Gelane Goes Back to School

Author Portrait_Temesgen Afeta, Community Mobilization & Communications Coordinator
Temesgen Afeta

Community Mobilization & Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Ethiopia

August 4, 2017

In the remote and rural West Showa district of Ethiopia, not all parents have equal understanding of the importance in sending their children to school, and how this helps them become productive adults and succeed in life. Some may not even think about helping their children in their education, as most lack the awareness on how significant a quality education can be for shaping their children’s futures.

12-year-old Gelane lives in a community where Save the Children sponsorship funded programs started in 2011. Initially, there had been no school in her village, and parents had been sending their children far away to get to school, or kept them at home altogether. In order to reach the closest school, children would need to travel an average of 3 hours a day on foot. Often, only the stronger, older children would be able to make the journey, however many older children are also pulled out of school to help support their families. Additionally, the teachers that were available were untrained and used traditional, rote memorization teaching methods that do not create a supportive learning environment for children. All this combined to keep attendance rates very low and, for what children did attend, learning was difficult and not interactive or fun.

Thanks to support from our sponsors, Save the Children was able to build a brand new school, train the teachers, provide learning materials and speak to parents about the importance of sending their children to school. Since then, all the children in the community have been going to school. Currently, the nearly 200 children from preschool to grade 4 who are now attending the new school would have found it nearly impossible to reach a school before. Through sponsorship across West Showa, new classrooms have been built in almost 50 different schools, supporting more than 30,000 children in accessing a quality education.

12-year-old Gelane is happy and proud to finally be back in school.
12-year-old Gelane is happy and proud to finally be back in school.

Gelane, though she went to the old school, had struggled in completing grades or attending consistently due to the distance and lack of engaging lessons once she got there. She dropped out in grade 3, already falling behind other students at just 9 years old. Her parents needed her support to handle extra chores around the home, while her older siblings were allowed to continue learning instead. Gelane was out of school and at home for an almost unbearably long two years.

Despite construction of the new school, dialogue amongst community members was still needed to sensitize parents and caregivers about the importance of an education. As a result of these efforts, sponsorship staff finally convinced Gelane’s parents that she should return to school.

With Gelane’s dream of returning to school realized, she has been able to continue her learning in the same grade from when she had been forced to drop out. Today, she is enjoying school with both old and new friends, and participating in sponsorship’s literacy, numeracy and school health and nutrition programs at school. She found the school environment she returned to was full of new storybooks and lively and fun lessons for her to participate in. For example, through the newly established Girls’ Club, she is gaining important knowledge about how to keep her body safe and healthy as she becomes a woman – something she couldn’t get a word on from either of her parents at home as the topic is considered taboo. Additionally, at the newly established community learning center in her village, also set-up thanks to sponsors, she is able to practice her reading skills outside of school or on the weekends by using or borrowing the reading materials now available there.

Gelane studying with some classmates from her sponsorship supported school.
Gelane studying with some classmates from her sponsorship supported school.

Today, Gelane dreams of completing all the grades in school, like her peers. She hopes that the support she is getting both in school and at the community learning center will help make this dream a reality.

Gelane’s teacher, Shure, shared, “There are many children like Gelane, in the communities, who are born with a lot of potential but unlucky in getting a chance to make their dreams successful… Save the Children is supporting on this through community mobilization, and go-to-school and back-to school-campaigns. Many children are getting back to school as a result. We hope the situation will improve.”

Little by little, things are changing in Ethiopia, and the children and families there have sponsors to thank for that. Thank you for your support to brighten the future for children in West Showa!

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

Nahomie Empowers Other Girls

Author Potrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator
Edited by Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

July 31, 2017

Hello, I am Nahomie and I am fourteen years old. I live with my parents and my three siblings in a community named Villard in Dessalines, Haiti. As the eldest, I usually help my siblings with their homework and my mother with the household chores such as washing clothes and dishes. My favorite subject is Math. Also, I enjoy playing hide and seek, hopscotch and jump rope with my friends and schoolmates.

As a typical teenager, I have a group of friends and we do everything together. For example, we like to wear the same kinds of clothes, and when one friend had her first boyfriend, we all wanted boyfriends.  Following the group, I had my first boyfriend last year.

Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.
Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.

In my community in Haiti, parents aren’t comfortable talking with us about sex – it is a taboo subject to discuss with people my age, regardless of if we are boys or girls. I had a lot of questions about having a boyfriend, and I didn’t know where to go.

Thanks to Save the Children’s program set-up for teens like me, I was able to seek out a friendly environment to ask questions about sex, my changing body and becoming an adult. Through sponsorship’s adolescent development programs, our teachers, school principals, school councils, or Parent Teacher Associations, and community partners receive training on Sexual Education and child-friendly ways for adults to talk about sexual and reproductive health issues with students.

As a result of these programs, a health-care worker came to my school to talk about the services that were available at the health center in our community. After hearing them speak, I went to the health center to see how I could get involved and learn more. I started participating in a student club, that both helps spread health messages to people my age but also helps build my own leadership skills and self-confidence. I was able to not only find answers to the questions I wanted to ask, but was able to discuss these questions with both adults and peers in a place I felt safe.

Today, I feel comfortable speaking about my experiences as a growing girl in my community, and using my voice to create awareness among the others about how sexual intercourse at such young age can be harmful for our lives and our futures. Waiting until a more mature age can help us avoid a lot of mistakes, such as an early pregnancy, that would affect us for the rest of our lives.

Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.
Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.

Whenever I want, I can seek more information about my sexual and reproductive health at the health center, where now I am always welcomed by staff who can offer even more information. I go there for myself, but also to create awareness and prevent adolescents like me from feeling influenced by pressures from their friends, and instead to make the best decision for their own well-being.

I am proud and thankful to Save the Children, this is a very good program! After meeting with the healthcare workers, I am now inspired to grow up to be like them. I work even harder at school so I can finish my studies in order to become a nurse. I will continue with the work they started in my community and help other adolescents who are in need. This is the dream I am now cherishing.

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

Now I Can Read the Books by Myself

Author Portrait_Fahim Shahriar, Deputy Manager - Sponsorship Communication and Data QualityFahim Shahriar

Deputy Manager, Sponsorship Communication and Data Quality

Save the Children in Bangladesh

July 21, 2017

Sajib is now over 7 years old, and lives with his family in the slums of Rayerbazar, an area with run-down, overcrowded and unsafe informal housing, in Dhaka North City, one of the areas in which sponsorship works in Bangladesh. His father Fazlu pulls rickshaws in order to support their family, and his mother Ajufa works supporting the home. He is the youngest among 4 siblings, and has been involved in Save the Children’s sponsorship program since May of 2016.

Before sponsorship came to Dhaka North City, children had very few opportunities to learn or play outside of school. They could be seen usually aimlessly wandering the meandering slum city paths and streets. No one had talked to their parents about how important receiving an education could be for their children, and so parents would not involve themselves in supporting their children’s schooling. Sajib and other children from the slums had irregular attendance and didn’t enjoy reading, because they found it so difficult and because there were so few books available to them. As a 1st grader, Sajib had trouble recognizing the letters of the alphabet, and could not read any books on his own.

Sajib and his parents came to know about sponsorship by attending a gathering hosted by Save the Children for parents in their community. After that, they began to understand the impact sponsorship, and having a strong foundational education, could have on their son’s future.

Sajib reading a storybook with friends Firoza and Rabibul at the center.
Sajib reading a storybook with friends Firoza and Rabibul at the center.

Thanks to these programs, Sajib’s learning abilities have been transformed. He now has the great joy of attending after-school programming at the sponsorship supported community center in his neighborhood. There he is greeted by a child-friendly learning environment, with walls covered in colorful posters and images, and shelves full of print-rich materials.

He shares proudly, “Now, I am reading in grade two at school. After school, I love going to Shishu Mela [local sponsorship supported community center], because my many friends go there. We read storybooks and play games together there.”

At sponsorship programs Sajib was also introduced to a child-centered teaching style for the first time, which employs interactive and fun learning techniques to keep him engaged in the daily lessons. “Apa reads the books to us in special way, I like that and for this reason, I go to the center,” he shares about the way the center facilitator, Apa, reads books to them in an entertaining way that captures their imaginations – storytelling with rhythm and pace, pausing at the exciting parts and speaking with feeling to convey the characters’ emotions.

