The Best Gift Parents Can Give

This holiday season, Guin and Nate are giving a very special present to their baby and Guin’s two older children, who they raise together: themselves.

 

It used to be that this young couple from rural western Washington state wouldn’t spend much time with the kids. They would hide in their room with the door locked, each of them says.

 

“We’d come out to give them their food or whatever, and then we’d just tell them to go play,” says Guin, 24. “We just shooed them on pretty much. That’s what my parents did to us, and that’s what hurt so bad. That’s what I never wanted to do, but that’s what we ended up doing anyways.”

 

Inside the locked room, Guin and Nate would do drugs. That was their escape, their means to cope. It was a strategy they both learned early in life.

 

“My parents were always gone, or when they were home, they were loaded,” says Guin. “So, we didn’t have bonding time, unless it was a loaded time. Like they were loaded, or just being crazy.”

 

Nate, 21, says his mom was also always gone or drinking, and that his older brother was the only father figure he ever knew. Together they raised their younger brother. Holidays were especially tough.

 

“There were presents under the tree and everything, but there weren’t any parents around. It was just my two brothers,” he says. “It was hard.”

 

As Guin and Nate struggled with their pasts and trying to scrape together a living and a future, they turned to drugs and then each other for comfort. But when the two older kids, 3 and 7, got taken away by the state temporarily last year, they knew something had to change.

 

Getting clean wasn’t easy, but in some ways the regimented recovery program made the path clearer than knowing how to become a good parent — something they desperately want. They say having Hollie in their lives is making a huge difference.

 

As a home visitor in Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program, Hollie visits with pregnant mothers and families of babies and toddlers in economically depressed communities. The idea is to teach parents to be their child’s first teacher through reading, talking, singing and playing — and to serve as a resource and support for families struggling with many different challenges.

 

“If Hollie wasn’t here every week helping us with our daughter, I don’t think that we’d be improving so much with our child. She’s helped us be better parents,” says Guin. “I’m grateful for Hollie all the time. Books, man, she brings so many books. My kids are so grateful for the books.”

 

mother and child

 

Children growing up in poverty tend to fall developmentally behind other children long before they ever reach school. Then they struggle to catch up and many never do, making it very difficult for them to break the cycle of poverty. Yet, despite the many risk factors their families face, more than 80 percent of the children in Save the Children’s program go on to score at or above the national norm on pre-literacy tests.

 

Guin and Nate’s baby is only seven months old, but Guin can already see how she’s ahead of where her older kids were at that age. She started rolling over, sitting up, crawling and making her first word sounds much sooner. All the floor time, reading, talking and playing is really working, Guin says.

 

floor time

And, she says, the bond she’s building with her baby is so much stronger from the very beginning.

 

“Hollie has told us that face-to-face play is really important at this age, because they’re learning facial expressions and feelings and all that stuff,” Guin says. “Babies have the coolest facial expressions. They have happy in their eyes is what I say. Happy eyes. I love that.”

 

“I think I beat you in facial expressions,” Nate cuts in.

 

“Yes, he has,” says Guin. They laugh and then reflect on what lies ahead.

 

“Our goal is to make life better for them,” Guin says.

 

“Hopefully, we’re able to achieve that for them,” says Nate. “It’s hard, but we’re getting through it.”

 

“It’ll all be worth it in the end,” says Guin.

 

I can only imagine how difficult it must be for these young parents to turn their lives around, given the rough start in life they both had. It’s wonderful to see the pride Guin and Nate are taking in their parenting and to see their children get the loving attention they themselves missed.

 

This holiday season, I’m grateful for the amazing home visitors like Hollie, who are helping parents be the best they can be.

 

Together with Save the Children, JOHNSON’S® is bringing awareness to the importance of early childhood development (ECD) programs, so that every child can reach their full potential.

 

This holiday season, if you select Save the Children through the Johnson & Johnson Donate a Photo app and donate a baby photo using #SoMuchMore, JOHNSON’S® will triple its donation in support of early childhood education programs.

 

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

2015 Instagram Post 10-28-15:  On a recent visit to #Lesbos, Greece, our CEO Carolyn Miles met with child refugees who arrived via the Mediterranean Sea.   Hear from Carolyn about her response to the #refugeecrisis at facebook.com/savethechildren.

