The Great Light of Hope

Author Portrait_Boukary Jigo, Community Volunteer
Boukary Jigo

Community Volunteer

Save the Children in Niger

May 24, 2017

My name is Boukary, I am a Community Volunteer with the Sponsorship program in Maradi. I’d like to start by saying that I am very proud that my community is one of the 25 communities in which the Sponsorship program implements its activities. The fact that we had been honored as such was the first key element in my commitment to get involved in this program. We believe in the importance of education, we want our children to be educated. And Sponsorship is here to support us in the education of our children. When a child is educated, it’s all the community that benefits so I am excited for my community and its development.

Boukary with Fati, a sponsored child, at her home in Maradi.
Boukary with Fati, a sponsored child, at her home in Maradi.

As a volunteer, I help the Sponsorship team in monitoring children that are enrolled in programs to ensure their participation and benefit. In doing so we follow up on their school and class attendance. We also help with reaching out to children and parents not yet involved to explain how Sponsorship works to help their children. We are even honored in helping deliver sponsors’ letters to children.

Smiling Zahaina & Sailouba, girls in our Sponsorship programs in Maradi.
Smiling Zahaina & Sailouba, girls in our Sponsorship programs in Maradi.

The problems with quality of education is really a great issue in Niger, particularly in rural areas. Four children out of five cannot read or write a short paragraph, but we strongly believe that the Sponsorship program will positively change the situation. We already have school supplies that have been brought to the schools, reading camps that are set up and running, trainings that are being given to teachers and parents in charge of school management, and even bringing in more volunteers. It’s a great light of hope for parents and children.

Thanks so much to all our new sponsors in Niger, the most recent addition to our worldwide Sponsorship family. We can’t wait to share with you more successes as our work in Niger continues to grow!

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

 

“I’m a hero because I’m… smart!”

Malachi Blog - USP -1
Save the Children USA

May 17, 2017

In Southern Kentucky, 7-year-old Malachi is excited to send a personal note to his sponsor. This thoughtful little boy puts a lot of heart into the words he chooses. “I’m a hero because I’m… smart!” he writes. He then adds a colorful drawing of his mother, wearing a pink cape — an example of his very own super hero.

Growing up in Kentucky has not been easy for Malachi and his mother. Their small, rural community struggles with the all too familiar challenges of poverty – lack of teachers and materials for quality schooling, few jobs that pay a living wage, and high unemployment.

With his teacher’s help, Malachi is able to practice reading and get the writing support he needs to thrive.
With his teacher’s help, Malachi is able to practice reading and get the writing support he needs to thrive.

Malachi is lucky, however. He has a very close relationship with his mom – a single mother who is working her hardest to create a good life for her family. She has been able to find jobs, but their two-person family has faced significant financial setbacks in recent years, and she cannot meet his basic needs. On top of this, Malachi has had difficulties focusing on his studies in school.

But while they may not have many material possessions, they are grateful for the richness of the love they share and their strong bond. Malachi’s mom has been an advocate for Malachi and a strong supporter of his education.

“Malachi has expressed how much he enjoys the after-school program. I feel that he is safe and well taken care of,” says his mother. “I have to work, and it gives me a chance to better our lives.”

Before being sponsored two years ago, Malachi was tracking behind the average literacy expectations for kids his age. He didn’t always turn in his homework and struggled to focus in the classroom, more than his peers.

Since joining the sponsorship program, his word recognition, basic literacy skills and reading comprehension have all shown improvement. Paying attention in class is no longer a struggle.

-Check out that big smile! Thanks to sponsorship, Malachi now loves to read – and it shows!
Check out that big smile! Thanks to sponsorship, Malachi now loves to read – and it shows!

“After-school I go to Bulldog Club,” said Malachi, beaming. “My favorite thing to do there is read!” Malachi’s favorite books are about dinosaurs and he takes great pride in the fact that he can now read confidently.

The after-school program is funded by sponsorship and includes reading practice, writing support and listening to stories read aloud. Malachi’s mother is just one of many parents who has seen the after-school program make a significant difference to her children and in their close-knit community.

Save the Children’s literacy program helps give children growing up in America’s poorest communities a the opportunity to learn. Children in these places have the potential to improve their knowledge and boost their confidence — the stepping stones for a successful future.

