Save the Children team in Yemen recognized for family planning program achievements in a Humanitarian Setting

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Yemen is currently experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with one-third in acute need. Of the 22.2 million people in need, more than five million are women of reproductive age, including an estimated half a million pregnant women. Before the current crisis escalated in March 2015, the average fertility rate was four children per woman and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in sixty. In only 30 other countries do women face a greater chance of dying due to complications of pregnancy or during childbirth. Access to family planning is limited with only 20 percent of women using a modern contraceptive method and a high unmet need for contraception of 33 percent.

In the dire context in Yemen, Save the Children staff work tirelessly to support children and their families, and we are so pleased that our family planning team that includes was recognized for the work they do in the face of tremendous adversity. At the International Conference on Family Planning, our Yemen team was awarded an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Award for their “significant contributions to the family planning field.”

Since the beginning of 2013, and through the escalation of the crisis, our reproductive health program has reached nearly 60,000 new family planning users through support to 16 health facilities in Hodeida and Lahj Governorates through funding from private foundation. The program has also expanded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (intrauterine devices and implants) that are more effective than other methods and are often a good choice in humanitarian settings where supply chains may be disrupted. This high quality work was leveraged to secure a new two-year award for Save the Children from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen family planning services in Yemen.

In addition to the recognition of our Yemen team, other Save the Children teams from Egypt humanitarian response for Urban Refugees in Cairo and Mali were recognized for their excellent work by winning “best poster” awards during the conference. Our submission was one of the twelve (out of 325 applications) named a finalist of the Quality Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Packard Foundation for a concept to pilot a digital, interactive contraceptive decision-making tool for young people in acute humanitarian emergencies in Somalia and Yemen. Through 41 posters and presentations, our staff demonstrated the positive impact our family planning programs have on the lives of children, adolescent girls, women and their families around the globe.

To learn more about how family planning saves lives and our presence at the International Conference on Family Planning, click here.

Four Ways to Support Vulnerable Youth: Key Takeaways from a Six-Year Livelihood Program

Written by Nikhit D’Sa, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning, Education and Child Protection at Save the Children

 

The current generation of 1.8 billion young people (aged 10-24) is the largest in our global history. This burgeoning youth cohort is especially evident in sub-Saharan Africa; the 10 youngest nations by population age are in sub-Saran Africa; the median age in five of these countries – Niger, Uganda, Mali, Malawi, and Zambia – is under 16 years, with approximately 60% of the population under the age of 25. Harnessing this demographic dividend has proved difficult. Youth unemployment rates have remained persistently high for the last decade; for every adult of working age who is unemployed, about four youth of working age are also unemployed. In addition, this issue is compounded for youth in rural communities of continental Africa who have never been to school or left school early; gross school enrollment rates are some of the lowest for these youth, while the working poverty rates are some of the highest globally. The issue facing these youth is as much about underemployment and low quality employment as it is about unemployment.  

Launched in 2012, Youth in Action (YiA) was a six-year program implemented by Save the Children in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. The goal of YiA was to improve the socioeconomic status of 40,000 out-of-school youth (12-18 years) in rural Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Uganda. The YiA program aimed to strengthen work readiness skills, then develop business and management capabilities, and create space to apply learned skills, all while supported by family and community. While there is a growing body of research on programming for youth livelihood development, the evidence on the effectiveness of these programs is mixed. Additionally, there are still questions around equity: who benefits from these programs and who is left behind? To address some of these research gaps, Save the Children embedded 32 studies into the six years of implementing YiA. In October 2018, Save the Children launched a report—Supporting rural youth to leverage decent work: Evidence from the cross-sectoral Youth in Action program – that synthesizes the findings from the studies to reflect on four key evidence-based lessons.

