small presentation” was. My gaze darted from face to face until I found Hubert, who explained that this is how the community members wanted to express their thanks. Like other things I saw since arriving in the Philippines, the community at Sto. Niño’s expression of thanks was larger than life.
Then the community members showed me just why they were thankful. Inside a classroom was an exhibit showcasing just about every piece of material created at our Child-Centered Space established at the school. The immense volume of paper crafts, stories and other artwork on display was tremendous.
Students present a dance.
It’s been 100 days since Yolanda, but it felt like I’d walked into a collection amassed over a year. Each piece contained a message of hope or gratitude. Each story, though carrying hints of grief over what the child had lost, also reflected joy over what remained. I was particularly amazed by one child’s illustration of what he wanted to be when he grew up. His dreams were so big, he wrote that it would take three lives for him to live them all: as a fireman, a soldier and then finally a superhero.
Only then did I fully comprehend the larger-than-life gratitude the school community went to great lengths to express. If I was surprised to see how cheerful and resilient such a devastated community could be, they also surprised themselves, and they wanted to thank ChildFund staff and volunteers for dedicating the time and effort to work with their community and children to mount a response campaign that’s larger than life. Super Typhoon Yolanda still seems nearby in Leyte, but ChildFund’s still there too.
This week I’ve been in Timor-Leste visiting ChildFund’s programs for children. Not many people have even heard of the place. Timor-Leste is, in fact, a remote and small country in Southeast Asia. There are only a few flights daily to its capital, Dili, so it made me smile when starting our descent, the captain announced we would be delayed due to congestion on the airstrip.
Timor-Leste celebrated its status as a new nation only 12 years ago after a bloody conflict with Indonesia. In that short time, it has made great strides, given the scale of the development and security challenges it has faced. As a result of the violence that followed the 1999 vote for independence, most of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed, the economy was devastated, and there were no functioning government institutions left. The country was essentially starting from scratch. Countries emerging from conflict can take 30 or 40 years to get to middle income levels and, as my experience in Somalia shows, many never make it, falling back into conflict.
Timor-Leste has come a long way, although it still faces many challenges. Despite the country’s growing petroleum wealth, the country is still one of the poorest in the world. Many people still lack basic services, particularly outside the capital. Private sector development remains constrained by a poorly educated population, weak public institutions and unreliable electricity, transport and telecommunications. These factors have made it difficult for Timor-Leste to move away from its dependence on oil and create jobs for its growing population.
But there are signs that things are improving. The number of people living below the poverty line is falling. More children are being vaccinated, and the country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for reduced child mortality. More women are receiving care from skilled health workers during pregnancy and childbirth, and the number of children enrolled in school is increasing. Thousands more people have better water and sanitation services, relieving them of the back-breaking task of collecting water of dubious quality.
ChildFund assists communities in remote areas, and no visit is complete without a long drive on a bad road. West of Dili, the coastal road twists and turns, with jungle-laden hills to the left and bronze-colored beaches to the right. Today, I am visiting Maliana, where ChildFund sponsors 1,600 children. In this poor farming community, most parents grow rice, cassava and corn, and raise pigs, cows and chicken. Children have other ambitions. They tell me they don’t want to become farmers and work in the fields; they want to study at university in Dili.
Carlos, age 16 and sponsored through ChildFund, tells me he wants to go to university to study economics. Abaya has similar dreams. She tells me she wants to go to university in the capital, where three of her brothers are already studying, to study medicine and become a doctor. In Libania’s wooden house, I notice a computer. She says, “ChildFund provided my family with a cow a few years ago. Now we have eight cows. We recently sold one to buy a computer. It’s very important I learn how to use a computer if I am to get a good job.”
A visit with Libania and her mother.
Youth unemployment is a huge issue in Timor-Leste. Many young adults drop out of school with no skills. ChildFund provides market-driven training opportunities to help youths develop vocational skills so that they can provide for their families. In Maliana, ChildFund supports carpentry training, where I meet Felipe, a confident 25-year-old.
“I was keen to learn a new skill because I didn’t want to become a farmer like my parents,” he says. “The training gave me a way out and confidence. When I successfully completed the course last year, ChildFund gave me tools and equipment to start my own business. At first, it was tough. I had no money to buy wood. Now I employ two young people and pass on to them what I have learned. There is great demand for my skill. I make doors, beds and other furniture using local wood. I have made a profit of $1,800 in the last six months, which is a great help to my family. I hope to take on more staff in the future.”
Felipe, a participant in a carpentry program.
