Many sponsors ask, what happens to sponsored children after they graduate from our programs? For Dial Grace from the Philippines, the sky’s the limit!
We first met Dial Grace when she was 10 years old, shy and unsure of her future. A decade later, she’s on her way to finishing college with Save the Children by her side.
Growing up with Save the Children has built numerous memories, countless laughter and millions of smiles. We learned life lessons, we gained friends and we built a family.
Dial Grace says that sponsorship programs helped her become the woman she is today. “One of the most important sessions for me was the Basic Life Skills workshop. It has been my foundation to know myself better and it helped me understand how to make better – if not the best – decisions,” she said.
Now, Dial Grace works as a registered nurse in Saudi Arabia, where she feels that she is able to pay it forward to others in need. “Back in my younger days, I envisioned my future self, working with people and influencing them in such a way that Save the Children had created positive changes in my life.” she said.
The learnings I gained from Save the Children have been one of my secrets for being who I am today, thus, wherever I will be, I can proudly and humbly say that Save the Children is part of it.
Your sponsorship helps children learn, grow and dream – and Dial Grace is proof that those dreams can become reality with a little help. “Participating in the programs of Save the Children has made a great impact in my life,” she said.
Letter writing is a great way for a sponsor to learn about their child’s life; with letters, drawings, and pictures, sponsor and child are able to grow their friendship through correspondence. But some sponsors dream of meeting their children in real life – and actually make the (oftentimes long!) trip to visit them in person!
Last October, sponsor Heidi from the United States set out on the long journey to Saptari, Nepal, to visit her sponsored child, Jay. During her two day visit, Heidi was able to see the life-changing programs her generous sponsorship helps support with her own eyes. “This visit helped me realize how far my sponsorship money can go and all the great things that can be done because of my sponsorship,” Heidi said.
During her time in Nepal, Heidi was able to spend time getting to know Jay and his family. “This visit meant a lot to me and my son,” Jay’s mom said. “I feel like I am a lucky mother because my son’s sponsor came to meet him from faraway. Not everyone gets such an opportunity to see and talk with their sponsor.” She also added, “I am the first mother in this school and in the community who got an opportunity to meet my child’s sponsor in person, so I feel very proud to be the luckiest one!”
Heidi also had the opportunity to visit Jay’s school, meet with his teachers and his principal. “I really enjoyed being able to speak with the teachers and school management committee members to hear how the support of Save the Children has made a positive impact on the attendance of children,” Heidi said.
“It was wonderful meeting with our donor in person and welcoming her in our school,” the principal of Jay’s school said. “We were very glad to thank her personally for her generous support. The changed school environment, better classrooms, improved reading and teaching materials…and awareness among parents and guardians about education are possible because of her support.”
For Heidi, seeing her sponsored child in person and understanding the context of his challenging life was an experience she will cherish forever. “I will never forget getting to meet my sponsored child in person. Being able to see the community that he is living in and meet his family was so special and it taught me a lot about what it is like to grow up in this rural environment and see some of the challenges that the community faces. I am very proud to be a sponsor for such a wonderful organization.”
The visit was memorable for Jay, too! “I am very happy to meet my sponsor in person and show her my classroom,” Jay said.
Learn how you can change your child’s life with a visit here.
The August rains this year in Nepal proved to be one of the harshest the country has seen in years.
The day started just like any other day in Saptari, one of the sponsorship supported areas in the eastern region of Nepal – bright and sunny. But then, the sky was engulfed with dark clouds and wind, signs of approaching rain. The weather forecast warned of heavy rainfall. However, many, including me, went home in the evening with little thought about the impending damage. The rain got worse as the day went on.
A little before dawn, people chattering woke me up. Everyone, young and old, was wide awake. The water leaking through the closed doors was pooling inside my house, and my neighbor’s houses. As we waited for the relief of daybreak, we piled up furniture to achieve some higher ground for our valuables.
As the light broke through, my hometown was looking more like a deep pond. The magnitude of destruction was immeasurable.
