We Came Here Last Year as Tourists

Anonymous_blog

 Karl Schembri, Middle East Regional Media Manager, Save the Children International

Iraq

June 26, 2014

 


I’m walking around Erbil’s city centre with our assessment team as they look around inside motels for displaced Iraqi families in need of help. One family after another, they all tell us how they’re running out of money, having to move out onto the streets with no clue where to go.

Iraq Blog 1

Sufian*, 12, and his sister, Fatima*, 14, in the family's hotel room in Erbil. The family fled the violence in their hometown Tikrit. Photo: Hedinn Halldorsson/Save the Children 

In a small motel tucked in the bazaar just a minute’s walk away from the historic citadel, I meet 12-year-old Sufian*. His parents and two siblings are crammed in a room. A little suitcase lies on the bed as they collect the few belongings they brought with them when they fled from the hellish explosions and gunfire in Tikrit a week ago. His father, clearly distraught, tells me their money has run out and they are now leaving. 

“We came here a year ago as tourists during Eid al Adha,” Sufian tells me. “We know the motel owner; we stayed here last year. He’s been very kind to us and gave us slashed prices, but my father has no more money left. Where will we go? Maybe in the streets, in the parks… there’s no place for us.”

Here is a middle income family who afforded to come as tourists last year, right in the same place where they are now seeking refuge. Sufian himself grasps the bitter irony and goes on to explain to me what it feels like.

“When we travelled as tourists we felt safe, there were policemen at the border and everything was orderly. We came to relax, we were comfortable. It’s not the case as displaced people. We had to flee from explosions, armed men, no security.

“When we came as tourists we got all the things we needed; our clothes and all the stuff you need when you’re travelling. When you’re fleeing you have to escape quickly. We couldn’t bring anything except the clothes we have on us.”

Iraq Blog 2

Sufian *, 12, Fatima *, 14, and their little brother, Kamal*, 6, in the family's hotel room. "Even if it's not safe to go there, I want to avoid ending up on the street", said the children's father. "I tell my little brother stories when he has nightmares during the night", Sufian says. Photo: Hedinn Halldorsson/Save the Children 

Having to flee like that is something Sufian and his family never expected to have to go through. He dreamt of becoming a doctor to help people in need, but now the future is bleak, he doesn’t even know where he will sleep tonight and the tragedy is still sinking in. He misses his friends, his neighborhood, playing football with his mates. He tells me his 6-year-old brother gets nightmares at night, so he consoles him by telling him stories until he sleeps again.

But it’s a nightmare for the entire family, really, as it is for thousands of others fleeing from the raging conflict in Iraq right now. One might say we are all tourists in this fleeting life of ours, but nobody should be forced to flee from home, leaving everything behind, with no idea where to spend the night.

*Names have have been changed to protect identities.

Prepare Your Family for Hurricanes

Children at Play

Hurricane Sandy devastated the northeastern seaboard in 2012. Make sure your family is ready to respond to hurricanes.

Hurricane season has officially started, so what better time to observe Hurricane Preparedness Week and ensure your family is ready to weather any storm?   Every year, an average of 10 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico—and six of them are likely to become hurricanes.  These destructive storms can batter homes and whole communities with high winds, heavy rains, large waves, flooding and hail. Children are particularly vulnerable when disaster strikes, but the simple steps below can help protect your family.

 

10 Tips to Keep Children Safe in Hurricanes

PREPARE:

1. Talk about hurricanes. Spend time with your family discussing why hurricanes occur. Explain that a hurricane is a natural event and not anyone’s fault. Use simple words that even young children can understand.

2. Know your risk. Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area. Assess your risks from a storm surge, flooding or wind damage that may accompany a hurricane.

3. Practice evacuation drills. Practice your family evacuation plan so that, during an emergency, you can evacuate quickly and safely.

4. Learn your caregivers’ disaster plans. Ask about evacuation plans and if you would be required to pick up your children from the site or from another location.

5. Stay informed. Use a NOAA weather radio or listen to a local station on a portable, battery-powered radio or television.