In Tunubibi village (literally “barbecued goat”), it looks like everyone has turned up for my visit. I’m here to inaugurate a new early childhood development center. In Timor-Leste, only one in 10 children has access to pre-primary education, and improving access and quality of early years development is one of ChildFund’s priorities in the country. As I cut the ribbon and open the new center, I am happy to see the bright classrooms, with running water and clean toilets. We are providing teacher training, educational materials, desks and chairs (produced by the youth carpenters!).
I also distribute shoes to excited children. The shoes were provided by TOMS Shoes, with whom ChildFund partners. TOMS’ One for One™ program gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. And TOMS plans to send shoes for the children not just one time but repeatedly, as they grow. Today the children can barely contain their excitement as I fit shoes on their feet. “I go to school barefoot,” one child told me. “My friends will not laugh at me anymore.”
“I like my new shoes. I like the black color,” another child exclaimed. “Thanks to TOMS, I got a new pair of shoes.”
Trying on shoes.
Parents also voiced their appreciation. “ChildFund is doing a lot for our children. This will help retain our children in schools and fewer children will suffer from foot disease. Most parents are unable to buy a pair of shoes for their children,” one parent told us.
ChildFund is doing some great work in Timor-Leste, and I was happy to visit for the first time and see our programs. For such a young country, it has already made great strides.
The most effective way to maintain progress over time is to educate children so that they have their own set of skills, skills that can ensure a sustainable tomorrow, provide economic security and create a future….
In the early 1980s, I was stationed in Somalia, involved in efforts to support 1 million Ethiopians who had fled the drought in their homeland, looking for food and water in Somalia. I clearly remember taking my newborn son with me to the reception camp near the border, where the Ethiopian refugees received their first food after walking over semi-arid land for days and weeks while seeking help. I remember the embarrassment I felt having such a healthy baby in comparison to the emaciated children I met.
In the mid-1980s in Bangladesh, a “flood of the decade” hit the country, and I was tasked with coordinating the emergency response for my organization. I visited a school by boat, which literally floated through the front door of the school. Although the first floor was flooded, the upper two floors provided dry but extremely crowded living quarters for thousands of families. The expression “the size of a postage stamp” could have been invented there, considering the few square feet each family had and the total lack of privacy. I remember thinking that as crazy as it seemed, children would be conceived there – such crowding made the space insecure for women, and sexual assaults would surely occur.
Fast track to the Rwanda genocide in the mid-90s. As the chaos started, Rwandans started fleeing any way they could, and foreigners were evacuating the country, going by convoy across the border into Kenya. I had visited the country one month earlier but was back in the U.S. when the mass killings began. I was trying to arrange for our staff to leave, but our country director refused, as we had some staff members out in the field, and he wouldn’t leave until he was sure they had reached safety. Getting a U.S. flag for his car and some gasoline from the Embassy, he drove through the chaos to rescue them, redefining the word “hero” for me. At the same time, I was on the phone to his parents in California, trying to explain what he was doing during this horrific bloodbath.
In the late ’90s, I worked in what was for me a very strange emergency. NATO had just started bombing Kosovo, and thousands of Kosovars fled the fighting and crossed into Macedonia. Refugee camps were quickly set up. But these weren’t the refugees I was used to dealing with elsewhere – these were middle-class folks who suddenly found themselves without a home. In the camps, we were giving out disposable diapers and bottles of water. Diabetes was a bigger problem than malnutrition. I remember a woman asking for a nail file! But life is always miserable in a camp, despite everyone’s best efforts. With physical health not being such a huge problem as usual, the depression was so much more obvious on everyone’s faces.
Our response in Palo and Talosa, two hard-hit Philippines communities.
I wonder what my memories will be from my upcoming trip to the Philippines. Stay tuned for some blog posts and pictures that I will post about ChildFund’s work.
I will soon be celebrating my 33rd wedding anniversary, or as my husband likes to say, our 65th anniversary. You see, my husband and I were married twice — once in Kenya, where we met while I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and seven months later in the United States, surrounded by our family and friends at my church. Although we celebrate both anniversaries each year (that’s how we reach the number 65), the January anniversary is always special. It is not only our legal wedding date, but it holds such unique memories.
On our wedding day.
In January 1981, we married in a civil ceremony at the attorney general’s building in Nairobi. My memory of the very short ceremony was the presiding official telling us, in essence, “Polygamy is illegal; now, please sign on the dotted line.” My marriage certificate identifies me as a “spinster,” something I had a hard time swallowing with my “woman’s libber” mindset at the time.