Empowering Women in Egypt

Author Portrait_Amal Abdallah Mohammed, Former Community Health Worker
Ayman Abdel Hafeez

Sponsorship Health Assistant

Save the Children in Egypt

May 10, 2017

Amal is a 60-year-old wife and mother to two boys, Haytham and Islam. She is also a former community health worker at a family health unit in Abnoub, Egypt. After graduating, she delivered sessions about health topics like how to have a safe pregnancy and the dangers of improper nutrition for young children. She also conducted home visits with new mothers and their infants, and introduced local women to the health unit’s medical services so they knew when to come and what was available for them there.

However, she never received a word of praise from her managers and colleagues for her hard work. To make things worse, she was even faulted for pouring her heart and soul into her job.

“I almost hated my job, and my life,” stated Amal. “It was a very dark period,” she said. “I felt gloomy, which negatively impacted my relationship with my family and husband.”

Amal meeting with a local woman about her livelihoods project.
Amal meeting with a local woman about her livelihoods project.

Everything turned upside down and life began to smile back at her after the head of Sponsorship’s health programs in Egypt, Mr. Fouad Montaser, paid her a visit. He was blown away by her work.

“I was on top of the world,” she remembers fondly. “Finally I met someone who pushed me to help others, someone who believed in me and is interested in my work,” explained Amal.

In recognition of her efforts, Mr. Fouad nominated her to be in charge of raising health awareness in the local community. Through home visits and community-based sessions, she covered topics like proper breastfeeding, how to address respiratory system infections in children and manage personal hygiene for the benefit of whole families.

Additionally, through the “Arab Women Speak Out” Sponsorship initiative, she taught local women important life skills, like how to effectively manage conflict with their husbands and family members. She also helped women start their own small businesses by using simple and available resources, for example buying cheap home appliances and reselling them to make a profit, or how to successfully raise and care for a chicken flock at home. Since culturally women in this area are not encouraged to travel or work outside of the home, our programs are helping them to become active members of their society for the first time.

Amal visiting a participant of Arab Women Speak Out in her shop
Amal visiting a participant of Arab Women Speak Out in her shop.

Today, Amal has and continues to promote local women’s sense of worth by empowering them to become active agents in the social development of their communities. By encouraging groups of women, ranging in ages from 15 to 45, to speak about problems related to their domestic life, social status, health and hygiene, together they are able to come up with durable solutions.

Thanks to support from our sponsors, real change is being made not only through our educational programs that reach children, but also those that empower their parents and community members to implement change themselves. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your partnership!

 

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

For the Mothers and Babies of Abnoub

Author Portrait_Samar Abdel Fattah, Health Worker
Samar Abdel Fattah

Health Worker

Save the Children in Egypt

May 3, 2017

25-year-old Samar lives in Abnoub, Egypt and worked as an unpaid volunteer for the Community Development Association for Orphan Care, known locally as CDAOC, for a full year. However, she felt that she could do even more to help children in need. She wanted to prove herself and also showcase the work she was already doing to help local children. She took on a number of health projects initiated and funded by local foundations and government entities, including the Ministry of State for Family and Population Affairs. In these projects she conducted health-awareness campaigns, for example spreading messages on the importance of keeping a clean home and properly disposing of garbage to reduce the spread of disease, among community members.

Samar conducting a training with local nurses.
Samar conducting a training with local nurses.

Despite her efforts to document and share her successes, Samar didn’t feel that her work was well recognized. Until one day, the senior supervisor of health projects from Save the Children paid her a visit. Samar jumped at the opportunity to connect with the organization. She introduced him to her work, and he went on to spread those successes in improving health and hygiene in communities to other governorates all over the country. After that, when Save the Children was looking to select new health program team members, they chose CDAOC to partner with and specifically reached out to Samar.

Samar began conducting workshops to train female village leaders, community representatives, mothers and nurses on Sponsorship’s evidence-based and innovative programs, which spread health messages to local women using tools like educational videos and play-acting to keep them engaged. Topics include how to recognize dangers signs during pregnancy, the health benefits of breastfeeding infants, the importance of vaccination, basic first-aid for accidents in the home, and much more.

Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!
Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!

She also received trainings in what Sponsorship calls “Kangaroo Mother Care”, an initiative which imitates the way the kangaroo carries her baby. This improves mother-to-child attachment, providing newborns with continuous affection and tenderness that aids in a healthy upbringing. Through these sessions and other trainings, Samar learned how to examine a new-born child, as well as deliver community- and home-based meetings for pregnant women and mothers of newborns on skills for the healthy nutrition and care of their babies.

