Rekindling The Spirit of Bayanihan

Anonymous manAvemar T. Tan, Sponsorship Manager

Cloocan City, Philippines

September 28, 2012

Bayanihan is a Filipino term which originally referred to an old pre-Spanish tradition where entire villages helped families move by literally carrying their house to a new location. They would construct a strong frame out of bamboo, place the house on it, and then lift and carry the entire house.

Today it has come to refer to a spirit of kinship and camaraderie.

The sun was blazing as we headed to Barangay Hall in Cloocan City for a meeting of community volunteers. The meeting aimed to reconnect with our volunteers, gather their insights and prepare strategies and plans for the year. We arrived a few minutes late to find the hall full. Our volunteers were eagerly waiting.  Bayanihan 513KB File

In a country where poverty is the norm and the minimum wage is barely enough to sustain a family, it is inspiring to know people like our volunteers still exist. Despite busy schedules and family obligations, they offer their valuable time to make Save the Children’s sponsorship program a success.

One volunteer, Mary Rose, shared how the fulfilment they get from seeing children’s faces light up when they deliver sponsors’ cards, letters and packages, is enough to keep them going.

“It is difficult,” Ate Loida, the volunteers’ team leader remarked. “Sometimes our husbands get jealous of the time we spend volunteering or we forget to clean the house or do a chore. But we explain the value of what we do and in the end, they understand and support us.” 

Reaching the children is also challenging. The local streets can be confusing and children’s homes difficult to locate. “The homes can be situated far apart, and since commuting costs a lot, often we choose to deliver or collect the letters by foot. It is tiring, but fulfilling,” Mary Rose shares.

As we boarded our van back to the office, I reflect how lucky we are to have partners like these who bring to life the spirit of bayanihan, forgotten by many. They are a valuable ingredient in helping us achieve success in improving the lives of the children.

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

What Is A Woman In Syria?

Cat CarterCatherine Carter, Emergency Communications Manager

Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

September 26, 2012

I walk through Za’atari camp on the Jordan/Syria border. The air is thick with yellow dust and it swirls up in a sandstorm, temporarily blinding me. I stop, blinking furiously, and see a woman sat with her children on a mattress nearby.

She is out in the open air in the reception centre, and seems detached from the chaos around her. I walk over to her, crouch down and introduce myself.


She responds: “My name is Mona. It is not my real name, because I cannot tell you that. I am too afraid of what might happen.”

People fleeing war are often wary of telling strangers about their experiences, worried for family still in the war zone, terrified of retribution.

We talk for a while about why I am here, in this camp. We talk about the importance of speaking out about what we see, why it matters to ensure people’s stories are known. Then we talk about Mona, and how she left Syria, and why.

Life is fear

“Life in Syria…is fear. Everyone is afraid. Sometimes it is quiet, and you are waiting for it to start. And then it is bombardment, and you are waiting for it to end. I kept thinking it would get better, but it kept getting worse”.

I glance at her children, with her on the mattress. Mona touches the face of her youngest, a beautiful child of about 3.

“My children cry in their sleep. They have lost their childhood.”

I ask about their home, and her husband. “My husband…built our home from scratch. In total it took him 12 years. It was burnt down in no more than an hour.” Mona begins to weep, and I do not ask again where her husband is.

To be a woman

As we are finishing our conversation, I ask her about women in Syria, and what they are facing.

“I’ll tell you what it is to be a woman in Syria now. As a woman you are either saying goodbye to someone or trying to protect your children from shells. That is all.”

Please support our campaign to protect children in Syria and donate to support our work with refugees.

How Can We Build Hope for America’s Kids?

Traveling in rural Arkansas, you can sometimes forget where you are. The long stretch of bumpy highway, surrounded by cotton fields and rice paddies, could be in one of a dozen countries I’ve traveled to recently. And, unfortunately, the poor families I met could have been from any of those countries too—rather than living in the richest country on earth. The kind of poverty you find these days in America is shocking, and it makes me wonder what’s happened to cause so many families to be left behind.

