Nahomie Empowers Other Girls

Author Potrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator
Edited by Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

July 31, 2017

Hello, I am Nahomie and I am fourteen years old. I live with my parents and my three siblings in a community named Villard in Dessalines, Haiti. As the eldest, I usually help my siblings with their homework and my mother with the household chores such as washing clothes and dishes. My favorite subject is Math. Also, I enjoy playing hide and seek, hopscotch and jump rope with my friends and schoolmates.

As a typical teenager, I have a group of friends and we do everything together. For example, we like to wear the same kinds of clothes, and when one friend had her first boyfriend, we all wanted boyfriends.  Following the group, I had my first boyfriend last year.

Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.
Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.

In my community in Haiti, parents aren’t comfortable talking with us about sex – it is a taboo subject to discuss with people my age, regardless of if we are boys or girls. I had a lot of questions about having a boyfriend, and I didn’t know where to go.

Thanks to Save the Children’s program set-up for teens like me, I was able to seek out a friendly environment to ask questions about sex, my changing body and becoming an adult. Through sponsorship’s adolescent development programs, our teachers, school principals, school councils, or Parent Teacher Associations, and community partners receive training on Sexual Education and child-friendly ways for adults to talk about sexual and reproductive health issues with students.

As a result of these programs, a health-care worker came to my school to talk about the services that were available at the health center in our community. After hearing them speak, I went to the health center to see how I could get involved and learn more. I started participating in a student club, that both helps spread health messages to people my age but also helps build my own leadership skills and self-confidence. I was able to not only find answers to the questions I wanted to ask, but was able to discuss these questions with both adults and peers in a place I felt safe.

Today, I feel comfortable speaking about my experiences as a growing girl in my community, and using my voice to create awareness among the others about how sexual intercourse at such young age can be harmful for our lives and our futures. Waiting until a more mature age can help us avoid a lot of mistakes, such as an early pregnancy, that would affect us for the rest of our lives.

Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.
Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.

Whenever I want, I can seek more information about my sexual and reproductive health at the health center, where now I am always welcomed by staff who can offer even more information. I go there for myself, but also to create awareness and prevent adolescents like me from feeling influenced by pressures from their friends, and instead to make the best decision for their own well-being.

I am proud and thankful to Save the Children, this is a very good program! After meeting with the healthcare workers, I am now inspired to grow up to be like them. I work even harder at school so I can finish my studies in order to become a nurse. I will continue with the work they started in my community and help other adolescents who are in need. This is the dream I am now cherishing.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Now I Can Read the Books by Myself

Author Portrait_Fahim Shahriar, Deputy Manager - Sponsorship Communication and Data QualityFahim Shahriar

Deputy Manager, Sponsorship Communication and Data Quality

Save the Children in Bangladesh

July 21, 2017

Sajib is now over 7 years old, and lives with his family in the slums of Rayerbazar, an area with run-down, overcrowded and unsafe informal housing, in Dhaka North City, one of the areas in which sponsorship works in Bangladesh. His father Fazlu pulls rickshaws in order to support their family, and his mother Ajufa works supporting the home. He is the youngest among 4 siblings, and has been involved in Save the Children’s sponsorship program since May of 2016.

Before sponsorship came to Dhaka North City, children had very few opportunities to learn or play outside of school. They could be seen usually aimlessly wandering the meandering slum city paths and streets. No one had talked to their parents about how important receiving an education could be for their children, and so parents would not involve themselves in supporting their children’s schooling. Sajib and other children from the slums had irregular attendance and didn’t enjoy reading, because they found it so difficult and because there were so few books available to them. As a 1st grader, Sajib had trouble recognizing the letters of the alphabet, and could not read any books on his own.

Sajib and his parents came to know about sponsorship by attending a gathering hosted by Save the Children for parents in their community. After that, they began to understand the impact sponsorship, and having a strong foundational education, could have on their son’s future.

Sajib reading a storybook with friends Firoza and Rabibul at the center.
Sajib reading a storybook with friends Firoza and Rabibul at the center.

Thanks to these programs, Sajib’s learning abilities have been transformed. He now has the great joy of attending after-school programming at the sponsorship supported community center in his neighborhood. There he is greeted by a child-friendly learning environment, with walls covered in colorful posters and images, and shelves full of print-rich materials.

He shares proudly, “Now, I am reading in grade two at school. After school, I love going to Shishu Mela [local sponsorship supported community center], because my many friends go there. We read storybooks and play games together there.”