Lesson 1: Work readiness is possible in four months

Since YiA focused on vulnerable, out-of-school youth from especially rural areas in each of the five countries, the program prioritized supporting youth to build functional literacy and numeracy, financial literacy, and transferable life skills. YiA youth made significant and practical improvements in nearly all these work readiness skills in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda, but not in Malawi. Literacy was the one skill area where youth were still lagging after YiA; less than half the youth in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Malawi could read a grade 3 passage with comprehension by the end of the program. One of the issues was that unlike other work readiness skills youth had limited opportunities to practice their literacy foundations after the first four months of dedicated learning. They needed additional literacy instruction with more practical ways to practice their skills in the labor market. Overall, the findings support the YiA hypothesis that youth can build a wide variety of work readiness skills over a condensed time-period – four months of sessions, three sessions/week, and three hours/day. This accelerated programming can be especially effective if coupled with focused and explicit instruction as well as opportunities to engage in practical activities, like saving with a formal institution, that supports future livelihood development.

 

Lesson 2: Livelihood development IS enhanced by family and community support

In the rural contexts where YiA was implemented, parents and community members are the gatekeepers to the labor market. Youth are negotiating their reputation in their community for being hard working and responsible. One way in which youth can build this reputation is by participating in programs like YiA, providing a signal to family and community that the youth would make a good employee or that support for a youth-run business would pay off. YiA worked on this by engaging early with communities and clearly explaining its value in reliably supporting youth development. Prior to YiA, families and communities were hesitant to provide youth with substantial financial, material, and/or emotional support for livelihood development. In all the countries, YiA youth reported marked increases in support from their family for livelihood development in the form of space for a business, land, tools, and/or emotional support. They also reported improved support from community business mentors at least nine months after graduating from the program. Additionally, increases in family and community support over the program period were associated with stronger gains in work readiness skills like financial literacy and communication.

Lesson 3: Quantitative data can mask gendered barriers

Disaggregating quantitative data by gender is the first step. It gives us a picture on whether there are differences between male and female youth. However, outcomes data may mask important gendered barriers that influence the livelihood development of male and female youth. For example, while male and female youth reported equivalent levels of and gains in family and community financial, emotional and material support in the outcomes data, the qualitative data highlighted that the kind of support often differed by gender. Families often provided female youth more limited financial resources than male youth because female youth were viewed as having a smaller payout since they would leave the home once married. Moreover, parents and community members often felt that the mobility of female youth had to be restricted to ensure their safety, resulting in more support for home-based micro-enterprises as compared to support for a wider range of non-home-based business options for male youth. In some communities, this restriction on the type of micro-enterprise limited the income and savings opportunities for female youth. 

Lesson 4: Rural Youth choose and can sustain self-employment

The figure below illustrates the employment status of youth before YiA and at least nine months after graduating (pooled data for Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda). We found a marked decrease in the percent of youth wage-employed and unemployed, and a statistically and practically significant increase in youth who were self-employed. This is likely because, while YiA started with five pathways, youth in all five countries overwhelmingly chose self-employment and started a micro-enterprise. The decrease in wage-employment may suggest less stability for some youth. However, wage employment before YiA was primarily seasonal and temporary. This is why YiA views the move to sustained self-employment as progress toward decent work for these youth.

Distribution of YiA youth employment status before and at least nine months after YiA

While we were not able to disaggregate income and savings information by which pathway youth selected, the fact that a majority of youth selected the self-employment pathway does suggest that improvements in income and savings are heavily influenced by the sustained self-employment of youth. In Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda, youth were able to establish work that allowed them to individually move above the USD 1.90/day international poverty line, effectively improving their socioeconomic status. Additionally, across Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda, 40% of youth reported saving formally or informally before YiA. At least nine months after YiA this increased to 80% of youth, with the average youth reporting an almost fivefold increase in the amount saved.

As we look to build more evidence on holistic skill-building models like YiA, future research should focus on more robust comparison-group prospective studies that follow youth from the start of the program to their socioeconomic development several years after the program. Furthermore, the next round of research needs to move beyond simply disaggregating data by gender. We need to collect reliable and valid mixed methods data on gender norms among youth, in their families, and in their communities. Collecting gender norms data can allow us a more dynamic understanding of the gendered barriers facing male and female youth, and how socioeconomic development varies based on the presence of specific gendered norms.

This post originally appeared on NextBillion

The Children of Baidoa

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

When I met him, Isaac was hungrily drinking the milk his mother gently brought to his lips in a little plastic cup. At thirteen months old, he was stick thin but already so much better than when he arrived a week ago. The doctor told me he was so weak from pneumonia on top of severe malnutrition that he had to be fed by an intravenous tube in his tiny arm – now he was sitting up to eat. In about a week, he’ll go home with a two-week supply of peanut-based food and come back to the out-patient facility to ensure he’s putting on weight. Once the health workers are assured of his progress, he’ll hopefully transition to a regular diet of breast milk and porridge – the perfect meal for a growing baby boy.