Providing a Future for Millions of Syrian Children

It takes only a few hours on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos to understand the enormity of the current refugee crisis sweeping Europe and the many dangers that refugees face, including so many mothers and children.

 

On one typically busy day, our Save the Children staff counted 22 small rubber dinghies arriving in just five hours — filled with babies as young as three months old and adults as old as 76. While no Greek official was on shore to meet the refugees, volunteer aid workers, including Save the Children staff, were there to assist and guide them toward registration. The numbers of people arriving in Greece this year is staggering — up from 40,000 last year to 580,000 so far this year. During one five-day period last month, 48,000 new arrivals — or nearly 5,000 a day — came to shore.

 

I recently visited the north shore of Lesbos and talked with a number of refugee families arriving by boat. One woman I met from Syria was traveling with her little girl, little boy, and two brothers. Her husband was left behind in Syria and was hoping to meet them later. We helped guide their boat to the shore and pulled them out of the water, and she said she couldn’t believe they were alive. She was so cold and overcome by emotion, she shook violently. We wrapped her in a space blanket and one of our workers offered her his scarf. Slowly, as we gathered warm clothes for her children, she stopped shaking and even smiled weakly as her daughter showed off her warm jacket.

 

I also visited the two informal camps outside the island’s capital city of Mytilene, where refugees must register to continue their journey to Europe. One camp was originally for Syrians and the second camp for other nationalities, the majority of whom are from Afghanistan. Our staff met several teenagers making the trip by themselves. One boy from Afghanistan was traveling with a small group including four other teenage boys. They were trying to get to Germany, where one of the boys had a brother. No one knows precisely how many children are making this journey alone, but recent estimates put the number in the tens of thousands and is growing rapidly. Recent figures from the Serbian government, for example, show that nearly one in four refugee children arriving in Serbia in recent months have been unaccompanied.

 

While the international community continues to struggle to find a solution to the conflict in Syria, now approaching its fifth year with no end in sight, the sheer numbers of desperate Syrian citizens are staggering. Four million have fled the country and over 7 million have been forced from their homes but remain inside Syria.

 

Almost 3 million Syrian children are not in school, including half of those who have fled to neighboring countries. As Secretary of State John Kerry noted last week, “Imagine what it would mean for America’s future if the entire public school systems of our largest cities — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — were suddenly to close and stay closed.” Schools, in fact, are among many public institutions that are in shambles. More than 4,000 attacks on schools have taken place in Syria since 2011, according to the U.N. Meanwhile, two of Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan, are reaching their breaking point in assisting Syrian refugees.

 

What can we do? Save the Children has joined other major aid agencies in calling on national governments to adopt a bold new deal for refugees. In the short term, we need to provide much more support in the region in terms of food aid, employment, medical care and education so more refugees will not feel compelled to leave the region and reduce the current huge migration to Europe. In addition, we need to eliminate many restrictions that leave refugees living in limbo — in constant fear of arrest, detention and deportation.

 

We also need a special focus on children. Donors need to take additional steps to ensure that children are protected and educated. Otherwise, we face the prospect of helping create a lost generation of Syrian children. Investments now in education and protection for these children can pay enormous dividends once the war ends and rebuilding begins.

syrian children

In recent months, we have seen growing support from individuals and corporations to assist refugees. In early September, the worldwide dissemination of a photo of a little refugee boy drowned on a beach in Turkey helped people see this crisis as a human tragedy that is affecting tens of thousands of innocent children and their families. Our long-time corporate partners, such as Johnson & Johnson, stepped up their support for our humanitarian response for refugee children.

 

With the recent attacks in Paris, we are presented with very hard choices. Our sympathies, of course, are with the hundreds of families around the world who lost a loved one in the barbaric events of November 13.

 

But we can’t turn our backs on the Syrians who are also fleeing death and destruction in their country. By continuing to increase humanitarian support in Syria, in surrounding countries, and for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee families, we are not only doing the right thing but are also providing a future for millions of Syrian children.

 

This post originally appeared on the Global Motherhood section of The Huffington Post

450,000 Children Out of School in Turkey

Sera

Sera Marshall

Communications Coordinator

Turkey

November 23, 2015

On September 28th, schools across Turkey opened their doors for the start of the academic year.