The flood washed away homes, belongings and crops as well, damaging families’ livelihoods that were meant to last them throughout the year, in a series of continuous downpours. Homes, schools, hospitals and health posts were partially submerged in water. Everyone was searching for high elevation to take refuge. Families brought along with themselves anything they could save – most clutched their precious goats and cattle, their only source of livelihood left. It was really disheartening to see people, especially young carefree children, not having access to clean drinking water during this crisis.
Despite the damage, some of the children still seemed sunny and upbeat, as they swam and played, trying to fish in the new pools of flooded water.
Save the Children helped distribute tarps to around 1,000 affected households, to ensure families have a shelter above them, and shared over 800 hygiene kits – containing items like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, water purifiers, underwear and towels. Our goal was to ensure children could remain safe from preventable diseases, the prevalence of which rises dramatically during such natural disasters, because water can become contaminated easily.
Children, among others, are more at risk in disasters like these. Physical as well as psychological shelter is an urgent need for children during emergencies. In addition to health kits and support in finding shelters, almost 500 children were provided student kits including learning materials like books and notebooks, replacing lost school supplies as the flood in Saptari gradually dries up.
Without sponsorship, none of this relief would have been possible. From my neighbors and I, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Do you have a family plan for when emergencies strike? Being prepared and organized goes a long way in times of crises. How does your family weather big storms?
Hello, my name is Melany and I’m 4 years old. I live in Mexico City, a big city with a lot of cars, people, houses, streets, stores and noise. My mom takes me to school by bus every day. She says I have to pay attention because it’s dangerous. My school is the place I like the most because I can learn and it’s quiet and clean. They give me healthy things to eat and I can play with my friends.
During the holidays I missed coming to school to study and seeing my friends. I like coloring, but I like it best when my friend Paty colors with me. I also like playing with the blocks in my classroom. It’s fun, we use them to build things. I love building robots the most – I make them large and colorful.
They are teaching me numbers and letters. I can write my name all by myself now. My teacher helped me a lot. “M” is the easiest letter because it’s the first and the “a” is always the hardest.
My friends from “Los Children” (Save the Children) visit my school sometimes, the ones with the red t-shirts. They helped us form a committee, which I love to be a part of with the other kids in my class. When we get together we talk about our school, like about the yard toys that are old and can cut us. Then we talk about how we can fix them. We think it is important to tell all the other children about our committee so that they can help us take care of our school, too. We also learn how to know dangerous situations, and how to protect ourselves when we are out in the city. We include our parents in our meetings sometimes, to support us in keeping our school clean and safe.
“Los Children” came once to measure me and they told me I am healthy, but that I had to eat well and exercise to stay that way. That’s why those same friends came to talk with my mom and my teachers, and they taught them how to prepare good and delicious food for me, something our parents didn’t know so much about before. I like eating in my school, the food is always yummy. I like soup and fruits, especially mangos and strawberries.
The children’s committee and Save the Children have set up a school orchard, too. There we have planted many different things, and we are waiting for them to grow so that we can soon prepare more healthy food with these vegetables.
Thanks to support from our sponsors, Save the Children Mexico is giving children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Thank you from Mexico City to all of our sponsors who have helped make life better for children like Melany and her classmates!
“To take care and educate your own child is simply a task of parents and almost everyone does it, yet to do the same for the other children is a matter of choice,” said Henderina in a conversation with sponsorship staff while meeting in her home. Yes, Henderina is one of those who chooses to educate not only her children – Yedija and Grace, ages 3 and 9 respectively – but also the other children in her community, at their sponsorship supported Reading Camp. She has been trained as a community volunteer by Save the Children in order to run the Reading Camp in her house for the local children. She believes that reading can be the window for the little villagers to see the world and to achieve their dreams.
As the Reading Camp had just been established, children ages 6 – 10 came with great enthusiasm. They came together to play games that strengthen their literacy skills and to learn to read the newly provided books. “It was such a joy to see children enjoy the games and learning. You can see that this is what they really need, to play and to learn through games with their peers.” Before sponsorship helped establish a Reading Camp in their community, children had very little access to books or other reading materials. Most have no books at home of their own, and there was no community library available.
