Behind the Sponsorship Scene: Malawi- Part Two

Kathryn koonce Kathryn Koonce

Global Sponsorship Operations Manager, Save the Children

Thursday, September 30, 2010

 At the end of Kathryn's first post she was leaving a child-care center in Malawi supported by sponsors like you and administered by Save the Children.
We rush off to a nearby primary school that holds more than 2,000 children to catch the 1st-3rd-graders in the St. Martin district before their day ends. There are half a dozen one-story brick buildings on a barren piece of flat sandy property. The teachers are inspiring and the children are engaged and enjoying their studies. After visiting a sixth grade class, I sit outside the head master’s office. More than 20 kids crowd around me, wondering where I come from, staring at me, and waiting for me to take their picture. They scream as soon as they hear “click,” and retreat. Moments later they inch closer and closer until they get another “click” out of me.

Reading camp tree

Students gather under a tree for "Reading Camp"

Our last stop is the Literacy Boost “Reading Camp,” a voluntary after-school program where children in grades 1-5 practice reading and play word and alphabet games. When we arrive they are reading together, playing and having fun with locally-made materials. The volunteer facilitators are great at keeping the children (who have already attended a full day of school) engaged and interested. They read a book with lots of “L” words, then discuss names with the letter L and draw names and words with L in the sand with their fingers. The Malawian music blasting from a nearby house and what looks like a 200-pound, gray pig wandering about makes the atmosphere cheery and comfortable.

Teacher and class

A teacher poses with his students

I am inspired by the passion of the volunteers, teachers, and caregivers, and encouraged by the smiles on the faces of the children. In this region, where many parents cannot read, they are compelled to send their children to get the best education they possibly can through the early learning centers, schools, and reading camps that Save the Children supports.

I will leave Malawi comforted by the smoky scent and vibrant cloths, and most of all, the sparkle in the smiles of the children.


All Photos Courtesy of Kathryn Koonce


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

Moscow: From &#147The Bourne Supremacy&#148 to Babies and Toddlers

 Katherine Brown Katherine Brown, Information and Documentation Specialist, Education and Child Development department


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


 Moscow is known for its architecture, its ballet, and as the setting for “The Bourne Supremacy.” But this week, Moscow turned its attention to the world's babies and toddlers, when it hosted the first-ever global conference on Early Childhood Development and Education.

More than 50 ministers of education, finance and health attended the UNESCO-sponsored event, designed to elevate the need for countries to invest in early learning opportunities globally, and to engage them in committing political will and resources to early childhood development programs.

Research shows that children with early learning opportunities tend to do better in school and in life.  According to a 2006 UNICEF report, more than 30 governments had established national early childhood development policies, and more than 70 countries had national commissions coordinating these programs.  Yet, more than half of the world’s governments do not have any policy or mechanism in place for early childhood development.

So you can see why there is a need to focus on early learning globally, beginning at infancy.

Save the Children is here to share some of our learning and to learn from others, too.

Today, Save the Children’s senior director of Early Childhood Development Pablo Stansbery, PhD., spoke on a panel, which examined early childhood education in emergency and post-emergency settings

Pablo Moscow Panel

Here are a few of the points that Pablo shared:

  • Early learning experiences matter for young children, especially in emergency situations, and social interactions are key. Young children interpret new experiences through interaction with caregivers.
  • When governments are developing emergency preparedness and response plans (EPRP) as well as Disaster Risk Reduction plans (DRR), these plans should include an early childhood development component. 
  • In order for these plans to be effective, governments must provide guidance and training for caregivers and emergency responders on meeting the needs of children.
  • Nepal, for example, has held education in emergencies training sessions that included an early childhood development component. The government also included early childhood development in its national emergency response policy, and it provided kits for use in safe and secure areas of emergency settings tailored to young children. Those kits contained games, stories, reading and play materials for babies and toddlers, as well as for school-aged children.
  • In emergencies, all sectors must be integrated to provide care for infants and toddlers, not just the education sector. In fact, health is also critical – and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) elements in particular are important.  For example, families and caregivers need clean water to wash and sanitize toys.   
  • Two helpful resources for more information: Even in Chaos: Education in times of Emergency by Kevin M. Cahill, M.D.; and a special section in the July/August 2010 issue of Child Development, which focuses on the developmental impact on young children after emergencies.

