Preparing Youth to Be Leaders

Indonesia is near the top of countries at risk for natural disasters. It’s important for families to be prepared at all times. To improve emergency preparedness, ChildFund held a Disaster Risk Reduction Youth Facilitator Workshop in Jakarta earlier this week. Our Indonesia office reports that more than 80 youth from across the country attended the workshop, which was also attended by the director of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency.

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As a result, one of the youth, Angelus, has been selected to join the Indonesian government delegation at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction conference, being held later this month in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Learning about disaster risk reduction (DRR) is really something new to me,” Angelus says. “I found it very interesting and a positive activity. We learn best practices from others that we also could apply in our programs back home. I obtained this knowledge from ChildFund at no cost. I want to pay it off by sharing it with others,” he said.

We can’t wait to hear about his learning experiences in Geneva!

Learning About Healthy Snacking

In Indonesia’s West Java region, some tiny chefs are learning their way around the kitchen.

Children at two Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund took part in a healthy-snacking program earlier this month. They learned how to make sandwiches and an iced-fruit dessert while their mothers joined a session about which snacks are good for their children.

The program was part of a volunteer day, and 20 staffers from the Indonesian branch of Fonterra, a global dairy company based in New Zealand and a ChildFund supporter, took part. Chef Petrus Nugraha showed the children how to make a sandwich with cheese, smoked beef, egg, cucumber and cabbage, followed by a mixture of melons, papaya and strawberries with milk, water and ice.

As you can see, the children enjoyed the experience. After reuniting with their mothers, who heard from a Fonterra staff doctor and a local midwife about good nutrition, the children shared the snacks they had made.

"This is an exciting activity,” Nugraha said. “The children here are not as lucky as we are. We should think how we could help them to develop better for their future. I am hoping this activity could motivate other people to also be involved in childhood development."

A Love for Children

In honor of International Women’s Day today, I wanted to share with you a post written by Sagita Adesywi, a communications officer in ChildFund’s Indonesia office. She recently interviewed Kristin, a formerly sponsored child who is now a tutor in our early childhood development programs. Kristin is the perfect example of the work we do at ChildFund to help girls grow up to become strong, capable women.

Despite 11 years of teaching young children, Kristin still loves what she does each day. “It wasn’t always easy,” she remembers of her early days in the classroom in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. “I used to be impatient and got angry easily back then, but since I have become an ECD tutor (at Mutiara Early Childhood Development center) I have learned to control my emotions and be more patient with children,” says Kristin.

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Her interest in helping children grew from her involvement with ChildFund. “I was a sponsored child for about seven years, and so I have been associated with ChildFund since I was young,” she explains. A capable student, Kristin obtained a scholarship from ChildFund to study early childhood development at an open university, which is linked to the Indonesian Education Department.

“Soon after I finished my schooling, I volunteered to become a tutor. Since then, I have received trainings on teaching and curriculum as well as how to deal with and care for young children. I even learned about children’s rights. Early childhood development is critical for developing a strong base on which to take on life. Just like a house, we need to have strong foundations for when a storm comes,” she says.

“Here, children learn through play. We teach children to have more self-confidence and to be more independent. We teach them little by little, the importance of keeping themselves clean. We talk about the importance of taking a bath, washing their hair, brushing their teeth twice a day and washing their hands before their meals. Parents have even told us how their children now ask them to wash their hands before meals at home. At the end of the day, seeing this new behavior makes me really happy.”

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The Mutiara ECD center has become a model program. “We give trainings to other ECD tutors on how to use local and used resources for educational aids,” Kristin says. “For example, we show them how to make a ball from dried coconut skin; we also show them what to do with recycled water bottles, soap boxes, egg shells, etc., to teach children about shape and color. I want to help other tutors gain better knowledge on ECD. I hope ECD centers in Sumba grow bigger and better!”

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Delivering Health Care to the People

Last week I traveled to Central Java, Indonesia, with ChildFund International’s Board to take a firsthand look at our programs. Yesterday, I posted about our visit to an Early Childhood Development center.

Our next stop in Indonesia took us to a posyandu, or village health services post. In this remote rural area and in the absence of medical facilities, the posyandu is set up in a community member’s house twice a month (opening times are announced at the village mosque the previous day) and provides health services to the local community. ChildFund provides training to community health volunteers. We focus on maternal and child health, pre- and post-natal care, breastfeeding and developmental stimulation for infants and young children. ChildFund also provides food supplements and medicine.

On this day, the posyandu is bustling with activity, providing birth registration, growth monitoring (height and weight), immunization, counseling and supplementary feeding for children. There’s also parenting education for mothers as well as hygiene training.

Clearly, there’s a malnutrition issue in this area, which was severely affected by the 2010 Merapi eruption. The entire village was evacuated and it took a year for the community to return to normal life. Water sources were polluted and all crops were completely destroyed by volcanic ash.

As I weigh Tegar, a 3-year-old boy, I note that he is smaller than he should be. The village midwife tracks his height and weight monthly; the chart shows he is below average. For cases like this, we routinely offer nutrition counseling on site and provide supplemental food. And we keep close check on the children who are underweight. If a child misses two appointments at the health post, we follow up with a home visit.

As we prepare to serve children a nutritious meal of rice, egg and vegetables, community volunteers first remind mothers and children to wash their hands. “Now we understand it is important to wash our hands before and after preparing food and eating,” Murjilah, a young mother, tells me.

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As our group prepares to depart, menacing dark clouds move in. The weather can change quickly on the slopes of Merapi. And then the heavens open. We hit the winding roads again, surrounded by lush vegetation; this part of Java certainly gets its fair share of rain.

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Our final stop for the day is to visit a sponsored child. Visiting a family dwelling always brings home the fact that ChildFund really does serve the most deprived people.

When we can go no farther on the road, we get out of the car and walk the rest of the way in the pouring rain to the house, which sits at the bottom of a steep path. As we enter the home, it is dark and damp. The father rushes to turn on the lights and greets us with a warm smile and a soft handshake. The floor is an uneven surface of stones and dirt. The living room has three chairs. A little girl, Sidi, emerges from the kitchen area. She has been sponsored for one year through ChildFund.

Once we get acquainted, she becomes talkative. “I dream of becoming a doctor to help my parents stay healthy,” she tells me confidently. Sidi is in school and doing well. She says she enjoys learning and being with her friends. She wants to make her parents proud.

We go through to the kitchen area, which consists of nothing more than an open fire pit and a rack on which to store plates and utensils. The mother starts a fire. She tells me the family will eat rice and vegetables for dinner, like every night.

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A tiny bedroom sleeps five and I notice a ChildFund-provided mosquito net. Good to see the children have some protection against malaria.

An unusual family member lives in the next room. As I go through the door, a large cow, chomping grass, stares at me. I learn that the family received the cow as a gift through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. The cow is providing a steady source of milk and is making a real difference in Sidi’s family’s life.

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Although conditions remain challenging for many families in Indonesia, I am happy to see children like Sidi moving forward with their education and their dreams.

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!