But nearly 450,000 school-aged Syrian children did not step into a classroom that day. Instead of sitting behind a desk, in a safe learning environment, you see many of those kids in cities across Turkey selling tissues on the roadside, running errands in stores or climbing into dumpsters to collect recyclable materials.

In Hatay, where our field office is located, you might see some in the fields picking the cotton harvest at this time of year.

Every child deprived of an education is at risk of becoming part of a 'lost generation'.

Even in the early days of the crisis that now engulfs Syria, many ordinary Syrians who fled to Turkey for safety recognised the need to address the lack of education facilities for their children. Ordinary men and women took it upon themselves to rent space, volunteer their time to teach, find desks, chairs and whiteboards all in an effort to ensure their children would not grow up illiterate, and instead have a future for their own families. 

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Vahar's* family fled their home in Syria when the town was attacked. She has not been able to go to school since she arrived in Turkey but is currently attending a Child Friendly Space supported by Save the Children where she has the opportunity to keep learning and meet new friends. *Name changed for protection

The Government of Turkey took a courageous step in 2014 and passed legislation that would bring these informally operating schools under the coordination of the Ministry of National Education. Currently 18,122 Syrian children are enrolled in 69 Temporary Education Centres (TECs) across Hatay province alone. The government of Turkey has shown unprecedented levels of generosity and hospitality – spending up to 8 billion dollars – on refugees from Syria and Iraq. Yet, this is only a small fraction of the overall need. Globally, education and child protection are the two sectors that receive the least amount of aid funding. Partners such as UNICEF and international NGOs like Save the Children are working to help bridge that gap.

But it is not as simple as throwing money at the problem. Meaningful understanding of the actual needs of refugee and host communities coupled with projects designed to address these needs are required. To this effect, we carried out a needs assessment of every Temporary Education Centre in Hatay and revealed a thorough yet stark picture of the varying challenges – from transport to textbooks – faced when trying to provide education to Syrian children.

As the crisis has deepened, the needs of refugees has evolved. It is no longer a matter of providing basic humanitarian relief but enabling refugees to live with dignity and, most importantly, hope for a better future.

I have visited several Temporary Education Centres in Hatay as part of our work. At one TEC, a soft spoken head teacher from Aleppo thanked me for the assistance Save the Children in Turkey was providing. This man is so dedicated that he works six days a week, up to 12 hours a day and has gotten into personal debt so that running water and electricity of the TEC would not be cut off. I could not help myself, I listened to his words of gratitude and told him: "No; thank you. "Without you, these children would not have been getting an education for the past three years. I am sorry the international community has been so slow to come to your aid."

"Better late than never," he replied.

To learn more about our response to the Syria crisis, click here.

The Time is Now: Delivering on the SDG Agenda

 

TheGlobalGoals_Logo_and_Icons

There’s no way around feelings of euphoria today.

 

World Leaders at the United Nations are ringing in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that promise to end extreme poverty and the scourge of hunger and preventable deaths of infants and children around the world.

 

At the same time, the Pope is calling for solidarity with the most deprived and those displaced by conflict and climate change.

 

Over the coming days, millions of people globally – from youth in Ghana to Shakira — are taking part in the “world’s largest” prayers, lessons, and ceremonies to light the way for the SDGs. It’s one of those rare moments in which governments, faith institutions, everyday citizens and popular idols unite around a common cause to forge a historic moment.

 

Three years of debate among UN diplomats and millions of citizens voicing their priorities has culminated in the approval today by 193 nations of new Sustainable Development Goals, to replace the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000. Negotiations on the SDG agenda have been among the most collaborative in UN history. It is truly a global vision for a better world.

 

Furthermore, the SDGs comprise a holistic agenda – 17 goals rather than 8 – with ending extreme poverty at its core supported by a healthy planet in a peaceful world.

 

The goals are bold and ambitious. The trick will be maintaining the momentum once the speeches end, the crowds disperse, and the cameras turn their focus elsewhere.

 

It will take a collective effort to achieve this, but the most defining players will be governments who will bring political will and resources to deliver a better future for their people.

