Many sponsors ask, what happens to sponsored children after they graduate from our programs? For Dial Grace from the Philippines, the sky’s the limit!
We first met Dial Grace when she was 10 years old, shy and unsure of her future. A decade later, she’s on her way to finishing college with Save the Children by her side.
Growing up with Save the Children has built numerous memories, countless laughter and millions of smiles. We learned life lessons, we gained friends and we built a family.
Dial Grace says that sponsorship programs helped her become the woman she is today. “One of the most important sessions for me was the Basic Life Skills workshop. It has been my foundation to know myself better and it helped me understand how to make better – if not the best – decisions,” she said.
Now, Dial Grace works as a registered nurse in Saudi Arabia, where she feels that she is able to pay it forward to others in need. “Back in my younger days, I envisioned my future self, working with people and influencing them in such a way that Save the Children had created positive changes in my life.” she said.
The learnings I gained from Save the Children have been one of my secrets for being who I am today, thus, wherever I will be, I can proudly and humbly say that Save the Children is part of it.
Your sponsorship helps children learn, grow and dream – and Dial Grace is proof that those dreams can become reality with a little help. “Participating in the programs of Save the Children has made a great impact in my life,” she said.
Two hours north of Port-au-Prince is a community rich in colorful culture and history. Dessalines, the hometown of the founder of this nation, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and also named after him, is an interesting place with a historical past and many forts. At these forts, the locals can be seen gathering during certain times of the year, paying tribute, holding voodoo ceremonies and feasting in honor of their patron saints.
The annual Patron Saint Claire is one of the biggest celebrations in Dessalines and is funded by the mayor, the department senator’s office and other local businesses. The Saint Claire celebrations are held every August 11, and are traditionally considered mostly a festival for socializing. For example, many go to church, share in a family meal and perhaps watch a soccer game together or gather in parks and streets to listen to local bands play kompa music – a type of lively dance music similar to méringue. However, some residents, depending on their beliefs, will wake up at the crack of dawn to go the mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church. These church goers dress in all white and carry a lit candle in a procession, and pray and sing for hours, until the sun comes up.
Alternatively, the voodoo believers have a more colorful and animated ceremony at “la source imperial”, a natural spring, where they dance to the rhythm of drums and sing and clap. Their outfits are a mix of colors from the Haitian flag – blue, red and white – or other vibrant colors with many layers of fabric that helps the dress to swirl and flow when dancing and twirling.
To mark the festival this year, Save the Children participated in its own way. With support from our sponsorship teams, we spent two full days taking advantage of the massive gathering of people, speaking with children, teens and adults, to raise awareness on good hygiene practices, nutrition skills and sexual and reproductive health. After the awareness campaigns, we organized quiz-style competitions in which the winners competed for prizes such as hand soap, hygiene kits with soap and chlorine tablets to clean water, backpacks and dictionaries. A stand was even built for condom distribution and HIV testing, in collaboration with local partners like the Claire Heureuse Hospital and the UAS, or Unité d’Arrondissement de Santé Unit Health Department.
How do you celebrate with your family during special times of the year? Do you sing or dance together, like they do in Haiti? Consider writing a letter to tell your sponsored child about how you celebrate holidays. You may find you have more in common than you think!
Letter writing is a great way for a sponsor to learn about their child’s life; with letters, drawings, and pictures, sponsor and child are able to grow their friendship through correspondence. But some sponsors dream of meeting their children in real life – and actually make the (oftentimes long!) trip to visit them in person!
Last October, sponsor Heidi from the United States set out on the long journey to Saptari, Nepal, to visit her sponsored child, Jay. During her two day visit, Heidi was able to see the life-changing programs her generous sponsorship helps support with her own eyes. “This visit helped me realize how far my sponsorship money can go and all the great things that can be done because of my sponsorship,” Heidi said.
During her time in Nepal, Heidi was able to spend time getting to know Jay and his family. “This visit meant a lot to me and my son,” Jay’s mom said. “I feel like I am a lucky mother because my son’s sponsor came to meet him from faraway. Not everyone gets such an opportunity to see and talk with their sponsor.” She also added, “I am the first mother in this school and in the community who got an opportunity to meet my child’s sponsor in person, so I feel very proud to be the luckiest one!”
Heidi also had the opportunity to visit Jay’s school, meet with his teachers and his principal. “I really enjoyed being able to speak with the teachers and school management committee members to hear how the support of Save the Children has made a positive impact on the attendance of children,” Heidi said.
