Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy: Coming Together to Protect Children

Save the Children has worked to ensure the safety and well-being of children around the world for nearly 100 years. We work with children all over the world who have been dramatically affected by war, crisis and violence. We believe that every child has the right to a safe and vibrant childhood. We applaud President Obama’s efforts to curb gun violence in the United States, and we join him and others in advocating for tighter laws, particularly around the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

 

We recognize that this is a complex issue requiring a comprehensive approach. We are working with the Administration and Congress to increase access to mental health services and begin a national conversation about the glorification of violence in our culture. It is urgent we come together as a nation to prevent more tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

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Sandy Hook Tragedy: Volunteering for Save the Children in Newtown


Lacey-head-shotKristen Lacey, Senior Director, Marketing and Brand Management

Newtown, Connecticut

Decmeber 20, 2012


Working at Save the Children, I thought one day I’d help
earthquake survivors or war refugees in some remote land. I never thought I’d
be part of our relief efforts in my neighboring community.

When Save the Children was called on to help families in
Newtown, there was no hesitation. Responding to requests by community leaders
and the American Red Cross, we sent teams to do what we’ve done around the
world for decades – help children in crisis. 

Kristen and puppy

Kristen cuddles with a fellow volunteer in Newtown. They've both been helping kids cope with the tragedy in their own way.

I’m part of a team that works in our Child Friendly Space in
a large art classroom next to the counseling services in Reed Intermediate
School. It’s a place where kids can be kids again; comforted by trained adults
who can help them open up and give them tools to cope with their feelings.  

What we've done in Newtown is some of the most important
work we've ever done.  We provided
children who were frightened, confused and in some cases not speaking, with a
safe and warm place to play, feel protected and express themselves. 

One child said to me, “I like it best right here”.

We created an
environment where the kids became content and did not want to leave…painting,
playing with play dough, making ornaments, writing on our mural and creating
bracelets brought a calm and peace to these kids, and actually created a
setting they could partially control. 
These kids stepped back into a school in a way that was constructive and
healing, the opposite of what so many experienced that dark Friday in Sandy
Hook. 

As a parent, I also value that we gave parents a reprieve to
get much needed counseling while their children were in good care. 

Save the Children is unique because we can focus 100% on
kids and their needs – that is what we do. 
In Newtown, we provided exactly what the community needed for their
precious children, the moment they needed it.

I am humbled to be part of our volunteer effort. It gives me
comfort that I can help my neighbors in need.

Parents, click to read our 

Ten Tips to Help Children Cope With A Crisis

my
neighboring community

Talking to Your Kids about Sandy Hook

We are all shocked and saddened by the tragedy of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, yesterday. Our thoughts are with the affected children and families.

 

Save the Children staff is now on site in Newtown, offering assistance if needed. We have set up a Child Friendly Space, where children who are receiving community-assisted crisis counseling also have a safe area to help them deal with the uncertainty and stress they are experiencing. While their parents get grief counseling, our Child Friendly space is also working to identify kids who need some extra care.

 

For parents across the country struggling to talk to their children about this tragedy, we have posted our Top Ten Tips to Help Children Cope with a Crisis at www.savethechildren.org/cope. Many parents, teachers, grandparents and caregivers are concerned about how dramatic images of the tragic crisis can affect the emotional well-being of their children. We hope that these tips can help you have those important

Ready and Able in Vietnam

Today’s entry is a guest blog from Le Thi Bich Hang and Nguyen Van Gia, my colleagues in Save the Children’s Vietnam Country Office. I met Hang and Gia during my last trip to Vietnam when, alongside Country Director Huy Sinh Pham and

Rebati’s Story

Junima headshotJunima Shakya, Sponsorship Manager

Pyuthan, Nepal

December 12, 2012


During my last visit to Chandreshwori Primary School in Pyuthan, a Sponsorship Impact Area in western Nepal, I met Rebati. With her welcoming smile, Rebati works at the school and is very popular among the teachers and students.

I was interested in talking with Rebati after learning that her son, Bikash, is enrolled in the sponsorship program and attend she schools Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Center. Rebati told me that Bikash has already received two letters from his sponsor and happily shares the sponsor’s name, though the foreign pronunciation was difficult for her, and what they had written. Blog_05.0.12_Rebati with school children

33 year-old Rebati left her studies while she was still in the 10th Grade.  She lives with her mother-in-law and two sons, while her husband of seven years works in India as a watchman. 