At sponsorship programs Sajib was also introduced to a child-centered teaching style for the first time, which employs interactive and fun learning techniques to keep him engaged in the daily lessons. “Apa reads the books to us in special way, I like that and for this reason, I go to the center,” he shares about the way the center facilitator, Apa, reads books to them in an entertaining way that captures their imaginations – storytelling with rhythm and pace, pausing at the exciting parts and speaking with feeling to convey the characters’ emotions.

“I participate in storytelling sessions and I have learned spellings of words,” he continues proudly, “Now, I enjoy reading stories and sometimes I borrow books from the center to read at home. Because of this center, now I can read the books by myself.”

Adding to his new found reading skills, Sajib and his family are very happy to get connected with their new friend abroad who is contributing to the wellbeing of their community in so many ways. “I am feeling so special after knowing that I have got a new friend in abroad, because not all other children here in my community have such a friend,” shares Sajib, describing the newly formed friendship with his sponsor, Casey, who started sponsoring him in December of 2016.

Sajib preparing a drawing for his sponsor, Casey.
Sajib preparing a drawing for his sponsor, Casey.

With the encouragement in letters from his sponsor and the enjoyment and new found confidence he has from learning at the community center, Sajib is flourishing. He attends school regularly now and reads on his own time outside of school.

His mother Ajufa shared, “I am so happy to know that my son Sajib is chosen by someone from abroad for friendship. I have learned the importance of such a friendship by seeing his progress after attending sessions at the community center. He can read stories by himself and his reading habit has increased too. He is teaching us handwashing and hygiene practices that he is learning at the center. These changes are happening to him because of [the] sponsorship contribution of foreign friends [sponsors]. Like my son, many other children of our community are also benefitting through sponsorship support. I want this relationship with his friend to continue!”

We know that receiving letters from sponsors makes a huge impact on sponsored children, giving them a sense of pride and self-worth. Sajib concludes, “I am very much excited as I could have written about myself and drawn a picture for my friend, which is the first time for me. I have loved writing and drawing a lot as those are shared with my friend through Save the Children. Now, I am waiting to hear from my friend and very eager to know more about him.”

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

An Open Heart

Susan and Claire

By Susan Warner, Senior Manager, Photography & Multimedia Production and

Claire Garmirian, Media Research Analyst

Susan: I made her cry, good tears. Transformative tears of love for the child in her arms. When I showed Rosa the photo I took of her and her granddaughter, she burst into tears. I knew then I had taken a good photo.

Claire: Rosa and I spent half an hour speaking in the director’s office on the second floor of the school. We gathered chairs together so that she, Ivonne from Save the Children Mexico and I could hear each other over the noise from below. The painted concrete patio where teachers lead students in experiential learning was beneath us and the sounds of preschoolers moving, counting and singing ricocheted up into the office. Amid all of this energy, Rosa shared the very personal details of her life with her granddaughter, Valeria*, and how she has found herself to be a primary caregiver for the four-year-old girl.

Susan: I don’t speak Spanish, nor have an ear for languages.  I gesture, pantomime, demonstrate and rely on our local staff to help when I’m on assignment.  I had asked Rosa to directly look into the eyes of her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Claire: As I listened to Rosa talk about her family, it became clear that she is a central figure holding many people together. She lives with her husband and son and daughter, both of whom have children of their own. Due to tensions between different members of the family, Rosa is a person who everyone can talk to. She sees the difficulties on both sides of the disputes. It sounded like her role could be tiring at times. She admitted that Valeria’s tantrums could make her feel desperate, but she also says she knows that they are a result of Valeria missing her mother, who no longer lives with her. As much as raising Valeria can be hard work, Rosa had endless stories about how intelligent and creative her granddaughter is. When I lost my words searching for a question, Rosa volunteered the story of her trip to the theater with Valeria. Valeria could repeat the song from the performance by heart after only hearing it once. And while Rosa’s speech was even throughout our conversation, it became energetic and expressive when she told me about Valeria’s drawings. It is obvious that she is amazed by her granddaughter’s imagination.

After our conversation, Rosa descended the stairs to join Susan on the school’s main level. They found a corner among the cacophony to take the tender portrait of the grandmother and granddaughter.

Susan:  Through talking about her experiences in the interview and seeing the photos on the back of my camera, Rosa was emotional, in a positive way, overwhelmed by her love of her granddaughter. It was a touching experience to witness the love they shared. I had photographed her heart.

*Name has been changed for protection.

Background:

Valeria attends preschool in a rough neighborhood in Mexico City that is fraught with violence, drug gangs, and addiction. Save the Children’s HEART program has helped children in this community cope with their stress, anxiety, fears and anger from being exposed to these activities.

