Through Viona’s Eyes

VicHeadshotWEBVictoria Zegler

Multimedia Storyteller

Save the Children in Indonesia

February 25, 2018

10-year-old Viona lives in a remote community tucked away in Central Sumba, Indonesia. She lives in a small village that does not have access to electricity or

Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!
Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!

running water. Poor hygiene is common in remote areas where Viona lives and children like her are faced with it every day. Prior to sponsorship, Viona did not understand the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to her success in school. Just last year, Viona suffered from malaria due to the lack of awareness of the illness and not being able to identify her symptoms.

In 2016, Viona was given the opportunity to become a Little Doctor at her school. The program, which is an innovation from the School Health and Nutrition program, enforces healthy lifestyle choices through peer-to-peer educational activities, an approach to help promote health within student groups. These activities include washing hands and monitoring the cleanliness of their classrooms, latrines and the school environment. “My favorite person is a doctor,” Viona said. “When I get older I want to be a doctor because they not only help sick people but many different people.”

Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.
Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.

Today, when Viona comes home from school, she now knows the importance of eating a healthy meal. She then takes a bath in the river by her house after learning the importance of staying clean to promote good health. Thanks to you, Viona can look to her future with hope. With your support, we can help more children like Viona understand the importance of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to their future success.

Gloria’s Restored Confidence

Author Portrait_Agnes Nantamu, Senior Officer Adolescent Development
Agnes Nantamu

Senior Officer of Adolescent Development

Save the Children in Uganda

October 6, 2017

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.

 Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

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, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.
Gloria, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.

“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.

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

No More Stomach Pains

Author Portrait_Anisa Naimi, School Health and Nutrition Officer, Faryab Province
Anisa Naimi

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

October 3, 2017

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.”

Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.
Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.

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.”

Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.
Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.

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.”

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

Volunteering Has Changed Me

Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel Portrait

Miguel Rubio, Community Focal Point

San Jose El Naranjo, El Salvador

August 13, 2014


My name is Miguel Rubio. I am 19 years old, and I am a Community Focal Point in my home village in San Jose El Naranjo. My life has changed since Save the Children came to my community. I first decided to become a volunteer to work with Save the Children, because I wanted to help the people in my community. Save the Children trained me on topics such as early childhood care and development, the book rotation strategy, and sponsorship operations.

I currently lead the early development parenting circle in my community. A group of mothers come to the parenting circle to learn how to work with young children so when they get older and start going to school, they can do well. Most of the mothers who come to the circle are my neighbors, friends, and extended family. Most of them have known me since I was a young boy.  Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel Supporting Image 1 SHN child brigadiers with children

When I was a School Health and Nutrition child brigadier, I taught classmates how to wash hands properly, and I am very happy to see changes in the lives of children in my school and community because of that. Only 5 of 10 children used to wash their hands after using the latrine. After being in trainings led by the child brigadiers, 9 of 10 children wash their hands now. You can see the good changes! I have been a child brigadier for three years.

When I first started being community volunteer, I did not have the courage to speak in front of a group of people. I was scared to do that. But after receiving training from Save the Children, I feel more and more comfortable talking to people about the topics I have been trained on.

By the time I started high school, I was no longer fearful of presenting before a group of people, because I had done it already with Save the Children. I did so well that all my classmates wanted me to be on their teams! It is very nice to know I can be a role model to other children. My brother, for example, wants to do everything I do. This year he will become a child brigadier with Save the Children as well.

Blog El Salvador March 2014 Miguel in action at ECCD Parent CircleAll of this is possible because of people who care and want to help, and become sponsors. I would like to tell them that they have made a good decision, and that thanks to them, Save the Children runs good programs in remote communities in El Salvador.

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

Pre-School, Helping to Build Healthy Habits

Abilio Cossa

Abilio Cossa, Program Officer

Gaza Province, Mozambique

July 30, 2014


Save the Children has opened 35 preschool classrooms in 15 communities in the Gaza province, giving 1,225 children an early start to school success. Parents and caregivers have reported on the importance of early development of their children and change in the hygiene habits in the community. “Children that go to pre-school get knowledge about things that are not common in the community and they teach their parents…” said the community leader Nosta.  Laila (with her sister Leila) ready for the graduating cerimony

Getting ready for preschool, Laila, 5, and her sister, Leila, 3, brush their teeth behind their home in a small village outside of Mozambique’s Gaza province. Both girls attend the local Save the Children-supported preschool, where they learn not only the alphabet and counting, but also the importance of good hygiene. These healthy habits are very appreciated by parents, caregivers and other children in the community.