“It was wonderful meeting with our donor in person and welcoming her in our school,” the principal of Jay’s school said. “We were very glad to thank her personally for her generous support. The changed school environment, better classrooms, improved reading and teaching materials…and awareness among parents and guardians about education are possible because of her support.”
For Heidi, seeing her sponsored child in person and understanding the context of his challenging life was an experience she will cherish forever. “I will never forget getting to meet my sponsored child in person. Being able to see the community that he is living in and meet his family was so special and it taught me a lot about what it is like to grow up in this rural environment and see some of the challenges that the community faces. I am very proud to be a sponsor for such a wonderful organization.”
The visit was memorable for Jay, too! “I am very happy to meet my sponsor in person and show her my classroom,” Jay said.
Learn how you can change your child’s life with a visit here.
Salam! My name is Massouma, I’m 16 years old and a student in grade 10 at the girls’ high school in my village. I live with my parents and all 7 of my siblings – 2 brothers, one older, one younger, and 5 sisters, 4 older than me and one younger. My mother is illiterate and spends her time taking care of our home and family, while my father is our school’s headmaster.
For me, life is like any other girl’s my age in Afghanistan. I get up in the morning and prepare breakfast, and go to school. After, I do my homework and help my mother with the house chores, cooking and cleaning. My dream is to be a teacher in the future.
I was selected as the Lifeline child representative for Save the Children back in July of 2006. From that time to now, I have played different roles and benefited from sponsorship programs in different ways. When I was 5, I started in the Early Learners program, where I worked on my literacy, numeracy and other learning skills through games, songs, storytelling, reading and socializing with my young peers.
When I was a little older, at age 7, I started going to the child-focused health education groups in my community. There, we learned about how keep ourselves healthy with good nutrition and hygiene practices.
Today, I am applying the knowledge I have learned about healthy behaviours as child-focused health education group volunteer facilitator. I lead about 15 school-aged children twice a week in learning about nutrition, hygiene, immunization and preventable childhood diseases.
Together, we conduct awareness campaigns in the communities, to reach as many people as possible with these messages. Children and community members are taught when and how to properly wash their hands, for example before handling food, after using the latrine and after handling or working with animals. We also take the lead in keeping our school clean, are trained on first aid and help find solutions to health problems at school.
My mother, Rabia says that now I am “always talking with the family about the health activities she does in the CFHE group. I can really see how her confidence has grown since she began taking part in sponsorship programs.”
My mother has also noticed how much I’ve learned about health and hygiene through participating in these programs. I like to learn new things about healthy ways of living. I love sharing what I’ve learned in our group meetings and events with friends and family members, because the groups have been such a fun place for me to both play and learn.
I would like to thank all sponsors for the support that they have provided for our community and for me through sponsorship programs. In addition to having the child-focused health groups now, sponsors have also built us four new classrooms. That has really been a big help, because before, since there was not enough space for all of us, children had to sit outdoors, in the sun or under the shade of trees when possible, and during the winter we would still have to be outside which made learning hard and everyone really unhappy from the mountain cold.
A lot in my life has changed because of sponsorship, and I’m not sure who I would be without it. I would like to thank you. I appreciate your support as sponsor more than you can know!
The August rains this year in Nepal proved to be one of the harshest the country has seen in years.
The day started just like any other day in Saptari, one of the sponsorship supported areas in the eastern region of Nepal – bright and sunny. But then, the sky was engulfed with dark clouds and wind, signs of approaching rain. The weather forecast warned of heavy rainfall. However, many, including me, went home in the evening with little thought about the impending damage. The rain got worse as the day went on.
A little before dawn, people chattering woke me up. Everyone, young and old, was wide awake. The water leaking through the closed doors was pooling inside my house, and my neighbor’s houses. As we waited for the relief of daybreak, we piled up furniture to achieve some higher ground for our valuables.
As the light broke through, my hometown was looking more like a deep pond. The magnitude of destruction was immeasurable.
The flood washed away homes, belongings and crops as well, damaging families’ livelihoods that were meant to last them throughout the year, in a series of continuous downpours. Homes, schools, hospitals and health posts were partially submerged in water. Everyone was searching for high elevation to take refuge. Families brought along with themselves anything they could save – most clutched their precious goats and cattle, their only source of livelihood left. It was really disheartening to see people, especially young carefree children, not having access to clean drinking water during this crisis.
Despite the damage, some of the children still seemed sunny and upbeat, as they swam and played, trying to fish in the new pools of flooded water.