With the creation of the Reading Camp, two challenges of improving the reading ability of local children were solved. Firstly, with the provision of books, which could also be lent to children so they could read them at home. Secondly, through the provision of a passionate facilitator like Henderina, who helps them to be motivated to learn and who encourages group learning styles that makes learning amongst friends fun for the children.
Henderina realizes that children this age cannot be forced to learn in a way adults may be able to. They need friends. They need to play. Therefore, in her Reading Camp, she tries to incorporate learning through play every day. Children can learn phonetics, letters and vocabulary through singing, playing games, solving puzzles and storytelling. Henderina dedicates her time for the children happily, having fun too with them in the Reading Camp.
Running the Reading Camp in a community where not all parents are aware of the significance of education and literacy is not without challenges. One of them is finding a way to get parents excited about sending their children to the Reading Camp. Some assume that sending their children would be a waste of time, and would rather have their help around the home, such as by collecting firewood, fetching water and caring for the family animals.
Henderina believes that the primary reason for this is the low awareness among parents on the great impact that being allowed to learn while playing with their friends can have on their children. Because of this, she has taken it as part of her role as community volunteer to visit every family with children in her community, to discuss the importance of educating their children and to encourage the parents to send their children to the Reading Camp.
Her efforts bear fruit as more and more children come to her Reading Camp as she meets with more and more parents. Sometimes, parents even stay to participate in the activities themselves. “With this positive progress, I strongly believe that the children in my community can read like those in the city and can reach whatever dreams they may have. This can start here, from this Reading Camp,” she proudly stated.
Mobilizing community members to help build our programs is an integral part of sponsorship. We provide training and tools that enable children, parents, teachers and local partners like Henderina to work together to achieve common goals. Consider sharing this story with a friend or family member, to show how you’ve helped bring the joy of reading to children in the Philippines, as one of our valued sponsors! Thank you!
As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, I remember that I left my Dramamine in the suitcase. There is no cellphone signal on these winding roads taking me down and around sharp curves. As such, I’m not able to search my iPhone for a Walgreens. And come to think of it, I haven’t really seen any kind of store in the last twenty minutes. Did I mention that I’m in America? This road I’m navigating (and stomaching) is taking me to an elementary school nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, in one of the poorest counties in the United States.
To be clear, this community is poor in resources, but certainly not in spirit.
As we pull into the parking lot, we see a “Welcome Save the Children” message on the school’s billboard. The lot is already full of cars, and little ones are tugging at the hands of their grown-ups to get through the doors. It’s now dark, and Thursday. Oh to have that much enthusiasm at the end of the week! We stroll in behind them, our arms loaded down with boxes of books donated from Scholastic, who partners with U.S. Programs to get more books into the hands of the children we serve. The closer we get to the library, the louder the conversational hum gets. I thought this was going to be a small family night for first graders.
We are greeted by a woman wearing a Save the Children shirt. She presents an air of leadership, so I assume she is the Principal. “Welcome to our school! We are so glad y’uns could make it out. The kids are so excited to do their Readers’ Theater. Everybody’s here,” she smiled and added with a Southern twang.
The library is packed. Parents, grandparents, babies, children convincingly dressed as animals, other non-animal children… We found a corner of the room, and the woman who greeted us turned her attention to addressing the crowd. She introduces the Save the Children visitors, and proceeds to enthusiastically share the school’s sponsorship program plan with the community.
She remembers to introduce herself, “Oh, and I’m Belinda, the Sponsorship Community Liaison.” She’s not the Principal, but an extremely motivated and proud community member who works with sponsorship. I’m floored. And thrilled!
This was the first Literacy Family Engagement night for the school, paid for by Save the Children sponsorship, of many more planned for the rest of the year. This school joined us as a new partner, trying out this new program seeking to reach more children, and empower more communities to come together to help kids be successful at school. This night was the culmination of months of planning between the school, parents, members of the community and Save the Children. For me, it felt like the culmination of four years of my life as the Director of Sponsorship in the United States. Seeing this program play out before my very eyes was more gratifying than I can explain. But I’ll try.
