Shohayeb’s Dreams Come True!

Author Portrait_Md. Hasan Iqbal, Deputy Manager, Sponsorship Communications and Data Quality
Md. Hasan Iqbal

Deputy Manager, Sponsorship Communications and Data Quality

Save the Children in Bangladesh

March 19, 2018

Shohayeb is a 12-year-old boy studying in 7th grade, at a sponsorship supported school in Meherpur, Bangladesh. He was enrolled in the child sponsorship program in 2011 when he was only 7, although sponsorship has been working in his community since 2006.

During this time, Shohayeb has gained motivation in his studies, knowledge on good practices in his personal life, for example how to wash his hands properly and how to eat healthy, and learned about the many benefits of a strong education. His community has also become strengthened and more aware through sponsorship, realizing too the importance of education for their children, healthy living practices and how the prevention of early marriage benefits the long term development and prosperity of their community. Shohayeb’s community has also received material benefits like vitamin and iron supplements for malnourished children, and school infrastructure development such as safe water treatment, hygienic latrines and new learning materials like books.

In August of 2017, Shohayeb had the great excitement of meeting his sponsor, Hyeona from South Korea, for the first time, who has been sponsoring him since 2013. They spent two days together, talking, reading, drawing, taking photos with each other and just getting to know one another.

Shohayeb with his friend and sponsor, Hyeona.
Shohayeb with his friend and sponsor, Hyeona.

During this time, Shohayeb even got to celebrate Hyeona’s birthday with her, as it took place during their visit. It was an amazing journey with friends. Hyeona visited his school and met with his teacher and classmates. She saw how now, thanks to sponsors, classrooms have print-rich learning materials and posters, instead of blank walls. She even witnessed a vision screening test at his school, a service that wasn’t available to children with vision problems until sponsorship came to his school. Later, they spent time together making arts and crafts, playing ball games with Shohayeb and his classmates, and even dancing!

Shohayeb tells us he will never forget those memories. He shared many things about himself and his family with his friend from so far away. Hyeona also shared stories about herself and her experiences, so Shohayeb not only gained a close friend but also learned many new things.

Shohayeb shared after the visit, “Now I can look to the future and hope to fulfil my dreams. My friend [sponsor] supports me a lot, and encourages me in her letters. Sponsorship has done much more for me, my family, and my village. Thank you my friend, Hyeona Kim.”

It was a wonderful moment for both. During their farewell, Shohayeb expressed his feelings, “I never thought that I could meet my friend. Over the last two days I talked to my friend, we ate together, played together… I became very happy. But, she will go soon… I cannot see her more. I hope that we could meet in future. I wish that one day after I grow up, I will go to Korea to see my friend.”

Hyeona is proud to be Shohayeb's sponsor.
Hyeona is proud to be Shohayeb’s sponsor.

Hyeona also shared her experiences about her visit to the sponsorship programs in Bangladesh, “I feel very happy to have met with Shohayeb. He is a very nice person. I feel really proud of this good boy. He will be a very gentle man in the future. We enjoyed very much our time together. He drew a picture for me – that was wonderful. We took photos together of our memorable moments. I will never forget Shohayeb. I think he will remember me. And also I feel very cheerful because my support is effectively received for children’s wellbeing. After this visit, I understand how successfully and hard Save the Children has been working for the children.”

Where does your sponsored child live? Would you like to learn more about what life is like in that country, and how your sponsorship is changing the lives of children there? Consider making the big trip to visit. Contact our team in Fairfield, CT at ChildVisits@SaveChildren.org to learn more!

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

Working with Local Government

Author Portrait 1_Carolyn Alesbury, Education Specialist
Marianne O’Grady and Carolyn Alesbury

Education Specialists

Save the Children in Afghanistan

March 9, 2018

As the spring flowers brought color to the gardens, and the trees were waking up after a long and cold winter, we flew into Faryab to visit the sponsorship program. The trip was long overdue and as representatives of the technical team, we were delighted to see the high quality programming happening in Faryab and Sarepul.

The early childhood, school health and basic education programs in Afghanistan are strong, highly necessary and innovative. The sponsorship staff are team players, dedicated, focused and so engaged.  With Faryab and Sarepul under new and crippling security strains, the staff face extreme challenges reaching some communities – something that must now be factored into their planning to ensure programs still reach children. Our teams partner closely with the local Ministry of Education department to provide educational activities in areas that the government cannot access. Save the Children sponsorship programming is there to support children in preparing for and transitioning to primary school, as well as ensure they are healthy and able to stay in school once they get there.