“I participate in storytelling sessions and I have learned spellings of words,” he continues proudly, “Now, I enjoy reading stories and sometimes I borrow books from the center to read at home. Because of this center, now I can read the books by myself.”

Adding to his new found reading skills, Sajib and his family are very happy to get connected with their new friend abroad who is contributing to the wellbeing of their community in so many ways. “I am feeling so special after knowing that I have got a new friend in abroad, because not all other children here in my community have such a friend,” shares Sajib, describing the newly formed friendship with his sponsor, Casey, who started sponsoring him in December of 2016.

Sajib preparing a drawing for his sponsor, Casey.
Sajib preparing a drawing for his sponsor, Casey.

With the encouragement in letters from his sponsor and the enjoyment and new found confidence he has from learning at the community center, Sajib is flourishing. He attends school regularly now and reads on his own time outside of school.

His mother Ajufa shared, “I am so happy to know that my son Sajib is chosen by someone from abroad for friendship. I have learned the importance of such a friendship by seeing his progress after attending sessions at the community center. He can read stories by himself and his reading habit has increased too. He is teaching us handwashing and hygiene practices that he is learning at the center. These changes are happening to him because of [the] sponsorship contribution of foreign friends [sponsors]. Like my son, many other children of our community are also benefitting through sponsorship support. I want this relationship with his friend to continue!”

We know that receiving letters from sponsors makes a huge impact on sponsored children, giving them a sense of pride and self-worth. Sajib concludes, “I am very much excited as I could have written about myself and drawn a picture for my friend, which is the first time for me. I have loved writing and drawing a lot as those are shared with my friend through Save the Children. Now, I am waiting to hear from my friend and very eager to know more about him.”

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

Steven Gets Motivated

Author Portrait_Steven, Sponsored Child
Naicee Martin

Program Specialist

Save the Children U.S. Programs

July 13, 2017

Steven is 9 years old and participates in our sponsorship and afterschool programs in California. Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer. He also likes going to the library and learning about different animals. Steven enjoys corresponding with his sponsor and has fun composing letters. He said that on days when he is feeling sad the letters make him smile. Steven’s older sister passed away last year so this has been an important source of support for him. He likes to learn about different places and was curious about his sponsor’s life.

9-year-old Steven participates in sponsorship and afterschool programs in California.
9-year-old Steven participates in sponsorship and afterschool programs in California.

Steven began participating in the program 2 years ago when he was struggling with reading and homework. In the past year, Steven has made great improvements in his reading skills and now enjoys reading. His self-confidence has also improved. The encouragement and support he received from Save the Children programs helped him to keep moving forward while coping with the loss of his sister.

Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer.
Steven loves being outside and is learning to play football and soccer.

Steven’s teacher shared that she has noticed that Steven is interacting more in the classroom and is able to understand more than he did at the beginning of the year. He has built strong friendships in the afterschool program that motivate him in the classroom. Steven’s other sister shared, “His self-esteem has gotten so much better. Being in the program and getting to try new things, reading new books and playing new games really makes him happy.” The sponsorship and afterschool programs have supported Steven in strengthening his reading skills and self-confidence while providing support as he dealt with a traumatic event in his life.

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

 

From Counting Leaves to Solving Math Problems

Author Portrait_Jussar Simone, Quality Communications Coordinator
Jussar Simone

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Mozambique

July 7, 2017

In the rural farming community of Muendaze in Nacala-a-Velha, Mozambique, lives a family of 5 – mother, father and 3 children, one of them 6 year old Issufo. After participating in community mobilization campaigns organized by Save the Children, in 2014 Maiassa, Issufo’s mother, was motivated to improve Issufo’s educational development. Despite he was not yet old enough for primary school, she learned through the campaigns in her community that, now thanks to sponsorship, there were a lot of important learning opportunities that he could be involved in even at 6, and decided to enroll Issufo in sponsorship’s early childhood learning programs.