Today, Samar feels fulfilled in her life. She is now a certified trainer of the Assiut Health Directorate, thanks to her work with Save the Children, and possesses countless health certificates. Her name glows next to the names of university professors, doctors and hospital managers on training materials that are shared nation-wide. We are very proud to have her as a partner!

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

A Person of Great Importance

Author Portrait_Kelvin Mulenga, Information and Communications Officer
Kelvin Mulenga

Information and Communications Officer

Save the Children in Zambia

April 27, 2017

Walking along one of the paths in a small community called Nkana, I cannot help but notice the very jovial little girl who smiles despite needing a wheelchair. I am curious about her, and my curiosity leads me into a discussion with her and her mother, Rose.

I learn that this child is Celine, a 12-year-old girl and third grade student at one of the Sponsorship-supported schools in Lufwanyama. She is the last born of her family of 12. She tells us she loves fruit and shares her favorites, “I like oranges, bananas and apples because fruit provides vitamins to my body.”

Sponsorship staff member Kelvin and Celine take a stroll.
Sponsorship staff member Kelvin and Celine take a stroll.

Despite her physical challenges, Celine is passionate about attending school. However, like many disabled children, she was not able to go. She suffers from a spinal disease called scoliosis, which crippled her ability to walk. Though her school is just a short distance from her home, without transportation she was forced out of classes for a full year. In addition to her physical struggles, her family also could not afford to purchase school materials like books and pencils.

After being enrolled in Sponsorship, Save the Children field staff began to look for ways to help Celine attend school. They advocated for Celine to gain access to a wheelchair from one of the local churches in the community, to help her get to school. She also received exercise books from her school, provided through Sponsorship funds.

“I love Sponsorship, as Save the Children is now helping my school with a lot of things, and I am given some of these like books.” Celine said with a smile.

Today, Celine is back in school and tells us she wishes to work in an office one day, where she will be a person of great importance, “When I finish school, I would like to work in an office where I should be signing on documents, that they bring to my office.”

Celine back in class and ready to learn.
Celine back in class and ready to learn.

However, her dream will not be realized without her community continuing to embrace the importance in protecting the health and education of every child, as a fundamental human right – that every child is entitled to enjoy learning regardless of their physical abilities.

Save the Children has been implementing its non-discriminatory programs to help children like Celine attain education despite the many hurdles they face in their life. Continue to dream big, Celine, and we will continue to support you!

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

 

Healthy Living for Robinah

Author Portrait_Madrine Amuge, Senior Officer of School Health and NutritionMadrine Amuge

Senior Officer of School Health and Nutrition

Save the Children in Uganda

April 20, 2017

Robinah is 10 years old. She is in grade six and resides in the Lutisi community in our Sponsorship impact area of Wakiso, in Uganda. She loves to go to school, and she tells me her favorite subject is Science. Robinah also shared she would like to become a doctor in the future, to help sick people get better.

Even with a dream that is in the field of health and hygiene, there was a lot that Robinah didn’t know about ways to prevent sickness before joining Sponsorship. “Before Save the Children came to my school, my friends and I didn’t wash our hands after visiting the latrine because we had no source of water, and we also didn’t know how.” says Robinah.

Teachers George and Jennifer, Robinah (third from left), Linda, Gift & Kefa with the schools new cleaning materials.
Teachers George and Jennifer, Robinah (third from left), Linda, Gift & Kefa with the schools new cleaning materials.

Through the School Health and Nutrition programs that our sponsors support, Robinah’s school received a water tank, handwashing facilities and lessons on how to wash their hands properly, in order to kill germs that cause disease. This keep students healthy so they don’t have to miss classes due to preventable illnesses, as well as keeps them more comfortable during the school day. Children who have already received handwashing lessons are becoming champions for spreading better health practices to their friends, families and throughout the community.

Apart from personal hygiene, a clean environment is also very important for schoolchildren like Robinah to be able to study and learn well. Thanks to our sponsors, Robinah’s school now has cleaning materials, garbage bins and the knowledge of how to manage disposal of waste. Already there has been a reduction in sick children, as garbage bins at school are now properly managed and free of disease spreading vermin and insects.

Robinah washing her hands using a handwashing facility provided through funds from sponsors.
Robinah washing her hands using a handwashing facility provided through funds from sponsors.

“I am confident while washing my hands, because I have learned why and how to wash my hands with soap and water. I also learned how to keep my school clean to avoid being sick. I now teach my brothers and sisters at home about the good practices I have learned in school,” shares Robinah.