 

Here are six actions that all governments can take to make the SDGs real for their countries:

 

1) Create national action plans to implement the SDGs. Each government should take the SDGs back home, consult widely with local actors, and make policy and programmatic decisions to put the goals into practice in their country. The entire SDG agenda of 17 goals and 169 targets may not be applicable to every country but there are a core set – namely, the “unfinished business of the MDGs”– like health, education and poverty, which do apply to every country and can be acted upon starting today.

 

2) Commit financing to the SDGs. Countries should align their budgets to achieve these outcomes. For the United States, this may mean more investments to reduce deaths caused by obesity, heart disease, or automobile accidents, while for poor countries global health dollars could be invested in community health workers to reduce deaths associated with childbirth and malnutrition.

 

3) Assign a high-level government lead on the SDGs. To ensure rigorous monitoring and accountability, it is important to put in place a focal point on the SDGs who can reach across ministries and carry political weight to ensure action and coordination.

 

4) Communicate a clear commitment to the SDGs. Heads of state can take these goals home and share them with Parliament or Congress and speak to citizens, private companies, and others to contribute financing, technical know-how, and new ideas and innovations to deliver on the SDGs. Citizens should also play a role holding governments’ “feet to the fire” to be accountable for achieving this agenda over the next 15 years.

 

5) Prioritize action to “leave no one behind.” Many times on large agendas such as this one, people try to attain the easy solutions and quick wins. This time, however, the world pledged to achieve progress for the poorest and most vulnerable groups first. This requires investments in gathering and disaggregating data to ensure that all groups benefit from progress and no one is being “left behind,” such as girls living in poverty.

 

6) Publish an annual whole of government report on the SDGs and participate fully in the global follow up and review process. Every country should create progress reports on the SDGs and encourage citizen participation to leverage all resources and people-power in fulfilling the 2030 agenda. This will demand that we work together to strengthen our systems for evaluation and learning in order to scale projects that work and end those that don’t.

 

With the new SDGs, we can build a world in which no child lives in poverty, and where each child has a fair start and is healthy, educated, and safe. But progress toward meeting these goals in each country will depend on more government investment, open and transparent country institutions, participation by a diverse cross-section of civil society, and effective partnerships between government, civil society, private sector, and donors.

 

In 2030 we will judge success by what has been delivered, rather than by our declarations today. Let’s use this historic moment to pave the way for concrete action for children around the world.

How Save the Children Can #UpgradeYourWorld

Huong headshot

Phan Thi Thu Huong

Sponsorship Manager

Save the Children Vietnam

September 25, 2015

 

Nothing compares to seeing the impact a supportive learning environment can have on a child.

When I first started working for Save the Children a few years ago, I was introduced to a girl attending a primary school in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam who was so tremendously shy and, as an ethnic minority, did not know the national language – Vietnamese.

The girl, named Ly, was just starting first grade at the Save the Children supported school, and it was her first time stepping into a classroom. She had not been given the opportunity to attend preschool or kindergarten, having instead joined her mother in the field as her mother tended to the family’s rice and corn fields. 

Vietnam staff 1

Save the Children Vietnam staff members, from left: Tran Thi Hoai Thu, Pham Thu Trang and Phan Thi Thu Huong, with students at a Save the Children-supported preschool in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere.

Ly felt isolated in the classroom, initially unable to communicate with her classmates and teacher. When I approached her, she said nothing and just stared at me, visibly anxious about how she fit in.

Fast forward two years, and I had the opportunity to meet Ly once again during a visit at the school.

I didn’t have to look for her though. She ran up to me and greeted me in Vietnamese, excited to tell me about everything she had learned. She was no longer disconnected and disengaged with her classmates and teacher, and it shocked me how much she had changed.

In the two years I had not seen Ly, she had been given the fundamental educational tools to thrive at school and in life. At Save the Children, this is what we strive for with every child, and we are working hard to ensure kids have a much earlier start on their education than Ly — as 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before they reach kindergarten age.

All children deserve a strong start, but too many children around the world aren’t getting this chance.

Here in northern Vietnam, where I help to oversee early learning and education programs at 23 primary schools and 20 preschools, Save the Children is helping improve the quality of teaching by training teachers on bilingual education techniques and interactive learning methods. We’re also working to increase children’s access to preschool and primary education, and strengthening the support for early learning through parents and community leaders.

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Students play at a Save the Children-supported preschool in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere.

