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.

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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.

“As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside.”

MistyBuswell-Misty Buswell, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Save the Children

Ramatha, Jordan

May 30, 2012


It’s only about an hour from Amman to Ramtha, near the Syrian border, but once we arrive it feels like a world away. Save the Children is supporting a thousand Syrian refugee and Jordanian children every week in their child friendly space (CFS) here and giving mothers a place they can come to and share their experiences with other mothers who have fled the violence in Syria. And yet there’s still not enough space for everyone who wants to come and there’s a waiting list for when an additional CFS opens in a couple weeks.

Apart from being a bit crowded, it looks like most other CFS’s I’ve visited in other parts of the world – kids playing games and drawing with volunteers and a few staff supervising. I start playing catch with a six year old girl who’s sitting apart from the others, playing on her own. After a few tries she’s got the hang of it and is catching the ball, a beautiful smile lighting up her face. 

My Save the Children colleague tells me that this little girl was so distressed by what she saw that she has not spoken a word since she left Syria, three months ago.

 I’m glad that I could make her smile, even if it was only for a few minutes.

20120529_jordan_blog_mbI later learn that she and her four sisters and baby brother fled with their widowed mom after their home was attacked. Without a husband to earn an income, the family is especially vulnerable and is struggling to pay the high rents charged here and still put food on the table. I wonder what will happen when these families’ savings run out and they can’t afford the rent. The government and local communities have been really supportive of all those coming across the border but with more people coming, scarce resources will be even more stretched and the communities may not be able to cope.

The mothers are in a separate room talking, kids running in and out. When I and my Save the Children colleague enter they are all eager to tell us about their lives and every woman in the room has her own gripping story. Some walked for hours with their children to reach the border and many talk about their homes being destroyed. They all worry about their kids and the lasting effects on them of witnessing the violence. We hear about kids who run and hide when they hear loud noises and others who’ve regressed and lost their toilet training skills – all serious signs of distress. Although they may not have much to go back to, all the moms hold out hope of returning – “Inshallah before Ramadan, Inshallah the violence will stop, Inshallah this will all be over soon.”

After we’ve talked for a while about what these moms and their children need one woman looks at us intently. “As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside (Syria). You should help them, not us.”

Her words came back to me vividly when I learned of the killing of 32 children in Syria on Friday. Children just like the ones I met in that child friendly space in Ramtha. It’s shocking and horrifying that this could happen to children. Humanitarian agencies like Save the Children urgently need access so that we can help those families who need it most. As I leave the child friendly space in Ramtha and head back to Amman and my normal life, I resolve to bring these kid’s voices and stories back with me and not forget what I’ve seen.

Bridging love and hope from one country to another

Pailyn TanPailyn Tan, Sponsorship Assistant

South Central Mindanao, Philippine

May 18, 2012



You know that warm feeling when you give or receive a gift from an important person in your life? That is how wonderful I feel every time I open a package, process it and deliver it to a sponsored child.

I’m quite new to the sponsorship team and my job is to receive letters, gifts and packages from sponsors and deliver them to sponsored children. This means I not only get to read sponsor’s letters and children’s responses, but also get to be part of the exchange of love and smiles.

I never received things like this before. Thank you not just for these things but also for the friendship,  Gerald to sponsorGerald really values his personal relationship with Uncle John, his sponsor. Every time we deliver letters to his school, he always waits in a corner, hoping. If he is lucky enough to receive a package or letter he is so joyous that he almost never believes it’s actually for him and that he is actually being loved and revered by a person from a place far, far away

When Gerald receives something from Uncle John he immediately sits in a corner, pulls out his pen and carefully writes his reply. He answers all of Uncle John’s questions and shares his own perspective. Then Gerald reviews his reply many times and flattensout the paper to make sure Uncle John receives it clean and without creases.

Through his drawings, Gerald hopes to take his sponsor not just in their home but also in their life

Gerald’s dream is to become a marine engineer and he is inspired by his Uncle John’s words.

Witnessing this bond that transcends distance and culture, and being part of the bridge that does so, is elating. I feel the sharing of love and joy. It is empowering to be a part of something so inspiring and to actually witness change in someone’s life – in the lives of the faces of our future.



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

The Lifesaving 6: Hope for Moms and Children Everywhere

The following first appeared on the Huffington Post.

_______________________

 

I am a lucky mom.

 

I received quality prenatal care and gave birth in a state-of-the-art hospital. My kids received essential nutrition from the moment they were born through their early years, giving them a better chance to fight off disease and perform well in school. Today, they are on a path to reaching their full potential.

 

Many moms in developing countries such as Ethiopia, Niger and India aren’t so lucky.

 

In fact, children in an alarming number of countries do not get the nutrition they need from pregnancy to their second birthday–the critical window for ensuring healthy growth and development–according to Save the Children’s 13th annual State of the World’s Mothers report. The report shines a spotlight on the lifelong, if not deadly, impact chronic malnutrition has on millions of children across the globe.

Read Article

Behind the Sponsorship Scene: Egypt

Mohamed Zanati

Mohamed Zanati, Education Officer

Assiut, Egypt

May 4, 2012


On the way to a small village located 30 miles north of Abnoub you can take the time to appreciate the beautiful scenery; the flowing Nile, fields of green and the mountains off in the distance.

This village, like many others in Upper Egypt, has suffered a lot and is deprived of many basic services. While right next to the Nile River, it only recently received clean water. There’s no youth center for children to exercise and play sports and a local health unit was only recently opened (but is still waiting for equipment). 

Egypt 5-4post picThere is only one elementary school and no secondary school; the closest is in the neighboring village almost five kilometers away. Yes, this is how much people in Upper Egypt, especially children, are still in need.

In villages like this, Save the Children provides integrated programs for children to improve their health, education and economic opportunities.  Although there is still a long way to go, these programs, which you support, are saving lives and improving the quality of life for Egyptian children everyday.

My visit was to monitor the quality of activities of our local partner, Community Development Association. As soon as we arrived I could see the smiles creeping onto the face of the children, and with a signal from their teacher they began singing to us in welcome. I was extremely happy when I found the children in the first grade so happy in class and that they’ve managed to learn the alphabet.

It’s the first time in this village’s history that every school age child is enrolled; last year the figure was just 80%. The increase is a result of our strong partnerships and advocacy activities with partner CDA’s, the Ministry of Education, the educational administration and the school’s board of trustees.  

As an Egyptian and an employee of Save the Children I would like to thank all of the people who care enough to donate to these children in need.

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.