Sustainability in Nepal

Author Portrait_Nimma Adhikari, Sponsorship Communication Officer
Nimma Adhikari

Sponsorship Communication Officer

Save the Children in Nepal-Bhutan

September 22, 2017

Guru Sharan ji – Guru Sharan, his first and middle name, and ji is something we add, out of respect after a person’s name in Nepal – used to be one of the many children supported by the Save the Children sponsorship program in the Siraha district of Nepal. Today, he works as an Accountability Officer, collecting feedback from community members about our programs and analyzing the effectiveness of those programs to ensure children are receiving the best health and education support possible. After seeing the benefits of sponsorship as a child firsthand through the programs run in his childhood community, he was inspired to be a part of that work and get involved with our organization as an adult.

I immediately recognized him when I first saw him on the stairs of Save the Children’s Kathmandu office last year. It was a moment of satisfaction and tremendous joy for me to see him, a formerly sponsored child, doing so well in his grown-up life.

Guru Sharan ji relaxing at the Save the Children country office in Kathmandu, Nepal
Guru Sharan ji relaxing at the Save the Children country office in Kathmandu, Nepal

Recently, I shared with him my happiness in seeing a story from him on a social networking site in Nepal. It featured him with his wife on the day she graduated from college. I asked him if he was the one who took it upon himself to advocate for her education since he actively participated in child rights programs as a sponsored child, for example through the child club in his school.

We spoke of the cultural trends and restrictions in his community, where education was not considered an integral part of growing up. Parents instead focus on providing just two proper meals for their children a day, and do not have time to support their children’s studies. Girls’ education, in particular, is considered nothing but a waste of time and money.

As a child his wife, Shanti, had dropped out of school prior to finishing 5th grade and then returned after attending non-formal classes run by Save the Children for out-of-school children. She feels as passionately about the importance of education for children as Guru Sharan ji does, and wants to pursue a postgraduate degree in teaching.

He told me, “I had made it clear to my parents that I wanted Shanti, my wife, to pursue further education. Amazingly, my mother came to my defense.” Guru Sharan ji asked his mother about her concerns for the family’s public image – a married woman is expected to drape a sari but a schoolgirl had to wear a skirt if she wished to go to school. He went on, “… but my mother assured me that she was ready for any ill comments or backlash from the community; she would send her daughter-in-law to school.”

How was your mother so accepting of the idea to send her daughter-in-law to school? How did she find the courage to go against the trending culture? Did she learn about children’s rights from you? I was curious and began asking him many questions.

“When I look back, I realize that my mother was very receptive of progressive ideas. She was hearing from me and the sponsorship programs [staff] that education is every child’s right,” he shared.

Today, formerly sponsored child Guru Sharan ji is happy to be continuing the great work that helped him so much as a child.
Today, formerly sponsored child Guru Sharan ji is happy to be continuing the great work that helped him so much as a child.

As a child, Guru Sharan ji himself was very active in the child club run at his school through sponsorship, where with his peers he enjoyed discussing important issues that children face like child rights and the ill effects of child marriage or corporal punishment. He remembers the first day participating, being so nervous to speak in front of the group. After that, through the club he started to put a lot of his efforts into improving his public speaking skills. As he practiced through this forum, his skills improved to the point that he was often called out at various sponsorship supported functions and events to speak on behalf of the group. He began to realize that education was very important in one’s life. People would seek you out if you were educated. He would share these thoughts with his mother as well. Since he was the eldest child in the family, his mother would listen to him. All the changes she saw in her son made her proud and she knew all these changes were possible because of education and the sponsorship program.

Sponsorship uses a holistic development approach directed towards children through programs in education, health, adolescent development and livelihoods skills. Amidst the programs is one key factor that determines the sustainability of these programs: behavior and attitude change.

The movement of changing behaviors and attitudes from Guru Sharan ji, to his mother, and lastly for his wife’s benefit, is a prime example of how Save the Children creates sustainable solutions to the problems that children face in Nepal while also benefiting their whole community.

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

The Sky’s the Limit for Sarabeth

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Rebecca Poehler

Program Operations Manager, U.S. Program

Save the Children U.S Program

September 20, 2017

In rural Kentucky where 26 percent of children live in poverty, children face many challenges at home and in school. But with help from our sponsors, our sponsorship program is giving children in the United States the skills they need to succeed, and the opportunity for a brighter future.