There were about 40 other children at the Save the Children stabilization center in Baidoa, Somalia when I visited – some so malnourished they couldn’t hold their heads up or eat on their own and others on the way to recovery.  The children in the stabilization center are not only suffering from severe malnutrition but other complications like diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria – illnesses that prey on immune systems weakened by hunger. Conflict in Somalia between the government and Al Shabab has displaced millions of families, and the center’s two doctors and their staff are busy every day taking care of children whose families are struggling to provide food in the middle of the conflict. The conflict keeps families from their farms and pastures and makes the country one of the most food insecure in the world – more than one million of Somalia’s children are acutely malnourished. While the stabilization center is making a big difference, the staff is worried about new funding and when it might come to keep the center operating.

Isaac at Save the Children’s stabilization center in Baidoa, Somalia.

During my recent trip to Baidoa, I also visited a camp for internally displaced persons – people who have had no choice but to leave their homes. I met with Issa, who arrived at the camp six months earlier with her four children when the fighting reached her village 60 km away. As a divorced woman, she was left with no resources after her small livestock herd died and she was concerned about getting her infant daughter, Laila, the medicine she needs to combat an upper respiratory infection that makes her wheeze. The conditions inside the camp are grim, and mothers and children pick their way around the huts covered in plastic, clothes and cardboard to keep out the rain that turns the ground to mud.

Issa’s own challenges are made more difficult by the many layers of problems most people in Somalia face. In addition to the threat from Al Shabab and the persistent drought that jeopardizes the livelihoods of millions of people like Issa who depend on livestock and grazing land to survive, 60% of the population lives in persistent poverty with less than $1 a day. All of these factors conspire to make Somalia one of the most difficult places on earth to be Isaac, Laila, or any child – as shown in this year’s End of Childhood report.

But my visit also showed me there is hope here. My Save the Children colleagues, the under-resourced but remarkably determined Baidoa government, and the many partners working together are making a difference for these children and so many others. There’s no denying that life here is extremely hard, but progress can be seen little by little as children recover and heal and mothers find the strength to keep going and look to the future.

Humanitarians Are #NotATarget

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Today is World Humanitarian Day 2018 and far too many children and families, from Syria to Bangladesh, El Salvador to East Africa, are trying their best to survive dire conflicts and crises.  Right at this moment, Save the Children is responding to more than 65 humanitarian emergencies. Today, like every day, I am immensely grateful to my colleagues who are responding to these crises. They refuse to believe that the health, protection and education of children are impossible goals.

Just yesterday I returned from South Sudan and Somalia where I was witnessing the work Save the Children’s humanitarians are doing to save children’s lives.

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is severe—armed conflict, economic hardship and food insecurity are feeding into each other, affecting millions.  An estimated 5.3 million people are lacking enough food and water this year—a full 40 percent more than last year.

And every day, the aid workers combating this crisis go to work in the world’s most dangerous place to deliver humanitarian assistance. The need for humanitarian assistance in South Sudan is only growing, but attacks on aid workers are increasing, too.

I learned that violent attacks on aid workers and their supplies is such a problem that they are preventing humanitarian services from reaching the people who need it. Recent attacks have forced us to curtail service and stop programs until we can ensure safety.  When we say that humanitarians are #NotATarget, we speak up for them and the millions more who rely on their work.

Many families rely on the nutrition stabilization center Save the Children supports in Kapoeta, where I meta brave male nurse named Bosco. When a child is admitted to the center, Bosco measures her arm, checking for indicators of life-threatening malnutrition. While he records the child’s height, weight and medical history, he tells her parents that he will do everything he can to stop her diarrhea and add weight to her small frame. Bosco works seven days a week at the small center and brings healthcare to hundreds of families in the area who have no other services.