Save the Children helped distribute tarps to around 1,000 affected households, to ensure families have a shelter above them, and shared over 800 hygiene kits – containing items like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, water purifiers, underwear and towels. Our goal was to ensure children could remain safe from preventable diseases, the prevalence of which rises dramatically during such natural disasters, because water can become contaminated easily.
Children, among others, are more at risk in disasters like these. Physical as well as psychological shelter is an urgent need for children during emergencies. In addition to health kits and support in finding shelters, almost 500 children were provided student kits including learning materials like books and notebooks, replacing lost school supplies as the flood in Saptari gradually dries up.
Without sponsorship, none of this relief would have been possible. From my neighbors and I, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Do you have a family plan for when emergencies strike? Being prepared and organized goes a long way in times of crises. How does your family weather big storms?
The holidays are a time of reflection that inspire multitudes of people to reach out to those who are in need. As the old year ends and a new one begins, we’re reminded of the blessings and benefits we’ve received in the past year, and many of us feel the desire to help others get ahead in the year to come.
Donating to charity is a wonderful way to give back to the people who are the most deserving. Here at Save the Children we feel all children are deserving of good nutrition, good education, and a good start in life. While donating to children certainly comes with the warm fuzzies, there are also more quantifiable benefits to donating to charity – including health benefits and tax benefits. The end of the year is a sign that tax season is right around the corner, and in order to qualify for tax deductions for the current calendar year, you must make your yearly giving contributions by December 31st.
If you’re thinking of making a year-end holiday donation, here are three steps to take advantage of the tax benefits of donating to charity.
1. Research and Itemize The first step to receiving a tax benefit on your donations is to itemize carefully. There’s a specific section of your tax returns that is dedicated to listing your itemized deductions. A helpful tip for itemization is to keep track of each charitable donation you’ve made throughout the year by holding onto any receipts and documentation. A spreadsheet can make this process easier at tax time, especially if you make lots of donations throughout the year.
Secondly, it’s also important to do your research on the charity of your choice. The organization you’re donating to must fall under the guidelines put in place by the IRS in order to qualify for deductions. You can find a full list of qualifying guidelines on the IRS website. You may also want to research the charity on watchdog websites, such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Great Nonprofits (spoiler alert: Save the Children has high ratings on all of these sites!).
2. Check Your Limits and Know Your Expectations Donating a percentage of your income is a great way to receive tax breaks in April; however, there are limits to the number of charitable deductions you can receive. Typically, this number is capped depending on your income. Rates fluctuate each year, depending on the state of the economy at the time. However, limits tend to fall within the 20%-50% threshold of yearly gross income. It’s also important to know that charitable deductions vary widely based on income. This amount is typically averaged around 3%-6% of a person’s adjusted gross income.
3. Save the Date As mentioned before, contributions must be made before December 31st in the current calendar year in order to qualify for deductions in the following year’s tax season, so make sure your contribution counts!In order for a deduction to qualify, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your donation has to be taken out of your bank account during the current calendar year. For instance, text message contributions (when you text a code that adds a certain amount to your phone bill) count as long as the text was made prior to January 1st.Credit and debit card charges are acceptable as long as the transaction is made by the end of the year, even if they’re not paid before the end of the year. This also applies to checks that are written and postmarked by the end of the year, even if they’re not cashed until after January 1st.
Making a Difference
As you get into the spirit of giving this holiday season, take a moment to ensure that your donations are contributing the greatest benefit for the causes you care about most. The gift of giving always comes full circle and generosity can be infectious.
The season of giving is upon us once again and it’s time to jump back into the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The gift of giving is a wonderful feeling. It’s a happy moment seeing the smile on your loved one’s face as they open each gift you’ve picked out just for them. However, studies show that giving has added health benefits for the giver. Moreover, there are a variety of ways that those who give charitable donations can reap added (and surprising) health benefits while helping those in need.
Whether we are offering emotional support for loved ones, volunteering our time to assist an organization, or donating money to charity, there are more ways to enjoy the health benefits of giving than simply shopping for the perfect gift. Giving to a charity may also help boost your physical health and mental well-being.
Check out these reasons that demonstrate how giving is good for you!
Improved Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Donating is a selfless act. One of the major positive effects of donating money to charity is simply feeling good about yourself. Being able to give back to those in need helps you achieve a greater sense of personal satisfaction and growth. Instead of putting money toward a gift someone may look at once and never use again, you can donate that money to a charity in need on your loved one’s behalf or send a symbolic gift (check out Save the Children’s gift catalog for ideas). This leads to a feeling of self-worth knowing that you’re offering much-needed resources to a great cause for those in need. As an added benefit, you and your loved one will both feel good about giving back to others.