Robinah is thankful for Save the Children and the Sponsorship program for choosing her community and for teaching her and her friends good hygiene practices. She believes that she can help her community with this knowledge and also be good doctor in the future. Even today, she already has stayed true to her goals in the health profession by sharing her skills with her family members.

Imagine a school where the floor, desks and chairs are covered in dust and dirt, but you still must sit and work at them. In your classroom, children all around you are coughing and tired because they are sick. In the corner of the schoolyard, a mound of garbage is piled high and circled with flies. Could you learn and play in an environment like this? Would you want to go to this school day after day?

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

Breaking Out of Her Shell

Author Portrait_Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Community Liaison

Save the Children U.S. Programs

April 13, 2017

Dayla is in the 1st grade and participates in our sponsorship and in-school literacy programs in her town in Mississippi. Dayla is normally quiet but gets very excited when she hears from her sponsors. Reading the letters and drafting her replies have helped to expand her vocabulary and improve her reading skills. She loves that her sponsor encourages her to do well in school.

1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.
1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.

This is Dayla’s first year being enrolled in school and Save the Children programs have been a big help with that transition. Since participating, she’s became more eager to go to school and especially to attend the programs. She has begun talking and participating more in class. Dayla has also been paired with a Foster Grandparent which provides another supportive relationship. And we all know how important supportive, caring relationships are to children’s development. Dayla is excited to improve her reading skills and has made many new friends in the programs.

Dayla enjoying reading a story.
Dayla enjoying reading a story.

Dayla’s self-esteem has improved dramatically since she began school. She has become much more confident and has a positive outlook about school. Her mom is pleased with her progress. Her mom shared, “Save the Children has really been a great help for my child. My child used to be very quiet and not eager to read, but now she’s participating more in class and improving her reading skills.” Dayla has had a successful first year of school thanks to the support of sponsorship and in-school literacy programs.

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

 

Malina is a Clever Girl

Author Portrait_Benafsha, School-based ECCD TeacherBenafsha

School-based ECCD Teacher

Save the Children in Afghanistan

April 7, 2017

I am Benafsha. I live in Maimana City of Faryab Province, in Afghanistan. I have been an Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) teacher for three years now. I love my job. I enjoy teaching little kids and preparing them for entering primary school. I think ECCD is a very important program because it prepares children for a better future early on in their lives. I have many great stories from each day of my life as an ECCD teacher, but Malina’s story is one of my favorites.

Malina is a six-year-old girl. She joined our ECCD classes two years ago. Her family is very poor and her parents are illiterate, like many of the children in my classes. When Malina first joined ECCD, she was not behaving well and had difficulties communicating. She was very shy and barely spoke to anyone. Her parents were worried about her.

Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.
Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.

Thanks to Sponsorship’s ECCD programs, our classroom is full and colorful. I have also received trainings from Save the Children that help me make my lessons engaging for my young students. Each day here Malina is greeted with a child-friendly and safe environment that helps encourage her to learn and play. As teachers, we help children develop their cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills, as well as skills in early literacy and math. It turned out, all this was exactly what Malina needed.

I encouraged Malina by welcoming her into opportunities to play and participate in different activities. She took the chance to communicate with the other children once they were all playing together. Day by day, Malina gained the courage and confidence to talk more and more. Today, she is a very active and intelligent little girl, which makes her mother very happy. Her mother proudly shared, “Malina is a very clever girl. She is happy and very sociable.”

A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.
A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.

Children who graduate from our ECCD classes perform much stronger in school compared to classmates who did not receive any pre-primary school education, and are usually the top of their class. Malina’s mother tells me, I have five daughters. All of them had normal childhoods and thrived. However, Malina struggled with talking for years. I was very worried about her future. I sometimes cried thinking about her. Fortunately, Save the Children established the [ECCD] centers for our children, and it has been two years since she started attending ECCD classes. She is very active now. She sings songs for her sisters, dances and tells us stories. We are very grateful to Save the Children for giving this great opportunity to our children.”

As an ECCD teacher working directly with the children, I find my work fulfilling although it is sometimes hard. I push my limits to go beyond my work and always try to give a little more, helping more children because they deserve to be served and they are the future of our country. I give my special thanks to each of our sponsors, and I hope their support continues so more children like Malina can have brighter futures.

We thank you, Benafsha – our programs would not be possible without hardworking, caring and dedicated teachers like you. Thank you for being our partner in changing children’s lives for the better!