 

DURING A HURRICANE:

6. Evacuate if instructed to do so. Evacuate if told to do so by local authorities or if you feel unsafe. If advised to evacuate, avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Local officials may close certain roads, especially near the coast, when effects of the hurricane reach the coast.

7. Stay indoors, if not evacuated. If you are not advised to evacuate, or are unable to do so safely, stay indoors, away from windows, skylights and doors. Continue to monitor weather reports and do not go outside until the storm has passed.

 

AFTER A HURRICANE:

8. Limit media exposure. Protect children from seeing too many sights and images of the hurricane, including those on the internet, television or newspapers.

9. Ensure utilities are available. Before children return to areas impacted by a hurricane, make sure utilities, such as electricity and plumbing, are restored and living and learning spaces (e.g., homes, schools, child care facilities) are free from physical and environmental hazards.

10. Involve children in recovery. After a hurricane, let children help in clean-up and recovery efforts in age-appropriate ways as this participation may increase their sense of control over the situation.

 

Additional Resources: The tips above are just the start of knowing how to prepare for and respond to hurricanes. Use the following resources to help ensure your family is ready for the next hurricane:

 

American Red Cross: Hurricane Preparedness. http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane

National Hurricane Center: Hurricane Preparedness—Be Ready http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php

 

Stumped on Letter Writing? Here’s a Few Tips!

Chester Maneno- Sponsorship Field Officer

Chester Maneno, Sponsorship Field Officer

Malawi

March 2014

 

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 171 out of 187 nations, and 85% of the population lives in rural areas, including Zomba where we implement sponsorship programs. People in these areas have different perceptions about the Western world, which is why I’m sharing ideas on what sponsors can write to their sponsored child.

Many people in rural areas think Western people have a lot of money and everything they need in life, hence they do not struggle as people in this part of the world do to have a successful future.

Sponsors, therefore, should regard themselves as role models to these children and tell them about the advantages of working hard in school. In Zomba, the fact that there is little interest in education among both children and their parents is a big challenge, and the mention of hard work in school from sponsors can be very helpful.

Malawi Zomba, Misozi Sikula with her letter 2Sponsors should avoid asking children to write about what they would want sponsors to do for them as this poses a challenge for field staff when the child or the parents want a follow-up to what they requested. Statements like “I hope the money I send every month will help you achieve a better life,” and “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you,” are culturally sensitive and contradict our program’s community orientation.

It would be better if sponsors concentrated on encouraging the child to go to school and study hard so they can realize their dream of what they want to become. Children should also be encouraged to share information about their culture, their family and their holidays. These topics bring a smile to the child’s face, and they feel connected to the sponsor.

The Children of Typhoon Haiyan: Tales of Resiliency, Heroes and Recovery – Part 1

Anonymous_blog

 David Brickey Bloomer, Asia Regional Child Protection Advisor

Philippines

January 6, 2014

Part 1: Mass graves, widespread losses, and begging children

Two main issues weighed heavily on my mind as the plane landed in Tacloban five days after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through Eastern Visayas.

Firstly, it was the prospect of unaccompanied and separated children. With dead bodies lining the streets, we assumed that we would be documenting many cases of children unaccompanied or who have lost their parents in the storm.

SavetheChildren_Philippines_blog_Jan_2014_RS69447_DSCF7334_swings

A set of swings in a playground in Tacloban are destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Photo Credit: David Bloomer/Save the Children

The other was the physical safety and psychosocial well-being of children in the aftermath of such a large scale disaster that left so many displaced and impacted. Death and the loss of shelter affected almost everyone.

While fortunately there were few cases of children separated from their families – and for this I acknowledge the strong Filipino family structure and disaster preparedness, the physical hazards for children and adults were everywhere. Planks of wood with rusty nails; shredded sheets of corrugated tin roofing, downed electrical wires; and smashed windows and glass were littered everywhere.  In villages, fallen coconut trees created obstacle courses of movement and even the air in many places was thick with smoke as people burned piles of debris. 

With schools obviously not being opened—and badly damaged if not completely obliterated—and adults so preoccupied with salvaging what they could, rebuilding their homes or temporary shelters and trying to restore their livelihoods, children in the thousands were left with little in the way of structure and routine and in many cases roamed aimlessly around their community. Along the highway south of Tacloban city, hundreds of children begged for food and money. 