With sponsorship support, the Muendaze community was able to construct a location specifically to host young children, usually ages 4 – 6, in learning foundational skills that help set them up for success in primary school. Save the Children also helps to train center facilitators, who are taught how to use active learning, like songs, games and storytelling, to foster vital learning skills such as in emergent math and reading.

“During the first week’s lessons, Issufo was still a shy and introverted child. However, it was possible to start to see some positives changes in his behavior,” his mother told us.

A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.
A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.

Facilitators in these centers teach their young students language skills, improve their knowledge of letters and numbers, teach them how to draw, and develop their counting skills, using locally available materials to supplement more modern teaching tools. For example, mango trees are found throughout the villages in this part of Mozambique, so children practice their counting using mango fruits and leaves.

“[At home] the [facilitator] asks us to actively participate in our children’s development, by doing small exercises and mental calculations, such as counting leaves at home,” shares Maiassa regarding little Issufo.

An important part of sponsorship’s early learning programs in Muendaze is to teach parents how to better communicate with their children and help them develop learning skills at home too – since our experience shows that learning works best when it takes place both in school and out.

After two years in the early learning center, the little Issufo and his fellow classmates graduated from the program. A small graduation ceremony was held at the end of the school year, to help the young students celebrate and feel pride in their scholastic achievements. It was on a Friday, in the shade of the early learning center, Issufo received his graduation certificate in the presence of many guests, including parents, facilitators and the community’s leader – all came to witness this important step towards primary school and their continuing education.

Today, Issufo is able to interact with adults in the community easily and with confidence, speaking the words well and showing off his constantly improving vocabulary in Portuguese. Despite being the national language, local languages like Emakwa are more commonly spoken than Portuguese in these rural areas, so Issufo is very proud to show what he knows.

Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.
Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.

Now he is enjoying first grade and is one of the best students in his class. When asked about school he shared, “I’m happy, and I like to study, to solve mathematical exercises… When I grow up I want to be a mathematics teacher!”

Thanks to the skills developed in the early learning center, he was prepared to face the first grade without problems. “The children who come from the centers are more open and motivated (…) indeed the center makes our work much easier,” said Fatima, his first grade teacher.

During 2016, the early childhood learning program graduated nearly 2,000 children in the region where Issufo lives. He is just an example of the importance of this program. His mother shared, “I’m very happy because now my son can play, sings and likes to count… I know that he will pass to second grade, so we can see now that we made a great decision for the development of our child. Thank you very much Save the Children for helping us!”

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

 

Berta’s First Letter Ever

Author Portrait_By Carla Urrutia, Sponsorship Quality Communications Coordinator
Carla Urrutia

Sponsorship Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in El Salvador

June 28, 2017

In El Salvador, during primary school, letter writing is a skill every student must learn. I confirmed this with Berta, a 14-year-old girl who still remembers vividly the layout of a formal letter, which she probably learned in third grade. “A letter should start with the date, a greeting, the body, closing and a signature,” she shares while thinking back to her lessons. Everything she did back then was a letter-writing exercise in class, but she never imagined that knowledge would become useful to her in the future.

In the rural communities sponsorship works in, I have seldom met a girl with such confidence and straightforward goals as Berta. As I listen to her speak, I realize how special she is. I am amazed at how much one can learn from a child in just a few minutes!

Berta wants to be a forensic anthropologist. I was impacted by her answer and pleasantly surprised as I imagine any reader would be with Berta´s choice of profession, coming from a girl living in a remote rural area with little or no contact with the rest of the world! I asked her why, or if she knows what a forensic anthropologist does. She answered, “It’s because of a TV series that I used to watch, the name is ‘Bones’, I really loved it but it´s discontinued.” Her mother laughs and tells me she liked that TV series too. And for their surprise, I tell them I loved it too! So clearly we talked about Dr. Brennan and special agent Booth for a while!

Berta and her younger brother Alejandro in front of an old playhouse of theirs, at their home in Sonsonate, El Salvador.
Berta and her younger brother Alejandro in front of an old playhouse of theirs, at their home in Sonsonate, El Salvador.