After the ceremony, we went off to the Hilton hotel for some sandwiches with a few friends to celebrate. (Remember, volunteers live on very little money.) When we reminisce about the day, my husband always likes to remind me how I spent the morning writing up a report about a nutrition survey while he was off buying flowers and renting a car to take us to the ceremony. It’s proof, he says, that he is more of a romantic than I am!
The “romantic” Andrew buying flowers in Nairobi.
Although that first wedding day was somewhat unconventional, it was without doubt a joyous event for me. I was marrying the man I loved. What I have learned through my work at ChildFund is that not all marriages are such joyful occasions. Each year 14 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into early marriages, which leave them vulnerable to many risks, including domestic abuse, illness and dying during childbirth. Even if their husbands are not abusive, young married girls rarely get the chance to complete their educations or attain economic independence, which negatively affects the whole family.
In The Gambia, ChildFund and one of our local partner organizations helped a 15-year-old girl named Ramatoulie avoid a marriage to an older man. “My father said he didn’t have any money to pay for school,” Ramatoulie told a ChildFund staff member. “The teachers and the local community organization said they would support me.” Ramatoulie is now living in a safe home and remains in school today, unmarried. She also belongs to a club called Speak Out! that gives boys and girls the skills they need to deal with obstacles facing them in their educations.
To end, I want to share with you the secret I’ve learned to a long and happy marriage: Marry someone who shares your values. Over the lifetime of a marriage, many things will change, and many challenges will occur. But if you and your spouse share similar values — something more important than shared interests, friends, backgrounds or even religion — and draw on those values when making life decisions, then you will have a greater chance of having that long and happy marriage everyone desires.
Reflecting the differences in the range of responses from around the world, 90 percent of the children in Cambodia believe that alcohol is the chief cause of violence against children in their country.
"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
As president of ChildFund, sometimes when I talk with people about the 1 billion children living in poverty globally, I see an uninterested shadow cross their face. It’s not their issue; their concerns lie closer to home.
When I say that 6.6 million children died before their 5th birthday in 2012, though, I can tell the pictures of their own much-loved children or grandchildren flash before their eyes. I imagine they say a quick prayer of thanks for the lives their loved ones live – and then move on with their own busy lives. When I tell someone that each year 14 million girls are forced to marry before their 18th birthday, or tens of thousands are forced into female genital cutting or child prostitution, I see their discomfort level rise — accompanied by a desire to look toward less painful subjects.
One of many “dedicated individuals” helping children in the Philippines. Photo by Jobeth Jerao.
I understand — and support — that individuals can be passionate and dedicated to the many other problems that plague our world and our neighborhoods. Having been a working mother my whole career, I can fully appreciate that people’s lives are way too busy, and that juggling the responsibilities of home and work can often leave energy for little else. And who wouldn’t want to turn away from things that cause us pain? Our lives can seem short on joy and happiness.
These things I can accept. But what I have a hard time accepting is that many people believe the world is made to be unjust and/or the problems these children face are too big, too far away and too complex for them — individually — to do anything about it anyway. So they choose to do nothing.
MLK Jr. had it right. Human progress is not inevitable, nor is it inevitable that millions of children must continue to suffer. Many steps have been taken in the last 25 years to improve the lives of children — the rate of children dying before their 5th birthday has been cut nearly in half since 1990. That happened because of the “tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Those many dedicated individuals include the more than 350,000 people here at home who support the work of ChildFund in the 30 countries where we work to improve the lives of children.
So, as we celebrate the life and gifts of Martin Luther King, Jr., throw away any beliefs you might have held that nothing can be done to help children living in poverty. Become a “dedicated individual” by taking an interest in your fellow humans, especially children.
You can visit our website for some information, or talk to your friends, neighbors or family who might already be one of those dedicated believers — and learn how they help.
On December 31, 2013, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. He called upon private businesses, civil society groups, faith leaders, families, and individuals to recognize the vital role they can each play in ending all forms of modern slavery.
Learn what you can do in your own life to fight human trafficking on DipNote.
With just two weeks into the New Year, how well are you doing with keeping your new year’s resolutions? How is the diet going? Has your personal vice (chocolate, potato chips, ice cream, Big Macs, pizzas, you name it) become a long-distance friend, or is it still your daily buddy? What about that exercising? Does your car know the way to the gym, or are your sneakers still gathering dust in the corner of your closet? Are your charge cards getting bored, or are they still hot to the touch? Has your husband/wife, mom/dad, sister/brother, son/daughter, best friend, work colleague or long lost soulmate noticed a change in your attitude/temper/attentiveness or acts of kindness?
Do you think New Year’s resolutions are a luxury that only those who have enough to live on can make? Meaning, do you think people living in poverty make new year’s resolutions as well?
