Giveness’s Last 6 Hour Walk

Author Portrait_Annette Malilo, Information and Communication Officer
Annette Malilo

Information and Communication Officer

Save the Children in Zambia

August 18, 2017

Life has not been easy for 13-year-old Giveness, a grade 6 student in Lufwanyama, Zambia. She lives in a small village called Chifumpa with her mother, father and younger sister, 9-year-old Bibiana. Villagers here earn their living by fishing and farming. Giveness makes sure she helps her mother with washing dishes and fetching firewood, which are common daily chores for children in this rural part of the world.

Giveness with her bicycle, which cuts her 3-hour ride to school to just 1 hour!
Giveness with her bicycle, which cuts her 3-hour ride to school to just 1 hour!

Determined to be a nurse when she grows older, she goes to school every day with her sister. In the past, they would walk side-by-side for three hours each way to school through the thick forests that surround their village, spending an unbearable six hours walking each day. Because of this, children like Giveness and her sister were frequently absent and had to repeat grades due to poor school performance. For some, rivers and lakes further impede travel, when during the rainy season floods make some areas completely impassable for the unsupervised children on their daily journey.

“Before Save the Children gave us bicycles I used to walk 15 kilometers to school and back every day. I would start off at 5am when it’s still dark with my young sister. We would walk for 3 hours and our legs would be sore. We almost gave up on school. But now that I have a bicycle my legs feel better.” she shyly says in the local language, called Lamba.

Giveness is now able to go to school every day and carry her sister along with her on her bicycle, like many of her friends that have also received a bicycle thanks to sponsorship funding support, purchased through a community cash transfer program. The head teacher also shared that the number of children attending school has risen as those that have received bicycles carry their friends and siblings along as they go to school.

Giveness smiling with her friends outside of their sponsorship supported school.
Giveness smiling with her friends outside of their sponsorship supported school.

“I am so happy to be sponsored because I am able to learn, receive letters from my sponsor, and also have a bicycle. When I grow up I want to be a nurse because I am acquiring a lot of knowledge at school.” Giveness says proudly.

Giveness now cycles to school within an hour and another hour to get back home. Instead of taking a journey of six hours, it now takes her just two, and she does not miss out on any lessons because she is always on time and no longer constantly tired and sore. Thank you, sponsors, for making this possible!

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

Carolyn Miles’ Statement on Charlottesville

I watched in dismay as the repercussions from the events that recently took place in Charlottesville, Virginia rebounded across the United States and around the world. As a global movement committed to ensuring all children have the future they deserve, the demonstration last weekend is counter to everything Save the Children is trying to accomplish for children at home and abroad. Further, it’s contrary to the values I believe America embodies and holds most dear: tolerance, acceptance and love. I would submit to you that Americans are among the most generous people on the planet. Helping others is ingrained in our spirit.

I worry about the example this sets for our children here in the United States. For the benefit of our country today – and for future generations – we must hold our leaders to a standard of promoting our shared values and being unified against racism, misogyny, Nazism, and violence. We must ensure that we each have conversations with our own children about what happened and help them understand the fundamental difference between the freedom to speak up and demonstrate versus placing one race, gender, or class above another. Starting at home, and with your help, we can set the right tone and instill the values Americans hold dear in our youngest and most formative citizens.

My Sponsor’s Name is Kim

Author Portrait_Maria Rosario Garcia, Sponsorship Communications Coordinator
Maria Rosario Garcia

Sponsorship Communications Coordinator

Save the Children Philippines

August 8, 2017

“My sponsor’s name is Kim,” 6-year-old Maria proudly told me as I spoke to her one day after class. I was visiting her community in South Central Mindanao to deliver the newest letter she had received from her sponsor. She spoke confidently and proudly, and sounded like she knew her sponsor very well.

Maria and her family live in an area where most families do not have the ability to provide three meals a day, have clean drinking water or even a single toy for their children to play with. Her father works as a driver, who is able to come home only on the weekends, while her mother stays at home to take care of Maria and her 9-year-old brother, Zyrich.

Maria smiling in front of her classroom.
Maria smiling in front of her classroom.