After Berta and I have shared some common interests, she’s very proud to talk about some of her special treasures – the letters she receives from her sponsor!

She was 11 years old when she received her first letter ever in her life, from her sponsor. Before that, she had only learned about letters in school. “My sponsor asked me if I wanted to be her friend, and said she wanted to learn more about me.” Berta tells me she replied using the layout of a formal letter she learned in school, “I wrote the date and the greeting, then the body of the letter, all very formal. But after 3 or 4 letters we were friends already, and I wasn’t that formal anymore.”

Since that first letter, Berta and her sponsor have developed a meaningful relationship through their letter writing. For the past three years they have written back and forth, and little by little Berta found she needed more and more space to writer longer and longer letters to her new friend.

“I felt that 5 lines were not enough to write everything I wanted to share with her, and that’s how I came up with the idea of making colorful envelopes.” Today, Berta’s letters for her sponsor are very unique. She came up with the idea to personalize them by making a small envelope with colored paper, where she fits as many pages as she needs to reply to each letter.

Berta proudly shows her two favorite letters from her sponsor.
Berta proudly shows her two favorite letters from her sponsor.

“When I talk to her [through letters], I feel I’m unique, I feel we have a very unique friendship. She says she loves me, and I have said I love her, too. She says I’m a star and wants me to keep studying, she’s happy because I have excellent grades!” Berta shares proudly.

Berta tells me some of her friends are also sponsored, but she is the only one who receives letters frequently. “I know some sponsors are busy, but they should make some time to write a letter, because we feel happy when we receive a letter, it feels good to know sponsors have some time for us.”

Have you written to your sponsored child recently? Consider taking just a few minutes out of your day to inspire your sponsored child, and make a connection with someone who lives so far away and whose life may be very different from your own. You may also find you have more in common with your sponsored child than you thought! We guarantee, you will make him or her feel very, very special.

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

A Letter to Save the Children

Author Portrait_Victoria Zegler, Multimedia Storyteller
Victoria Zegler

Multimedia Storyteller

Save the Children U.S.

June 19, 2017

“Thank you for helping refugees for us!” 7-year-old Miriam from New York wrote in her letter to Save the Children back in January. Miriam and her younger brother Simon, 6, both wrote letters to the organization thanking them for the work they do for refugees.

“I wanted to write to Save the Children because I am thankful for the people who help the refugees,” said Simon.

Simon and Miriam have two older brothers and a baby sister. The family was living in London at the time the Syria crisis began to pick up a lot of media attention, but has since moved back to the United States. After the more recent attention in the public eye on the Syria crisis grew even more, their mother Jo, felt compelled to do something.

Simon and Miriam wrote letters to Save the Children, thanking them for their work with refugee children.
Simon and Miriam wrote letters to Save the Children, thanking them for their work with refugee children.

Simon and Miriam first learned about refugees in 2015. Word got around their school about the viral photo of the 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan, who drowned as his family tried to flee from Kobani to Europe. The image shows the young boy, dead, washed up on the Turkish coast. This image began to raise questions in the family home.

“It’s important for me to know what’s going on in the world,” said Jo. “I really want to teach my children empathy so it’s important for me to talk to them about the privileges they have.”

“I really want to teach my children empathy so it’s important for me to talk to them about the privileges they have.” shared Jo, Simon and Miriam’s mother
“I really want to teach my children empathy so it’s important for me to talk to them about the privileges they have.” shared Jo, Simon and Miriam’s mother.

After writing their letters to Save the Children, the family received a letter back, introducing them to the kind of work Save the Children does for refugees.

“We got a letter from Save the Children and it had a picture from one of the girls at the refugee camp,” said Miriam.

The family hung this photo, along with the child’s drawing, on their refrigerator next to their family photos.

“I felt happy to know that all of them were happy and were having fun at the refugee camp,” said Miriam.

With Save the Children’s unique refugee child sponsorship model, a number of sponsors may be matched with the same child, who represents the many refugee children who will benefit from our sponsors’ generous donations, providing access to low-cost, high-impact programs that are the best chance for success for these children.

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

Tiyende! Let’s Walk!