Early Learners (left to right) Mursal, Atila and Zuhra.
Early Learners (left to right) Mursal, Atila and Zuhra.

In Afghanistan, the ministry is working to get national preschools in every village, but currently only a few early learning centers are in place and functioning in Kabul. Since we know that stimulating children’s cognitive, social, language and even reading and math skills at an early age is important to set them up for success as students later on, sponsorship has been working hard to address these challenges.

We are successfully modeling community-based early learning programs for these young students, usually ages 4 – 6, throughout the country, and in Faryab and Sarepul, the local ministry officials even came to Save the Children and asked us to incorporate these programs into the primary school curriculum. This innovative approach demonstrates our strong partnership with the local government.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit one of these early learning centers during our trip. The children were both excited and shy to sing and read with us, and to show off on the high quality playground equipment sponsors had provided here.

Early Learners benefiting from sponsorship in Faryab.
Early Learners benefiting from sponsorship in Faryab.

Another example of our close partnership with the local government could be seen in the health team’s recent visit. They provided blue prints for toilets that are low cost, high quality and long lasting. After much review with local ministry officials, sponsorship teams and village partners have built some of these new toilets at primary schools that had no toilets before or not enough to accommodate the number of students.

We are so proud of the program in Afghanistan and want to remind our sponsors, our members and our technical advisors that Afghan children are still in need.  We are working in some areas where other NGOs and the local government cannot reach – we hope that the inspiring and impactful efforts of our colleagues in Faryab can continue until all those needs have been addressed!

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

The Community Volunteer Experience

Author Portrait_Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín, Community Volunteers in Cuyagualo, Sonsonate
Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín

Community Volunteers

Save the Children in El Salvador

March 2, 2018

 

A dedicated nurse helping to improve the health of people in need, and a devoted teacher shaping the minds of future leaders. Those were the dreams of Rosa and Carolina, two sisters who have been community volunteers with Save the Children’s programs for nearly 8 years now. Unfortunately, when they were just teenagers a tragedy struck their family – their father passed away and their mother found herself overwhelmed with 6 children. Rosa and Carolina’s mother took the difficult decision of taking them out of school so they could work and help with the family income. Rosa and Carolina desire for their own children, and for all children in their community, the educational and development opportunities they couldn’t have for themselves. With their work, they are making Save the Children’s vision come to life: a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Before Save the Children came to our community, our leaders used to think only about projects to improve the infrastructure, mainly paving dirt roads. So when Victor, Save the Children in El Salvador’s Community Mobilization Coordinator, presented sponsorship programs to us, people were at first not very interested because it was about education, health and protection for children and adolescents, more than direct and more tangible improvements like new roads. Some people even told us that Save the Children was evil and they would steal the children in our community. Ignorance and indifference dominated people’s minds. It wasn’t easy, but after attending the community mobilization sessions, the leaders came to understand that Save the Children had to involve the entire community in these programs in order to implement them, and that no decisions would be made without their input. In these sessions we also discussed the importance that having a strong educational foundation, and skills in personal hygiene and health, would have for our children. Little by little, the minds of community members began to change.

Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!
Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!

We’ve been community volunteers for almost 8 years now. Back when we started, we had just one group of 5 – 10 children in our Early Learners programs. Today, we have seven active groups with nearly 30 children each. We’ve reached the hearts of so many mothers over those years, and now they know the importance of starting learning very early, before children enter primary school. Even the teachers are happier and satisfied, because children already know things such as how to hold a pencil, colors and vowels when they start kindergarten.

Another success has been changing people’s minds about the future of adolescents. In the past, adolescents would only study until 9th grade, then opt for the traditional, and considered easier, path of becoming a farmer, security guard, getting married or even joining a gang. Now, adolescents don’t want that anymore. They want to finish high school and go to college. With sponsorship support, our community management group has learned how to create projects and opportunities for adolescents. So far, we’ve managed to get 18 scholarships for students to continue higher education in high school or college this year. Our community now has adolescents with technical studies in computer engineering, who have become role models for the younger ones. Adolescents are also part of the community management committees.

Rosa with her niece, Idania.
Rosa with her niece, Idania.

The only regrets we have? All the wasted years without the knowledge we have now, the early childhood education we couldn’t give to our own children because we didn’t know anything about it. Our own children are grown-up now, but with our younger nieces and nephews we have put into practice all the strategies we teach to the other women in the community. We know for sure the Early Learning programs work, because we’ve seen the success in our niece Idania. She is just 18 months and can already say 55 words! Even the doctor is surprised with that!