Having a sponsor keeps Maria excited about her days. She is eager to share with Kim about her life and about what she is learning in school. People from Maria’s hometown have little mobility to move beyond the community – it is a small and remote village where usually people only travel as far as where they can reach on foot. Her eyes light up with wonder when she reads the letter describing what it is like in the country where her sponsor lives, in the state of Texas in the United States. Hearing stories about the different places in her sponsor’s life has made her realize that the world is bigger than she ever imagined it to be.

She knows there is so much beyond her community now and she awaits for stories about that world in the letters she receives – learning about Kim’s family, her pets and the places she has visited. Maria clearly remembers that she received three letters from her sponsor, each equally exciting and wonderful, over the little over a year she’s been sponsored by Kim. “It makes me happy to know that I have a picture in their house,” she shared smiling, describing the photo all sponsors receive from their sponsored children each year. Maria’s facial expression was more than happy as she continued to tell me that she felt like she’s part of Kim’s family, and that she feels cared for even though they are countries and oceans apart.

After two years of attending our learning programs, Maria is now happily attending her first grade in primary school. These sponsorship supported programs have provided Maria and the other children in her community with reading camps to practice their reading skills with peers, the provision of new learning materials and book banks from which books can now be borrowed, and additional supplies for their schools that enhance literacy and numeracy skills.

Maria now knows how to wash her hands properly, thanks to sponsorship health programs in her school.
Maria now knows how to wash her hands properly, thanks to sponsorship health programs in her school.

Today, Maria says she wants to be a teacher so she can teach more children how to read, write and color pictures as she is so fond of doing! She tells me she cannot wait to share this dream with Kim.

If I were able to meet Maria’s sponsor, I would tell her that she has all the reasons to be proud of Maria. Aside from her astounding progress in school, she is also one of the Child Ambassadors who represents her community in Save the Children’s programs – serving as an embodiment of the achievements her community has been able to implement with sponsorship support.

Sponsorship shares and inspires not just future teachers like Maria, but future doctors, police officers, pilots, veterinarians and more in the over 20 countries where we implement our programs. If you haven’t written to your sponsored child yet, we encourage you to do so! Our experience tells us that letter writing is extremely rewarding for sponsors and children alike – you may help to shape their future dreams!

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

Taking the Scary Out of Disaster for Kids

Erin Lauer
Erin Lauer

U.S. Preparedness Manager

Save the Children U.S

August 8, 2017

When it comes to the weather in northwest Arkansas, the forecast can be a bit like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Extreme heat, nasty thunderstorms, flash flooding, ice storms, tornadoes and even earthquakes have all impacted families in this area in the foothills of the Ozarks.

The risks may seem overwhelming, but the second graders at Butterfield Elementary School in Fayetteville are now ready to weather whatever storm may come their way after participating in a recent Save the Children Prep Rally. A Prep Rally is an emergency preparedness program full of activities and games that help children learn the basics of getting ready for disasters.

More than half of American families don’t have an emergency plan, but kids can play a key role in helping their families get ready for disasters. In fact, families of school-age children who bring home preparedness resources are 75 percent more likely to have an emergency plan. That’s why Butterfield Elementary invested in preparing their kids.

Students from Fayetteville’s Butterfield Elementary School participate in a Prep Rally. Photo by Bob Coleman.
Students from Fayetteville’s Butterfield Elementary School participate in a Prep Rally. Photo by Bob Coleman.

The Butterfield Elementary Prep Rally helped 100 second graders learn how to recognize risks in their area, how to make a family emergency plan, and what supplies to have ready in a disaster. The program uses fun activities, games, and dance to help kids learn about disasters, empowering them with safety and resilience skills. The Un-Telephone game reminded the kids how it can be difficult to communicate during a crisis, and how important it is to know what to do before a disaster. The Family Plan countdown had everyone up and motioning for their 3 ICE (in case of emergency) contacts, 2 evacuation routes and 1 safe place.  Students also played the Disaster Supplies Relay race, learning about what items they should bring with them in case of a disaster.

“The Prep Rally was really fun — now I keep my go bag on the table in case something happens,” said Katherine, age 8.

After closing with the Prep Step song and dance, the children went outside for a special treat — a visit from their local first responders who keep them safe every day. Fayetteville Fire, Police, Central EMS and the Washington County Sheriff taught the children about the different roles they play in an emergency, and brought fire trucks, ambulances and police cars for the kids to explore. The highlight of the event was a visit by the medical transport helicopter from Mercy Hospital, which landed on the soccer field and gave kids a first-hand look at the vehicle that can help bring sick children to the hospital nearly 200 miles away.