Recently, Save the Children was honored to be recognized by Microsoft – through its #UpgradeYourWorld movement — as a global nonprofit that’s empowering and inspiring others. By featuring Save the Children’s early learning efforts throughout September, Microsoft is helping spread the word about the importance of investing in children all over the world.

I have seen first-hand how Save the Children’s collaboration with a school and a community has helped “upgrade” the future possibilities for Ly, and am excited to help be a part of upgrading the possibilities of many more bright children like her. 

The First Day of School…in Cuba!

The first day of school is an exciting moment of possibility and potential—and the same could be said for my very first trip to Cuba.

 

Everywhere I went, there was an expectant and hopeful feeling in the air. I spoke with young Cubans who expressed their enthusiasm about greater interaction with the world, including the United States, as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and pursue their dreams.

 

CarolynCuba copyI was in Cuba for the country’s first day of school and was lucky enough to visit with kindergarten students in Havana, many of whom were beginning their formal education for the very first time. It was refreshing to see their excitement and hear them talk about what they’re looking forward to learning this year. As part of the visit, we visited an after-school arts program that started in one school and has scaled up to many, and spoke with officials at the Department of Civil Defense about their plan to help schools and students better prepare for disasters. We also celebrated the completion of a 5-year program led by Save the Children Spain in partnership with the Cuban government to increase participation and quality education for 36,000 children in 92 schools, leading to better outcomes for children.

 

But we know that for children to realize these outcomes in school, they must get the healthy start they deserve. So we visited one of the premier pediatric hospitals in Havana and met the dedicated staff who are making impressive advances, despite the lack of supplies, technology, furniture and enough skilled staff. What this facility lacks in materials they make up for in determination for the children under their care—a sense of compassionate duty that echoes what we saw last summer, when a team of Cuban doctors traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help treat those suffering from the Ebola epidemic.

 

One particular child really stuck with me as I traveled back to the U.S. and recounted my trip. She was a kindergartener named Rena, shy at first but then warming as we placed with clay and made little blue snakes. Though my Spanish and her English were too basic for us to talk much, I saw in her eyes the shining future that Cuba could have, one in which children have a prosing number of opportunities to be all they can.

 

So much about my trip felt like the first day of kindergarten: a different, interesting place; new faces who I hope will become new friends; and so much potential to grow and learn. I hope that Save the Children will be able to continue to get to know Cuba, and find out how we can sharpen our pencils and work together to improve the lives of children and families.

No Limits for Preschoolers’ Futures

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.41.06 PM    Jeremy Soulliere

    Media & Communications Manager

    Save the Children US

                                    September 11, 2015

In a remote village in northern Vietnam, a young mother named Hang tells me her hopes for her 5-year-old daughter Mai’s future inside her family’s home. Above our heads, hundreds of corn cobs hang to dry – the product of the family’s daily hard work in the terraced agricultural fields surrounding their mountainous hometown in Lao Cai Province.

Ms. Kim and Mai 2

Preschool teacher Sung Thi Kim reads to one of her students, Mai, at Mai’s home in a remote farming village in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere / Save the Children.

For Mai, her mother wants a future where her daughter has the ability to decide her own path without a ceiling. A path where she may choose to stay in her home village and farm, or where she may go to college in the city and pursue a professional career.

The key for Mai to one day make such a decision is for her to get an early start on learning. And with the help of her preschool teacher, Sung Thi Kim, Mai is getting that chance in a community where nearly 50 percent of the villagers live under the poverty line, nearly 20 percent are illiterate, and many – including Hang – did not get the chance to be educated beyond primary school.

 Ms. Kim, who works at a Save the Children-supported preschool, is the community change maker we are highlighting this month as part of Save the Children’s #UpgradeYourWorld initiative with Microsoft and Windows 10.  You can watch a short video about her here, and read more about Upgrade Your World here.

Save the Children is collaborating with Ms. Kim and her colleagues to develop lesson plans, create learning materials, sharpen their teaching skills and increase support for early learning among parents and the community.

Ms. Kim, 29, told me she is inspired daily watching the children smile, play and learn, and thrives off teaching the kids fundamental skills that will help them succeed in school and in life.

Vietnam has 54 different minority languages, 27 of which do not have a written form, and as an ethnic minority, Ms. Kim understands the language barrier that some of her children have coming into her classroom.