About HEART:
HEART (Healing and Education through the ARTs) uses the arts to help children affected by serious or chronic stress from their life circumstances of poverty, violence or other traumatic events. Through painting, music, drama, and other art forms, HEART helps children find new ways to share their feelings and fears, so they can express themselves in a safe environment with trusted adults and peers, and thrive in the classroom. When children share their feelings they begin the healing process.
Save the Children launched HEART in Mexico in 2016. In the first year of operation, HEART reached nearly 8,000 children affected by poverty, violence and migration in 5 provinces: Baja California, Chiapas, Mexico City, Oaxaca and Puebla. The education program is integrated into Save the Children’s programs existing school curriculums for children, including programs at preschools, early primary schools, child and youth centers, and summer programs, as well as migration prevention programs for children and teenagers.
Save the Children has operated in Mexico since 1973. Today, Save the Children serves children in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states, giving kids a healthy start, an opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

A Brighter Future For Children in Romania

By Ashley Snow, Manager, Engagement, Resource Development

At Save the Children, we always say we’ll do whatever it takes to help every last child. This call to action is embedded within our long-term ambition, our strategic priorities and, even our day-to-day watercooler talk. Save the Children employees are deeply committed to making a difference in the lives of the most marginalized, the most deprived, the most vulnerable children. Admittedly, despite its persistent presence in my daily work, I had no idea what this phrase really meant – helping every last child – until I saw it with my own eyes.

When I was assigned to host a group of IKEA co-workers going to visit our IKEA Foundation supported program in Romania, I had to look it up on a map. I’d heard about the country from friends and family who had traveled there for various reasons – service trips, studies abroad, church missions. But, beyond the Transylvania legend and overwhelmed orphanages, my knowledge of the country was limited at best. In my preparation, I was thrilled and consumed with the opportunity to explore the country and finally observe Save the Children Romania’s programs in person.

I’ve worked for Save the Children for the past three years; it was my last internship during college and my first job afterward. I was immediately inspired by the mission of the organization and have always felt incredibly lucky to work toward such ambitious and honorable goals: we hope to provide every child with a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

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In Romania, Save the Children’s programs for inclusive education are primarily focused on a population that I had never heard of before my visit: the Roma. You may know the group by the more common name of gypsies. The Roma community originated inside the country of Romania and dominates a large portion of its population to this day. The ethnic group faces large social, cultural and political barriers to pulling out of widespread poverty. Many Roma are uneducated and live with multiple families in makeshift shacks. Young boys and girls are often pulled out of school to work or marry; Roma children consist of 80% of the students out of school in the country. Even if they are able to attend, the children face deep-rooted discrimination. Their own teachers often believe – and say aloud – that it is useless to educate a Roma child.

As we drove around the capital city of Bucharest, up into the mountains of Brasov, and along dirt roads to meet with Roma children, I was struck by our call to action: whatever it takes to help every last child. For many Roma communities across the country, Save the Children is the only organization that is present to support their children. For a group that is not only forgotten, but heavily prejudiced against, our strategic and targeted educational programs provide a glimmer of hope for a better future.

On our last school visit during the trip, we had the opportunity to meet with Roma parents whose children had participated in a kindergarten preparedness program the previous summer. This intervention is specifically designed for the Roma population, to ensure that boys and girls who are starting school are prepared – both academically and socially – for the year ahead. We witnessed a sampling of the class and noted the impressive behavior of the children. Though only five or six years old, the boys and girls were raising their hands, speaking in turn and listening to their teacher. One IKEA co-worker even exclaimed, “They’re better behaved than my daughter’s class at home!”

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When we talked with the mothers and fathers after the class let out, I noted the many similarities between the desires of these Roma parents and those I know at home. They had all sacrificed in many ways – education, work, and more – to build a better future for their children. Like so many parents in the United States, they dream of providing a little more, a little better for their sons and daughters.

At the end of the discussion, I suddenly asked if they had noticed a difference in their children since the program had started last summer. The entire room erupted with noise and movement from our participants.

The answer, as I had hoped, was an overwhelming yes.

IKEA Foundation is Save the Children’s largest global corporate partner. We have been partners with IKEA since 1994. Through IKEA Foundation-funded programs, Save the Children has touched the lives of some 10 million children. The inclusive education program we visited in Romania is funded by the Soft Toys for Education campaign. The campaign that ran from 2003 to 2015, aimed to improve the education of the most disadvantaged children, recognizing that education is one of the best investments for them. Save the Children programs focused on children of ethnic minority groups and children with disabilities – groups which are often the most vulnerable. Our work together continues in the new Let’s Play for Change campaign IKEA launched 2016.