Positive Moods and Low Depression Rates
With positive self-esteem and self-worth comes a genuinely more optimistic mood and outlook on life. Studies show that donating money to charity has been proven to have a positive impact on the brain. These effects are similar to activities people usually associate with joy and happiness such as eating, exercising, or affectionate gestures like giving someone a hug. Different chemical reactions can lead to an ongoing pattern of improved mental health and well-being. Keep this in mind the next time you’re having a bad day and need something uplifting to draw from. Donating can help better somebody else’s life and lead to a healthier you.
Longer Life Expectancy
As much joy as the holiday season brings, it also brings with it a great deal of stress. It’s no surprise that stress, depression, and anxiety can lead to a number health issues, headaches, insomnia, and high blood pressure (which affects 30% of all Americans). One of the reasons why giving is good for you is that it acts as a way to de-stress your everyday life. With the simple act of charitable giving, not only are you assisting the world as a whole, but you receive the added benefit of a more relaxed holiday season. As an added bonus, some studies show that the gift of giving and unselfishness is an altruistic personality trait that is closely aligned with people who live longer.
Improving the World Community
We’re all trying to make the world a better place. The holidays are a time where we can appreciate the people and causes we hold dear. One person’s charitable giving can help the greater good of humanity, positively impacting more people than a giver may ever comprehend their donation could reach. In many parts of the world, others are not so fortunate. Charitable communities help foster a happier and healthier world by improving the quality of life for those around us as a whole.
Make a Difference
The gift of giving always comes full circle. Giving is receiving and generosity is contagious. So, the next time you’re thinking about treating yourself, instead remember the positive benefits on your health that donating to charity can bring about, as well as the positive change you can help bring about around the world. Why not start now? Get involved and join the cause. We believe every child around the world deserves a bright future. Make a donation to Save the Children today to help give a healthy start in life to the children who need it most this holiday season.
Sarah Belanger is an Early Childhood Program Specialist. She supervises Early Childhood Home Visitors in Jackson County, Kentucky.
When I think of why we are in Jackson County, lyrics from Paul Simon’s song “Sound of Silence” come to mind: “Silence like a cancer grows/ Hear my words that I might teach you/Take my arms that I might reach you/But my words, like silent raindrops fell/And echoed in the wells/of silence.”
A child not learning causes a type of silence in a community. In the song, Simon compares the growth of silence to cancer, just as a lack of learning can spread ignorance, misinterpretation, and place limitations on a child’s potential.
Members of Jackson County’s communities, however, are realizing that they can change the way their children are learning by committing to early childhood education. I had the privilege of meeting one such mom, Courtney*, who signed up for our Early Steps to School Success (ESSS) program. Targeting children from birth to age five, our program builds strong foundations for parenting and school readiness. As part of the program, a home visitor regularly provides Courtney with information on child development and helped her plan activities that help her use her own skills and resources to support her children’s development. In addition to home visits, ESSS facilitates parent/child groups, book bag exchanges, and community connections.
Courtney was once a young mother from rural Kentucky, who, like many parents in isolated regions, had no idea that her relationships and actions would have a significant impact on her babies’ brain development. For years she survived “on a shoestring” — as they say around here — without a job and succumbing to the temptations poverty presents – one being substance abuse. Although she desired to be a good mother to her three children, they were eventually put in the foster care system.
Having her children taken away motivated Courtney to change her life. She worked hard to recover from drug dependency, and succeeded. In time, she married and had three more children.
I am impressed by the strides Courtney has made to become a better mother. I’ve seen firsthand how she embraced the Early Steps to School Success program and understands now how important it is to read to her children. Through a resource called Vroom — an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation — she learned that she could have a part in her children’s brain development. The five principles – look, chat, follow, stretch, take turns – help parents understand the science behind their child’s learning. Vroom incorporates activity cards, an app and a playbook as learning tools. It was humbling to hear the sound of children learning in Courtney’s home.
Not only has Vroom and ESSS helped Courtney, but events have been held in all three of the elementary schools in Jackson County to share the Vroom message. Community members have come together to share information as well. Every time a Save the Children home-visitor meets a family, more people in Jackson County hear that they can help their children learn, and make a commitment to teach others to stop the sound of silence.
Hello, my name is Melany and I’m 4 years old. I live in Mexico City, a big city with a lot of cars, people, houses, streets, stores and noise. My mom takes me to school by bus every day. She says I have to pay attention because it’s dangerous. My school is the place I like the most because I can learn and it’s quiet and clean. They give me healthy things to eat and I can play with my friends.
