Gniré survived malaria – twice. Here’s how our sponsors are helping ensure she never gets it again.

12-year-old Gniré lives with her large family in a rural community located in the Sikasso district of Mali. Gniré loves school, especially math. When she’s not studying, she enjoys getting together with her friends and acting out stories, her favorite one being Cinderella.

In the village where Gniré lives, 90% of the mosquitos are female, which means they can carry malaria. This puts children at a high risk of being bitten by a mosquito and contracting the disease. Last year, Gniré was treated for malaria, not once, but twice.

The first time that Gniré contracted malaria, it became hard for her to make it through a day of school because her body was weak, her head hurt and she was cold and shaky. At first, she hid her illness from her parents but after she started vomiting and had to miss school for an entire week, she told her parents she was worried she might be really sick. Her parents immediately took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with malaria and treated.

Gniré knows that washing her hands will keep her healthy.
Gniré knows that washing her hands will keep her healthy.

Not long afterwards, Gniré became ill again and was treated for malaria a second time. As a result of being sick for so long, Gniré’s growth has been stunted and she’s now smaller than her peers. This has made her self-conscious, especially at school, but Gniré’s future is now looking up thanks to Save the Children sponsors.

Through the Healthy Girls and Boys program, Gniré learned more about malaria and how to avoid it. She also received a mosquito net that she now hangs above her bed. Mosquitos bite at night, which means that Gniré is incredibly vulnerable to malaria without a net protecting her while she sleeps.

When asked what gift she would give to every child, Gniré knew right away that she would want to protect other kids from malaria.

Mosquitos bite at night, which is why Gniré must be protected as she sleeps.
Mosquitos bite at night, which is why Gniré must be protected as she sleeps.

 “If I could give one gift to every child, it would be a mosquito net so that no one else has to get sick.”

Because of sponsorship in her community, Gniré now receives malaria medication that helps to reduce her risk of coming down with the disease again. She also stays healthy by washing her hands frequently and taking vitamins that keep her body strong. “I am thankful that Save the Children is in my community,” says Gniré. “It means that they care about my health!”

Now that she’s feeling better, Gniré is able to attend school every day. She can focus, learn and participate in class. Gniré knows how important it is for her to continue her education and dreams of becoming a doctor so she can help other people when they are sick.

“When you are educated, so many doors open for you!”

Today, Gniré is happy and active.
Today, Gniré is happy and active.

Every day, malaria threatens the lives of children around the world and also prevents them from attending school and learning. Save the Children sponsors are helping children like Gniré to not only survive, but thrive. With World Malaria Day happening this month, it’s the perfect time to consider becoming a child sponsor to help protect children like Gniré.

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

Bourama Rises to the Occasion

Bourama at work in the clinic
Bourama at work in the clinic

Located in north-western Africa, Mali is a land-locked country where families and their children often suffer in the face of inadequate social services. In particular, children often experience difficulty accessing basic healthcare and quality education. Sponsorship has been operating in Mali for almost three decades helping to lift children out of extreme poverty. Bourama was one such child, born in the Ivory Coast 22 years ago. In 2000, he and his family moved to Mali.

 

Living as a young boy in Mali, Bourama faced many of these same challenges before entering the Sponsorship program. Given his family’s limited resources, he had been unable to purchase school supplies which caused him to regularly miss class. “I wasn’t interested in education. But that changed thanks to Sponsorship,” he shared. Without Sponsorship, it’s unlikely that Bourama would be where he is today – providing life-changing medical care to his local community.

The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years
The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years

Bourama was sponsored through Save the Children from 2001 to 2008. He remembers his sponsor’s name, the correspondence they sent back and forth, and the good advice she gave him. He still has a picture of her which he proudly shows visitors.

Picture of Bourama in 2006
Picture of Bourama in 2006

During that time he also benefited from extensive sponsorship-funded activities, such as access to clean drinking water and essential deworming and vitamin A supplements. This crucial support enabled Bourama to stay in good health and to complete his education, which then opened the door to new and exciting possibilities.

22-year-old Bourama today

 

For the past three years, Bourama has worked as a nurse’s aide in a private health clinic where he manages the treatment room. He loves his job and says it allows him to stay in contact with people and help them to relieve their suffering. He also aims to pursue higher education in hopes of moving on to a more specialized role within the medical business.

 

 

Still, Bourama always looks back in appreciation of his Sponsorship experience. As Bourama revealed, “I am what and who I am today in large measure because of Sponsorship programs.”

 

Sometimes, support from a caring sponsor can make all the difference in the world – something to keep in mind in your next letter!