Sarabeth just started second grade and loves participating in the sponsorship program at her school. When asked how reading makes her feel, Sarabeth answered, “It makes me smart”. You can find her reading her favorite book, Dinosaurs Don’t Eat Broccoli, or dreaming of going to college and becoming a doctor when she grows up.

Sarabeth participates in sponsorship programs which help improve her reading skills.
Sarabeth participates in sponsorship programs which help improve her reading skills.

Sarabeth didn’t always love reading. She was referred to Save the Children because her reading assessment scores were low and she was falling behind her peers. Since joining the program and getting the support she needs, Sarabeth has shown great improvements in more ways than just one. Her teacher, Mrs. Collins, reports that she has seen a difference in her reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary skills. “I’ve seen much improvement in Sarabeth and look forward to seeing more at the end of this year,” she says.

Sarahbeth has also developed confidence and social skills thanks to the sponsorship program. Her mother says, “I have noticed that she is becoming more confident and more willing to speak out.” Sarabeth’s mother says that her daughter now loves going to school since joining the program. “Save the Children is a great program! Sarabeth has made new friends, improved her schoolwork and has become more confident. It also allows her to be more socially active than ‘regular’ school does. It’s good to see programs like this help our kids so much. Thank you!”

Sarabeth proudly shows her drawing.
Sarabeth proudly shows her drawing.

Sarabeth isn’t the only child who has made great strides since joining sponsorship. Mrs. Jarvis, a Save the Children program coordinator, sees the difference in so many children who are developing a love of reading. “I am encouraging students to choose books based on interest and reading ability. We have book talks that students enjoy and are beneficial to them in understanding what they’ve read.  As a classroom teacher, that was not always possible as time was precious and there was always more to do than could be accomplished in a day! The Save the Children program is allowing children to develop a love of reading and allowing me to rediscover my love of reading also.”

Sarabeth and so many children like her in Kentucky are making great progress, thanks to sponsors like you. We’re excited to see where Sarabeth goes next – it seems like the sky’s the limit!

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

Nana Rouwaida’s Dreams

Author Portrait_Boubacar Abdoulkader, Education Supervisor
Boubacar Abdoulkader

Education Supervisor

Save the Children in Niger

September 16, 2017

In Tchadoua, a community in grassy flatlands in the southeastern part of Niger, the store houses are full of old millet stalks, a sign that the harvest has not met expectations this year. In this area, people live off agriculture – farming, herding and trading at a small scale. This lifestyle is often difficult as unpredictable weather patterns like drought, floods, or even locust attacks, cause unexpected challenges and hinder successful harvests. As a result, children are often involved in ensuring the family’s survival, expected to assist in bringing in an income rather than attending school.

Today it is sunny and windy, although it’s difficult to see with all the dust blowing in the air from the sandy ground in this area.

The school in Tchadoua is comprised of 5 small classrooms, among which one is made of concrete, two made of clay and the other two are simple sheds made of millet stalks and straw. The walls are bare and there are very few, if any, teaching materials to be seen.

Teachers here are very kind, they welcome us with cheers and friendly smiles. They are all very young, and most of them have not received any training on how to teach. Education in Niger is jeopardized by this, leading to a poor quality of education in schools and a very low level of pupils, as students have trouble staying engaged in lessons. One student out of ten in grade 4 can read the alphabet here.

Nana Rouwaida and friends Aicha and Fatchima after playing a round of chalele, a game involving dancing, clapping and signing.
Nana Rouwaida and friends Aicha and Fatchima after playing a round of chalele, a game involving dancing, clapping and signing.

Such is the setting where Save the Children now implements its sponsorship program. Among the children struggling to learn in Tchadoua is 11-year-old Nana Rouwaida, twelfth child born of a family of thirteen. She is always joyful and smiling. Neither her struggles in school or the difficulties of her family’s farming lifestyle prevented her from developing the dream to become a nurse one day.

This dream become even stronger when she was sponsored by Helen, her new friend in the United States, who helps support sponsorship programs in her community and also supports Nana Rouwaida through their letter writing, always encouraging her to work hard in school.

“I am proud to receive a letter from my sponsor because anytime I get a reply to my letter I feel important. I also like the stickers and coloring books, stickers to play with and coloring books to see things new for me.”

Through sponsorship programs, she also enjoys going to Reading Camp, where students come together for group lessons with a teacher from the community outside of their regular classes at school. Through sponsorship, teachers receive books to support storytelling and literacy building skills with their students in the Reading Camp, as well as are trained by sponsorship experts on how to use child-centered and child-friendly interactive teaching styles that keep children engaged and excited to learn.