“Preschool is very important because kids develop good habits. They know that when they wake up they have to brush their teeth and comb their hair, get dressed and go to school”, said Laila’s mom, Maria Jose, 35. “These practices were not common in the community and we (parents) are learning from our children… note that… today the children are transmitting us habits that we did not have before.”

Laila and her ECCD colleagues exhibiting their certificatesWhen I asked Laila about what she learned in the pre-school she answered,” We learned that we have to wash our hands before eating and after using the latrine, we also learned that after waking up we have to wash our faces and comb our hair to be beautiful.”

During the interview Laila added, “Today is a special day for me and for my family.” Laila was part of a graduation ceremony. Her mother’s last remarks were, “I feel like I am flying. I am really proud and happy to see my daughter graduating.”

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

Creating Responsible Members of Society

Tahmina HaiderTahmina Haider, Sponsorship Manager

Meherpur District, Bangladesh 

November 8, 2012 

There are around 15,000 sponsored children in Bangladesh. Recently a new initiative was introduced for 600 sponsored children from 70 villages in the Meherpur province to help them grow as leaders and responsible members of their society.

The children received training on important issues affecting them and other children. The training covered a wide array of topics, such as basic communication and facilitation, hygiene and nutrition, child marriage sexual abuse, child labor, drugs and corporal punishment. They also received orientation on sponsorship operations and programs.
Blog 2-Photo 2

All the children expressed what an amazing experience it was for them and how honored they felt to participate. They are now aware of their rights, needs and responsibilities and will transfer their knowledge to the children in their villages. They believe they will be able to act as change agents for all children in their villages. They also shared that they are now more valued by the adult members of their society.

In the villages the youth leaders are monitoring and helping with a variety of issues, like ensuring that children always wear shoes when going to the toilets and that they maintain good hygiene. They are also observing if children are being mistreated or receive unacceptable punishment in school or at home.

Through this initiative the children are helping Sponsorship Field Officers receive timely updates on children who are not attending school regularly, have stopped participating in the sponsorship program or have moved away. They also help collect drawings, letters and family updates for sponsors.

This all helps Save the Children run our programs more efficiently and successfully while achieving our goal of developing a child friendly world which prepares them as strong and important future leaders and protects them from all kinds of abuse.

Blog 2-Photo 3

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

It’s all about where you were born…..and to whom!

This past week and a half was a busy one—I found myself in Washington, DC; Delhi, India; and Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to spending lots of hours on planes and

sleeping in airports, these vastly different places drove home for me the immense divide between kids’ lives in countries around the world. These differences are rooted in the rate of child survival and the striking disparity in their opportunity for a productive and happy life.


In 2010, nearly two million Indian children never had a chance. They died from easily preventable causes before they were five years old—things like pneumonia, prematurity and complications at birth that could have been prevented, and even diarrhea, which claims the lives of tens of thousands of Indian kids every year. This represents the death of 63 kids for every 1,000 born in India in 2010. In contrast, fewer than a thousand children under five died that same year in Denmark, where there are 64,000 annual births—making it one of the highest-ranking countries for child survival. Surprisingly, far more kids died in the US before they made it to 5—32,000 in 2010 or 8 children for every 1,000 born. And we lose most children in the US as babies: 57% of child deaths occur before they are even a month old.

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In Evacuation Center, Young Mother Worries about Her Baby’s Health

Awander Andrew Wander, Save the Children Media Manager

Minimisanriku, Japan

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

After 10 days living in the evacuation center, with little hygiene and few supplies, Michiko Takahashi worries about the health of her 1-year-old baby girl, Mion. I transcribed her story with the assistance of a translator. 

“On the day of the earthquake, I had been at the doctor with my daughter. I’d just returned home and was changing her diaper when the earthquake struck.

“The house was really shaking hard, and I thought it would be safer outside. Normally I’d have stayed inside, because that’s what we’re taught to do, but the ground was shaking so hard that I thought I’d be safer outside. So I ran out with the baby, without even time to put on a new diaper. 

IMG_7247 Michiko, 22, holds her daughter Mion, 1, in the evacuation center they have lived in since being made homeless by a tsunami in Minimisanriku.
Photo Credit: Andrew Wander – Save the Children

“I was about to go back into the house to get some things, when I heard the tsunami siren ringing. My mother shouted at me not to go into the house, and we started running to higher ground. 