We could share so many stories about the work we are able to accomplish in our community thanks to Save the Children, but in the end all of these success stories make us proud because we consider them our little triumphs!

Without dedicated community volunteers like Rosa and Carolina, Save the Children’s programs would not be possible. Children and families in their community are sure proud and thankful for having them, and being a part of their community’s growth themselves!

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

 

Through Viona’s Eyes

VicHeadshotWEBVictoria Zegler

Multimedia Storyteller

Save the Children in Indonesia

February 25, 2018

10-year-old Viona lives in a remote community tucked away in Central Sumba, Indonesia. She lives in a small village that does not have access to electricity or

Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!
Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!

running water. Poor hygiene is common in remote areas where Viona lives and children like her are faced with it every day. Prior to sponsorship, Viona did not understand the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to her success in school. Just last year, Viona suffered from malaria due to the lack of awareness of the illness and not being able to identify her symptoms.

In 2016, Viona was given the opportunity to become a Little Doctor at her school. The program, which is an innovation from the School Health and Nutrition program, enforces healthy lifestyle choices through peer-to-peer educational activities, an approach to help promote health within student groups. These activities include washing hands and monitoring the cleanliness of their classrooms, latrines and the school environment. “My favorite person is a doctor,” Viona said. “When I get older I want to be a doctor because they not only help sick people but many different people.”

Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.
Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.

Today, when Viona comes home from school, she now knows the importance of eating a healthy meal. She then takes a bath in the river by her house after learning the importance of staying clean to promote good health. Thanks to you, Viona can look to her future with hope. With your support, we can help more children like Viona understand the importance of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to their future success.

Adam Goes to Reading Camp

Author Portrait_Mossi Hamadou, Sponsorship Operations Officer
Mossi Hamadou

Sponsorship Operations Officer

Save the Children in Niger

February 23, 2018

Centuries after gaining independence, education is still a challenge in many African countries.

Among these is Niger, one of the poorest countries in Africa – a country in which the government is struggling to achieve food self-sufficiency, suitable health and education services for its population, and fight the challenges of endemic poverty.

Under these contexts, education, although a priority, is managed in a way that it has not responded to people’s expectations, particularly those who live in rural areas. Due to limited financial resources, the education system sometimes hires under-qualified teachers with little or no training, especially in rural communities where schools also lack basic supplies, materials and equipment like books, guides for teachers or benches for children to sit on.

Fortunately, the sponsorship program is working to address these challenges in the communities of Tchadoua and Aguié by improving learning environments in schools and starting literacy strengthening programs, like reading camps in the communities.

12-year-old Adam has grown a lot since joining reading camps.
12-year-old Adam has grown a lot since joining reading camps.

Adam is 12 years old and lives in Aguié. Like many of his peers, he has really developed as a student thanks to his participation in reading camps through sponsorship.

When Adam first joined sponsorship, he, like many of the other children in Aguié, could hardly read the alphabet. Born in a large family comprised of twenty members, he was not receiving any support in his education while they all struggled to make ends meet. Sometimes he came to school hungry, without having any breakfast. He did not like school, largely because they could not afford any books or writing materials for him to use. He often left class or didn’t attend school at all, and felt no confidence in his studies.

But the sponsorship program has changed everything for the better. The schools are now provided with supplies and materials for their students. Reading camps are set-up in the villages, where children can learn in a child-friendly environment that makes learning fun through games and interactive lessons. There they sing songs, learn rhymes and complete puzzles that improve their reading and writing skills.

Due to his regular attendance of the reading camps, Adam who initially was unable to read a two-syllable word, can now read long words on his own.  “The reading camp has helped me improve my reading ability, I can read words, but not fluently.” He admits shyly, “We easily learn at the camp because it’s a free learning environment. We play, we sing and we feel free to take any book you want. Our instructor is very kind with us. I like school as I want to become a lawyer.’’ Adam tells us proudly.

Adam and his classmate Raouda show their dreams for the future.
Adam and his classmate Raouda show their dreams for the future.

Today, Adam does very well. At the last examination he was the fifth in his class, out of fifty pupils. Before joining the reading camps, he was only ranking as twentieth in terms of grades and school performance. He is highly motivated and hopes to be the first member of his family to complete secondary school.

Adam is supported in his dream by his father who is also proud of the changes he’s seen in his son. “Adam has changed now and is performing well, it’s thanks to the intervention of Save the Children which brought the reading camps. Children play more in reading camps and they learn better because they feel free. We who are parents have been sensitized on the importance of education and we are conscious that intelligence is the shield of life,” said Rabiou, with an expressive smile.