In her free time, Nana Rouwaida also likes helping her mother around the house, for example grinding millet for their meals, sweeping or making the fire for cooking. With her friends she enjoys playing their favorite game, called chalele, involving dancing, clapping and singing traditional songs, generally played by girls. She is also very fond of goats and takes care of them to help her father.

She says what she cherishes most is the time spent on Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, when she goes to the fields to collect grass for the goats. “I like goats because they are easy to breed,” she shares with pride.

Nana Rouwaida shares her dream for the future.
Nana Rouwaida shares her dream for the future.

Nana Rouwaida is supported in her dream of becoming a nurse by her father, Illa, who also shares the same vision as his daughter. Despite being sixty years old, he is among the few parents from their village who strongly supports young girls’ education, rather than expecting them to only help care for the family. “I understand that education is the key to development and I want my daughter Nana Rouwaida to become a nurse one day, in order to help herself and help other people around her.”

Nana Rouwaida’s teacher, Harouna Siradji, shares that the sponsorship program has already made a positive change in Nana Rouwaida’s life, after running programs for just one year in Tchadoua. “She is now very active in class, [and] her handwriting improves thanks to the Reading Camp.”

For the children in Tchadoua, there is a long way to go. However, things are already beginning to change, and Nana Rouwaida knows that with her sponsor Helen by her side, nothing can stop her.

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

Helping Families in the Wake of Hurricanes Harvey & Irma

When I went to Texas after Hurricane Harvey hit, I met families who had already been through the unimaginable—fleeing their homes in waist-deep water, carrying a few precious belongings over their heads, and trying to find a safe space for their children in huge shelters not designed for the littlest evacuees.  Now that the immediate danger is past, they are dealing with the uncertainty of what their homes and futures hold.

 

In the midst of the chaos, Save the Children is helping kids cope. We set up Child Friendly Spaces in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas—bright, welcoming places for children to play with volunteers trained in helping children through trauma. We distributed supplies like cribs, strollers and wash basins to families in shelters across Texas and in Louisiana, so that parents can care HurricaneHarvey_Carolynfor their babies and toddlers. And now we’re supporting child care centers so they can get back up-and-running—helping parents get back to work and helping children get back to learning and playing.

 

As always when disaster strikes, the poorest communities are hit the hardest—and the effects of this storm will be felt for a long time. Save the Children’s Board Chair, Dr. Jill Biden, visited a mega shelter in Houston last week and met with families who have lost so much. Board Members and Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner visited shelters and child care centers and showed families that Save the Children will be there for them in the long-term.

 

Even with recovery underway in Texas, Save the Children turned our attention to Hurricane Irma. In Florida alone, more than 4 million children were potentially impacted during Hurricane Irma and nearly 200,000 people were in shelters across the state. As families return to their homes and rebuild, we have supplies for babies, toddlers and children ready for distribution wherever they’re needed most.

 

The American public’s generosity to their neighbors has been wonderful to see. We were honored to be part of the Hand in Hand telethon last night to benefit the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and I’m so grateful for the ongoing support for families and children who have seen their world turned upside-down.

 

We know that children’s needs don’t end when the rain and flooding stops. Save the Children will be there for kids today, tomorrow and over the coming weeks and months to help them cope, rebuild and plan for the future.

 

Lucas Becomes a Leader

Author Portrait_Ruth Carola Zambrana Valencia, Sponsorship Assistant
Ruth Carola Zambrana Valencia

Sponsorship Assistant

Save the Children in Bolivia

September 7, 2017

Children in Bolivia discover leadership in many ways. Some children may recognize their leadership skills during a school presentation, others may realize this on the playground or practicing sports. Unfortunately, for many children in Cochabamba, where sponsorship works, there aren’t many spaces dedicated to strengthen and nurture these skills amongst children.

This was Lucas’s case – a lively and bright 10-year-old boy whose leadership talents probably would not have been encouraged and developed if it were not for sponsorship support in his community. Fortunately Lucas now is part of Save the Children’s Advisory Council.

“Being able to work with Save the Children is something extraordinary,” says Lucas.

10-year-old Lucas, Advisory Council member and student leader.
10-year-old Lucas, Advisory Council member and student leader.