Author Portrait_Singilton Phiri, Interactive Radio Instruction SpecialistSingilton Phiri

Interactive Radio Instruction Specialist

Save the Children in Malawi

June 16, 2017

Before the introduction of sponsorship in rural Zomba in Malawi, walking along the dirt roads, lounging in the tobacco gardens, roaming markets in neighboring villages, or taking care of the family goats and cattle were all a part of normal pastimes for children. Very few remained in school.

This spoke volumes to Save the Children, as it recognized that communities unknowingly lived in the dark – unaware of the importance of sending their children to school. Darkness hedged over the next generation, as access to education, care and development were denied innocently to children.

As we began to mobilize community members to support our education programs, I saw that only a few parents allowed their children to enroll in sponsorship, unknowing that this resource would turn into an oasis of development.

As an Interactive Radio Instruction Specialist, I rolled out the Tiyende! program in Zomba, meaning “Let’s Walk!” in the local language, to help combat these barriers. This unique program brings quality educational lessons through radio instruction to children between the ages of 4 and 5, to help ensure they become lifelong learners by fostering a love for learning at an early age. The lessons help children grow to their full potential, engaging them in fun activities and vigorously preparing them for primary school. Since most children have never seen or heard a radio, this program attracts them to the community-based child-care centers, supported by sponsorship in their community, in order to participate.

Tiyende! radio programs helped Rodrick be better prepared for primary school
Tiyende! radio programs helped Rodrick be better prepared for primary school.

At the child-care centers, children sit together and listen to the Tiyende! radio program, which helps them learn shapes, numbers and the alphabet while listening to fun and lively audio prompts. For example, to help develop literacy skills, children are asked through the radio to write in the air or in the sand, as classes may be held outside, the letters they hear spoken. Radio sessions are a half hour long.

When enrolling at the sponsorship supported centers, children also have access to teacher-guided lessons that stimulate their physical, social, language and cognitive development. In addition to the interactive radio programming, thanks to sponsors these centers offer colorful learning materials and storybooks to help children get excited about learning, along with teachers trained on other interactive, child-friendly teaching methods.

In no time, the interactive radio programs began to yield positive results, as children were no longer seen wandering the market places but were in school during the day. Over 230 community-based child-care centers have been reached. Nearly 6,000 children from ages 4 – 5 years old have benefited from interactive radio programs in Zomba, and an estimated 2,000 out-of-school children returned to school as a result. Noticeable were increased enrollments at the child-care centers, even beyond Save the Children’s area of work, as the radio program is aired through a community radio available to anyone in listening range. There indeed was new horizon in sight for Zomba.

Children preparing to listen and learn with a Tiyende! radio broadcast in Zomba.
Children preparing to listen and learn with a Tiyende! radio broadcast in Zomba.

It gives me optimism as I see Tiyende! transitioning children each year to primary school, where child-care center graduates take the lead in their classes and have greater achievements than those that go straight from home directly to primary school.

Among the many learners who have benefited from Tiyende! is 13-year-old Rodrick, a seventh grade student. He started learning how to read and write while at the community-based child-care center in his village of Nkundi. He shared proudly, “I do well in primary classes because I started reading and writing at the [community-based child-care] center,” said Rodrick. He added that, “When I grow up I want to be an Immigration Officer so that I can protect my country,” Rodrick is usually top of his class and is just one among the many former Tiyende! participants doing well in school.

The saying that “the darkest hour comes before dawn,” is true. I am extremely happy to see that sponsorship has brought a great irreversible change in the lives of the children and communities here. Please accept our greatest thanks, from the Malawi sponsorship team in Zomba.

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

 

Linh’s Fairy Tale

Author Potrait_Nguyen Thi Nga, Field Project AssistantNguyen Thi Nga

Field Project Assistant

Save the Children in Vietnam

June 9, 2017

 

Working in sponsorship, every journey makes an impression on my life.

I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with Linh, a 10-year-old girl enrolled in our sponsorship programs, as she welcomed her sponsor for a visit to her small village in the mountains of Vietnam. Here, in Phong Hai commune of Lao Cai province, people live high up in rural mountain villages and rely on agriculture, growing crops such as maize, rice, cassava or tea, to support their families.