The three-day conference ended today with the adoption of a framework of action, which outlines a number of challenges that must be tackled to achieve global Early Childhood Development and Education goals. These include addressing the need for greate r political commitment, public funding, and external support and effective delivery of services – a framework of goals that does not require a great super agent like Jason Bourne to tackle. Just committed governments and communities working together.

Behind the Sponsorship Scene: Malawi

Kathryn koonce Kathryn Koonce

Global Sponsorship Operations Manager, Save the Children

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This post is the first in a two-part series written by Kathryn while on a trip to our sponsor-funded schools and community centers in Malawi.

Driving down a reddish dusty road in a four-wheel drive vehicle—the only car on the road—there is a pleasant smoky smell in the air and we are covered in a layer of grainy auburn dirt. We pass women in colorful cloths, some of them with children tied to their backs with another piece of cloth, gracefully carrying unthinkably heavy weights on their heads with ease. Brick houses and small shops dot the flat, dry landscape and neatly organized mounds of dried manure border the road. The manure will fertilize maize and vegetable crops during the rainy season which starts in November.

We are in southern Malawi, driving from Blantyre to the Zomba region where loyal Save the Children sponsors like you help support child care centers, schools, and “reading camps”. We are a team of Save the Children staff from our home offices in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. working with our colleagues in Malawi to makes sure that the sponsorship programs you support are delivering the maximum benefits possible to girls and boys. We’re accompanied by our Malawian colleagues – two education experts, a writer, and a driver.

Three-year-old Elufe playing with colored blocks at a Save the Children supported ECD center in Malawi.
Photo Courtesy: Michael Bisceglie

When we arrive at the child care center staffed with volunteers and packed with children under age 5, we are greeted by curious mothers with babies in tow, tied to their backs, some of them holding another child by the hand. A group of giggling children from the primary school run up to us to see the car and the visitors inside. They share bright smiles and wave cautiously at the unfamiliar site. A large group of young children enthusiastically repeat after their teacher in Chichewa, the local language, under a thatched roof in a red brick structure with waist-high walls that let parents see in and children see out. Hundreds of bricks are rested in piles nearby to eventually expand the center. Two mothers stir a large pot of porridge and fill a bucket with water from the nearby well for hand-washing.

Four-year-old Peter playing with a toy truck. He attends a sponsorship supported Early Childhood Development program in Malawi. Photo Courtesy: Michael Bisceglie

We meet with the school leaders as well as the caregivers who staff the center – many of whom are parents of the children attending the program. They sit on straw mats and bricks; many of the women nurse and calmly tend to fussy babies as they speak with us. They explain that they are happy with the positive changes they see in their kids. Before – the children would hang around the villages with little to do. Now, they interact with each other and with their caregivers; they talk, they sing, they jump and clap. The parents also talk about the benefit of having time to do other things like prepare goods to sell at the market or tend to their crops while their young children are safely cared for by trained volunteers at the center.


Click here to find out about the rest of Kathryn's journey and learn how other Save the Children supported schools are doing in Malawi!

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

Child Survival, Malnutrition and Giant Poos

Dhheadshot  Dave Hartman, 
Save the Children, internet marketing and communications specialist

New York, New York

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Save the Children staff was all over New York City advocating for a renewed commitment to achieving the U.N Millennium Development Goals. The morning kicked off with “Five Years for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity,” a panel discussion featuring Elisabeth Dahlin, Secretary General of Save the Children Sweden, Dr. Abhay Bang of SEARCH and senior executives from World Vision, Plan International and UNICEF. In the video below Dahlin gives a brief overview of the discussion.

Save the Children Board Chair Anne Mulcahy attended an event sponsored by the U.S. and Irish governments to address malnutrition among children. Malnutrition weakens children’s immune systems and makes them more susceptible to major life-threatening childhood illnesses. Mulcahy elaborates on the event:

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, was interviewed by Sian To, aka “Mummy Tips,” a mommy blogger from the UK. To recently returned from Bangladesh where she blogged about Save the Children’s health work in remote areas of the country.