Her duties at the school include cleaning, serving tea and water to the teachers and students and ringing the bell for the lessons. She also often goes to the local Save the Children field office to collect sponsors letters, medicines and materials.

She has been trained by Save the Children in health and sanitation and is happy to see the changes in the school as a result of the sponsorship programs; better classroom management, an ECCD center and improvements in teachers from the trainings. Children also receive regular health care, stationery and study in a child friendly environment. 

Some of Rebati’s neighbors look down on her work at the school, but it has no impact on her. She proudly states, “I feel very happy when children call me aunty and I see them growing up with good education.” She says she wants to work in the school as long as her health allows her to.

Blog_05.0.12_Rebati ringing school bellWhen asked about her hopes for the future, she shares, “I want my boys to complete their schooling, study medicine, and become doctors or medical assistants. I always dreamt of becoming a nurse and serving sick people.” She is very grateful to Save the Children for our sponsorship program and for giving hope to many mothers like her.

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

The Sound of Change

Tererai podium

Dr. Tererai Trent, PHD , Educator and Humanitarian   

Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe

December 10, 2012

The following post first appeared on Tererai Trent's blog


Ping. Ping. Ping. 
That’s the sound of text messages hitting my mobile phone here in California, day and night, after
navigating over the long dirt roads and open blue skies thousands of miles away
from my home, in Africa.  With each ping, my smile beams more brightly, my
step has more spring and my bliss is boundless.  And, I am reminded of the
words of the soulful R&B singer Sam Cooke “A change is gonna come.” 

For you see, my dream
of bringing a better education to children in my rural village
of Matau, Zimbabwe, is soon to come true.  A
gaggle of grandmothers – Gogos in my native term, tease me with these texts,
feeding me morsels of news about the progress on the Matau Primary School
project. This will create a brighter future
for nearly 4,000 children and 125 teachers. 

"A brand new school
is now standing, it almost seems like I am dreaming
," Gogo Sande says
in her text. 

The next morning, before I
have recovered from my joy of reading her text, I get two more: 

"Tererai, my daughter
could not read and write and died leaving orphans under my care. Now they can
read at home and I get to participate in their reading, it has never been heard
of until Matau Project. It's a miracle.” 
Gogo Kawocha. 

"I saw the new desks
and chairs arriving, our children have hope for a better future,”
Gogo Kambuzuma tells me in her text.

My heart is brimming over
with affection and tears come to my eyes as I picture these grandmothers,
walking around my village, tracking down the young men and asking or paying
them a few cents to relay their messages to me via text on their mobile
phones.  I am humbled knowing that these women have had little to no
schooling themselves yet they share the same enthusiasm of children
awaiting their first day of school.

At this time of year, when we
express our gratitude, I want to bestow mine on these grandmothers.  I
thank them for reminding me that hope springs eternal.  I can hear them
saying, “Naysayers of Africa, pass on through. Your stay is temporary, like the
shift in shadows under the clouds of the African sky.”  Change is gonna
come. Progress is on the horizon. Can you feel it? 

Tinogona!  It is
achievable.

A Message from Santa: “Read, Learn and Be Merry!”


Santa writing letterSanta Claus

The Noerr Pole

December 6, 2012



Ho, ho, ho, my friends, big and small! With the year 2013 almost upon us, my tech-savvy elves insisted that it was time for Santa to put his pen and paper aside (at
least just this once) and try my hand at blogging. So, here I am, sending my
letter from the Noerr Pole (that’s right, not a typo), into cyberspace. You may
call me Santa 2.0 from now on.

IMG_3345So
why did I choose to write a guest blog post especially for Save the Children,
you may wonder? Well, I’ve been searching far and wide for an organization to
partner with, so we can help create magic together for children wholive in
poverty-stricken communities, without access to the tools and education they
need to succeed. When I came across the hard-working elves at Save the
Children, dedicated to making this world a better place for all children, I immediately knew that I had found my dream team. 

After all, Save the Children and I have more than a few things in common. We both
believe in the spirit of generosity and kindness and don’t mind working around
the clock to fulfill the hopes and dreams of children.

Plus, we share the same great taste in fashion. If you haven’t noticed, much like me, Save the Children is partial to the color red! Come to think of it, I would
look quite dashing in one of their red shirts. (Are you listening, Save the
Children?)