To be honest, I never thought about that question before. As president of ChildFund, I travel a lot for my job and get to meet and talk with children and young people living in poverty in the 30 countries where we work. I ask them lots of questions, but I never ask them if they make new year’s resolutions. So I really don’t really know the answer. But I do ask them if they have dreams for the future.
Miguel, 9, of Guatemala, hopes to be a doctor.
The vast majority of kids I talk to do have dreams — they want to make a better life for themselves than the one into which they were born. Sometimes I think one of the most important parts of ChildFund’s work is building a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence — helping them believe that they deserve something better in life and, if they work at it, they can achieve it. The other part of our work, of course, is providing them the health, education and skill-building programs they need to achieve that better life.
Archana of India received a bicycle from ChildFund to ride to school.
So, a lot of resolutions might not have been developed as the minutes ticked down to midnight on Dec. 31 in the slums of Nairobi or the mountains of Bolivia or in the struggling newest country of Timor-Leste, but there are millions of children and young people who are determined to get out of poverty and make a better life for themselves.
That brings me back to your new year’s resolutions. It’s not too late to cut back on your personal food vice, get out those sneakers, cut up that credit card or do an unexpected kindness for your mom (as a mom, that is my favorite resolution). It’s also not too late to start making a difference in the life of someone else, including a child that might not make resolutions but does create big dreams. Think about it.
[Self-confession on my own resolutions — my food vices are (temporarily) under control, but the gym membership is still under-utilized.]
The United States spends billion of dollars each year on foreign aid . In fact, the U.S. sent approximately $37,680,000,000 overseas in 2012 for foreign aid, according to Finance Degree Center, a website dedicated to finance education. The total amount, which includes investments in national security concerns,…
The reasons behind the United States’ spending of $37 billion on foreign aid in 2012 are diverse: national security, humanitarian objectives and commercial interests. This graphic explains where the money goes.
Deadly natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan are terrifying ordeals for everyone involved, but for children in particular, they can disrupt their lives in so many ways. Our focus is to make sure that children’s distinctive needs are met.
Children take comfort in the routines of their daily lives, and when those familiar patterns are disrupted, they can become anxious and unsettled. Poverty already carries with it an element of unpredictability — what will tomorrow be like? Read more in my HuffPost about the aftermath of the typhoon.
While I was decorating my Christmas tree earlier this week, I realized that my ornaments are a little on the unusual side. Do you know anybody with a meerschaum crocodile or a warthog from Somalia on their tree? Or what about a ceramic rickshaw from Bangladesh, a wooden giraffe from Kenya, a Rwandan doll with a red headscarf or a colorful glass ball from Egypt? Over the years, I have tried to buy a Christmas ornament or two from every country where I have worked or visited, so the tree now tells part of my life’s story.
The other story my decorations tell is that of my two children. I’m the kind of mother who keeps all the Christmas ornaments my children made when they were young; I faithfully hang them up each year, even if the green felt Christmas tree has lost all its glitter or the picture of my daughter in her soccer uniform glued onto a Christmas ball is faded. It doesn’t matter to me how worn these decorations get, I’ll never throw them out. They tell the story of my children’s childhood — a story every mother cherishes.
With all of these memories, you would be right in guessing that decorating my tree takes a very long time (as my husband always points out). But I don’t care. With all my moving over the years, I have always feared losing my Christmas decorations. Although I’m sure it seems silly to some, my decorations mean a lot to me.
In addition to tree ornaments, I have a special nativity set that I bought in the Philippines years ago. Knowing the country was predominantly Christian and had a reputation for excellent wood carving, during my first visit to Manila in the early 1990s, I set out to buy a nativity set. Even though my visit was in the heat of the summer, I was successful when a shopkeeper found some in his back room. I have displayed the same nativity set for more than 20 Christmases. This year, however, the nativity set took on special meaning, considering what the Philippines has gone through since Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc on the country Nov. 8, killing more than 6,000 and destroying an estimated 550,000 homes.
ChildFund has been working with children in the Philippines for many years. As the typhoon hit, we immediately went into emergency mode and started planning how to meet the immediate needs of children and families. Within a week, we had set up our first Child-Centered Spaces, where children could both be protected from the chaos around them, as well as have their basic needs met. Our work continues, helping children recover emotionally from the trauma of seeing their homes destroyed. Our longer term plan is taking shape, and we plan to help families who have lost everything rebuild their lives and their homes over the coming year or more.
Although those families will eventually get back on their feet, I know there are some things they will never get back. My Christmas ornaments help tell the story of my life and mean so much to me, and these families also had their special things that told their life stories. Maybe it was a picture of grandparents long departed, a diploma for their family’s first high school graduate, or a handmade gift from child to parent. Whatever it was, it meant the world to them, and now it’s gone.