This posed an extremely dangerous situation for children, who scrambled for coins or food that was tossed out of passing car windows, and I used my time in the field doing assessments to hold brief awareness raising sessions with barangay and municipality authorities, groups of parents and even with children themselves on the risks of physical harm as well as the dangers of trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Along with other aid agencies and government departments, discussions on common awareness messages on protection were developed and disseminated. 

Assessing the situation of children’s psychosocial well being was a major task in the initial phases of the Haiyan response efforts. Overwhelmingly, children seemed to be making sense and coming to terms with the disaster. Many children expressed fears associated with high winds and water and other aspects that brought back memories of when the typhoon struck. However, most children seemed to be in a state perhaps best described as “numbness” or “shock” but with few signs of extensive change in behaviours. 

SavetheChildren_Philippines_blog_Jan_2014_RS69447_DSCF7334_graves

Children play in a school yard near mass graves in Leyte Island. The school was badly damaged during the typhoon and children had no structured activities to play or learn. Photo Credit: David Bloomer/Save the Children

It was a very different picture, however, as you moved into communities that were more extensively damaged and where the death toll, even among children, was higher. In communities where so many died there was hardly space to bury the dead and large mass graves were established.  In one community, hundreds were buried in front of the Catholic Church, which had become the temporary office space for the barangay captain. 

As we talked one morning, the barangay captain, obviously sleep deprived and dealing with tremendous grief, fought back tears as he told me about so many of his friends that he had lost and how the village was completely devastated.  As I rested my hand on his shoulder for comfort, he pointed to the mass graves in front where many children played: “Please if you can help the children of my community,” he said as tears rolled down his cheeks, “we have no school and children have nowhere to go, so they come to this graveyard and play; many of their own friends are buried there and some are still missing.” 

Save the Children established a Child Friendly Space—a safe space for children to gather, play, have time for social interaction with their friends, engage in non-formal learning activities and to receive psychosocial support—in this and many other communities like it.

2014 Must be a Better Year for Kids

This past year, like so many other years, saw its share of challenges for children around the world. There were the more than one million refugee children who fled Syria, the tens of thousands of young children who lost their homes and loved ones in Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the over 300,000 babies in India that died on their very first day of life this year.

 


DSC_6020But the children I remember from 2013 were the individual kids I briefly got to know in my travels to our programs around the world.
Here are the stories of just a few of these children who are living in impossible and heartbreaking situations—but looking forward to a brighter future thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and partners around the world:

 

Exancé was a sad 13 year-old boy, tiny for his age, who I met in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November. Though he couldn’t tell us all the details of his young life, the haunted look behind his eyes told me that it had already been full of pain. Exancé was found on the streets, living in a filthy alleyway after his parents had turned him out of their house. He was surviving each day by hauling garbage for the fruit and vegetable sellers in the market, paid in scraps of food and a corner to sleep in. One of the vendors in the market is a volunteer for Save the Children and alerts our team when a child is found abandoned and looking for shelter. When I met Exancé, he was in a quiet courtyard meeting with our team, who worked to convince him to

Mali – Sponsorship Supports Schools





Picture 2 of blog author

Aboubacar Sogodogo, Basic Education Assistant

Mali

October 14, 2013


Thanks to sponsor generosity, our
programs support more than 50,000 children and work with 996 teachers in 264
schools in Sikasso and Yorosso districts. Like elsewhere in the country, lack
of qualification and an insufficient number of teachers are two of the many
issues that plague the education system in these districts. The most apparent
reason for the teacher shortage is the structural adjustment the government
went through in the 1990s when the Ministry of Education had to lay off hordes
of experienced teachers through early retirement and shut down all the teacher
training institutions.

Photo of a teacher in action1The teachers serving in the schools we
support often have different profiles, experience and qualifications. But broadly,
they fall into three categories:

Category 1: Teachers who have a
contract with the government through the Ministry of Education. The government
used to be the biggest teacher employer, but has now reduced its recruitment of
teachers, preferring to leave this responsibility to elected entities or
municipalities.