For more information about the partnership, please visit: https://www.savethechildren.net/about-us/our-corporate-partners/ikea-foundation

Steven Gets Motivated

Author Portrait_Steven, Sponsored Child
Naicee Martin

Program Specialist

Save the Children U.S. Programs

July 13, 2017

Steven is 9 years old and participates in our sponsorship and afterschool programs in California. Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer. He also likes going to the library and learning about different animals. Steven enjoys corresponding with his sponsor and has fun composing letters. He said that on days when he is feeling sad the letters make him smile. Steven’s older sister passed away last year so this has been an important source of support for him. He likes to learn about different places and was curious about his sponsor’s life.

9-year-old Steven participates in sponsorship and afterschool programs in California.
9-year-old Steven participates in sponsorship and afterschool programs in California.

Steven began participating in the program 2 years ago when he was struggling with reading and homework. In the past year, Steven has made great improvements in his reading skills and now enjoys reading. His self-confidence has also improved. The encouragement and support he received from Save the Children programs helped him to keep moving forward while coping with the loss of his sister.

Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer.
Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer.

Steven’s teacher shared that she has noticed that Steven is interacting more in the classroom and is able to understand more than he did at the beginning of the year. He has built strong friendships in the afterschool program that motivate him in the classroom. Steven’s other sister shared, “His self-esteem has gotten so much better. Being in the program and getting to try new things, reading new books and playing new games really makes him happy.” The sponsorship and afterschool programs have supported Steven in strengthening his reading skills and self-confidence while providing support as he dealt with a traumatic event in his life.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

From Counting Leaves to Solving Math Problems

Author Portrait_Jussar Simone, Quality Communications Coordinator
Jussar Simone

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Mozambique

July 7, 2017

In the rural farming community of Muendaze in Nacala-a-Velha, Mozambique, lives a family of 5 – mother, father and 3 children, one of them 6 year old Issufo. After participating in community mobilization campaigns organized by Save the Children, in 2014 Maiassa, Issufo’s mother, was motivated to improve Issufo’s educational development. Despite he was not yet old enough for primary school, she learned through the campaigns in her community that, now thanks to sponsorship, there were a lot of important learning opportunities that he could be involved in even at 6, and decided to enroll Issufo in sponsorship’s early childhood learning programs.

With sponsorship support, the Muendaze community was able to construct a location specifically to host young children, usually ages 4 – 6, in learning foundational skills that help set them up for success in primary school. Save the Children also helps to train center facilitators, who are taught how to use active learning, like songs, games and storytelling, to foster vital learning skills such as in emergent math and reading.

“During the first week’s lessons, Issufo was still a shy and introverted child. However, it was possible to start to see some positives changes in his behavior,” his mother told us.

A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.
A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.

Facilitators in these centers teach their young students language skills, improve their knowledge of letters and numbers, teach them how to draw, and develop their counting skills, using locally available materials to supplement more modern teaching tools. For example, mango trees are found throughout the villages in this part of Mozambique, so children practice their counting using mango fruits and leaves.

“[At home] the [facilitator] asks us to actively participate in our children’s development, by doing small exercises and mental calculations, such as counting leaves at home,” shares Maiassa regarding little Issufo.

An important part of sponsorship’s early learning programs in Muendaze is to teach parents how to better communicate with their children and help them develop learning skills at home too – since our experience shows that learning works best when it takes place both in school and out.

After two years in the early learning center, the little Issufo and his fellow classmates graduated from the program. A small graduation ceremony was held at the end of the school year, to help the young students celebrate and feel pride in their scholastic achievements. It was on a Friday, in the shade of the early learning center, Issufo received his graduation certificate in the presence of many guests, including parents, facilitators and the community’s leader – all came to witness this important step towards primary school and their continuing education.

Today, Issufo is able to interact with adults in the community easily and with confidence, speaking the words well and showing off his constantly improving vocabulary in Portuguese. Despite being the national language, local languages like Emakwa are more commonly spoken than Portuguese in these rural areas, so Issufo is very proud to show what he knows.

Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.
Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.

Now he is enjoying first grade and is one of the best students in his class. When asked about school he shared, “I’m happy, and I like to study, to solve mathematical exercises… When I grow up I want to be a mathematics teacher!”

Thanks to the skills developed in the early learning center, he was prepared to face the first grade without problems. “The children who come from the centers are more open and motivated (…) indeed the center makes our work much easier,” said Fatima, his first grade teacher.

During 2016, the early childhood learning program graduated nearly 2,000 children in the region where Issufo lives. He is just an example of the importance of this program. His mother shared, “I’m very happy because now my son can play, sings and likes to count… I know that he will pass to second grade, so we can see now that we made a great decision for the development of our child. Thank you very much Save the Children for helping us!”

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.