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

To Be a Teacher

Author Portrait_Simone Jussar, Quality Communications Coordinator
Simone Jussar

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Mozambique

February 16, 2018

In the Nacala-a-Velha region of Mozambique, in a community called Locone, lives the little Sara, a 10-year-old student in grade 2, who like many other children in her community dreams to be a teacher.

Save the Children in Mozambique has been working hard to improve the quality of education in rural Mozambique for children like Sara, such as by training teachers and school managers, forming school councils, and promoting and developing new school activities for students like reading fairs and camps.

Sara tells us, “I want to be a teacher to help other children in the community.”

Sara attending a reading camp lesson./center>
Sara attending a reading camp lesson.

In the beginning of the school year, Sara had poor performance and lacked confidence in the classroom. She was ashamed because she couldn’t solve the math exercises, and couldn’t yet read the alphabet easily or participate in the lessons. Her teacher tells us that in collaboration with Save the Children staff, parents like Saras’s father and other community members, the community came together to create reading camps. These camps would host sessions twice a week for struggling learners like Sarah, to offer the extra support they need outside of school – although all children are encouraged to attend.

Community members with some education or good literacy skills, and talents for entertaining and connecting with young children, are selected as reading camp promoters. They are constantly receiving trainings through sponsorship to improve their teaching abilities. The promoters identify children’s individual difficulties and host sessions in the mornings or afternoons, and focus on building numeracy and literacy skills. By ensuring camps provide child-centered educational games, fun, lively lessons, plentiful and interesting books and a supportive environment, children gradually gain confidence and develop a love for learning.

After just one month of attending the lessons at reading camps with the other children, Sara’s school performance began to improve.

She was able to remember so much more, like names of animals, objects and other words in her world.  She also developed a good understanding of numbers, started to understand and solve basic mathematics exercises, and was finally able to read the alphabet without hesitation. At school, she became one of the most outstanding students, always turning in her homework correctly, helping her classmates to do their homework and solve math problems. Her confidence in the classroom had blossomed, and she became a frequent participant in all her classes. Specifically, Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique, became her favorite subject. “We make lessons more fun with some song and dance, in order to ensure that the child is happy and ready to learn, and Sara is improving her skills,” shares Momade, Sara’s reading camps promoter.

Sara participating in a lesson about vowels.
Sara participating in a lesson about vowels.

Sara continues to improve significantly in her school performance and grades. “I remember when she used to just participate in the lessons when she was called on. Today, she is one of the most responsible of the group in her grade,” shared her teacher, Tuaha.

Now she is very happy to attend lessons. “I like to be here at the reading camp and I also enjoy learning, because together with Momade, we play, sing and dance,” Sara smiled. Today, sponsorship in Mozambique has over 80 reading camps supported by our sponsors, reaching over 10,600 children.

Many children are now experiencing a love for learning for the first times in their lives, thanks to you!

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

Nadia’s Visit to Sarangani

Author Portrait_Cheeko Garcia, Media and Communications Officer, Mindanao
Cheeko Garcia

Media and Communications Officer

Save the Children Philippines

February 9, 2018

Early morning one day in August, we picked up Nadia, a sponsor who has been supporting Ariane and her community for more than a year now, by raising funds with her local karate club back in Italy. Although Nadia came all the way from Italy, I did not see a hint of tiredness on her face. Our two-hour drive to reach Ariane’s community was filled with stories between Nadia and Save the Children staff, talking about our many differences, and even more similarities.

When we finally got to our destination, we were greeted by cheerful teachers and a curious group of students. Though the teachers were expecting us, none of the children knew about our visit, except for one – Ariane. Her parents later revealed that she had been very eagerly waiting for this day to happen, when she would finally meet her sponsor.

Nadia, Ariane along with her family and teacher go for a tour of the school.
Nadia, Ariane along with her family and teacher go for a tour of the school.

Ariane is 7 years old and is growing up in a secluded, rural village in Sarangani, a province with a 230 kilometer coastline at the southernmost tip of Mindanao island. She is a bit shy, but nonetheless eager to learn in school. Her parents both work as tenant farmers, earning only a minimal wage which is barely enough for their family of five. She is among the many students in her school that Save the Children helps through its sponsorship program.

Though she had received letters from Nadia, and seen photos of her in those letters, it was the first time Ariane had met a foreigner up close, so she was initially a bit hesitant. Nadia warmed her up by showing her photos of the other members of the karate club. Ariane slowly became more comfortable and soon enough, they were smiling and taking photos together.