You see, we’ve always been a little different here in the U.S. Poverty looks very dissimilar internationally, and the needs of children overseas are certainly more obvious at a glance. This is not the case in rural America. Addressing the impact poverty makes on children here is not always providing basic needs, installing running water, or building a school. Here, it’s more subtle. The road out of poverty is more winding and curved, but after what I’ve seen tonight, I think we’ve found some capable navigators. Right there they stood, packed into a library wearing tails, whiskers and duck feet, reading aloud to their families and community while acting out the story.
These first graders will be navigating their way right out of the hills of have-not, around the twists and turns of grade-level reading, and upward to the peaks of their own success. In the U.S. a child’s chances of breaking the cycle of poverty are only as good as the quality of their education. Similar to my car-sick journey to the school, the road out of poverty is long and daunting when you’re not equipped with the things you need for the journey. But these kids have something special – this community, and more than 21,000 sponsors in the U.S. providing support along the way. Thanks to sponsors, these students have new books to read and activities like the Readers’ Theater to participate in, getting both kids and parents excited about education and the future.
Despite the darkness peaking behind those smoky mountains, the future is looking really bright for kids in this small, rural town.
Gloria is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Namayumba, Uganda, with her mother and four siblings. She recalls the days before the sponsorship program started in her school as hard, especially the time when she first began her menstrual cycle.
As with many of the girls in her community, she did not have sanitary towels to use most of the time simply because her mother couldn’t afford them, so she dreaded her period’s monthly arrival. Most families in Namayumba have too little to provide even the most basic provisions for their children, like daily meals, so unfortunately – though they would have loved to provide these materials for their daughters – parents were unable to purchase them.
“I had to miss school because I was afraid that I would get embarrassed if my uniform got stained.” Gloria says. This greatly affected her confidence as she was always worried about when her period would be approaching. It also affected her grades since she had to miss school for a couple of days each month. Like other girls in her community, without the proper materials to be able to sit comfortably through the whole school day, she had no choice but to be absent, despite her eagerness to learn.
When sponsorship started the implementation of its adolescent development programs in Gloria’s school, it provided disposable sanitary towels to all the girls that had started their menstrual cycle. Our adolescent development activities in Uganda aim to improve sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, as well as promote gender equity and overall improve the quality of life for children ages 10 to 19 years old.
“I was very excited to get the sanitary towels because I then did not have to be scared or miss school during my periods, but I was also a bit worried about what I would do when I had used them all up.” Gloria recalls.
Since the disposable sanitary towels would eventually get used up and the girls would still not be able to afford to buy new ones, a more sustainable solution was introduced by Save the Children. Senior female teachers in each of the schools were taught how to make reusable menstrual pads, and also trained on how to teach menstrual hygiene management to their students. These teachers then trained the girls in their schools how to make the reusable pads themselves, and taught them how to manage their hygiene.
Many of the children did not have any hope of ever having a constant supply of sanitary towels and having a comfortable time during their menstrual cycle, but with the knowledge of making these reusable pads, this hope has been restored. “Having sanitary towels I can use more than once had never crossed my mind. After the lesson from Ms. Allen, our teacher, I went home and made myself some.” says Gloria proudly.
“Gloria is a much happier and more confident girl now. Her school attendance and grades have greatly improved.” says Ms. Allen.
Gloria is exited and hopeful about the future and believes that now that she goes to school regularly, she will be able to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. She is very grateful to the Save the Children sponsorship program for revitalizing that dream.
All the way from Namayumba, Uganda, please accept our dearest thanks from Gloria and her friends! Thanks to our sponsors, today they are happy to be back in school and learning comfortably.
In Afghanistan, especially in rural areas, people are suffering from the lack of a consistent energy source for heating and cooking in their homes. To overcome this problem many families still prefer traditional ways of supplying energy. This means that often children can be seen walking the streets to collect animal wastes. Dung, or called “sargen” in Dari, the local language, can then be dried and used as fuel or even building material. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge on protecting ones health and hygiene was causing children to get sick after collecting sargen.