In uptown Manhattan, staff members heard from various speakers and panelists at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge, hosted by the 92Y with support from Mashable and the United Nations Foundation. Here are just a few of our favorite quotes from the summit and other events Save the Children attended:

“Children are not just our future, they are our present… they are powerful actors who need to be engaged” Kevin Jenkins CEO of WorldVision

“I wish there was a rock star against Diarrhea, that would be awesome!”- UN Foundation’s Elizabeth Gore

“When you change the lives of girls and women, you also change the lives of boys and men.” World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

“The Millennium Development Goals have been good, but not been good enough for the most marginalized children” Alfred Ironside, Director of Communications, Ford Foundation 

A vicious, relentless killer was spotted outside the lounge (sort of). Water Aid, a nonprofit dedicated to providing universal access to clean water, had staff members parade around the city in a giant poop costume, complete with fake flies. The goal was to raise awareness of inadequate sanitation and hygiene in developing countries, two issues that contribute to more than 4,000 child deaths in the developing world, perday. Enough from me, Steve from Water Aid can better explain:

Check back tomorrow for another update, you can follow along live by visiting our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.

The Children&#39s Ward

By the Deputy Team Leader for Save the Children's Pakistan Flood Response

Shikarpur District, Pakistan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

After a week in sweltering Sindh province, the region hardest hit by Pakistan's devastating floods, I am now safe, cool and comfortable in my Islamabad apartment. But in my head, one picture from my trip remains. I remember walking into the children’s ward of the Shikarpur District Hospital. On old, ripped cots, mothers and their children were stretched out, two pairs per bed. At first I just noticed how crowded the room was (there were at least 50 women and children in the room, and another 30 next door).

But then I looked at the children, and the women cradling them in their arms.

“What do you feed them?” I asked the head of the hospital, who was guiding me from room to room.

“Nothing,” he responded, “We don’t have money for food.” 

This is not new in Pakistan. While doctors provide consultations and medicines, families themselves are expected to supply the meals, since hospitals are chronically underfunded.  Baby fed paki

Two-year-old Ramzan suffers from severe dehydration. A Save the Children doctor gives electrolytes in order to replace lost salts and sugars. For the last fifteen days Ramzan has been sleeping on a baking concrete wall with little access to clean water and food since the floodwaters swept away his parents land.

Photo Credit: Ian Woolverton

I looked to the far corner of the room, where a mother sat wrapped around a skeletal child who reminded me of photos I’d seen in National Geographic – protruding skull on top of a fragile body.

I asked again, “But, what do they eat?  Ask them.”

I pointed to the near corner, where a girl of about 9 years old lay connected to a saline drip. Her cheekbones protruded through her skin.

The hospital chief asked the girl’s mother, and translated her answer: “Nothing today.” Although I’ve worked for Save the Children for two-and-a-half years, this was the first time I’d encountered children who might actually die within a few days.  Not because we couldn’t find them or because no one knew they were sick, but because medicines and health care were not enough – neither their parents nor the health facilities could afford to buy food.

I fished out 10,000 Rupees (about $110) from my wallet. “This is a personal donation,” I told the hospital chief, “Please give all these children and their mothers a meal tonight.”  Save the Children does not simply hand out cash – it can cause conflict, and it’s difficult to ensure the money goes where it’s needed most. But, literally choking back tears, I broke the rules to make sure that these kids would at least eat for one day.

Later that afternoon, we met with a doctor from UNICEF and brainstormed a way forward – UNICEF would immediately fly in calorie-dense, ready-to-use supplementary foods, if Save the Children could train the hospital staff on how to administer these foods to malnourished children. One of our senior doctors, a nutrition expert, was on a plane from Islamabad the next day, and he conducted food supplementation training sessions for medical staff from three hospitals in less than 12 hours. UNICEF then sent the ready-to-use foods to the hospitals.

While this is one small success, we need so many more – Save the Children has helped over 500,000 people in the last five weeks, but this is only 2 percent of the estimated 21 million people who have been affected by these unprecedented floods. What breaks my heart is that, no matter what I, Save the Children and the many government and aid agencies on the ground do in the next few weeks, some children will not be reached in time.


Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

Recycling for Change in Haiti’s Camps

RSZDCROPMichele062007_Adv #54 Michele Beauvoir Chandler, Save the Children Haiti, deputy director of human resources 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

September 7, 2010

Youth living in camps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, held an art expo last Friday, September 3.  This was no ordinary art show – these children were demonstrating how they can take what others view as waste and not only turn it into art, but also turn it into a livelihood.