Fighting global poverty with locally led strategies

Matthew Pickard_Malawi (2)Mathew Pickard, Malawi
 Country Director 

September 25, 2012

Lilongwe, Malawi

2008 Malita Chimwemwe was six-years-old living in the remote village of
Mayaka. Her family was hit by chronic poverty and HIV/AIDs. Malita
was in first grade at the local primary school but was speech-impaired. She was
lucky; her village was part of Save the Children’s early childhood development
(ECD) sponsorship program and through this program, Malita attended a
community-based center where she was given speech training. Government-supported
community health workers provided Malita’s family with medical

JennrusseulBLOGIn Malawi needs such as Malita’s are widespread.  One
child in eight dies before reaching five years due to poor health or
nutrition. Most Malawian mothers have to carry their children on
their backs for long distances to seek health care. Free primary
education is offered in Malawi but face declining standards and high drop-out
rates. Malawi’s government needs and welcomes donor support, but U.S.
government-funded programs, including those aimed at reducing poverty, have not
always aligned with Malawi’s needs at the community level.

Requirements set in Washington– such as congressional earmarks
and global targets –have at times constrained the ability of the U.S.
government, the national government and partners in country to address Malawi’s
community health and education needs. Over 80 percent of U.S.
foreign assistance funds are directed to specific programs before they hit the
country level. Pre-determined funding allocations often undermine
the ability of the U.S. government and partners to provide assistance when,
where and how it is most needed.

the Children Malawi has been involved in a new USAID initiative that is trying
to change this and better connect U.S. foreign aid decisions to local needs and
priorities. As part of its “Forward Initiative,”
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is creating a five-year
Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) in Malawi to increase
country-driven programming. Working closely with host country
governments and citizens, civil society organizations, other donors and U.S.
government agencies, CDCSs are being developed at the majority of USAID’s
country and regional missions worldwide. A goal of the CDCS process
is to actively take into account the rights and interests of the country’s
citizens.  In Malawi, this means a
greater sensitivity to the development needs of citizens at the community level,
positively impacting more vulnerable children like Malita.  Seventeen CDCSs have been approved so far,
with a total of 73 expected to be completed by the end of 2013.  

Community consultation is not new to
USAID, but what’s different about the CDCS process in Malawi has been the depth
and reach of these consultations. For example, earlier this year,
USAID partnered with the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College to convene
citizen groups across the country at the national, district, and village level,
in order to capture the voices of a wide range of people.
This process is also expected to inform the government of Malawi’s own
programs, policies and services, leading to better country-led development over
the long-term.

The CDCS process in
Malawi is still underway. If
the initiative moves ahead as planned, and the people’s voices are listened
to, U.S. development budgets and resource allocations in Malawi will be
driven more by localized strategies and plans developed by Malawi’s
citizens than by a top-down approach out of Washington. This is not just a matter of principle, but of impact. When local communities and governments have a
sense of ownership over development, they invest their own energy and resources
to make it successful.

the CDCS process to accomplish its purpose, CDCS consultations should be broad
and deep in all countries and involve communities, government, and other
development stakeholders. USAID missions in the other countries must create
opportunities for genuine engagement at the community level and potential for
influencing national government priorities – as in Malawi. 

Aligning the U.S.
government’s poverty reduction and community development efforts with the needs
and priorities of Malawi’s citizens will lead to better futures for not only
thousands of children like Malita, but for the nation as a whole. 

2008 a Malawi government official said, “If each country was given a chance to
really prioritize what it wants, then we could make a difference in
poverty”. With this new U.S. government strategic planning and
budgeting approach, Malita Chimwemwe and other citizens in Malawi may have a
greater voice in their fight against poverty. Today, as Malita moves
to grade four, she can look at her future with more hope
and confidence that her voice and that of her community will be heard.

Little Things Mean A Lot


Barbara Lencheck, Sponsorship Programs

Westport, CT

September 24, 2012

Orange shirt boy

This past spring, sponsors were sent warm, whimsical farmyard puzzles to sign and
return for forwarding to their sponsored children the world over.

Who would have guessed that 24 little, interlocking pieces could bring so much joy
to so many children? Children worked on their puzzles at home and at school,
alone and with friends. As you can see, they shared the fun – and they shared
their delight in knowing a faraway sponsor cared.

Yellow shirt girl-DSC05562If
you’re a sponsor and have questions about this project, call Donor Services at 1-800-SavetheChildren or email

If you’re not a sponsor and would like
to experience providing this kind of joy to children in need, just click here to learn more.   

Harnessing the Power of Technology and New Media to Save Children’s Lives

An open response to The Global Conversation Question posed by Mashable and the UN Foundation at the Social Good Summit 2012: How can new technology and new media create solutions for the biggest problems facing my community?