Category 2: Teachers who are employed
and paid by elected entities. Under the Malian decentralization law,
municipalities are responsible for running and supporting some key social
services such as health and education in their areas.
Photo of a teacher in action2

Category 3: Given the chronic shortage
of teachers and the inability of both government and municipalities to recruit
adequately, some communities hire and pay their own teachers with technical
support from the ministry of education.

Teachers in all three groups are either
certified by official teaching institutes or received crash, pre-service
training before being sent into the education system. Currently, more than 70%
of the teaching force in our sponsorship schools is made up of teachers from
categories 1 and 2. However, for job security, the government remains a
preferred employer for most teachers; it’s viewed as a permanent and regular
salary payer.

Whatever the employer, the ministry of
education remains the government arm responsible for policy guidance and
direction on all education matters. It’s also responsible for what teachers
teach and how they teach it.

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

The Hope and Power of Education

Nomsa Mkandawire, Communications OfficerNomsa Mkandawire, Communications Officer

Zomba, Malawi

July 20, 2012

It’s slightly after 12 noon and a bit hot in Zomba, the eastern district of Malawi. My colleagues and I are visiting a primary school where Save the Children is constructing a school block. The maize has not yet been harvested and we have to pass through fields. As we walk on a winding path, an old drunkard shuffles by. I swiftly dodge him and he stands in front of my colleagues, just for a hand shake. Suddenly it starts showering. 

We quickly reach a nearby compound. Two boys are playing and goats are grazing. We are in Lone Maluku’s compound, she smilingly comes out to welcome us. Lone Maluku is a mother of seven and has two children in the Save the Children sponsorship program. She says she is the proudest mother in her village and is reassured knowing that her children, 9 year-old Catherine and 7 year-old Kingsley, are sponsored and in school. “It is clear that education is the key to any development of every
human being. Look at me, I did not go to school and that is why I look like this,” she sadly points to her clothes and regretfully smiles.

Lone Maluku at her home2She continues, “You know, if I had gone to school I would never have had seven children at my age, and besides I would have found a job like other educated women. Life is tough without education. I am very hopeful that my children will finish their education, it is of paramount importance to me.” Lone says she is grateful to Save the Children for delivering these programs and is confident her children will have a bright future.

“I know my children will make it in life, every day I tell them to work extra hard if they don’t want to be like me,” explains Lone, now with a child on her back as she prepares lunch for her family. 

It suddenly occurs to ask her age. She replies, “I think I should be thirty-something because I was born in 1972. You see I dropped out of school early and I don’t know many things.’’

“I have to trek long distances early every morning to look for firewood and water, sometimes it is so cold but I have to go on. You have to understand me when I say that I wish I had gone to school and my children must be educated,” says Lone stressfully.

Life may be hard now and regrets may echo in her ears, but one thing is clear for Lone Maluku, education is the surest way to achieve a better life.

______________________

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

All my dress, books and notebooks were burnt in the fire

Junima ShakyaJunima Shakya, Nepal Sponsorship Manager

Kimichaur, Nepal

May 1, 2012


Blog_02.28.12.After the fire incidentOn the evening of January 27 a fire started in an animal shed in the village of Kimichaur, in the Pyuthan district in Western Nepal. The fire swept through the village, damaging 14 houses and leaving the villagers desperate for help. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, but the fire destroyed homes, prized cattle and stored grains.

“My hard-earned money, 30,000 Nepali Rupees (about $380), inside my saving box was burnt to ashes,” shared Chetman, a local villager.

The day after the fire, Save the Children, in coordination with its partner organization in Pyuthan, began providing relief for the affected families with rice and a blanket for each family.

Blog_02.28.12_Children receiving student supportTwenty-seven children, including 15 sponsored children, were affected by the fire. “The children lost their books, bags and all their school supplies”, reported Umesh, a Program Coordinator. We immediately dispatched new supplies. Each student received a new school uniform, school bag, notebooks and other stationery. We focused our relief efforts on the children as it is so important for them to feel safe and secure after such a traumatic experience.

“Support for the community was provided by several relief organizations. But the community was very happy that their children were prioritized with special support and materials,” said Suraj Pakhin, a member of Save the Children staff in Nepal.

