A Spirit of Optimism in Sierra Leone

It’s been a great week visiting ChildFund programs in Sierra Leone. So I wanted to share a few photos of the wonderful children, community members and staff I’ve met.

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In Binkolo, which is part of ChildFund’s Bombali district program area, I talked with these students who are preparing for the West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations. They’re holding up scientific calculators donated through ChildFund.

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I also had the opportunity to meet with the paramount chief (community leader) of the Safroko Chiefdom. We sat down and talked with children, youth, mothers, fathers and other community members to discuss how ChildFund programs are working for them.

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And no visit to the field would be complete without spending time with the energetic youngsters we serve through our early childhood development programs. This program is in Kamabai.

ChildFund is launching a five-year fundraising campaign focused on early childhood development.  We can’t think of a more important goal than helping children reach their full potential, and our own staff is committing their time, talents and treasure to the campaign to help ensure its success.

Thrive to Five

Last week I traveled to Central Java, Indonesia, with ChildFund International’s Board of Directors to take a firsthand look at our programs, particularly those focusing on children aged 0 to 5.

Malnutrition and infant and child mortality remain high in Indonesia. Early learning opportunities are also limited, with fewer than half of Indonesian children participating in pre-primary school.

Our visit took us to Boyolali, on the slopes of Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano. It last erupted in 2010, displacing 380,000 people from their homes and causing them to spend weeks in temporary shelters. Many families lost their homes, crops and livestock. ChildFund responded to the disaster by first providing humanitarian relief to affected children and then helping families on the long road to recovery.

Our first stop is at an early childhood development (ECD) center with breathtaking views of Merapi, basking in glorious sunshine. ChildFund first started working in this area because there were no education or health care facilities in the community. Initial challenges in early childhood education included attracting competent and qualified teachers. We also had to overcome a lack of understanding among parents of the importance of learning and playing for children at an early age as a way to stimulate cognitive, social, language, communication and motor skills development.

ChildFund mobilized families around the importance of having an early childhood development center, and we provided training to volunteer teachers on early childhood learning, curriculum development and age-appropriate child development. Today, the center is thriving and children are lively and engaged.

During our visit, children are drawing, playing together and learning about the dangers of fire. It’s great to see homemade toys and other learning materials in the center that mothers in the community have created using local resources. The parents also help prepare nutritious meals for the children attending the ECD center. Parents tell me they are now seeing the positive effects of the early childhood development — they’re noticing a difference in their children and feel they are on a good path for the future.

Next: We visit a village health services post.

ChildFund's Board of Directors just met in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to review our Early Childhood Development programs there. I love the orange uniforms!

ChildFund's Board of Directors just met in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to review our Early Childhood Development programs there. I love the orange uniforms!

Sharing a photo from ChildFund's Early Childhood Development programs in Angola.

Sharing a photo from ChildFund's Early Childhood Development programs in Angola.

Two mothers in Ethiopia walk their small children to one of ChildFund’s Early Child Development programs. Mothers’ involvement is a key factor in getting children on a healthy developmental pathway.
Photo: Jake Lyell for ChildFund

Two mothers in Ethiopia walk their small children to one of ChildFund’s Early Child Development programs. Mothers’ involvement is a key factor in getting children on a healthy developmental pathway.

Photo: Jake Lyell for ChildFund