“I now know that my house was completely destroyed, and we’ve lost everything.

I have only the clothes I was wearing, but Mion was given some baby clothes yesterday.

“Life in evacuation center is very hard. We’ve been here for 10 days, and I’m very concerned about my baby’s health. For the first nine days, we had no hygiene supplies given to us at all. Yesterday, we got three baby wipes (not packets, but individual sheets) and a couple of cans of milk.

There’s nothing to sterilize the baby’s bottle with, and I haven’t washed my hands for days. I tried to go to the city to buy some supplies, but there is nothing in the shops. 

"I’m very worried about my daughter, especially because she suffers from poor health. Even before the disaster, she’d been going to the hospital twice a month, and there’s no telling when we’re going to be able to go again.

“Mion is also very shy, and it’s really upsetting her living here, with so many people around all the time. We have no idea when we will leave here, or where we will go. Everything has changed.


Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

Haiti One Year On: Change That Makes A Difference

Shaye Gary Shaye, Haiti Country Director, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I’ve been working in Haiti since April and I’ve seen quite a bit of progress, especially over the past few months. 

But first before I share with you what we’ve doing to help Haiti’s children, let’s take a moment to reflect on the events of January 12, 2010.

As most people know at least 230,000 people died in the earthquake in a country that was tremendously poor even before the disaster. Indeed before the quake only about a third of Haiti’s population had access to safe drinking water, and half of Haiti’s children weren’t in school. 

The quake occurred here in Port-au-Prince – Haiti’s capital – the nerve centre of the heavily centralized country. Not only did the earthquake impact people in Port-au-Prince but also in places like Leogane, and along the south coast. Much of Haiti’s essential infrastructure was damaged, but I was especially shocked to learn that 4,000 schools were destroyed. It was a catastrophic event.

IMGP0268_64470A three-story building reduced to rubble.
Photo Credit: Kate Conradt 

Save the Children immediately responded to the earthquake. Because we’ve had a presence in Haiti for over thirty years we were able to mobilize staff both here and from around the world to mount one of the largest humanitarian responses in the agency’s 91-year history.  

Following the disaster, Save the Children focused on child protection, health, education, and livelihoods. We expanded our programs, and began work in Léogâne, as well as Jacmel, which is located along the southern coast where we had not previously operated.

Until recently there were 1.3 million people, about sixteen per cent of Haitians, living in tents. When I say tents we’re really speaking of plastic sheets and poles. These are not tents that people would take camping anywhere in the world. These are tents that are more like kite plastic held up by a few wooden poles. To believe it you really have to see the situation in which people are living. It is a standard below what I would say is sub-human.

HAITI-8552_71137Residents outside their tents at the Camp de Fraternite shelter camp.
Photo Credit: Lee Celano/Getty Images for Save the Children

During a strong hurricane there is absolutely no way that these plastic sheets and poles will withstand the wind and rain.

Beyond that another 500,000 people relocated to live with family and friends in rural areas. They’re part of the hidden earthquake-affected population that are not visible. They place a huge burden on their families in the rural areas who already had a hard time feeding themselves before the earthquake. Now these families have permanent houseguests who didn’t just come for a meal or a visit, but for the unforeseeable future.

The challenges that we face are multiple. The government, which was not strong before the earthquake, was further weakened since the disaster took the lives of many government workers as well as destroyed much of the existing infrastructure. Although NGOs have some successful partnerships with the government, more often than not the NGOs themselves either provide the service like, say, a health service, or it does not exist. All of us would certainly prefer that this was not the case, but this our reality.  

An example of that would be the fact that 80 per cent of the schools are privately owned in Haiti. These are not private schools like in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia. These are schools whose owners operate them in the community as a service or small business. Many of these schools were destroyed last January, and many of the families whose children attended these schools can no longer afford the annual school fees of a few hundred dollars. As a result too many children are missing out on the chance of an education.

But when our team and I talk to Haitians, education is always the highest priority. It’s where they want to invest in their children’s future. It’s critical to them that these private schools open as soon as possible. That’s why in 2011 Save the Children will partner with 154 schools through teacher training and resource materials, enabling 45,000 children to get an education.