She said she uses her native tongue, Nung, to help children learn Vietnamese, and asks children familiar with Vietnamese and other ethnic languages of the area to help translate for children who do not yet know Vietnamese.

She told me she hopes her students grow up to have rewarding professions and come back and contribute to their home village in some way.

Mai and Mother 2

Mai, a student at a Save the Children-supported preschool in northern Vietnam, sits with her mother Hang and removes kernels from corn her family has harvested. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere / Save the Children.

For Mai — whose native language, like her teacher, is Nung – her family has seen her transform since she’s gone to preschool. Once a shy girl who did not play with her siblings, she now actively interacts with them and is more independent at home, something the family credits to Ms. Kim and the preschool environment.

Mai is a long way from deciding what path in life she wants to take, but with the help of Ms. Kim, she has that early start on learning that will help ensure that decision will have no limit.

 

Changing the Way the Future Unfolds for Children in Poverty

I remember playing the fortune teller game as a kid. We would take a piece of paper, write cute messages and fortunes on it and then fold it origami-style to predict our future. Of course, our paper game couldn’t foretell my future or that of my childhood friends, but with the opportunities that came with growing up in a thriving community in the U.S., the outlook was bright. I had access to a quality education, which led to rewarding work experiences and, ultimately, to my dream job of leading a humanitarian organization helping make this world a better place for children.

 

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Students participate in a counting activity in preschool teacher Sung Thi Kim’s preschool class at a Save the Children supported school in northern rural Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere/Save the Children.

But for too many kids in America and around the world, their future is all too predictable. Girls and boys who live in poverty, like William, whom I met in South Carolina when he was 18 months old, often miss out on the essential early learning every child needs to succeed – in school and life. This means they’re at a much higher risk of starting school behind their peers and never catching up, which can have a devastating effect on their future. Research has shown that when kids fall behind early on, they are more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent or even end up in prison.

 

That’s why, as the summer is winding down and as kids go back to school, Save the Children is launching an annual campaign called Invest in Childhood: See the Future Unfold, which is focused on the importance of getting an early start on learning. The centerpiece of the campaign is—can you guess?—a digital version of the paper fortune teller!  We have dubbed it the Future Teller because it shows how we can transform the way the future unfolds for children when we invest in them early on. Our Future Teller reveals how investments big and small can make a lasting difference: Investing as little as $3 can provide a baby’s first book, $5 can send a child to school and $10 can stock a home library.

 

William is proof that investing time, effort and resources in kids while they are still babies and toddlers—and before their brain is 90 percent developed at age 5—can have a big impact on their future. When I visited him in South Carolina, William was thriving. Rather than falling behind his peers, he was right where he was supposed to be in his development.

 

All parents want what’s best for their child. But many parents, like William’s, either don’t have the means to pay for preschool or have access to it. That’s why William’s mom, Jessica, enrolled him in Save the Children’s early childhood education program. She and her son have benefitted from having caring experts regularly visit their home, providing parenting support, bringing books and engaging William in play and learning activities to ensure he develops the essential skills he needs to succeed in school, setting him up for a promising future.

 

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: Preschool teacher Sung Thi Kim reads to her class in a Save the Children supported school in northern rural Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere/Save the Children.

Save the Children trains teachers and works with kids and parents from America to Vietnam to Mozambique to give them the tools they need to shape the futures of their children. In recognition of the world of difference these preschool teachers are making in their own communities, Save the Children this month is joining with Microsoft and Windows 10 in their #UpgradeYourWorld movement to tell their stories.

 

Stories of preschool teachers like Sung Thi Kim, who teaches in a remote Vietnamese farming village where most families live without electricity or running water. She goes out of her way—visiting her students at home to help with homework and turning rice and corn into teaching tools when school supplies are scarce—to ensure that children like Mai, 5, don’t miss out on early learning opportunities. You can read Ms. Kim’s story here.

 

With the support of amazing individuals like Ms. Kim doing great things in their communities to promote early learning, we can help all children reach their dreams. When we invest in children like William and Mai, we transform the way their future unfolds.

 

Adapted from a blog that originally ran in the Huffington Post.