IMG_4200 Maxon Aubourg, 15, demonstrated the skills he learned through creating a handbag out of recycled candy wrappers from the Archachon 34 camp.  “This can help us in the future because we can show how waste can be used,” says Maxon.

After thorough cleaning, children participating in Save the Children’s Water, Sanitiation and Hygiene Promotion programs take waste materials like plastic bags and candy wrappers and weave them into handbags, picture frames and bracelets. Additionally, they create garbage cans out of plastic bottles that are placed throughout the camp to promote more hygienic living conditions.

IMG_4199 Nicolas Louis, 17,  presents the garbage cans he created for the Ste. Therese camp

At the expo on Friday, children and youth displayed their items for sale, engaged in workshops about their rights and learned how to treat water so that it is safe to drink.

IMG_4214 Youth from three Port-au-Prince camps participate in activities including songs that teach them about their rights

Items were available for sale at the Save the Children Port-au-Prince office, with the proceeds going towards the programs so the youth could continue to create their art and learn innovative ways of waste management.

IMG_4190 The variety of items on sale included handbags, placemats, visors, sandals and picture frames

“One of the most incredible results of this program has been the way it has impacted entire camp communities,” says Maude Marie Sanon, a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinator with Save the Children in Haiti.  “Save the Children no longer provides garbage cans – the camps are creating them for themselves out of recycled materials.”


Maude proudly displays the items made by children living in three of Port-au-Prince’s camps

Still So Far to Go

  PK_morley_miles_ramm_00 Carolyn Miles, Chief Operating Officer, Save the Children


Swat, Pakistan

Monday, September 6, 2010

 The water has receded in Swat but has left behind vast needs.    

Over 1,600 people died in the floods, many of them in this area when water from the mountains came rushing down into villages, bringing lots of large trees and debris, which tore away bridges, sheared off houses along the river and swept away whole villages. One of our staff at the local Save the Children office showed us pictures of that day – torrents of water running through what was the main street of his village.  He told me stoically that the next day the main part of the village was gone. He lost several friends to the rushing water.    

It will take a long time to get things back to normal in an area that was considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country, with steep green mountains, lush orchards and farms, and many streams and rivers. It used to be a place Pakistanis and visitors came to get away from the heat and crowds of the city. 

That won't be true for a long time now.       

Swat is not unaccustomed to misery. This also is an area that was devastated by conflict the last year, with heavy shelling between the Taliban and army displacing tens of thousands. Families were just starting to return to their homes and beginning to recover when the heavy rains hit this July.       

Children are suffering from diarrhea and skin diseases caused by dirty water. They need to get back to normal routines and start school again. They were happy to see us today but several told us with sadness in their eyes about how the water rose so quickly, forcing some of them out their homes in the middle of the night. When they returned many of their homes were missing or damaged, their land eaten away by the surging river.    

The greatest needs right now are still for the basics — household supplies like buckets, jerry cans, soap and pots and pans as families lost everything. Food is also needed as fields were swept away along the banks of the river.    

I saw a distribution of household and hygiene kits, a tent distribution, a health clinic and hygiene training, and saw the first day of our food voucher program. With this program, funded by Food for Peace, we are able to give families vouchers that they can use in the local market to buy the foodstuffs they most need. Our staff who manage the program told us "This works so well because it isn’t a hand-out and it lets people buy what they want from the local shopkeepers". The vouchers will buy enough food for a month and support the local economy as well.    

I met a young girl of about 13 years old. Because of the fighting, she had been out of school for several years. She had recently returned home and thought this would be the year she could start school again. Sadly, the floods have damaged her school and now she must wait again to start back. Without help, she and others like her will miss out on all the opportunities that an education offers.       

Save the Children's work on distribution of non-food items, mobile medical clinics, food voucher distribution, and child-friendly spaces is helping tens of thousands of people in the Swat valley. It is just a part of the work we are doing in many areas along the main rivers where more than 17 million people have been affected by the floods.    

As our staff in Pakistan work hard to meet the needs of children here, they worry that they will not have enough resources and people will start to forget about the tremendous difficulties still to come. The international humanitarian community and people around the world need to continue to help Pakistan recover from this largest disaster they have ever experienced.


For more information on Save the Children's response in Pakistan and for ways to help, please visit our Pakistan Flood Emergency page.