At this time of year when our lives are so filled with family and gift-giving, I will remember those families who have lost so much. I hope that whatever we can offer them will not only get them back on their feet but also open up the opportunity to make new and better memories than that day in November when they lost so much. If you would like to help, please consider a gift to ChildFund’s Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund.
Tough Decision: Staying in School or Immigrating to Find a Job?
This recent update from Abraham Marca communications team in Bolivia once again points out the hard decisions that children and youth in the developing world constantly face.
Santos, 19, lives in Tarija, Bolivia, with his parents and a little brother. When he was 11, he was matched with a ChildFund sponsor from our Alliance partner in Denmark.
Tarija is near Argentina’s border, and it’s fairly common for young Bolivians who are living in poverty to migrate to Argentina in search of jobs. Many make this decision at the expense of their education, dropping out of high school and lacking technical skills. It’s usually not a successful combination for escaping poverty.
Santos’ sponsor always encouraged him to finish secondary school and get involved as a leader in his community. So, he chose to remain in Tarija.
In 2006, Santos was selected as the representative for his province to the Bolivian Children’s Parliament. He had the opportunity to visit La Paz and attend a conference about children’s rights. He was later invited to Mexico to take part in a UNICEF global meeting. He was even interviewed in the TV, and today he still feels very proud of that work and involvement in advocating for children’s rights.
“I’m sure my life would be different without ChildFund’s and my sponsor’s support,” Santos says. “Maybe harder, because a lot of my school pals are now working in Argentina. They quit school because they need to send money to their families,” he says. “They even offered for me to go with them to work, but with my parent’s advice and my sponsor’s support I finished secondary school and now I want to have my own business.”
The international 2013 ChildFund Connect Family Film Festival launched this week, involving young filmmakers from around the world.
ChildFund Australia, with support from AUSAID, is spearheading the project to connect students in Australia with their peers in other countries. More than 700 children from Australia and from ChildFund’s programs in Brazil, Ecuador, Laos, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and Vietnam submitted films for the festival, exploring the theme of “family” and the role it plays in their lives. Over the next few weeks, film festival events will be held in all seven countries with the participation of the children, their families and communities.
Maria Jose de Carvalho Soares, with ChildFund Timor-Leste, explains that the project has three important aims for children:
Develop media literacy skills by creating and sharing stories with other children through film, photography, writing and cartoons.
Learn about the world by connecting with children in other countries.
Feel more confident communicating on issues that are important to them.
More than 100 students from grades 6-7 at Suai Loro Primary School in Timor-Leste have taken part in ChildFund Connect since February.
“For us, this is our first experience, and it is amazing because we’re free to express ourselves with the capabilities we have,” says Dirce, 12, a student at Suai Loro. “The one thing we like from this program is that we can choose for ourselves and make decisions about the results of our work to be published. This program also teaches and trains us on how to make good decisions and quality films that can be published to others. This is very important to us; although we’re children, our voices can also be heard by others through our work.”
ChildFund continues to actively respond to the large-scale emergency in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan just a few weeks ago. Geoffrey Petkovich, ChildFund’s regional director for Asia, reports that we are very fortunate that none of the children in our programs or staff from our local partner organizations lost their lives in the disaster.
Yet, our hearts break as we continue to remember the more than 5,000 who died as a result of this super typhoon, which may prove to be the strongest storm ever to make landfall. The destruction on the ground is unbelievable, with most homes destroyed or severely damaged in the most hard-hit communities of the central, eastern and western Visayas.
The office of ChildFund’s local partner in Ormoc was heavily damaged – its roof ripped away and offices inundated by floodwaters – but despite these massive obstacles, this team was able to work with our emergency staff to set up Child-Centered Spaces. These are safe havens for children who’ve lost their homes and their normal routines.
Response to this disaster is still in its early phase, with much work needed to be done by ChildFund and all the organizations that are working with the Philippines government on the ground. I wanted to share some of what ChildFund has been able to accomplish and our goals for the coming months.
ChildFund was the first organization to establish Child-Centered Spaces in the storm-impacted areas. We were also the first international organization to deliver food and non-food items to a number of communities initially cut off after the storm passed.
These actions are the result of the dedication and determination of our field staff on the front line working in difficult conditions, supported around the clock by ChildFund’s national office staff in Manila, our emergency management unit and our regional and headquarters staff.
We are implementing a two-phase response. Phase one, over the next three to six months, is focused on relief through the distribution of food and non-food items, the establishment of Child-Centered Spaces (CCS) to assist with child protection, support for early childhood development (ECD) and basic education and support for maternal and child health and nutrition.