During the holidays I missed coming to school to study and seeing my friends. I like coloring, but I like it best when my friend Paty colors with me. I also like playing with the blocks in my classroom. It’s fun, we use them to build things. I love building robots the most – I make them large and colorful.
They are teaching me numbers and letters. I can write my name all by myself now. My teacher helped me a lot. “M” is the easiest letter because it’s the first and the “a” is always the hardest.
My friends from “Los Children” (Save the Children) visit my school sometimes, the ones with the red t-shirts. They helped us form a committee, which I love to be a part of with the other kids in my class. When we get together we talk about our school, like about the yard toys that are old and can cut us. Then we talk about how we can fix them. We think it is important to tell all the other children about our committee so that they can help us take care of our school, too. We also learn how to know dangerous situations, and how to protect ourselves when we are out in the city. We include our parents in our meetings sometimes, to support us in keeping our school clean and safe.
“Los Children” came once to measure me and they told me I am healthy, but that I had to eat well and exercise to stay that way. That’s why those same friends came to talk with my mom and my teachers, and they taught them how to prepare good and delicious food for me, something our parents didn’t know so much about before. I like eating in my school, the food is always yummy. I like soup and fruits, especially mangos and strawberries.
The children’s committee and Save the Children have set up a school orchard, too. There we have planted many different things, and we are waiting for them to grow so that we can soon prepare more healthy food with these vegetables.
Thanks to support from our sponsors, Save the Children Mexico is giving children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Thank you from Mexico City to all of our sponsors who have helped make life better for children like Melany and her classmates!
“To take care and educate your own child is simply a task of parents and almost everyone does it, yet to do the same for the other children is a matter of choice,” said Henderina in a conversation with sponsorship staff while meeting in her home. Yes, Henderina is one of those who chooses to educate not only her children – Yedija and Grace, ages 3 and 9 respectively – but also the other children in her community, at their sponsorship supported Reading Camp. She has been trained as a community volunteer by Save the Children in order to run the Reading Camp in her house for the local children. She believes that reading can be the window for the little villagers to see the world and to achieve their dreams.
As the Reading Camp had just been established, children ages 6 – 10 came with great enthusiasm. They came together to play games that strengthen their literacy skills and to learn to read the newly provided books. “It was such a joy to see children enjoy the games and learning. You can see that this is what they really need, to play and to learn through games with their peers.” Before sponsorship helped establish a Reading Camp in their community, children had very little access to books or other reading materials. Most have no books at home of their own, and there was no community library available.
With the creation of the Reading Camp, two challenges of improving the reading ability of local children were solved. Firstly, with the provision of books, which could also be lent to children so they could read them at home. Secondly, through the provision of a passionate facilitator like Henderina, who helps them to be motivated to learn and who encourages group learning styles that makes learning amongst friends fun for the children.
Henderina realizes that children this age cannot be forced to learn in a way adults may be able to. They need friends. They need to play. Therefore, in her Reading Camp, she tries to incorporate learning through play every day. Children can learn phonetics, letters and vocabulary through singing, playing games, solving puzzles and storytelling. Henderina dedicates her time for the children happily, having fun too with them in the Reading Camp.
Running the Reading Camp in a community where not all parents are aware of the significance of education and literacy is not without challenges. One of them is finding a way to get parents excited about sending their children to the Reading Camp. Some assume that sending their children would be a waste of time, and would rather have their help around the home, such as by collecting firewood, fetching water and caring for the family animals.
Henderina believes that the primary reason for this is the low awareness among parents on the great impact that being allowed to learn while playing with their friends can have on their children. Because of this, she has taken it as part of her role as community volunteer to visit every family with children in her community, to discuss the importance of educating their children and to encourage the parents to send their children to the Reading Camp.
Her efforts bear fruit as more and more children come to her Reading Camp as she meets with more and more parents. Sometimes, parents even stay to participate in the activities themselves. “With this positive progress, I strongly believe that the children in my community can read like those in the city and can reach whatever dreams they may have. This can start here, from this Reading Camp,” she proudly stated.
Mobilizing community members to help build our programs is an integral part of sponsorship. We provide training and tools that enable children, parents, teachers and local partners like Henderina to work together to achieve common goals. Consider sharing this story with a friend or family member, to show how you’ve helped bring the joy of reading to children in the Philippines, as one of our valued sponsors! Thank you!