“My dress (school uniform), books and note books were all burnt in the fire. I thought ‘I won’t be able to go to school again.’ But I got a new school dress, books and supplies and I can join the school once again”, says a sixth grader .

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

The New Year festival (Nauroz) in Afghanistan

AfCO March 2012 Blog Post Author Photo with children 2Dr. Sohail Azami, Sponsorship Manager

Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan

April 20, 2012


Nauroz, the New Year Festival, takes place on the first day of the Afghan month Hamal. Nauroz, which means “new day”, has been celebrated in this region for at least 3,000 years. It marks the start of the solar year and the first day of spring. The festival is rooted in the Zoroastrian religion, a major religion once practiced here.

Today, Afghans celebrate Nauroz with family and friends, enjoying traditional foods. Special to this holiday is haft mewa, or seven fruits. Haft mewa includes almond, pistachio, walnut, raisins, apricots and dates which are soaked in water overnight.

Another holiday dish is Samanak, which is made from wheat germ and slowly cooled until it becomes a creamy and sweet pudding. For New Year’s dinner, an Afghan tradition is to prepare seven types of food whose name start with the Afghan letter of “Seen”, the “S” sound. We call this special meal haft seen, or seven “S”.

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post - Photo 3 - March 2012Many cities in Afghanistan host festivals to celebrate Nauroz. In Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in northern Afghanistan, thousands gather at the historical shrine of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and the fourth Caliph of Islam. Famous for its Blue Mosque and centuries old history, the shrine is deeply respected by Afghans. T Mazar-i-Sharif also hosts a Red Rose Festival, named for the red roses that naturally grow in the deserts nearby.

New Year’s Day is right after the schools’ winter break and on the 3rd day of the year the schools reopen. To celebrate the holiday, children receive new clothes and enjoy picnics with their families. They also enjoy playing soccer, volleyball, playing music, singing songs, dancing and flying kites.

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

Easing Fatima’s Pain

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Melkadida Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

August 1, 2011


I looked into her eyes and if only for an instant, I was able to feel something of the weight of her pain.   The look of despair she wore has aged her far beyond her years; and yet she’s only a girl of thirteen.  When she told me, “the pain is so bad sometimes, I can’t sleep at night,” I found it hard to remember the next question to ask her, let alone to say it. 

When she lifted up her long patterned dress just enough to expose a foot, ankle, and shin that swelled to more than double the size of her other leg I realized that the look on her face doesn’t even begin to describe a modicum of the hardship she has faced in her short life.

Her mother told me that her daughter’s condition began nine years ago when she was only four years old. This condition began in a previous life in Somalia, and has followed her into the refugee camps of Ethiopia. She has been living in the Melkadida refugee camp for the last 16 months.

I can’t walk because it hurts so much,” she told me. “I can’t go to school. I stay around the tent.  Sometimes I wash clothes.”  She concentrates deeply for a moment and then for a second she brightens: “Oh, and I help look after my little brother and sisters.” But her stare then returned to the ground by her side, and her smile dissolved.  

Fatima and her family fled their home in Balad-Hawa, Somalia, because of the growing violence in and around their town. “That, and there was little food,” adds Fatima’s mother, Kada. “But we were lucky- we didn’t have to walk to Ethiopia. We rode on a donkey cart.  It took three days.”  Kada says. “Thanks to God, first that we have peace here in this place, no conflict, no war, no fighting. But again, the first thing that we require is treatment for my daughter. If she can’t get treatment here it would be better to just go back to Somalia.”

You’ve met Fatima because Save the Children’s child protection volunteers identified her a month and a half ago and have been conducting household visits ever since. The Child Protection program (operating now in three of the refugee camps) works to identify and register unaccompanied minors, separated children, and extremely vulnerable children to provide them with emotional support through linkages to foster families, counseling, and referrals. In Fatima’s case, Save the Children will refer her to proper outside medical treatment, funding her transport and medical bills. 

“I just want to get medicine and treatment for my leg,” Fatima told me. “Only that. Then I can go to school.” My heart sunk and my throat tightened.  But I do feel hope for her…there is definitely hope.

____________________

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