Jennifer Condron, one of Butterfield Elementary’s second grade teachers said, “What a memorable and exciting event! I just sent pictures to parents and encouraged them to talk with their children about their emergency plans for home.”

Local first responders from Mercy Hospital showed students how the helicopter and its crew can help someone who is hurt or sick. Photo by Bob Coleman.
Local first responders from Mercy Hospital showed students how the helicopter and its crew can help someone who is hurt or sick. Photo by Bob Coleman.

Debbie Malone, the Community Preparedness Champion for Washington County added, “The Prep Rally was a great way to teach kids about disasters in a way that wasn’t scary, and help them build relationships with local first responders. It was really nice to see the community coming together to promote safety and preparedness to our children.”

The Prep Rally was presented as part of the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative, led by Save the Children’s partnership with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and funded by a grant from GSK. This three-year initiative, through two pilot programs in Arkansas and New York, will develop child-focused community resilience planning that can be brought to national scale. For more information, please visit ncdp.columbia.edu/rcrc.

You too can help your community get ready with a Prep Rally. Download Save the Children’s free Prep Rally guide books and lead preparedness activities with your local school, child care, camp or Girl Scout troop. Learn more at www.SavetheChildren.org/GetReady

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.

An Open Heart

Susan and Claire

By Susan Warner, Senior Manager, Photography & Multimedia Production and

Claire Garmirian, Media Research Analyst

Susan: I made her cry, good tears. Transformative tears of love for the child in her arms. When I showed Rosa the photo I took of her and her granddaughter, she burst into tears. I knew then I had taken a good photo.

Claire: Rosa and I spent half an hour speaking in the director’s office on the second floor of the school. We gathered chairs together so that she, Ivonne from Save the Children Mexico and I could hear each other over the noise from below. The painted concrete patio where teachers lead students in experiential learning was beneath us and the sounds of preschoolers moving, counting and singing ricocheted up into the office. Amid all of this energy, Rosa shared the very personal details of her life with her granddaughter, Valeria*, and how she has found herself to be a primary caregiver for the four-year-old girl.

Susan: I don’t speak Spanish, nor have an ear for languages.  I gesture, pantomime, demonstrate and rely on our local staff to help when I’m on assignment.  I had asked Rosa to directly look into the eyes of her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Claire: As I listened to Rosa talk about her family, it became clear that she is a central figure holding many people together. She lives with her husband and son and daughter, both of whom have children of their own. Due to tensions between different members of the family, Rosa is a person who everyone can talk to. She sees the difficulties on both sides of the disputes. It sounded like her role could be tiring at times. She admitted that Valeria’s tantrums could make her feel desperate, but she also says she knows that they are a result of Valeria missing her mother, who no longer lives with her. As much as raising Valeria can be hard work, Rosa had endless stories about how intelligent and creative her granddaughter is. When I lost my words searching for a question, Rosa volunteered the story of her trip to the theater with Valeria. Valeria could repeat the song from the performance by heart after only hearing it once. And while Rosa’s speech was even throughout our conversation, it became energetic and expressive when she told me about Valeria’s drawings. It is obvious that she is amazed by her granddaughter’s imagination.

After our conversation, Rosa descended the stairs to join Susan on the school’s main level. They found a corner among the cacophony to take the tender portrait of the grandmother and granddaughter.

Susan:  Through talking about her experiences in the interview and seeing the photos on the back of my camera, Rosa was emotional, in a positive way, overwhelmed by her love of her granddaughter. It was a touching experience to witness the love they shared. I had photographed her heart.

*Name has been changed for protection.

Background:

Valeria attends preschool in a rough neighborhood in Mexico City that is fraught with violence, drug gangs, and addiction. Save the Children’s HEART program has helped children in this community cope with their stress, anxiety, fears and anger from being exposed to these activities.

