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.

A Visit to Remember

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.

sponsor with family

 

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.”

sponsor with club members

 

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.

Thanks from Massouma

Author Portrait
By Massouma, Transcribed and edited by Anisa Zari

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

January 19, 2018

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.

Masoda, Soraya, Massouma and Hajira learning about preventing disease in their health group.
Masoda, Soraya, Massouma and Hajira learning about preventing disease in their health group.

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.

Massouma outside the old school building, before sponsors supported new classrooms.
Massouma outside the old school building, before sponsors supported new classrooms.

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!

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

Floods Do Not Wash Away Hopes

Author Portrait_Rubina Raut, Sponsorship Program Officer
Rubina-Raut

Sponsorship Program Officer

Save the Children in Nepal-Bhutan

January 8, 2018

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.

Children in Saptari taking refuge in temporary shelters while their homes are submerged in flood waters.
Children in Saptari taking refuge in temporary shelters while their homes are submerged in flood waters.

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.

Floods consuming a small village.
Floods consuming a small village.

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?

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

My School, A Place that Makes Me Feel Safe

mexico
By Melany

Edited by Selvia Vargas

Sponsorship Community Mobilizer

Save the Children Mexico

December 15, 2017

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.

Melany shows how she’s learned to write her name.
Melany shows how she’s learned to write her name.

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.

 Melany playing with blocks, getting ready to build a “robot”.

Melany playing with blocks, getting ready to build a “robot”.

“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!

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

To Learn and To Play

Capture
Yasintha Bere

Data Quality and Communication Officer

Save the Children in Indonesia

December 8, 2017

“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.

After the Reading Camp was established, children like Maksimilianus, Fransiska and Ananda came with great enthusiasm.
After the Reading Camp was established, children like Maksimilianus, Fransiska and Ananda came with great enthusiasm.

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.

Author Yasintha working with kids who benefit from sponsorship programs like Reading Camps.
Author Yasintha working with kids who benefit from sponsorship programs like Reading Camps.

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!

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

Readers’ Theater Opening Night

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAmanda Kohn

Sponsorship Director

Save the Children U.S. Programs

October 13, 2017

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, I remember that I left my Dramamine in the suitcase.  There is no cellphone signal on these winding roads taking me down and around sharp curves. As such, I’m not able to search my iPhone for a Walgreens. And come to think of it, I haven’t really seen any kind of store in the last twenty minutes. Did I mention that I’m in America? This road I’m navigating (and stomaching) is taking me to an elementary school nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, in one of the poorest counties in the United States.

To be clear, this community is poor in resources, but certainly not in spirit.

As we pull into the parking lot, we see a “Welcome Save the Children” message on the school’s billboard. The lot is already full of cars, and little ones are tugging at the hands of their grown-ups to get through the doors. It’s now dark, and Thursday. Oh to have that much enthusiasm at the end of the week! We stroll in behind them, our arms loaded down with boxes of books donated from Scholastic, who partners with U.S. Programs to get more books into the hands of the children we serve. The closer we get to the library, the louder the conversational hum gets. I thought this was going to be a small family night for first graders.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.

We are greeted by a woman wearing a Save the Children shirt. She presents an air of leadership, so I assume she is the Principal. “Welcome to our school! We are so glad y’uns could make it out. The kids are so excited to do their Readers’ Theater. Everybody’s here,” she smiled and added with a Southern twang.

The library is packed. Parents, grandparents, babies, children convincingly dressed as animals, other non-animal children… We found a corner of the room, and the woman who greeted us turned her attention to addressing the crowd. She introduces the Save the Children visitors, and proceeds to enthusiastically share the school’s sponsorship program plan with the community.

She remembers to introduce herself, “Oh, and I’m Belinda, the Sponsorship Community Liaison.”  She’s not the Principal, but an extremely motivated and proud community member who works with sponsorship. I’m floored. And thrilled!

This was the first Literacy Family Engagement night for the school, paid for by Save the Children sponsorship, of many more planned for the rest of the year. This school joined us as a new partner, trying out this new program seeking to reach more children, and empower more communities to come together to help kids be successful at school. This night was the culmination of months of planning between the school, parents, members of the community and Save the Children. For me, it felt like the culmination of four years of my life as the Director of Sponsorship in the United States. Seeing this program play out before my very eyes was more gratifying than I can explain. But I’ll try.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater.

You see, we’ve always been a little different here in the U.S. Poverty looks very dissimilar internationally, and the needs of children overseas are certainly more obvious at a glance. This is not the case in rural America. Addressing the impact poverty makes on children here is not always providing basic needs, installing running water, or building a school. Here, it’s more subtle. The road out of poverty is more winding and curved, but after what I’ve seen tonight, I think we’ve found some capable navigators. Right there they stood, packed into a library wearing tails, whiskers and duck feet, reading aloud to their families and community while acting out the story.

These first graders will be navigating their way right out of the hills of have-not, around the twists and turns of grade-level reading, and upward to the peaks of their own success. In the U.S. a child’s chances of breaking the cycle of poverty are only as good as the quality of their education. Similar to my car-sick journey to the school, the road out of poverty is long and daunting when you’re not equipped with the things you need for the journey. But these kids have something special – this community, and more than 21,000 sponsors in the U.S. providing support along the way. Thanks to sponsors, these students have new books to read and activities like the Readers’ Theater to participate in, getting both kids and parents excited about education and the future.

Despite the darkness peaking behind those smoky mountains, the future is looking really bright for kids in this small, rural town.

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