Learning Starts Before School

Early childhood – from birth to age 8 – is the most critical time of growth and learning in a child’s life. Yet it seems more of the world’s focus is on helping children learn after they enter the classroom. That’s why it was great to see two major events this week highlighting the benefits of early childhood development and education.

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UN General Assembly and CGI Week Thoughts from a Newbie [Part 2]

One of the most important things organizations like Save the Children have to do is to build coalitions of partners who share our interests in making life better for children. One of the key events of UN week was a star-studded event on Tuesday night, hosted by Ray Chambers, Special Envoy to Ban-KI Moon, which highlighted the health Millennium Development Goals. There is lots of hard work that has to happen to make the goals by 2015.


One of the keys, whether you are talking about the death of moms in childbirth or saving the lives of newborns and kids under 5, is getting a health worker within reach of every child and mother. With the help of stars like 50 Cent, Jennifer Connelly, Christy Turlington Brown, and even the Muppets, thousands attending learned how much more we need to do and the power of health workers in getting it done. It ended with some rousing dancing to the African artist Youssou N’Dour and lots of tired people heading off to bed!


Carolyn Miles with Save the Children's Board Chair Anne Mulcahy and Actress Jennifer Connelly on the red carpet for Every Woman, Every Child
With Save the Children’s Board Chair Anne Mulcahy and Actress Jennifer Connelly for Every Woman, Every Child

Wednesday morning started early with a 7:30 am breakfast panel ” Saving Lives on the Frontline” on our key issue of health workers. Dr Richard Besser of ABC moderated a panel which included Ray Chambers, our star midwife Dr Joan Shepherd from Sierra


Leone, Geralyn Ritter, the head of the Merck Foundation, our Chair Anne Mulcahy and me. We all spoke from our experiences in how these brave men and women are the true heroes who make a difference for kids in the developing world.


After a few more meetings with some of our key partners like Accenture, I headed over to the Clinton Global Initiative to join a panel on Early Childhood Development with George Rupp from IRC and others. The importance of Pre-school and early parenting interventions in helping kids stay in school is really becoming known and the audience was knowledgeable and interested in sharing their own experiences too. One of our toughest challenges is convincing governments that early school, prior to entering primary, is not a luxury, but an intervention we can’t afford not to make. There is clear research that these interventions have a terrific ROI, as great at 17:1 from some respected studies.


After listening to President Obama speak, the rest of my day was more meetings with our donors who were attending CGI as well as attending a fascinating panel on the Middle East and North Africa. I am heading to Egypt next month to visit our youth programs there so I was particularly interested in what some of the young people on the panel, including a princess from Saudi Arabia had to say!


I finally headed to bed late and pretty exhausted after one final reception…..


The last day of CGI started with another early breakfast, this one with health ministers from some key African countries. Our Save the Children CEO Jasmine Whitbread spoke eloquently about the importance of women and girls’ health in breaking the cycle of poverty and I learned that in several countries, up to 80 percent of children whose mothers die in childbirth will also die – shocking and sad stat to think about.


I ran back to CGI for an important press conference on the Horn of Africa and was joined by the head of ONE Michael Elliot, the CEO of Procter and Gamble Bob McDonald, the CEO of IMC and several others. We all highlighted the tremendous need in the Horn and the fact that the crisis could get even worse if rains don’t come soon. Hopefully the press will pick up as there continues to be very little interest and awareness of this dire crisis for children.

My final afternoon Thursday included several radio interviews on the Horn and then the closing session with President Clinton, Hillary and Chelsea. Hillary and Chelsea did a terrific interview (Chelsea grilled her Mom) which ranged from healthcare to the Arab Spring to Hillary’s technological abilities (apparently a little lacking!).


Given the 5 days I had been away from my own children, I headed back to CT with a few new blisters and a lot of new experiences and friends – many of whom I’ll call on to help in our mission to give children and their families more opportunities for a better life. Apparently I missed a final shout out by President Clinton to support Save the Children and others in responding to the Horn of Africa crisis at the Thursday night dinner but since I fell asleep on the train, I might have missed it even if I were there!


The whole experience reinforced for me the importance of building relationships and partnerships as we take on these major issues for children.

Making a Difference, One Call at a Time

I just got off the phone with my Congressman’s office. You see, Congress is in the midst of deciding spending levels for 2012, and I wanted to make sure my voice was heard. Some members of Congress want to cut foreign assistance programs by as much as 30 percent, which would have devastating consequences for children and families around the globe. I couldn’t stand by and watch that happen.

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UN General Assembly and CGI Week Thoughts from a Newbie…..

The UN General Assembly met this week in New York and there were dozens of side events such as the Clinton Global Initiative. Save the Children focused on advocating for more frontline health workers who will help improve the lives of women and children around the world. In this post Carolyn writes about her experience.


It was a pretty crazy way to start my third week as Save the Children’s new President & CEO! To give you a sense of it all, I’ll retrace my steps back to Sunday… 

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Japan: Six Months After the Devastating Quake and Tsunami

Lane Hartill

Lane Hartill, Director of Media and Communications

Washington, D.C.

September 16, 2011 

Six months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Save the Children is still working with thousands of children on the ground in the disaster areas. As the crisis moves from an emergency into the recovery and development phase, Save the Children has created a 5-year plan to help children and communities create an environment where children can thrive.

To find out more about our work in Japan—and our long term plans—please listen to the podcast below featuring Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles and the Chief Operating Officer of Save the Children in Japan, Eiichi Sadamatsu.