 

To sponsor a child like Bourama, please visit our child sponsorship site

How to Improve Reading in Mali

Catherine

Catherine Kennedy

Basic Education Advisor

Sikasso, Mali

July 21, 2015

 

I am a Basic Education Advisor with Save the Children, and I support several countries. I feel very lucky to have this job – you never do the same thing twice and you are always having new experiences and learning.

I come to Mali twice a year to help move education work forward, such as in terms of quality and reach. We identify priorities together based on issues they have found in their daily work, new priorities from the Ministry of Education, communities, and children, and new approaches and strategies from other countries or from the international education community.

Group

Cathy surrounded by children & adults in a reading camp

This visit, we are focusing on three things: improving the quality of our community-based reading clubs, using the data we gather on reading to help inform what we do, and identifying ways to make children safer at school.

The reading clubs are run by volunteers to give children the chance to practice and reinforce the reading skills taught to them at school. We hope that by making these clubs fun and child-centered, children will also develop a love of reading which will serve them through life. During my visit, we have visited six camps in three sites. Our basic education team in Sikasso chose one site that was good, one that is on the way to being good, and one that really needs help.

The one that was good was really very good – the volunteer was friendly, fun, and very engaging with the children. He invited their opinions and respected their ideas. It was obvious the children enjoyed the song, story, discussion, and reading time he led them in. It is important for me to see this, because it means that the team and I have the same idea as to what quality is, and we know what we are trying to achieve. The other visits reminded me how different these ideas can be for our volunteers, who have a very limited, often negative, experience of school themselves. As a team afterwards, we brainstormed ways to continue to help the volunteers through strengthening their skills and confidence.

Group2

Cathy surrounded by children in a reading camp

My second objective was to help the team analyze the latest data coming out of our Literacy Project. We saw some exciting trends emerging. For example, children learning in their own language are learning to read faster than those that are taught in French. We were also reminded of how inequitable systems can be, as schools with fully trained, motivated teachers that are on the government payroll are doing much better at teaching reading than schools where the teachers are community members, paid irregularly, and teach in remote locations with poor infrastructure. We discussed the implications around these findings, and how we can focus our energies and resources on those most in need.

The last objective was to make schools safer for children. We held a cross-sectoral workshop with other teams that work in schools, such as in school health and nutrition, sanitation, and staff from the emergency education project in the north of the country. Participants reflected on their own experiences as children, then on what they see now as professionals. We shared different approaches to keeping children safe, such as teacher training in positive discipline and child rights, school-based codes of conduct, and child governments and mothers’ associations, and discussed best practices within each. Then we identified gaps in our current programming and made a plan for the next 18 months to address the issues.

I am now sitting at the airport in Bamako, the capital of Mali, waiting for a delayed flight to Nairobi in Kenya. From there I’ll be going to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a week to support their efforts to help children learn to read more effectively. I feel my time in Mali was well spent – they are a great team, and I love working with them. I wish I didn’t have to travel all night now, but at least the delayed flight enabled me to write my blog!

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

Interview with a Sponsored Child’s Parent

Anonymous_blog

Lassine Kane

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Farako Community, Mali

October 17, 2014 2014

 

Sponsorship staff regularly monitor programs and talk with beneficiary communities. The purpose of this exercise is to gauge the feeling of community members about Sponsorship-funded activities, assess their level of satisfaction with those services and make adjustments to them as necessary. It also provides an opportunity to get a sense of what parents envision for their children from an education perspective.

Lassine Kane, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator, has just wrapped up such a field visit. Here is an interview he conducted with Achitan, mother of a sponsored girl in Farako Community.

Mali Blog Post 1--Picture2 of Achitan

Achitan is a mother to 9 children: 4 girls and 5 boys

Lassine: Hello! Can you introduce yourself?

Achitan: Thank you for your visit. My name is Achitan. I don’t know my exact age, but am around 40 years old. I am married to Abdoulaye. I have 9 children who are all alive: 4 boys and 5 girls. We all live together here in the community of Farako. I am a housewife. In addition to my household activities, I sell firewood to make some money and take care of some of the day-to-day expenses of the family.

Lassine: Do you know Save the Children and its Sponsorship program?

Achitan: Oh yes! ‘Projet Save’ is an organization that works towards the well-being of children. They have a friendship program [Sponsorship] here through which they connect the children of Farako to people in white men’s country. ‘Projet Save’ has been around for quite some time now; I think they introduced their friendship program to Farako six years ago.

Lassine: Do any of your children participate in Sponsorship?

Achitan: Yes, Fatoumata, my third child who attends Grade 7, has a friend in the white men’s country. And her friend even sends her letters. When Fatoumata receives a letter from her friend, she feels very happy. Her friend often gives her advice and encourages her to attend school regularly and study hard.

Lassine: Which of the Sponsorship Programs do you value most in your community?

Achitan:Projet Save’ does many things here. But I would say that their education activity is what I appreciate most.