Bosco will use medications, therapeutic foods and other resources in an attempt to stop the vicious cycle of malnutrition and illness. He smiled telling me about why he does this work – because he knew he could “save the children!” And when a child leaves the center, his Save the Children colleagues will continue to monitor the child’s health weekly through our Outpatient Therapeutic Program.

In Somalia I saw similar Save the Children programs. There the combination of conflict and a stubborn drought adds even more misery for families, especially those who earn their livelihoods through herding animals.  When the rain stops, the animals run out of food and families are forced to live in camps for the displaced and are dependent on food rations and trucked water.  It is a difficult way to live for anyone, but especially for the youngest children. Child mortality rates among these displaced people are high and children are dying from diarrhea and pneumonia in far too large numbers. We know that children are among the most vulnerable in any crisis, which is why our aid workers are active in these communities, addressing their unique needs.

Children in South Sudan and Somalia  – and in too many places – are facing many threats, but humanitarians are committed to changing that reality. They will continue making sacrifices to make that change possible and I am so proud to work with these selfless individuals.

Recognizing World Humanitarian Day as a Team Sport

Written by Michael Klosson, Vice President Policy & Humanitarian Response 

There are days when visiting my Save the Children colleagues on the front lines of our humanitarian response work in Rakhine State in Myanmar, refugee communities in Jordan, drought stricken communities in Kenya or insecure villages in South Sudan I believe that every day should be World Humanitarian Day.

Such recognition 365 days a year would provide us all fitting opportunities to stand in solidarity with the massive number of people whose lives have been turned upside down whether by conflict or disaster. We are seeing, for example, an unprecedented number of people, climbing past 68 million this year, who have been forced out of their homes. It is estimated that 134 million people in 40 countries need assistance and only one third of the necessary funds to meet such needs have been provided half way through the year. Such year-long recognition would also pay tribute to extraordinary efforts of local, national and international aid workers who themselves face hardship, sometimes even death, to help others at their most vulnerable stage.

These thoughts ran through my mind when I visited recently with mothers and village elders in a community in Wajir County, Kenya. We sat in the shade of a spreading banyan tree and discussed Save the Children’s work last year to help them overcome malnutrition stemming from the severe drought in East Africa.

One mother, wrapped in green with a blue head scarf, pointed to her child cradled in her arms. She told us that her child was alive today only because of the cash transfer program we initiated last year enabling families to support themselves when their livestock had all perished.

The community said that things had been better last year than in the big drought of 2011 because the county had built a dispensary nearby, and we had supported it with provision of water. But the village elder and mothers had no clear answer to the question of how they would rebuild and be better able to face the next drought. They “would just do what they always do” was the response.

A Save the Children Community Health Worker visit with nine-month-old Amoni at her home in Kenya.

We all can take satisfaction in the fact that world and national leaders, together with many others, rallied in 2017 and helped stave off the specter of widespread famine in East Africa. Thanks to our collective efforts, one hears stories such as this one across the entire region. But I came away from my visit troubled: parents and children in Wajir County were getting back on their feet, but their legs were no stronger to withstand the next challenge. Should we not use this period of respite to help such communities take actions that will better prepare them to face such hardship?

Clearly the answer is a strong “yes.”

That leads me back to World Humanitarian Day, but with a new reflection. This day is a moment to acknowledge the importance of helping others in dire need and to recognize the great lengths that humanitarian workers go to provide such help. In today’s world, however, it should also be a moment to recognize that humanitarian work writ large is not just for humanitarians. It’s a moment to reaffirm that helping the more than hundred million people around the world deal in a sustainable fashion with the dire need they face must be a shared responsibility.

At a moment when crises are large-scale and protracted, this work has to involve a team effort of humanitarian aid workers, development workers as well as those involved in conflict resolution and diplomacy. It has to involve a blend of financing and approaches.

We all have a role to play in helping communities persevere, get back on their feet and face the next challenge with greater resilience. World Humanitarian Day is a day to recognize the role we must all play with humanitarians in this team effort.

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to deliver lifesaving emergency response, visit our website.

Redefining Gender Roles Through Kangaroo Care in Africa

A Kenyan Father Participates in Kangaroo Mother Care…and Likes It

Written by Nicolle Keogh  | Photography by Peter Caton

Fathers play an important role by assisting mothers with Kangaroo Mother Care, a technique where skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding offer newborn babies warmth and nutrition during the most critical stage – the first 24 hours. However, in many cultures, fathers are reluctant to participate in perceived maternal techniques. Here is the story of one such father and how he is working to redefine gender roles for Kenyan fathers.