In the following six to 12 months, we will focus on livelihood recovery for families and communities, strengthening community-based child protection and disaster risk management and emergency response training for these communities.
We are extremely grateful to ChildFund’s sponsors and donors who are contributing to the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Your ongoing support for children and families is so critical to the massive rebuilding effort that is required to restore lives.
In the ChildFund Alliance’s fourth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, a global poll that recorded the opinions of 6,500 children ages 10 to 12 in 47 countries, the young participants said what they think about violence, peace, happiness and their heroes.
Children in Zambia.
Asked what they would do if they were in charge of their country, one in three would create stronger anti-violence laws. Three in four believe violence is caused by either bad behavior, poverty or alcohol and drugs.
Here are some additional highlights from the survey results:
What does peace mean to you?
Harmony/unity – 19 percent of children from developed countries; 22 percent of children from developing countries
No war – 34 percent of children from developed countries; 19 percent of children from developing countries
No violence – 21 percent of children from developed countries; 12 percent of children from developing countries
What makes you feel safe and happy?
Family – 65 percent of children from developed countries; 50 percent of children from developing countries
Education – 5 percent of children from developed countries; 25 percent of children from developing countries
Home – 19 percent of children from developed countries; 9 percent of children from developing countries
Friends – 31 percent of children from developed countries; 14 percent of children from developing countries
What is the one thing you would do to protect children from violence?
More law/order – 33 percent of children from developed countries; 28 percent of children from developing countries
Improve education – 6 percent of children from developed countries; 17 percent of children from developing countries
Guarantee kids’ safety – 11 percent of children from developed countries; 13 percent of children from developing countries
When Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 9, ChildFund staff from across the globe were in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of activities marking the 75th year of our founding. Representative staff from more than 50 countries had gathered to exchange ideas around innovations in our work for children, to discuss the changing environments in which children live and plan for how we can improve the impact of our work in the future.
We woke up Friday morning to learn that Haiyan was hitting the central area of the Philippines. We also woke up to a hotel with no electricity. Haiyan had also brought heavy rains to Bangkok, and a tree near our hotel came down in the night, taking out power lines. We started our meeting a little in the dark (figuratively and literally) and very sweaty with no air-conditioning in the 90+ humid weather.
By Saturday, reports from the Philippines started coming in. We learned Haiyan had devastated Tacloban and surrounding areas in the Visayas – where one-third of ChildFund’s project areas were located. We knew we had to respond.
REUTERS/Japan Meteorological AgencyNOAA, Courtesy of Trust.org
Immediately, our emergency response systems were set in motion. Katherine Manik, our national director for the Philippines briefed the 12 CEOs of the ChildFund Alliance, just as we were starting our semi-annual meeting. She shared an incredible satellite image of Haiyan just as it was hitting the country – the scale of the typhoon was hard to comprehend – what may turn out to be the highest winds ever recorded had just plowed through an area where 10 million people were living in homes that could not withstand such force (really, what buildings could?). The eye of Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) was clear as a bell, an ominous sign. We learned that three of ChildFund’s local partners’ operating areas were directly in the devastated areas.
On the positive side, for the past several years, we had been preparing for such a disaster, as typhoons occur frequently in the Philippines. All of our local communities had been trained in disaster risk reduction – how to reduce your vulnerability to a natural disaster. In addition, they had all been trained in disaster management, including the international SPHERE standards for emergency response.
Several ChildFund staff prepared to leave for the Philippines immediately, including one vice president, who volunteered to join the team to help support our communications. Once in the Philippines, members of the emergency response team were deployed from Manila with enough supplies to support themselves and their work for a week.
Due to the severity of the storm, the number of people impacted and ChildFund’s extensive experience in the area of the world, we have established the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. In addition to responding to urgent needs of children and families, we are committing to helping with the long term and equally critical recovery period. The ChildFund Alliance has set a goal of raising $10 million, with $4 million for emergency assistance to children now and $6 million for longer term recovery – helping families rebuild their lives. This is the largest disaster response ChildFund has mounted since the 2004 Asian tsunami response.
Children are wandering the decimated streets.
As we continued our meetings in Bangkok, CEOs from around the ChildFund Alliance sprang into action, reaching out to supporters for help. Leaders from ChildFund New Zealand, Australia and other countries would stop me in the hallways to advise that they had just had a commitment for $100,000 or $200,000. In the U.S., ChildFund also launched a major appeal online and began reaching out to donors who sponsored children in the Philippines. The immediate support from around the world was gratifying.