DSC_6683_74579Students file into a Save the Children school in Port-au-Prince.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

On top of the quake in late October cholera came to Haiti starting in the Central Plateau, and has now expanded throughout the country. As of today, there have been 3,600 deaths as well as over 150,000 confirmed cholera cases.  

But these are just the reported cases. Many people living in rural areas don’t have access to cholera treatment centres, where literally within one to three days a person who has cholera can walk out healthy. 

The tragedy though is that we can save lives from cholera, but then people walk back into the conditions which are breeding grounds for the potentially deadly bacteria – dirty water, poor sanitation, and crowded conditions – all of which contribute to the rapid spread of cholera, and if left unchecked, can be deadly, especially to young children.

R10-HA___2021_81255Will, 3-years-old, washes his hands at a Save the Children health clinic.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Nevertheless Save the Children is saving lives through our tensoon to be sixteen cholera treatment units, and also through our water and sanitation community outreach programs where we promote safe hand washing, and basic sanitation practices. While these are simple practices we need to reinforce the messages and repeat them over and over, while also addressing basic sanitation issues. 

However, in a country where only half the people have completed fifth grade, it’s a challenge to get our message out about safe sanitation practices.

One year since the earthquake we understand why some people would be disappointed with the slow pace of recovery in Haiti, and why things are not better.  All of us working here would very much like to accomplish more. But it’s important to remember that things were bad in Haiti – the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation – long before the quake.

Nevertheless we see progress. These past weeks I have visited programs together with some of our Save the Children supporters from around the world. I was in Leogane – the epicentre of the earthquake – where one could see rubble clearance, evidence of rebuilding, people restoring family assets, and refurnishing their houses. There is definitely a commitment and steps being taken here to help rebuild lives. 

That said the process has been slow.  All of us would admit to that – all of us who work cooperatively within Haiti’s NGO community. Indeed after I finish writing this blog I will attend the weekly meeting of NGOs where we share what’s working, what’s not working, and what type of support we need. We ask ourselves what we can do collectively to improve the situation. 

I’m proud to say that since January 12, 2010, Save the Children has extended a lifeline to over 870,000 Haitians – more than half of them children. Today we continue to work with local partners, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and others to bring basic services to the Haitian population.

I believe in our work in Haiti. I believe we do make a difference. On Wednesday I visited the Eddie Pascal School – a school that was destroyed during the quake. Now children study in tents. In schools like these, where we provide assistance like teacher training, it is a delight to see Haiti’s children receive an education. And with all of the constraints that we face, I am pleased when I see one more child in school, and another child receiving quality medical care as well as lives being saved at one of our cholera treatment units. While seeing progress on a one-by-one basis may seem slow, it is precisely the kind of change that does make a difference.

R10-HA___1759_80097Rose, 10-years-old, attends a Save the Children school in Leogane.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner


Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.


Haiti One Year On: Coordinating to Combat Cholera


Dr. Ribka Amsalu Tessera, Emergency Health Advisor, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Friday, January 7, 2011

I’ve been in Haiti since December 20 to provide cover for staff enjoying the festive season with loved ones. On Christmas Day I had time to relax – for an afternoon at least – as we enjoyed a turkey lunch. Later we visited three of our cholera treatment units and gave cakes as gifts to our staff working around the clock to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives. We wanted to show our appreciation. It was a nice thing to do.

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Today I’ve been in a meeting of the health cluster including WHO – World Health Organization – since we have to prioritize where we are going to focus efforts on combating cholera. With so many cases of cholera now reported across Haiti it really is very important that we coordinate between all the agencies working on containing the cholera spread. It can take a lot of my time in coordination meetings but it is important to ensure we cover all the gaps.

It now looks like the cholera outbreak will last at least another three months, especially in the mountainous regions of Haiti. We’re now working on how we can reach people in these remote areas – another reason why coordination of all the agencies is important.

Educating camp residents about cholera

Hygiene promoter Arcliffe Laguerre leads a discussion on cholera prevention for residents of a Save the Children camp.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Earlier today we had some great news. Medical supplies needed to combat cholera arrived from Europe. We’d been waiting on these supplies for a while. Due to the scale of the cholera crisis in Haiti they’d been in short supply. So it is good they have arrived. But first we must work with our loggies – logisticians – whose job it is to have the supplies clear customs as quickly as possible. Then we can work together to get the supplies to clinics to help people affected by cholera. Hopefully we will get the supplies out and into the clinics very soon.

Today has been a good day.


Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.