In Nairobi, Kenya, William works as an assistant tutor to provide for his young family. Every morning, he prioritizes spending time with his twin babies in their one-room home before beginning his day.

“I always wake up around 5 a.m. so I can hold each of them before I start preparing myself for work,” he says of 7- month-old Audrey and Amber. He proudly adds that now that his girls are healthy 7-month olds, they squeeze in some playtime before he leaves home.

Holding both girls in his lap, he recalls his first weeks as a father, when he spent hours of each day praying for their health after they were born three months premature. Weighing about 3.5 pounds each at birth, Audrey and Amber spent over two months in the hospital while their health and weight improved. William visited every day after work, anxiously wondering during each taxi ride whether his newborns had lived to see another day.

redefine gender roles for Kenyan fathers
Save the Children is strengthening the skills and capacity of health providers in seven hospitals located in the Langata area of Nairobi, Kenya, so that they can deliver higher quality care to preterm and low-birth-weight babies. The project is targeting to reach 2,200 new born babies each year, including William’s twins Amber and Audrey.

In Nairobi, most hospitals face the challenge of not having enough incubators to meet demand, so it’s not uncommon to see four tiny newborns sharing one machine. When William arrived to visit his family at the hospital, he’d often learn of newborns in the same unit who hadn’t survived.

“I never held them when they were in the hospital because I was afraid and thinking, ‘What if I hold this baby, then the next moment she’s not there?”

But with help from a Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) program supported by Save the Children and Red Nose Day, both girls grew to become healthy babies.

KMC is the practice of providing skin-to-skin contact between a caregiver and newborn. The technique decreases mortality by regulating the baby’s temperature, breathing and heartrate; promotes breastfeeding and provides an opportunity for parent-baby bonding.

Audrey and Amber responded immediately to KMC and began gaining weight at a rate of about 4 ounces per week. William was impressed by the progress but a common social stigma regarding traditional gender roles kept him from expressing his interest in KMC. “In the African culture, there is this thing that kids are supposed to be taken care of by the mom,” he explained.

After two and a half months of practicing KMC in the facility, Audrey and Amber were finally healthy enough to be discharged.

Once at home, William began assisting his wife with KMC. They’d spend their nights sitting side-by-side, each with a baby on their chest in Kangaroo position.

When they returned to the hospital for their first follow-up a week later, the twins’ weight had
increased by over a pound. William was convinced that he should continue as a key player in the twins’ KMC journey.

“One important thing that I’ve learned from practicing KMC is that even me, as a dad, I have a very big role to play with my kids,” William says. “Other than providing for them, I can also be part of bringing them up.”

William recognizes that his family is fortunate to live in Nairobi where KMC is practiced, and able to afford the public transportation fare to attend follow-up visits at the hospital. “If this program could reach people in the rural areas, it will make life a bit easier [for those people] and it will even make the world happy,” William said. “Because the joy of each and every family is to see the child come home from the hospital healthy.”

“Thank you very much for bringing this program to us,” William said. “It has taught us a lot, it has brought joy to my family. KMC is the reason why I can hold my babies, I can play with them, I can laugh with them. So all I can say is thank you very much.”

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TO SUPPORT OUR WORK IN KENYA AND AROUND THE WORLD.

Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program is a project that aims to reduce newborn deaths and improve newborn survival in high-mortality countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Health workers present when the baby is born can help the mother establish exclusive breastfeeding, and can support the mother to keep the baby warm through skin-to-skin contact – a technique known as Kangaroo Mother Care. Fathers play an important role by assisting mothers with KMC.

Sponsorship Helps Mali Father Follow his Passion to Help More Children

Save the Children in Mali

Abdoulaye is a passionate teacher, engaged father and proud sponsorship graduate in Mali. He became a sponsored child when he was 10 years old and his sponsor’s letters inspired him to work hard in school. “If I had not participated in the sponsorship program, I would not have gone to school and my life would be different than today,” he says. He still keeps a picture of his Save the Children sponsor, which reminds him of how his life has changed for the better.