Reading: The Spark that Lights up Children’s Eyes

Cec Cecilia Ochoa, Senior Specialist for Basic Education & Literacy

Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t able to read. What basic tasks would you be unable to do? What simple pleasures would you be unable to enjoy? 

Reading is a skill many of us take for granted. But for millions of children in the countries and communities where Save the Children works, reading remains a struggle.   

Parents typically have little time or training to help children learn the alphabet, or to make the link between the words they speak and the letters on a page. Books are few and far between, and are written in the school language, which is different from what children speak at home.   

Teachers without training often teach reading in the same way they were taught—mainly through drills and repetition, with limited time spent on teaching key skills or on ways to learn as you read text.    Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. Photo Credit: Brent Stirton for Save the Children

Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and
creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. 

Photo Credit:  Brent
Stirton for Save the Children

In 2007, Save the Children set out to measure how well children in the early grades in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia could read. The results were startling.  We found an alarming number of children unable to read even a single word in a text or passage.  

We decided we needed to do something to change this. That’s how Save the Children developed Literacy Boost, our signature program for helping children learn to read. Here is how it works: 

Through Literacy Boost, children in the early grades are given opportunities to practice their reading skills both in-school and in their homes and communities. Book Banks of storybooks in the local language are provided so that children have materials to read other than their textbooks.  

Community volunteers also are mobilized to conduct weekly Reading Camps for children, where children can listen to stories, read books, and play games to improve their reading skills. Parents are coached on activities they can do with their children at home to improve language skills, even if they are not literate themselves. 

Teachers are trained in strategies for teaching the five skills needed for reading. And children’s reading skills are measured at the start and end of the school year to track their progress and identify where they still need more help.   

During a recent trip to Nepal, I was heartened by how the schools and communities had embraced the program.

“Before Literacy Boost started here in Kailali, there were no storybooks for children available in the community,” Anita, a Reading Camp facilitator told me. “Now, they have story books and fables in both Nepali and Tharu. This has brought the habit of reading to the community. Even parents are more interested about reading now.” 

The results are encouraging. In a year’s time, children who participated in Literacy Boost had increased their reading scores significantly compared to those from non-assisted schools.  

But it is the spark that lights up children’s eyes when they talk about books that especially inspires me.

“I like the stories, especially the one with the monkey,” said Kamal, age 7, one of Literacy Boost’s participants in Nepal. “When I borrow a book to take home, I can read it to my whole family. We can all enjoy the story together.”

Ishwor Khatry, Save the Children’s tireless education coordinator in Kailali, shares my sentiment. He said, “Through this program, we can really see that we are making a difference.”

What Makes Sponsorship Special to You?

Karisten StrongKaristen Strong, Sponsorship Marketing Associate

Westport, CT

Wednesday, September 1, 2010  

 When you sponsor children through Save the Children, you have the unique chance to change lives and to build relationships with girls and boys in need. One New Jersey family has made sponsorship an integral part of their lives. Kim, Tom, and their daughter Felicity sponsor four children from Egypt, Mali, Nepal, and Haiti.  

The best thing about sponsorship is that the family is connected to the Felicity 2world around them. Kim noted that it allows them to support Save the Children’s programs that work to impact lives and build strong communities. She realizes it takes time to achieve sustainable changes and sponsorship allows her family to remain engaged through these community transformations.   

Felicity, 11, raised over $3,000 in February for Save the Children’s relief efforts in Haiti by selling cookies and she is currently raising funds for our relief efforts for children affected by the flooding in Pakistan through selling pins.  

Kim and Tom instilled their passion for sponsorship in their daughter at a young age. Felicity began writing to her family’s sponsored children when she was just 6. She was encouraged to write to their sponsored  girl in Mali named Korotoumou when she began learning French. Felicity now writes to her family’s sponsored children monthly. “I am very happy and excited when I get a letter,” Felicity says.

Felicity 1
“I’m interested to find out what they are doing, about their cultures and what has happened since I last heard from them—it’s wonderful!” 

In their letters, they share what they are learning in school, stories about their families and pets, and about their favorite activities. 

Felicity’s advice for letter writing—keep it simple! Felicity understands the importance of being involved in sponsorship. She says, “You have to start young and take the time to be part of the close relationship you can gain from giving to others.”   

What makes sponsorship special to you? We’d love to hear from you!