9-year-old Amina is in 3rd grade at the girls’ school in her village, in Faryab Province. She lives with her parents and is third eldest among her 3 sisters and 2 brothers. She is an active student, but a few months back she suddenly was facing some difficulties, enduring a pain in her stomach followed by her health quickly deteriorating. She tried to attend school regularly but her poor health conditions did not allow her to actively participate in the class work and recreational activities at school.
Her mother Gulbadam shared, “Our family worried about her health. Her father gave her a pain killer medicine, but the pain continued because she felt terrible cramps in her stomach. She preferred to stay at home and was disappointed and sad.”
Amina told us proudly, “Save the Children staff came to my school and conducted deworming campaigns. They told teachers and students about worm infestations which is very common in school-aged children in this community, because every day children collect sargen and the germs enter our stomachs and makes us sick.”
She added, showing what she had learned on the topic, “Save the Children staff told us that if these worms grow they would make children much weaker and sick. It is always better to take dewormers to kill worms and to wash our hands with soap. They gave deworming tablets to all the children in school and I took the tablets too. The next day it kicked out many worms from my stomach and I felt better.”
After being inspired by her new knowledge of what had made her sick, Amina become a member of the child-focused health education group in her village, and actively participates in the sessions. She mentioned, “Before I never knew to wash my hands with soap after collecting sargen, and that [washing with] only water does not remove the microbes and causes stomach worms. Thank you Save the Children,” she added shyly.
The child-focused health groups are sponsorship supported programs that provide a forum for girls and boys to meet once a week in the homes of volunteers or in community spaces. At these meetings, health skills such as how to maintain good hygiene and nutrition and prevent diseases are key topics. Children learn through participating in public campaigns to spread health messages through their community, as well as in meeting sessions learn through activities such as drawing, storytelling, roleplaying and other child-friendly activities that strengthen important health skills, like proper handwashing.
Amina explained, “Now our school is closed for winter holidays but there is a [child’s health] group in our neighbors’ house. I regularly attend each session because I enjoy learning many new things, I learned when to wash my hands with soap and why I should do so. Before this I rarely used soap but I learned if I do not use soap I will face stomach worms which is very scary and painful.”
As a part of the child-focused health groups, child participants are asked to share what they have learned in each session with at least 3 family members or relatives. Community elders, parents and school management are also invited to some of the events. In this way, not only do the children benefit but the impact of our programs are felt throughout the entire community.
Amina’s mother says, “Children learn best when they are healthy. Thanks to Save the Children for implementing very helpful and useful programs. Now I encourage my children to always wash their hands with soap after participating in deworming awareness raising and deworming tablets distribution campaigns.”
Amina’s mother also says, “Amina regularly attends school and is much more active and healthy than before. I am really happy and appreciate Save the Children for its efforts for our school.”
Guru Sharan ji – Guru Sharan, his first and middle name, and ji is something we add, out of respect after a person’s name in Nepal – used to be one of the many children supported by the Save the Children sponsorship program in the Siraha district of Nepal. Today, he works as an Accountability Officer, collecting feedback from community members about our programs and analyzing the effectiveness of those programs to ensure children are receiving the best health and education support possible. After seeing the benefits of sponsorship as a child firsthand through the programs run in his childhood community, he was inspired to be a part of that work and get involved with our organization as an adult.
I immediately recognized him when I first saw him on the stairs of Save the Children’s Kathmandu office last year. It was a moment of satisfaction and tremendous joy for me to see him, a formerly sponsored child, doing so well in his grown-up life.
Recently, I shared with him my happiness in seeing a story from him on a social networking site in Nepal. It featured him with his wife on the day she graduated from college. I asked him if he was the one who took it upon himself to advocate for her education since he actively participated in child rights programs as a sponsored child, for example through the child club in his school.
We spoke of the cultural trends and restrictions in his community, where education was not considered an integral part of growing up. Parents instead focus on providing just two proper meals for their children a day, and do not have time to support their children’s studies. Girls’ education, in particular, is considered nothing but a waste of time and money.