The Advisory Council is a group composed of children and adolescents that represent the nearly 50 schools sponsorship works with in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It has been set up to promote the participation of children in sponsorship programs so that they are not only beneficiaries, but also decision makers within and about the programs sponsorship helps to run in their schools and community. Their participation on the Advisory Council allows these children to have the opportunity to express their views and influence decision making. The council is an open and active participation space for children, where they are encouraged to share their opinions, reflect on different issues that affect children and most importantly, are listened to. The members of this Advisory Council are also part of the Children and Adolescent Municipal Council of Cochabamba, a group affiliated with local government. This an important space that allows them to influence public policies.

Lucas was a child selected by his peers for the council because he always is watching over the needs of others. Despite these social skills, Lucas’s mom also recalls that before joining this group, he “was not interested in anything and didn’t like to participate.”

Lucas acknowledges that he used to be a restless boy, which he attributes to his energies not being channeled towards anything specific. Thanks to being part of the Advisory Council he began to see changes in his own life and in his self-esteem. Council members benefit not only in improving their communication skills at council meetings, but also can participate in workshops and conferences that strengthen their leadership and life skills. For example, the Advisory Council members organized and participated in the “For Our Rights” conference, held last year to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international human rights treaty stating the rights of children.

“Now I am more educated… in school there were many changes. My schoolmates used to bother me a lot, [but] now that I entered the Advisory Council, they come to ask me for help, they tell me: Lucas, I need this. Will you help me?” he shares proudly.

Lucas speaking to local media at the anniversary celebration for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Lucas speaking to local media at the anniversary celebration for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

His mother, Paola Daisy, also noticed changes in her son’s life, and says that, “Little by little he has been integrating himself and being more talkative. He is interested in things that happen, he is motivated to do things and to achieve his ideas. He wasn’t like this, before there wasn’t any motivation, now he has more initiative, is more interested in knowing what is happening in school and around him.”

Both Lucas and his family are very grateful for the support provided to his school through Save the Children and the Advisory Council, which strengthened his leadership skills and his ambition to achieve his future life goals.

All the way from Cochabamba – thank you, dear sponsors!

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

 

Finding a Way Back to School

Author Portrait_Aminata Diarra, Community Development Agent of Kapala Community in Sikasso
Aminata Diarra

Community Development Agent of Kapala Community in Sikasso

Save the Children in Mali

September 5, 2017

Oumar is an 11-year-old boy and the oldest child of his parents. He is attending the 6th grade and was enrolled in sponsorship programs in 2011, as soon as he was old enough to attend school, although Oumar’s village of Sanasso has been receiving sponsorship support for nearly a decade.

Because of the closely spaced pregnancies of his siblings, Oumar’s mother was struggling to care for her growing family. To help support his parents and sisters, Oumar moved in with his grandparents. His elderly grandparents didn’t have sufficient resources to pay for the monthly school fees needed to send Oumar to school. Without paying, he was expelled. He was not the only child in his village who faced this issue, as the community lacked a good support system to help those in similar situations.

Thanks to sponsorship, today 11-year-old Oumar is back at school.
Thanks to sponsorship, today 11-year-old Oumar is back at school.

To help bring more children back into school, sponsorship started livelihood programs in Oumar’s village. Activities that generate income for family members were promptly started in the community. The program aims to support households in obtaining resources which can improve their living conditions. For Oumar’s village, a cereal bank and a sheep breeding program were set-up. The cereal bank benefits the community members by helping them purchase and stock grains during times of the year when prices are low, so that they can resell them when prices go back up. The cattle breeding program, on the other hand, provides school management committees and select families rams and sheep to breed, the offspring from which can then be sold to help pay for school expenses. Community members not only benefit from the profit, but from the skills learned in both these trades.

With the profits from these programs, more parents, including Oumar’s who participated in both, are able to send their children to school. The community has been so successful in these ventures that they’ve even been able to pay teachers more, who before were making very little pay.

Oumar playing with his friends in the school yard, happy to be attending classes again.
Oumar playing with his friends in the school yard, happy to be attending classes again.

Oumar’s grandfather Seydou is a member of the school management committee, a group of community members that is responsible for all activities of the school including the management of school fees and expenses, and helps run the livelihoods programs. He shared, “Thanks to Save the Children, our community is well organized and united.”

Hady, his other grandfather, also commented, “Thanks to Save the Children, my grandson, Oumar is happy to get back to school. In addition to that, our community has benefited from the building of 3 classrooms, so I am very proud of that.”