Before sponsorship entered his community, Abdoulaye sporadically attended school, mainly because his parents didn’t understand the value of an education. Children in his community were sick with intestinal worms and anemia, which also prevented them from going to class. When sponsorship moved into Abdoulaye’s community, his parents learned how essential a quality education was to a child’s future success. Abdoulaye started attending school regularly where he received school supplies and deworming treatments, which helped start him on a path to success.

Now, Abdoulaye is a teacher, passing on his love of learning to the children in his classroom. As a father, Abdoulaye dreams for his own children to have bright futures filled with opportunity. Thanks to sponsorship, Abdoulaye is a very active father in his children’s lives, helping them with their schooling and encouraging them to do their best. Abdoulaye is working hard to make sure they get a good education, and is saving money so that he can go back to school and work in the education ministry.

Thanks to support from our child sponsors, Abdoulaye saw first-hand the value of an education. By working for the education ministry, he will soon be able to enact even more change for the children of Mali.

 

Keeping a Baby Close to Your Heart

Alicia Adler

Program Officer at Save the Children Malawi

January 9, 2016

Imagine spending at least 20 hours a day, 7 days a week with a baby strapped to your chest. Imagine you must eat, sleep, work and care for your other children along with a tiny baby who depends on your continuous skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding for survival. This is the basis of kangaroo mother care (KMC), a costeffective intervention to help meet a premature or low-birthweight babys basic needs for warmth, nutrition, stimulation and protection from infection.blog2

For Malawi, with the highest preterm birth rate in the world (18 per 100 live births), KMC is a critical lifesaving intervention. But too few premature babies receive KMC due to lack of awareness, limited resources, and stigma against both KMC and premature/low-birthweight infants. It is not surprising, then, that direct complications of preterm birth are the second leading cause of child deaths after pneumonia, and result in more than 14 newborn deaths every day in Malawi. 

To commemorate World Prematurity Day 2016 on November 17th, Save the Children staff in Malawi accepted the KMC Challenge. Participants practiced KMC with a baby doll for 24 hours – holding the doll throughout work hours, around town and at home for the night. The challenge was accepted by other partners across the country and globe.

Jessie Lwanda, an IT coordinator said, “By doing this challenge, we are saying, ‘let’s give these babies a chance to survive by showing them love and carrying them close to our heart.’”

I have a passion for every child to survive, said Mavis Khondiwa, a Save the Children grants coordinator based in the United States. Through this challenge I could understand what kind of burden those mothers with premature babies face. I really feel for them.

blog1Over the course of the day, 20 men and women got a glimpse into the life of a mother with a premature baby and all the issues it presents. Through what I experienced as a man doing the challenge, I think women need more help, said Nyashadzashe Kaunda, an awards management officer. Men should also be taking care of the child and helping throughout the whole KMC process, he said

At the end of the 24 hours, colleagues returned the dolls and resumed their normal lives. For women around the country, it isnt so easy, though, as their childs life depends on their continued commitment to practice KMC until the baby reaches a healthy weight. In a country where neonatal mortality accounts for 40 percent of all death in children under age 5, it is everyones responsibility to champion KMC, and not just on World Prematurity Day, but every day. 

Save the Children is helping shift norms around the value of newborns in Malawi through the government’s social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaign, Khanda ndi Mphatso (A Baby is a Gift: Give it a Chance), helping establish KMC sites of excellence in district hospitals, and collaborating with the Ministry of Health to develop a national routine reporting system for KMC services in health facilities.

To learn more about our work to improve newborn survival, click here.

Alicia Adler is a program officer and Global Health Corps fellow with Save the Children in Malawi.

A Teacher’s Process

Author Portrait_2_Mirvat Mahran, Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher
Mirvat Mahran

Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher

Save the Children Egypt

September 1, 2016

 

I’m Mirvat Mahran, a teacher at one the preschools supported by Sponsorship, in a village called Arab AlQadadeh in Egypt.

My preschool takes part in Sponsorship’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program, which targets children under the age of 6. This program focuses on the development of young children to ensure they enter primary school with the skills they need for school success. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, we help make sure children grow and thrive. In remote areas, where this important stage of life is often neglected, the ECCD program helps get children excited about education and thus increases enrollments in primary school.