Japan: Six Months After the Earthquake and Tsunami by Save the Children

For more information, check out photos of our work and the full report:


Six-month report on Save the Children's Japan earthquake and tsunami Emergency response and recovery program.

Remembering 9/11

Today here in CT where I live dawned much like that morning 10 years ago which really did change all our lives forever. A clear blue sky, a crispness of fall in the morning air, a day you were happy to get up and get going.


Unlike today, a Sunday, that September 11 ten years ago was a work day and I headed to Save the Children’s offices in Westport, CT after dropping various of my kids at the bus and school. For some reason, I did not have the radio on as was my usual habit, so I had no idea of the tragedy that was unfolding. One of my colleagues said to me rather off-handedly as I was coming into the building that a plane had run into the World Trade Center tower. I imagined a little plane and maybe a “dent” in the building, never imagining the horrendous events that would unfold.

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A Decade after 9/11, Is Your State Prepared to Protect Children?

Kaleba_head shot Jen Kaleba, Director, Marketing and Communications

September 9, 2011

Westport, CT

On September 11, 2001, Donna Fowler was running her own in-home daycare in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In her care were eight children, several of whom had parents working at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. While children were playing, Donna answered the persistent ringing of her phone.

“Turn on the TV,” her friend gasped.

And like millions of Americans, Donna watched as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

She turned off the TV quickly, put on a composed face for the children, and turned the radio on in the background so she could keep tabs on the situation without alarming the kids.

And then a plane struck the Pentagon. Close to home and where one parent worked.

“I thought, oh my god, I have these eight little people in my care and what am I going to do with them if their parents don’t come back today?” Donna remembers. “I had absolutely no plans in place. They were talking about evacuation and I thought, ‘Where do I go? How would parents know where I was going?’ The feeling inside was of total dread not knowing if parents were going to come back and what I would do if they did not.”

The thing is, if you’d asked Donna the day before 9/11, she would have told you she thought she was prepared for an emergency.

“I knew that I had emergency numbers for children and I knew where their parents worked. I felt very comfortable up until that point,” she recalls. Then, reflecting on the irony, “I didn’t realize how unprepared I really was; how prepared I should have been.”

Javits_day_care_evacuation_use_0829_through_11_29 (2)Children are evacuated from a daycare outside the Javits Center in New York after the August 23, 2011 earthquake.    (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Not only did Donna not have an adequate plan, but across the country, states didn’t require the plans in the first place. Today, those very requirements are outlined in Save the Children’s just-released fourth annual National Report Card on Protecting Children During Disasters.

In it, we look at all 50 states and the District of Columbia to see what states have adopted four very basic standards of preparedness for kids in child care and schools—basics like evacuation and relocation plans, or plans to reunite kids with their families. Today, only 17 states meet all four requirements.

You can read about the standards here, check out how your state stacks up, and download our “School & Child Care Check List” that you can take to your kid’s caregivers or school administrators and ask, “Do you have a plan?”

As for Donna, her life changed on 9/11. After the children were reunited with their families (the father who was supposed to be at the Pentagon forgot some papers at his house and was late to work; it took the mother on Capitol Hill 20 hours to get back to her daughter) Donna swore to herself that she would never let another child care worker feel the way she felt that day.

She became a staunch advocate for disaster preparedness for child care facilities, testifying before the Maryland legislature on behalf of Save the Children to get our standards passed. Today she is the Vice President of the National Association for Family Child Care, pushing for Maryland to go even further in its readiness to keep kids safe during disasters.

More than 67 million children spend approximately 2,000 hours in schools and child care every year. Let’s work together, with people like Donna and you, to make sure more states get an A+ next year.

A Mother’s Love

Pc field head

Penelope Crump, Web Editor

Westport, Connecticut

September 8, 2011 

Penny just returned to the United States after spending two weeks surveying Save the Children's food crisis relief programs in Ethiopia. 


Dido has been battling for his life at a Save the Children emergency nutrition program in drought-affected Ethiopia. I was so grateful for our staff and supporters that made this program possible. He wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.

As I sat by his mother Garo’s side, my only thought was to comfort her and her son as she told me of their hardship and suffering due to the drought in East Africa. The small puppet I played with put a faint smile on Dido’s sunken face. 

Picture 440 - garo dido color corrected
Like far too many families in Dido’s village, his family lost much of their herd when the rains failed for two years. The remaining livestock withered, producing a fraction of the milk they once had. “We were doing everything we could to support our family,” Garo told me. “We were just scraping by when Dido got sick.”

Malnutrition weakened the little boy and a cold escalated to pneumonia. Dido became a shadow of his former self, weighing 15 pounds – about half of his ideal healthy weight. 

Garo faithfully fought for her son’s life – feeding him fortified milk and porridge all hours of the day and night. Constantly by his side, she stays with him sleeping on a small gurney in Save the Children’s dedicated malnutrition unit. 

Garo knows the pain of losing a son; Dido’s nine-year-old brother died in an accident. Her sorrow washed over me as I saw her lips quiver and tears streams down her cheeks. She wept silently, not wanting to upset Dido. “I will not lose him,” she said fiercely.  

I told Garo Save the Children health workers brought me to see Dido’s progress. In just a few short days, he gained more than 2 pounds and was on the road to recovery.

“I have no words to describe how grateful I am to Save the Children,” she said, pressing her hand to her heart.


Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.