Lassine: Why? What does the education of your children mean to you? Do you think education is important?

Mali Blog Post 1--Achitan and daughter arranging firewood for sale

Achitan & her daughter arrange firewood for sale

Achitan: Neither my husband nor I went to school. Many adults in this community didn’t go to school either. Because of that, people suffer. Unless your own children attend school and can read and write, you have to go out and look for somebody who can read or write letters for you. And sometimes you feel obliged to give them something as a token. But what’s bothers me is when people who are not part of your family are aware of personal matters that are mentioned in the letter.

When a child goes to school, the entire family benefits from it. Take Fatoumata, my daughter, for example. She teaches me certain things she learns at school such as the importance of washing hands before eating or after using toilet.

We hear good things about those whose children went to school. They live in beautiful homes, eat good food and dress well because their children have become important people because of school. I too want my children to attain in school and care for my family.

Lassine: You really have some good points. But why then are all your children not going to school?

Achitan: No, you are wrong. All of my children attend school except the last one who has not yet reached the school going age. But I don’t know whether they will be able to complete school because we are a poor family struggling to make ends meet. But we will try to keep them in school, because school is important.

Mali Blog Post 1--Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter in class

Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter, attends class

Lassine: Do you have any message for the friends [sponsors] of the Farako children?

Achitan: Yes. The support that the friends of children are providing Farako with is crucial. And everybody here is benefitting – school children and their parents. I am very grateful for their commitment and generosity to the children of Farako. I can assure you that my sentiment is widely shared here – just ask around and you will see for yourself.

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

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

“It’s not peaceful in my head.”


Annie bodmer royAnnie
Bodmer-Roy, Senior Media Manager, Emergencies and Advocacy

Gao, Mali

February 26, 2013


This
is what 15-year-old Aissatou finishes with. We have been talking for almost an
hour – she has had so much to tell me. It’s hardly surprising, after everything
she has been through.

Forced
from her home over one year ago, Aissatou was more than eight months pregnant.
She was 14, and gave birth to her son Salam less than one month later, on the
run and staying in Gao.

AissatouShe
still remembers the day the rebels first entered her town, but the words come
hesitantly at first, in short pieces. “I was really scared,” she starts. I ask
what she was doing before the attack started. “I had been having fun. I was
playing with my friends. Everyone was outside. It was a Friday.”

“First
we heard gunfire,” she remembers. “We thought it was the military. Then we
started seeing people running everywhere.” Aissatou tells me she started
running too, straight into her house. She stayed there for two days without
leaving.

It
was on the second day that she finally came out and heard what had happened.
One of her friends had been hit by a stray bullet. She was alive, but needed
urgent medical treatment, and was fleeing the town for a refugee camp in Niger.

Aissatou’s
family had also been directly affected. As she describes what happened, her
pace picks up, rushed, as if she wants to get the words out as quickly as
possible. She tells me how her brother-in-law had been accused of stealing. She
explains how, under the rebels, the punishment for this was amputation. She saw
her brother-in-law after it happened – his hand had been cut off at the wrist.
As she explains this to me, Aissatou looks down at her own hands, drawing a
thin line with her finger over her wrist, over and over again. “It wasn’t
true,” she says, looking back up at me. “He said he hasn’t stolen anything.”

But
what hit Aissatou the hardest wasn’t either of these things. It was what
happened to her friend Ines. And it’s now, telling Ines’ story, that the words
pour out of Aissatou’s mouth. She stares me straight in the eyes, and I can see
the horrific events playing back in her mind as she describes them.

“The
rebels went into the village and took girls – not women, but girls. They were
15, 16, 17. They said they needed the girls to go prepare food for them. They
took them into their cars and brought them into the bush. They left them in the
bush after they were done raping them – but they beat them before leaving. I
know because my friend was one of them. There were 16 girls in total. My
friend’s name is Ines*, she is 15 now. She was 14 then, like me – we went to
school together,” Aissatou starts, and then paints a vivid picture of just what
happened to Ines.

“She
told me that they took her by force. They threatened her with their weapons to
make her sleep with them. There were 20 men but only 16 girls – so some of the
men shared the same girl between them. Ines was lucky; there was only one man
who took her. Afterwards though, he hit her five times with a long rod before
she managed to escape.”

Beaten
and abused, Aissatou’s 14-year-old classmate ran from the bushes, but in her
fear and confusion, fell when she reached the road. Aissatou says that’s how
the men from her village found Ines, and brought her back home again. Ines told
her classmate the whole story before Aissatou got her brother and brought her
friend to the hospital. Aissatou and her family fled the town the next day, and
she hasn’t seen Ines since.