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

 

A Working Day for a Sponsorship Facilitator

Author Portrait_Sama Mahaman Laouali, Community Development Facilitator
Sama Mahaman Laouali

Community Development Facilitator

Save the Children in Niger

March 31, 2017

When the Sponsorship program started in Niger in January of 2015, I was among the lucky staff members tasked with implementing the program in the selected 25 communities. The fact that I am from the region of Maradi, where Sponsorship now works, doubled my commitment to work for the welfare of children in this area.

The work of a community facilitator is not an easy task, but it’s worth doing since it benefits children, their parents and the region as a whole.

Sama laughing and drawing with some sponsored girls.
Sama laughing and drawing with some sponsored girls.

When I wake up in the morning, I first have my breakfast and then I check everything is in working order on my motorcycle. Despite the hot, sunny days and sandy roads, I enjoy going to the communities.

We have become, as a part of Sponsorship, members of these communities. From afar the roaring of my motorbike can be heard, and children welcome me with their joyful “youyous”, a local saying used to describe the excited and joyful shouts of children, because they all know that I always come with good news – news from their sponsors or enrollments welcoming new children into the programs.

Smiling Sponsorship kids Djamila, Farida, Aicha & Maimouna.
Smiling Sponsorship kids Djamila, Farida, Aicha & Maimouna.

Children and parents are all proud when a child receives a letter from a sponsor. It’s new to them, but they already have confidence in Sponsorship’s activities. For parents, the program is a huge relief as they will not have to worry about buying school supplies. Children too believe in the change that will occur in their education, as their teachers are being trained and the school environment is already starting to transform. Reading camps are being set-up in communities and stocked with storybooks. The use of positive discipline is being taught to teachers, which means no more violence at school and children are made comfortable in class and are able to develop relationships with their teachers.

In these rural communities, letters coming from abroad are treasured and he who receives a letter from a sponsor is seen as a lucky child. Creating drawings for replies to sponsors is a scene of celebration as children are gathered to work together on them, and it’s marvelous.

Have you written to your sponsored child recently? We hear over and over that children “treasure” the letters they receive from sponsors – it truly is seen as a wonderful gift! We hope you will consider taking the time to write a quick note or send some photos of yourself and your family to your sponsored child. Know they will indeed treasure it for years to come!

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

 

Witness Your Sponsorship Support in Action

Author Portrait_Victoria Zegler, Multimedia Storyteller
Victoria Zegler

Multimedia Storyteller

Save the Children U.S.

March 21, 2017

Leaving our Save the Children field office, it’s anywhere between a one to two-hour drive to the rural country side where sponsored children live, play and learn. The roads are dusty and narrow. Traveling along these remote roadways, you can feel every bump and dip in the dirt roads. Passing by children along the shoulder on bicycles and motorcycles, I can’t imagine what their journey is like.

As we drive down the lengthy highway, homes become father apart as the distance becomes greater.

Stepping into a classroom in Lufwanyama, Zambia.
Stepping into a classroom in Lufwanyama, Zambia.

As I get closer to the village, I notice the local community in action. Young children, teenagers, many of them, the mothers and fathers of the children we serve, having labored since dawn with nothing but their bare hands and tools made from the country’s natural resources. I admire their dedication, innovation and hard work. They have no one to rely on but themselves to get the job done.

As we approach the school grounds, children slowly peek their heads out of the newly built classrooms. The smile plastered across my face reflects theirs. I can’t wait to meet these incredible children and to show them pictures of their participation in our programs – solving math problems in notebooks and learning to read with new learning materials – all made possible by their sponsors.

And then it dawned on me – there aren’t many mirrors and smartphones here, so many of these children haven’t seen what they look like in months, maybe even years.

To me, it’s more than just taking their pictures, it’s about unlocking raw emotion.
To me, it’s more than just taking their pictures, it’s about unlocking raw emotion.

The children are eager and curious as they approach me, giggling. After taking their picture, I show the children and big, unfiltered laughter ensues.

To me, it’s more than just taking their pictures. It’s about unlocking the raw emotion deep down inside of them. Showing the happiness on their faces as the corners of their eyes begin to wrinkle. I admire their strength and resilience through the hardest of times. Their hope and hard work for better life. These children instill hope in me every day with their big ideas and willingness to learn. They give me faith in myself, my organization and – most importantly – in humanity.

The moment I see the smiling faces of those children, nothing else matters.

A memory that I will always remember: the excitement that broke out over stickers. The children flocked to me with their arms reaching out at the chance to collect a sticker. I watched the children place them on their hands, faces and their friends faces laughing all the while. This simple gift from generous sponsors made their day – and mine too.

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