In the days that followed, we learned that our community training had paid off – all of the children enrolled in ChildFund programs and our staff were accounted for! Although many lost their homes and their livelihoods, they were alive. I also learned that ChildFund was acknowledged by UNICEF as the first NGO to get a Child-Centered Space (a structured and safe place to care for children while their parents are busy restarting their lives) up and running.
ChildFund has set up Child-Centered Spaces as safe havens for children.
We still have a long way to attain our $10 million goal, but we are committed to supporting children and families in the Philippines. If you want to help, please donate to our Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Thank you!
This post originally appeared on ChildFund International’s blog as part of our organization’s 75th anniversary celebration, reflecting on our history and our future direction.
“Nothing ever lasts forever,” the old saying goes. I find this applies to all kinds of things in life. So, as we celebrate ChildFund’s 75th year, I am mindful that not all nonprofits and for-profit companies have longevity. I’ve read that the lifespan of successful companies is shrinking – the typical company in existence today will be out of business in 15 years.
Since the recession started six years ago, I know of several nonprofits that have had to close their doors. Some closed due to financial and other problems. Others took a very positive step and merged with similar organizations to more effectively deliver on their missions. None closed because their mission had been achieved.
ChildFund International is still thriving after 75 years. I give a lot of the credit to our founder, Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke. He was a man of vision, with a passion for helping children living in poverty. A strategic thinker, Clarke was often described as having a “knack for fundraising.” At the age of 51, he founded an organization that was built to last.
Most people would be surprised to learn that Dr. Clarke established our organization to help children in China, now a world superpower with an economy envied by many. China pulled (and pushed) 680 million people out of poverty from 1981 to 2010, and has reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84 percent to 10 percent, according to the Economist.
But the China of 1938 was very different than today. The country was devastated after the second Sino-Japanese war; famine, atrocities and bombings had destroyed the lives of millions. Children, being the most vulnerable, suffered the most. An estimated 1 to 2 million children died from1937 to 1940 in China.
Compelled to fight for children’s survival, Dr. Clarke believed that warm-hearted, generous Americans would help. So he established what was then known as China’s Children Fund. Within six months of start-up, the organization raised enough funds to send its first support to China – $2,000. Within a year, $13,000 was sent to the KuKong Orphanage to help care for children.
Even the onset of World War II did not stop CCF and Dr. Clarke from continuing the mission. By the final year of the war in 1945 – a mere eight years after the organization began – CCF sent the amazing sum of $372,217 to China to help children in the areas not occupied by Japan.
In 1949, when the Communists came to power, CCF was forced to abruptly leave the country and end its assistance to the 5,113 Chinese children it was caring for in dozens of orphanages. The fate of most of those children was never known. But, amazingly, 300 children managed to walk 60 miles, crossing the border into Hong Kong, then under British rule, where they eventually went to live in a new orphanage CCF established.
Just as China is different today than in the 1930s and ’40s, ChildFund is different in many respects from the days of China’s Children Fund. We have grown to be a $250 million organization that helps 18.1 million children and family members in 30 countries around the globe. We’re also a member of the ChildFund Alliance, 12 liked-minded organizations working together to expand our reach to more countries.
Our collective commitment to helping children remains as passionate as ever. But because nothing lasts forever, I never take for granted that ChildFund will continue for another 75 years. The decisions we make today will impact the ChildFund of tomorrow. We must continue to evolve as an organization, meeting the needs of children in a rapidly changing and complex world.
Maybe one thing does last forever – the warm-hearted generosity of people who help children living in poverty. That part of our shared humanity is truly enduring.
In a couple of days I will be traveling to Thailand. ChildFund’s Asia regional office is in Bangkok, and I have a series of meetings and appointments lined up for my 10 days in the country.
Whenever a bunch of people get together who travel a lot for work, you always hear fascinating stories. Toss in international travel, and the stories can get even more interesting. A friend told me once he was stuck on a plane for three days over Christmas. His original destination closed its borders without warning because the country was changing its currency. His flight returned to its point of origin, but that country wouldn’t let the plane land. So, they flew on to a third country and landed, but passengers could not leave the arrivals terminal because they had no visas to enter that country. What a mess!
I remember once on a long flight a grandmother sat next to me and pulled out a big photo album from her bag. She started telling me her life story – one picture at a time. After listening politely for a while, I explained I was tired and needed to sleep (which was true). Even though I put on an eye mask and head phones and covered up with the blanket, she continued talking to me (for hours) touching my elbow every once in a while to make a point.