On a regular work day, I perform activities with children to help build their social skills and teach them the basics they need to be ready for school. We welcome everybody, and in particular give special care to children with disabilities.

One of the children who joined us a while ago is Rania, a 5-year-old and very sweet little girl. Her mother tells us that before enrolling in ECCD, Rania always refused to talk or express herself. She wasn’t able to count to ten, didn’t know names of familiar animals, wasn’t able to identify names of many common objects to her surroundings and wasn’t able to put sentences together correctly. Her mother came to realize that she was significantly behind in language development.

Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat
Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat.

As a mother, she was willing to do whatever it took to help her daughter. She thought that a preschool might be the answer, and so decided to enroll Rania in a Save the Children supported preschool. As Rania’s new teacher, she explained to me her child’s issues and that she believed Rania had lost her self-confidence due to the laughter and criticism she endured from her peers. My biggest challenge with Rania was that I needed to avoid the same thing happening twice, so I had to welcome her very carefully, building her capacity using ECCD’s multi-activities package which is designed to promote the cognitive, physical, language and psycho-social skills of children her age.

I talked to her about the activities that the children here do to figure out what she loves best. She asked to play in the art corner and after she’d finished her drawing I asked her to describe it. I encouraged her to talk by giving her the impression that I understood her comprehensively. Gradually, I started to correct her and teach her the proper pronunciation of letters. In this way, her language skills developed as did her comfort in the classroom.

She began participating in our classroom’s reading corner, where she enjoyed reading and acting stories out in front of the other children. With her self-confidence rebuilt, she started to take part in the collective games, like playing with, and sharing, blocks and preforming plays with the other children.

Rania presents in front of her classmates
Rania presents in front of her classmates.

Now, Rania is able to clearly communicate and understand the others. I feel so happy for having a positive impact on her life. I felt responsible for her since the moment her mother came to me asking for help. I doubted myself at times, but the trainings I had received with Save the Children built a solid foundation that I relied on, and continue to rely on. Many of the mothers in our village turn to me whenever they face problems with their children. Now, I’m proud to say that Rania is looking forward to moving onto primary school next year!

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

Bourama Rises to the Occasion

Bourama at work in the clinic
Bourama at work in the clinic

Located in north-western Africa, Mali is a land-locked country where families and their children often suffer in the face of inadequate social services. In particular, children often experience difficulty accessing basic healthcare and quality education. Sponsorship has been operating in Mali for almost three decades helping to lift children out of extreme poverty. Bourama was one such child, born in the Ivory Coast 22 years ago. In 2000, he and his family moved to Mali.

 

Living as a young boy in Mali, Bourama faced many of these same challenges before entering the Sponsorship program. Given his family’s limited resources, he had been unable to purchase school supplies which caused him to regularly miss class. “I wasn’t interested in education. But that changed thanks to Sponsorship,” he shared. Without Sponsorship, it’s unlikely that Bourama would be where he is today – providing life-changing medical care to his local community.

The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years
The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years

Bourama was sponsored through Save the Children from 2001 to 2008. He remembers his sponsor’s name, the correspondence they sent back and forth, and the good advice she gave him. He still has a picture of her which he proudly shows visitors.

Picture of Bourama in 2006
Picture of Bourama in 2006

During that time he also benefited from extensive sponsorship-funded activities, such as access to clean drinking water and essential deworming and vitamin A supplements. This crucial support enabled Bourama to stay in good health and to complete his education, which then opened the door to new and exciting possibilities.

22-year-old Bourama today

 

For the past three years, Bourama has worked as a nurse’s aide in a private health clinic where he manages the treatment room. He loves his job and says it allows him to stay in contact with people and help them to relieve their suffering. He also aims to pursue higher education in hopes of moving on to a more specialized role within the medical business.

 

 

Still, Bourama always looks back in appreciation of his Sponsorship experience. As Bourama revealed, “I am what and who I am today in large measure because of Sponsorship programs.”

 

Sometimes, support from a caring sponsor can make all the difference in the world – something to keep in mind in your next letter!

 

To sponsor a child like Bourama, please visit our child sponsorship site