Terraced Rice Paddies and Building Blocks

Jeremy headshot - Vietnam

Jeremy Soulliere

Media and Communications Manager

Save the Children US

August 28, 2015

Around the world, there are many places where Save the Children works where the early educational opportunities for children are little to none. Fortunately, there are also many passionate people who are working hard to change that. 

When Microsoft asked Save the Children, as part of our #UpgradeYourWorld partnership, to tell the story of one person who is making a positive difference in their community for children, we knew just the person to recommend. (Microsoft will be highlighting the inspiring work of Save the Children and nine other global nonprofits over the next 10 months.  You can read more about the Upgrade Your World initiative here.) 

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Filming begins inside a Save the Children supported preschool classroom in northern rural Vietnam. The resulting video of Save the Children’s early learning programming will be featured as part of Microsoft’s #UpgradeYourWorld initiative. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere / Save the Children.

Last week, I met up with my Vietnamese colleagues and the Microsoft team in Hanoi and drove five hours to the north, where the landscape turned from a sea of mopeds, rickshaws and bicycles to terraced rice paddies stretching endlessly alongside the lush, tropical mountains in a remote village in Lao Cai Province.

The village is home to a small population of rice and corn farmers.  Nearly 50 percent of the hard-working villagers here are living in poverty, and most live without electricity and running water. The majority of the adults here have not received more than a primary school education – a reality Save the Children is committed to improving by giving kids an early start on learning. 

That early start begins off a dirt road at the local preschool supported by Save the Children, where we met Sung Thi Kim, a gentle, kind and motivating preschool teacher who is making a big difference for the littlest children here. As an ethnic minority who received a higher education elsewhere and decided to come back home to affect change in this farming community, Ms. Kim is, day-by-day, upgrading our world one student at a time.

VietnamIt was only the second day of preschool after the end of summer break, but Ms. Kim’s classroom was already a picture of perfection. It reminds me in many ways of my own children’s preschool in Connecticut, the children’s artwork displayed along the walls, a bookshelf filled with colorful early-learning books, an area for building blocks and creative play, etc. But there also are stark differences – there are no water buffalo walking through the playground in Connecticut, or fathers arriving in droves on mopeds to pick up their kids after school because the walk home would take hours.

Back home this week and taking my own kids back to school, I am reminded that the fundamentals for giving kids an early start on learning – a dedicated teacher, a quality learning environment and committed parents and caretakers – remain the same no matter where you live.

I can’t wait for you to meet “leading lady” Ms. Kim and Mai, one of the many students whose life she has helped change.  Stay tuned.

Back to School Progress in #Nepal

MichelRooijackers (1)Michel Rooijackers

Save the Children Response Team Leader in Nepal

 

 

When most people hear that it's “Back to School” time, they probably remember ever-exciting first day when children return to their studies, ready to learn and see their friends. 

But for earthquake-ravaged villages throughout Nepal, getting children back into school isn’t as simple as packing their bags and giving them a hug goodbye.

Back to school copyMore than 32,000 classrooms have been completely destroyed, and an additional 15,000 have been badly damaged and considered unsafe for students and teachers. 

Buried inside those classrooms are books, desks, chalkboards and pencils; all of the necessary materials to make a quality learning environment for children.

Being overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges isn’t an option. Providing children with an education and safe-environment is as vital as providing them with food and water.

Our teams are working with communities across Nepal to build Temporary Learning Centers, simple structures made from tarps and local materials like bamboo. Located in open-spaces on the school grounds, they are a refreshing return to normalcy for children, parents and teachers.

Given the ongoing earthquakes and aftershocks, some parents have been understandably worried about sending their children back to school. What parent wouldn’t want their child close to them during such strenuous times? 

Thankfully, the design and materials of the Temporary Learning Spaces means that even if they are damaged by another earthquake, they’re very unlikely to cause any significant harm to children or teachers who may be inside. 

Teachers are also conducting drills with the students to ensure they know how to stay safe wherever they are when the next aftershock occurs.

With the help of community volunteers, we have already established 32 Temporary Learning Centers and will build a further 670 in the coming months. We’re also providing the schools and children with kits to ensure they have all the supplies they need to have a productive year.

Looking at the lively Temporary Learning Centers, juxtaposed next to the razed schools reveals a clear symbol of the progress Nepal has already made after this disaster, and a reminder of the challenges ahead.