These activities have successfully reduced the drop-out rates in this part of Mali, thanks to the support of sponsors. So far, no children have had to drop out this year – this would not have been possible without the kind and open hearts of our donors.

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

Aida Becomes a Leader

Author Portrait_Walaa Hassan, Adolescents and Livelihoods Program Officer
Walaa Hassan

Adolescents and Livelihoods Program Officer

Save the Children in Egypt

September 2, 2017

On her way to her first day of facilitators’ training, 16-year-old Aida smiled as she passed by the Arab Al-Qadadeh youth center, remembering how before she was not allowed to enter this place to play or even to attend any kinds of activities.

In rural areas especially in Upper Egypt, where Aida is from, people are conservative and trust in old traditions that restrict the movement of girls, frowning on their involvement in outdoor activities or other events that would have them move around or play in front of boys or in the public’s eye. Instead, they are expected to spend all their time doing work around their homes or finding other ways to serve family members, for example by doing farm work to help with income.

Aida, youth leader and champion of girls' rights.
Aida, youth leader and champion of girls’ rights.

Aida joined Tomohaty in 2015. Tomohaty, meaning “Ambitions” in English, is a holistic program that covers topics that are related to the wellbeing of adolescents, such as life skills, responsible citizenship, reproductive health, livelihoods and career guidance. This curriculum is provided through coordination between Save the Children sponsorship staff and the local Ministry of Youth, and supported thanks to donations from our sponsors. It focuses on empowering out-of-school girls through sessions that build their self-confidence and teach them how to express their opinions, adopt positive behaviors and attitudes, and make decisions. In addition to learning new skills, the Tomohaty program also sets up time for girls-only sports activities inside the local youth center. This is so important to combat the culture that keeps girls inside their homes, both by helping girls to feel free and also by calming parents’ fears as they know the girls are playing somewhere safe.

Previously, Aida used to spend her time doing the housework or working in the fields to earn money. She would hand the money to her father to help provide for the family, so that he would not have to carry this burden all by himself. She was deprived from her right to learn and not allowed to go to school. Instead she was exposed to the very strenuous and high pressure responsibility of supporting the family, which deeply affected her hopes for the future.

By joining Tomohaty, Aida started to attend sessions with girls her age and practice sports at the youth center, exploring her self-awareness as she had never done before. She discovered, for example, that she is very talented in volleyball. She also started to share what she learned in the adolescent sessions with her parents and siblings.

She began to shift her role from solely attending the sessions to more of a leadership role, for example helping to keep the other students organized by assigning roles in activities and group projects, speaking out in front of the group, and taking the initiative to talk to the head of the youth center about the girls’ needs. Through these sessions, Tomohaty taught her how to express her fear and rejection of the traditions restrictive of her rights to her parents and help them understand the freedom and opportunities she felt she deserved.

Despite their conservative traditions, her family began to support her, even when her network in the community became wider as she started to tell her neighbors about the importance of these sessions for their daughters. Although she is young, she was able to make a significant impact on her community, evidenced when 8 new girls from her neighborhood in Arab Al-Qadadeh joined Tomohaty classes, solely resulting from Aida’s conversations with them and their parents.

Aida showing her classmates the right positions before their volleyball match.
Aida showing her classmates the right positions before their volleyball match.

In addition to that, the Tomohaty program helped Aida to attend a training for social workers and facilitators on first aid, which she was able to use to help her father when he burned his hands while making tea at home. He was astonished with her knowledge but more so with her new found self-confidence. “Now I am proud of having a daughter supporting me like a boy, [even] more [than a boy],” said Aida’s father excitedly. He was even more proud when she practiced with him the lessons on first aid and ways to deal with emergencies which she would be demonstrating to new girls in the youth center.

Aida was nominated to be a facilitator in 2017 after displaying her leadership skills and talent in communicating with girls.  “Aida has transformed into a young lady in her attitudes and behaviors, she has formed effective relationships with girls in the youth center and she has turned into a leader,” explained her Tomohaty facilitator, Faiza, a sponsorship trained community member who helps oversee the group.

Aida also attended a 7-day training with Save the Children to even further enhance her skills in facilitation and communication, and she is now preparing her first session as a Tomohaty facilitator in the Arab Al-Qadadeh youth center.

“I want to add value for other girls in their lives. I want to be a female leader and make my parents proud of me even more,” recounted Aida with confidence. Clearly, Aida is already achieving these dreams and helping many people.

Our deepest thanks to our sponsors of the children and programs in Egypt for making these achievements possible.

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