About HEART:
HEART (Healing and Education through the ARTs) uses the arts to help children affected by serious or chronic stress from their life circumstances of poverty, violence or other traumatic events. Through painting, music, drama, and other art forms, HEART helps children find new ways to share their feelings and fears, so they can express themselves in a safe environment with trusted adults and peers, and thrive in the classroom. When children share their feelings they begin the healing process.
Save the Children launched HEART in Mexico in 2016. In the first year of operation, HEART reached nearly 8,000 children affected by poverty, violence and migration in 5 provinces: Baja California, Chiapas, Mexico City, Oaxaca and Puebla. The education program is integrated into Save the Children’s programs existing school curriculums for children, including programs at preschools, early primary schools, child and youth centers, and summer programs, as well as migration prevention programs for children and teenagers.
Save the Children has operated in Mexico since 1973. Today, Save the Children serves children in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states, giving kids a healthy start, an opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

A Brighter Future For Children in Romania

By Ashley Snow, Manager, Engagement, Resource Development

At Save the Children, we always say we’ll do whatever it takes to help every last child. This call to action is embedded within our long-term ambition, our strategic priorities and, even our day-to-day watercooler talk. Save the Children employees are deeply committed to making a difference in the lives of the most marginalized, the most deprived, the most vulnerable children. Admittedly, despite its persistent presence in my daily work, I had no idea what this phrase really meant – helping every last child – until I saw it with my own eyes.

When I was assigned to host a group of IKEA co-workers going to visit our IKEA Foundation supported program in Romania, I had to look it up on a map. I’d heard about the country from friends and family who had traveled there for various reasons – service trips, studies abroad, church missions. But, beyond the Transylvania legend and overwhelmed orphanages, my knowledge of the country was limited at best. In my preparation, I was thrilled and consumed with the opportunity to explore the country and finally observe Save the Children Romania’s programs in person.

I’ve worked for Save the Children for the past three years; it was my last internship during college and my first job afterward. I was immediately inspired by the mission of the organization and have always felt incredibly lucky to work toward such ambitious and honorable goals: we hope to provide every child with a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

AS_Blog3

In Romania, Save the Children’s programs for inclusive education are primarily focused on a population that I had never heard of before my visit: the Roma. You may know the group by the more common name of gypsies. The Roma community originated inside the country of Romania and dominates a large portion of its population to this day. The ethnic group faces large social, cultural and political barriers to pulling out of widespread poverty. Many Roma are uneducated and live with multiple families in makeshift shacks. Young boys and girls are often pulled out of school to work or marry; Roma children consist of 80% of the students out of school in the country. Even if they are able to attend, the children face deep-rooted discrimination. Their own teachers often believe – and say aloud – that it is useless to educate a Roma child.

As we drove around the capital city of Bucharest, up into the mountains of Brasov, and along dirt roads to meet with Roma children, I was struck by our call to action: whatever it takes to help every last child. For many Roma communities across the country, Save the Children is the only organization that is present to support their children. For a group that is not only forgotten, but heavily prejudiced against, our strategic and targeted educational programs provide a glimmer of hope for a better future.

On our last school visit during the trip, we had the opportunity to meet with Roma parents whose children had participated in a kindergarten preparedness program the previous summer. This intervention is specifically designed for the Roma population, to ensure that boys and girls who are starting school are prepared – both academically and socially – for the year ahead. We witnessed a sampling of the class and noted the impressive behavior of the children. Though only five or six years old, the boys and girls were raising their hands, speaking in turn and listening to their teacher. One IKEA co-worker even exclaimed, “They’re better behaved than my daughter’s class at home!”

AS_Blog1

When we talked with the mothers and fathers after the class let out, I noted the many similarities between the desires of these Roma parents and those I know at home. They had all sacrificed in many ways – education, work, and more – to build a better future for their children. Like so many parents in the United States, they dream of providing a little more, a little better for their sons and daughters.

At the end of the discussion, I suddenly asked if they had noticed a difference in their children since the program had started last summer. The entire room erupted with noise and movement from our participants.

The answer, as I had hoped, was an overwhelming yes.

IKEA Foundation is Save the Children’s largest global corporate partner. We have been partners with IKEA since 1994. Through IKEA Foundation-funded programs, Save the Children has touched the lives of some 10 million children. The inclusive education program we visited in Romania is funded by the Soft Toys for Education campaign. The campaign that ran from 2003 to 2015, aimed to improve the education of the most disadvantaged children, recognizing that education is one of the best investments for them. Save the Children programs focused on children of ethnic minority groups and children with disabilities – groups which are often the most vulnerable. Our work together continues in the new Let’s Play for Change campaign IKEA launched 2016.

For more information about the partnership, please visit: https://www.savethechildren.net/about-us/our-corporate-partners/ikea-foundation

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.