As
she finishes her story, Aissatou pauses. She looks at the ground down for a
second, almost self-conscious. “Even now, even if I’m here,” she starts, “…I
can’t forget what happened. My head is full of these things – what happened to
my friends, my family…” She looks up one more time at me, willing me to understand.

“It’s
not peaceful in my head.”                                               

Moussa’s story

When they brought Moussa over and laid him in my arms, my heart stopped for a minute. He was barely breathing and was so frail, I was afraid he might die as I held him. Though he was more than two months old, his arms and legs were tiny and frail and his breathing was labored. Here in a small village outside Diema in the West African nation of Mali, I saw what the face of hunger in the latest food crisis in Africa really looks like. It is the face of Moussa.

 

Moussa’s mother, just 18, brought him over to us when she saw the Save the Children car drive up. He had been identified that day by a health worker trained by Save the Children and now we needed to get him to the town for help. Moussa and his mom were bundled into the car and they sped away to the center in Diema, about 10 kilometers away, where Save the Children-trained staff were there to help him and food and medicine was available from other partners like UNICEF.

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Are Kids of the World Doing Better? Not When it Comes to Hunger

Child Development Index 2012This week, we released our Child Development Index and the bottom line is: kids deserve a lot better. The Index ranks the best and worst places in the world to be a child based on education, health, and nutrition statistics.

 

While there is some good news in terms of education and child survival rates—33% more kids are in school now than in the 1990s and almost 5 million more kids surviving to age 5 per year—there is one part of the report that is really shocking. In the 21st century, we still have children in the world without enough to eat every day—and it’s gotten worse over the last decade, not better. The number of acutely malnourished children across the globe has actually risen since 2000. The situation is particularly

Connecting people across cultures and space

Mali spon headshotDougoutigui Coulibaly, Save the Children Sponsorship field worker

Sikasso District, Mali 

May 31, 2012


Countless sponsors have told us over the years that one of the most rewarding aspects of being a sponsor is developing a personal connection with a child whose life is being changed by their generous support.

This is a shared sentiment, as children in Mali feel the same way. Ask them what they like most about sponsorship and many will mention the relationship that develops with their sponsors over the years.

They really love to learn about their sponsors. Letters provide them with a unique source of joy, pride and a feeling that somebody cares and values them. They particularly appreciate words of encouragement and praise for their school efforts. A couple of weeks ago, an eleven year-old girl told me, “encouragement from my sponsor always pushes me to do more in school”.

Mali spon and kid Many children do not believe their eyes when I visit their schools and homes with letters. Often I read to the younger ones; hearing me read their letters is a fun and rewarding moment for them. Our sponsors come from all walks of life and their messages reflect this. They write about their education, work, hobbies, families, pets and general advice on being a good citizen. As I read the letters I can see the children’s feelings on their face, from broad smiles to laughter, to surprise and more.

In Mali, gratitude and reciprocity are an integral part of the social mores. Sponsored children want to be true to these values and return the kindness by replying to their sponsors. Often they are unsure what to write, but a few words of encouragement from parents or teachers are usually enough to egg them on to open up and enthusiastically share their own stories.

Like sponsors, children love talking about their families, friends, school and sports. More importantly, they like asking questions and are curious to know everything from food eaten in a sponsor’s country to the type of bed they sleep in.

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

What if you could not buy food?

DhheadshotDave Hartman, Social Media Specialist

Westport, CT 

May 30, 2012


 This is a translation of a blog post origninally published by Save the Children Spain. Click here to read the original post.

_______________

Imagine you could not buy food.

Although there is food stacked and placed on the shelves of stores, you simply cannot afford to buy it.

Prices have risen so high that the food is unattainable. 

What would you do?

Prices rise, income falls

This is exactly what is happening in parts of Niger, a country where millions of people—especially children–are at risk of malnutrition.

Here, a combination of high food prices (linked to speculation on international markets) and insecurity in neighboring countries means that families can no longer afford to buy what they need. The prices of some goods have reached exorbitant levels, and the majority of parents have seen their incomes plummet.

Many Nigerien families grow food, especially staples such as millet or sorghum, which they ground and mix with water or milk to make mashed grains.

One might think this would solve the inflation problem and reduce reliance on markets; however, last year, a combination of poor rains and crop shortages made families more dependent on buying food when prices were peaking. 

Parents in Niger do everything they can to keep their children alive; many limit themselves to just one meal a day so children get the most food available. Some take their children out of school to help make money and even turn to using animal feed as an additional source of food.

But then, how can we help?

While we're on the ground supporting the emergency, the level of aid is not enough to handle the broad scope of crisis hitting the country. Today, one million children are still at extreme risk of malnutrition across the Sahel where, as in Niger, countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, are facing an imminent food crisis. 

We know that we can do more; Save the Children can help save the lives of more children before it's too late. We also know that there is no way to do so without your help.

BlogNiger

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