New York, NY — If you had asked me even a few years back if the heartbeats of children in Malawi and Guatemala—recorded with a special stethoscope—would inspire a song with the potential to help save millions of lives, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened, and now those very heartbeats are powering our new Every Beat Matters campaign as part of our Every One global movement to save children’s lives.

Every Beat Matters is capitalizing on social media to spread the word about what it takes to end preventable child deaths. Through social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Save the Children is improving our ability to connect with a new generation of supporters.While social media may be new, our culture of leveraging technological innovations isn’t.


Take mobile phones. These now ubiquitous devices are transforming the way the development sector does business. In some of the world’s most remote and rural places, there may not be a hospital or even a doctor, but you can bet there are mobile phones. Frontline health workers are using them to track their communities’ health needs more efficiently, and revolutionizing the way care is delivered. Mobile phones enable them to seek advice from a supervisor, call for emergency transport and enter data, all from the palm of their hand.


When the Haiti earthquake hit in 2010, millions of dollars were raised through text-to-give and the world discovered a new—and remarkably simple—way to donate from a device that people carry around in their pockets. Today, in addition to texting, supporters can raise money for children in need by donating online, through their social networks and even by downloading a hit song on their smartphones.


When pregnant women and new mothers in rural Bangladesh need answers about how to best care for their babies, a text message is often the most effective way to reach them. As a member of USAID’s Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), Save the Children is helping design, test, build, and bring to scale a platform to provide lifesaving audio and text health messages about postnatal care, safe delivery, vaccines, breastfeeding, family planning and nutrition.


Mobile phones can also empower communities to take part in the relief effort after disasters strike. We’ve been testing mobile hotlines to receive feedback about our emergency relief work. Our Monitoring & Evaluations officers carry phones dedicated to this hotline so they can determine where the need is greatest and where potential problems may arise.


In addition to mobile phones, Save the Children is piloting new technology to track our supply chain management in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. We’re now able to see—from anywhere in the world—exactly what supplies are available at our warehouse in Addis Ababa and Dhaka. We can work with our on-the-ground logisticians to keep track of the inventory and deploy it to places that need supplies the most. It’s not the most glamorous innovation, but it allows us to spend less time tracking goods, and more time doing what we do best: helping children.


We saw first-hand the extensive reach of new technology when we recently traveled to Mali to see West Africa’s hunger crisis, an emergency that was not being covered by traditional media. We live-streamed from a remote village via a satellite, laptop and webcam—giving supporters around the world the ability to see the very people their donations were helping—in real time — all from a village with no electricity.It was a powerful moment, one that would not have been possible if not for new technology and new media.


In some ways, technology in all its forms and the work we do are not that different. We don’t know when the next natural or man-made disaster might put children in harm’s way and we need to be ready for the unexpected. Forgive the cliché but technology is the future and so are our children.



How to ‘Beat’ Child Mortality

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.


Can the sound of a child’s heartbeat inspire the world to save children’s lives? Can it inspire you? Children’s heartbeats recorded in Malawi and Guatemala inspired the band OneRepublic to write a song with a beat like no other. If “Feel Again” grabs you enough to download it, you can help save children’s lives.


The song provides the soundtrack to Save the Children’s new Every Beat Matters campaign. The aim is to raise awareness about the millions of children around the world who die needlessly before their 5thbirthday, and what can be done to save them. The timing is right for this campaign launch, and not just because it’s Infant Mortality Awareness month. Yesterday, the United Nations released their latest child mortality estimates, which show — for the first time — that child deaths have fallen below 7 million per year. While this figure is still far too high, it reflects the tremendous progress the world has made in reducing preventable child deaths. We can and must now finish the job.


Not long ago twice as many children died every year. Since 1990, child deaths have declined by an impressive 40 percent. That’s thanks to high-impact solutions like vaccines, oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea and improved nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life. Increased contraceptive use has also played a big role in many countries, especially in Asia. By reducing unintended pregnancies and increasing the spacing between pregnancies, the risk of both maternal and child deaths have gone down.


But these solutions still aren’t reaching all the children and mothers who need them. Many children still don’t get vaccines or timely treatment of life-threatening illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. And many newborn babies, especially those in need, don’t get the skilled delivery and basic care at birth that could prevent 20-60 percent of deaths in the first month of life.


This is where you come in. By downloading a song that benefits our Every Beat Matters campaign, or writing to Congress, or sharing a video with friends to get them involved in the cause, expanding lifesaving care for children is just a few clicks away.