As a child his wife, Shanti, had dropped out of school prior to finishing 5th grade and then returned after attending non-formal classes run by Save the Children for out-of-school children. She feels as passionately about the importance of education for children as Guru Sharan ji does, and wants to pursue a postgraduate degree in teaching.
He told me, “I had made it clear to my parents that I wanted Shanti, my wife, to pursue further education. Amazingly, my mother came to my defense.” Guru Sharan ji asked his mother about her concerns for the family’s public image – a married woman is expected to drape a sari but a schoolgirl had to wear a skirt if she wished to go to school. He went on, “… but my mother assured me that she was ready for any ill comments or backlash from the community; she would send her daughter-in-law to school.”
How was your mother so accepting of the idea to send her daughter-in-law to school? How did she find the courage to go against the trending culture? Did she learn about children’s rights from you? I was curious and began asking him many questions.
“When I look back, I realize that my mother was very receptive of progressive ideas. She was hearing from me and the sponsorship programs [staff] that education is every child’s right,” he shared.
As a child, Guru Sharan ji himself was very active in the child club run at his school through sponsorship, where with his peers he enjoyed discussing important issues that children face like child rights and the ill effects of child marriage or corporal punishment. He remembers the first day participating, being so nervous to speak in front of the group. After that, through the club he started to put a lot of his efforts into improving his public speaking skills. As he practiced through this forum, his skills improved to the point that he was often called out at various sponsorship supported functions and events to speak on behalf of the group. He began to realize that education was very important in one’s life. People would seek you out if you were educated. He would share these thoughts with his mother as well. Since he was the eldest child in the family, his mother would listen to him. All the changes she saw in her son made her proud and she knew all these changes were possible because of education and the sponsorship program.
Sponsorship uses a holistic development approach directed towards children through programs in education, health, adolescent development and livelihoods skills. Amidst the programs is one key factor that determines the sustainability of these programs: behavior and attitude change.
The movement of changing behaviors and attitudes from Guru Sharan ji, to his mother, and lastly for his wife’s benefit, is a prime example of how Save the Children creates sustainable solutions to the problems that children face in Nepal while also benefiting their whole community.
In rural Kentucky where 26 percent of children live in poverty, children face many challenges at home and in school. But with help from our sponsors, our sponsorship program is giving children in the United States the skills they need to succeed, and the opportunity for a brighter future.
Sarabeth just started second grade and loves participating in the sponsorship program at her school. When asked how reading makes her feel, Sarabeth answered, “It makes me smart”. You can find her reading her favorite book, Dinosaurs Don’t Eat Broccoli, or dreaming of going to college and becoming a doctor when she grows up.
Sarabeth didn’t always love reading. She was referred to Save the Children because her reading assessment scores were low and she was falling behind her peers. Since joining the program and getting the support she needs, Sarabeth has shown great improvements in more ways than just one. Her teacher, Mrs. Collins, reports that she has seen a difference in her reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary skills. “I’ve seen much improvement in Sarabeth and look forward to seeing more at the end of this year,” she says.
Sarahbeth has also developed confidence and social skills thanks to the sponsorship program. Her mother says, “I have noticed that she is becoming more confident and more willing to speak out.” Sarabeth’s mother says that her daughter now loves going to school since joining the program. “Save the Children is a great program! Sarabeth has made new friends, improved her schoolwork and has become more confident. It also allows her to be more socially active than ‘regular’ school does. It’s good to see programs like this help our kids so much. Thank you!”
Sarabeth isn’t the only child who has made great strides since joining sponsorship. Mrs. Jarvis, a Save the Children program coordinator, sees the difference in so many children who are developing a love of reading. “I am encouraging students to choose books based on interest and reading ability. We have book talks that students enjoy and are beneficial to them in understanding what they’ve read. As a classroom teacher, that was not always possible as time was precious and there was always more to do than could be accomplished in a day! The Save the Children program is allowing children to develop a love of reading and allowing me to rediscover my love of reading also.”
Sarabeth and so many children like her in Kentucky are making great progress, thanks to sponsors like you. We’re excited to see where Sarabeth goes next – it seems like the sky’s the limit!