Another time I was on a flight from Kenya with a stopover in Sudan. A woman and her young daughter got on in Khartoum and sat next to me. It was quickly obvious they had never been on a plane before, so I helped them store their stuff and figure out the seat belts. They were very surprised when the drinks cart came – and that the drinks were free! So, they pulled out the food they had brought with them – a whole container of boiled eggs – and offered me one. Impressed with their hospitality and how much they were enjoying their first flight, I joined the picnic. Soon we were peeling boiled eggs and making a big communal pile of shells. Then the daughter shifted her position, accidentally kicked the tray table and the shells went flying. I remember being so impressed with the mom; she just laughed at her daughter and started making a new pile of shells.
One of my favorite flight stories was from a friend who was on a domestic flight in the Philippines that carried both people and goods; the seats were simply moved around as needed to accommodate passengers or freight. When the flight hit some turbulence, my friend grabbed hold of the seat in front of him, only to find that it had not been completely bolted down. The seat came flying out of position, knocking some boxes over in the process. Very quickly the small plane was filled with the chirping of baby chicks escaping from the boxes and running up and down the aisle!
So my favorite answer to the question, “How was your flight?” is uneventful. Let’s hope that’s what I say when I arrive in Bangkok next week, 24+ hours after leaving home.
Usually at just the right moment in a busy week, I’ll hear a story or see a photo of a child in ChildFund’s programs that brightens my day and reaffirms the value of child sponsorship and its role in transforming lives. I’ll let Alvaro tell you in his own words.
My name is Alvaro and I am 14 years old. I live in Ecuador in a beautiful community surrounded by mountains. Even though my sponsor lives so far away, it has been a wonderful experience to be in touch with her since she began to sponsor me.
Through her letters and the photos of her family’s celebrations like birthdays, Christmas and some other festivities, I could meet all her family, especially her youngest son. I’ve learned about the culture not only from her country but also from the beautiful places she visited.
We communicate through letters all the time. I like to know about her and her family life. I also love to share with her my life and my family’s. Her advice gives me strength to go forward.
A Country Without Any Government – Good for Children?
Our government is getting back to work after more than two weeks of budget stalemate. One underlying cause of the impasse is the widely different views held by many on the more-government-versus-less-government debate.Whenever I hear that discussed in the news, I always think of Somalia – a country that had no government for more than 20 years.
I lived and worked in Somalia for three years during the mid-1980s. Being cynical, you can say those were the good years for the country, although we didn’t know it at the time. Actually, it was one of the toughest places I ever lived in my almost 20 years in developing countries before joining ChildFund. True, it was a peaceful time. Mohamed Siad Barre, the dictator in power, kept all political opposition under tight control. I remember one of my staff telling me about his visit home to his family’s village – and witnessing public hangings.
But the tight government control didn’t ensure public safety (as it did in some countries I’ve lived). Although violent crime was rare, petty crime was rampant. My house was broken into a few times. What made it a tough place to live was the combination of a poor infrastructure (roads were bad, electricity undependable and health services pathetic) and a disastrous informal economy based on the nomadic rearing of livestock. There was little to buy in the country – even if you had the money.
At that time, a Somali child never came home and asked her mom what was for dinner. Meals were always the same – spaghetti (southern Somalia was a former Italian colony), with a small spoonful of meatless tomato sauce and a banana. Expats working with NGOs bought a lot of the food we needed for our families from a catalogue company in Denmark. Deliveries arrived by ship three times a year. You really needed to plan in advance!
If Somalia was a tough place to live in the 1980s, image what it is like today – one year after the first permanent central government was formed following two decades of fighting. In those intervening lawless years, the country became famous not for its livestock but for its terrorists and pirates, the latter gaining publicity in the recently released movie, Captain Phillips, which chronicles the takeover of a U.S ship by Somali pirates.
The Human Development Index ranks countries based on the development of their people, using criteria such as life expectancy and education. But some countries are too chaotic to even survey. Somalia is one of them. If it was ranked, I’m sure it would be in last place. Although this debate about small versus big government will continue in the U.S., I know that the alternative of having no government at all damages the most vulnerable among us – children.
In Somalia, the prevalence of underweight children under 5 years of age has increased dramatically, from 18 percent in 1997, to 26 percent in 1999, to 36.5 percent in 2006, according to U.N. and UNICEF statistics. Somalia’s children also have stunting rates consistently above 20 percent, according to the World Health Organization. Stunting is a key indicator of endemic poverty and chronic hunger.
For the last 20 years, Somalis have had to endure strife, hunger and suffering. I’m sure there are still many mothers who would be thrilled to again make a meal of pasta, sauce and banana for their families – and many children who would be glad to eat it. A functioning government can help protect these children.