I still remember the happiness that filled her face when she expressed her feelings about the day her sponsors would arrive. Her eyes lit up and she smiled brightly, and I felt a warmness touch my heart.

It was a rainy day, and she was playing with her friends while waiting for the exciting arrival. Suddenly, she caught the smile of her sponsors. She recognized them immediately – they had included a photo of them in their first letter to her which she cherishes.

Linh and her sponsors making gu cakes.
Linh and her sponsors making gu cakes.

What an amazing thing! Thanks to sponsorship, she was able to get acquainted with her two foreign friends, coming from a faraway country on the other side of the world – Italy. Their names are Federica and Manolo, a married couple who have been getting acquainted with Linh through letter writing over the past year as her sponsors.

She felt unbelievable, almost like a little princess from the fairy tales her mother had told her when she was younger. She felt one of those stories had become her real life when she met her sponsors, as they came to her school and met with her teachers, friends and her family.

“Hardly did I have [such a] memorable time like that. We talked to each other and played special games, like badminton… Then, we made traditional cakes.” These special cakes, called “gu cake”, is a traditional dish of the Dao ethnic group, an ethnic minority of Vietnam that lives in this area. It is made by wrapping a mixture of purple sticky rice, green beans, salt and pork in banana leaves and bamboo strings, and then boiling for a very long time, up to 5 or 6 hours. They are made to celebrate the Tet holiday, or the Lunar New Year, in Vietnam, and traditionally are placed on an alter to worship ancestors.

“It was also my first time to make these cakes by myself. It was such an interesting experience with my sponsors. What a pity! I could not speak with them a lot to express how glad I was because of our languages and my shyness. Perhaps, no words could ever describe my happiness at that time.” Linh said to me later, when reflecting on the visit. “I am truly a lucky girl to have met my sponsors in my life. Despite [the] far distance, they came to visit me with kindness and friendliness. I honestly appreciate their coming and love for me.”

Sponsorship staff member Nga, Linh and her sponsors, Federica and Manolo
Sponsorship staff member Nga, Linh and her sponsors, Federica and Manolo.

It was with a saddened voice when she spoke about saying goodbye to her sponsors. I would like to express my sincere thanks to those sponsors that visit our programs. It is such a unique and amazing opportunity to make a connection across distances and cultures. Thanks to our sponsors for their kindness in helping disadvantaged children in Vietnam and the world over. After participating in this visit, I have more motivation and passion about my work at Save the Children, with the big mission to better the life of children.

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

Oubeida’s Summer Break

Child Portrait_Oubeida
Mossi Hamadou

Sponsorship Operations Officer

Save the Children in Niger

June 2, 2017

Oubeida is among the first children to get a sponsor here in Maradi – an area with the poorest populations in our country of Niger. She was so cheerful when she received the exciting news that she had a sponsor of her own. Although she is just in fourth grade, she already has quickly come to understand the importance of Sponsorship in her community. Even in this short time, she shares happily that she has received many letters from her sponsor, and responded, telling her sponsor about her life, for example how she spent her vacation from school.

Oubeida and a friend outside at their village.
Oubeida and a friend outside at their village.

This year like every year, the rainy season coincides with school vacations in Niger, generally from June through September. Because the rains are so heavy, and many roads poor, travel is difficult during this time. Vacations are normally a period of ease and entertainment for students, but Oubeida decided that her vacations should be spent other ways. Today, with Oubeida’s help, we would like to share a typical summer break from school for the children of Niger with our sponsors.

Oubeida helping with the house chores.
Oubeida helping with the house chores.

She tells us, “Every morning, I wake up at 7 o’clock. I have my bath and I help my mother with the household chores. I first sweep the compound then I wash dishes and I help my mother grinding millet for the meal. I seek water and then we go to the farm. There, I help my mother working in her okra plot. In the afternoon, before we come back home we collect grass to feed the animals. At night, we meet with my friends at the village public space, where we play ‘chalele’ (a game of singing and dancing).’’

How did you spend your summer? Do you also have animals that need to be cared for? How is your life different from Oubeida’s? How is it the same?

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