The school was so excited for Nadia’s visit that they prepared a bounty of fresh fruits and other local food, including freshly harvested coconuts. All of us, including Ariane and her family, shared an extravagant meal of locally produced rice, corn, fish, chicken and vegetables.

Nadia and Ariane pose for a selfie.
Nadia and Ariane pose for a selfie.

Shortly after that, we went to Ariane’s classroom where a story was being read to the students by their teacher. The storybooks provided by Save the Children are written in the local language, making it easier for the pupils to understand the content and allow them to actively participate during the discussions. A big part of sponsorship programs in the Philippines is spreading the use of mother tongue-based multilingual education, meaning teaching in children’s’ first languages rather than in the national language, Filipino, which is not necessarily spoken by families in these remote areas.

Trying my best to sum up a reflection on this experience, one word kept emerging – inspiration. Inspiration is contagious, and I saw it spread among the people I met through this day. Nadia and the members of her karate club back in Italy were inspired by stories of children who are in need. Nadia’s visit inspired Ariane to see more of the world and to fulfil her ambition of becoming a doctor. Ariane’s parents got inspired to keep her in school, and I, as a Save the Children staff, saw the connection between the sponsor and the child and it inspired me to reminisce the value of the work we do.

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

Growing Through Letters

Author Portrait_Gehad Radwan, Sponsorship Operations Assistant
Gehad Radwan

Sponsorship Operations Assistant

Save the Children in Egypt

February 2, 2018

Greetings! My name is Gehad, I am 23 years old and I work as a Sponsorship Operations Assistant in Abnoub, Egypt.

In every trip to the field, I live the best and greatest moments when children hear from and write to their sponsors. I know by watching them write about their feelings, adventures and new experiences that children write to their sponsors with lots of passion – each line seems to never be enough, as they want to narrate more and more.

Children from Abnoub seem to be so excited and astonished when they read a letter from a sponsor which describes what it is like in a foreign country. Hearing stories about the different places have made them realize that the world is bigger than they ever imagined it to be. Sponsor letters help children smile, which makes me smile. They share the name of their sponsors proudly with their family and friends, and always look very happy when they speak about them. The children are always eager to give more and more information about their hobbies, family and their daily activities.

Lately, I can see that the children who receive correspondences from their sponsors became more creative and interested in different activities and hobbies. Especially for girls, their minds have been opened to new ideas and what would be considered untraditional thoughts in the Egypt context. According to these traditions, many girls have not been allowed to participate in outdoor activities, or even complete their education as their parents did not see educating girls as important.

Gehad drawing with Hager, a girl in a sponsorship-supported school.
Gehad drawing with Hager, a girl in a sponsorship-supported school.

Girls now are encouraged to go to school, play sports, draw and read, all activities that were restricted to boys in the past. They have a chance to share their interests and dreams with their sponsors too, and ask for their guidance and ideas in thinking about what they actually want in the future. Sponsors help children in Abnoub realize the sky is the limit, and their dreams, no matter how big, are possible. Likewise, sponsorship programs like campaigns in communities are helping parents understand that educating their daughters can be a source of pride.

When I was helping one of the sponsored children here, 10-year-old Hassan, respond to his sponsor’s letter, I was amazed when he updated his sponsor with “I attended Summer Camps, I learned the name of the most common diseases, how to prevent them and I received toothpaste and a toothbrush, and I felt proud when I shared this useful information with my friends and family. After attending the health campaign I became determined to be a doctor to help people to live better and protect themselves from dangerous diseases.” Hasan was talking about an event organized by our school health and nutrition team, which involves children in games and fun while also spreading messages about topics like personal hygiene and nutrition.

Gehad delivering letters to Osama, Nourhan and Shahd.</em
Gehad delivering letters to Osama, Nourhan and Shahd.

Generally, children surprise me all the time. Writing letters is an amazing skill that they gained from Save the Children and its sponsors. It gives children the chance to express themselves, think of their future, determine what they love, and exchange their opinions and thoughts freely.

In my first year working with Save the Children, I would like to thank all the children for what I learned from them during these amazing moments. If I were able to meet all their sponsors, I would tell them that they have all the reasons to be proud of their sponsored children.

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

The sky’s the limit for sponsored children!

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![Philippines][Dial Grace][Formerly sponsored child][photo taken during AFU collection in 2002]

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.

[Philippines][Dial Grace][Formerly sponsored child][portrait 1]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.

Families Celebrate in Haiti

Author Portrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Servicing Coordinator
Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Servicing Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

January 26, 2018

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.

Families gathering for mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church.
Families gathering for mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church.

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.

One of the many historic forts in Dessalines.
One of the many historic forts in Dessalines.

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!

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