After meeting with the wonderful Save the Children team, I introduced them to their
kindred spirits at The Noerr Programs, one of the nation’s leading Santa Photo
Experience providers. Noerr joined forces with Save the Children’s U.S. Programs
in 2009, collecting more than $365,000 to date to benefit children living in
poverty who know all too well what it means to go without.

As part of this joint effort to help kids in need, I recently took my sleigh on a
whirlwind tour, visiting hundreds of ‘sugarplums’ in Kindergarten through fifth
grade at Save the Children’s after school programs in the rural communities of
Augusta, Ark., Coffeyville, Kan., and Alamosa, Colo.

My journey through the heartland proved that the greatest rewards are those of the
heart. For me, witnessing the joy, wonder and delightful giggles from children
meeting jolly ol’ me in person was the greatest gift of all.

Santa_AR_FirstLady_AmyF_croppedIn
Augusta, Ark., a distinguished guest, Mrs. Ginger Bebee, wife of Arkansas Governor
Bebee, joined me in sharing the message of ‘Read, Learn and Be Merry!’
Together, we read Christmas tales and encouraged children to “Give it their all”
when it comes to education. Of course, my day is never complete without a
cheerful chorus of ‘Jingle Bells,’ to which the children happily sang along.

Then it was time to head Santa’s sleigh to Coffeyville, Kan., home to the largest
public school in the state of Kansas. There, I read “’Twas the Night Before
Christmas,” and invited two eager children from the audience to act out the
famous tale with me onstage. Then I fielded questions from the rapt audience, who
showed clear concern for my reindeer’s whereabouts and diet.

 

 

The final stop on my American tour this year was Alamosa, Colo., where I paid a
surprise visit to hundreds of students at Alamosa Elementary School. Alamosa City Councilman Josef Lucero joined me in reading a Christmas story and lent a helping hand putting smiles on the children's faces.

During each of the visits, my helpers and I surprised the kids with a gift of books, play cards, festive reindeer antlers, and cozy ear warmers, made possible by the generous folks at Scholastic, UNO, McCain Mall in Arkansas and Independence Center in Missouri.

IMG_3331So that sums up my fun-filled and heartwarming adventure visiting the children Save the Children is serving around the country. But before I sign off, I
wanted to urge all you parents out there to try out this fun activity,
2.0-style (my ever-so-hip elves have taught me well!).  To reinforce the message that learning to read is a stepping stone to success in life, The Noerr Programs has created an online Be Merry! Badge Generator at BeMerrySanta.com. Parents can go online with their children, and just like magic,
I will personally generate a customized badge for reading books. (Like I said,
I am trying to keep up with the modern times and technology.)To make Santa’s
nice lists, children can show me their badge at any Noerr Programs Santa Experience throughout the United States on a smartphone, tablet or printed out.  Proud parents can also post their child’s badge to Facebook, tweet it or email it to
grandparents.  

One last thought: During your visit to one of my temporary outposts near
you, don’t forget to leave a donation for Save the Children. It’s the quickest
way to get in the holiday spirit and Be Merry! Ho, ho, ho!!

A Visit to Vietnam Uncovers Progress, Challenges—and Joy!

Vietnam has made progress by leaps and bounds in the past decade, improving economic growth, boosting newborn and child survival rates and getting more kids in school. As I traveled throughout the country last week, I could see that this progress was rooted in the determination and industriousness of the Vietnamese people. They have worked so hard to make a better life for themselves and their children, and their hard work has paid off in an increased per capita income and an active economy.

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Bringing Relief in the Wake of Typhoon Bopha

Anonymous manNorman
Gagarin, 
Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program Officer

Mindanao, Philippines

December 5, 2012


 While the residents of Mindanao were still
fast asleep Tuesday morning, Typhoon Bopha approached the southeastern coastline
of the Philippines, packing 130mph of wind and heavy rain. The powerful winds
and rain were unlike anything I had ever seen before.

ETH_0409_92599Despite being a much stronger typhoon than
Typhoon Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people– most of them children -last
December,the fact that people were vigilant made all the difference in this
storm.The day before it hit, I watched as the people of Mindanao prepared for
the arrival of Typhoon Bopha, or Pablo as it is known locally. Families stocked
up on food, water and other essential supplies in stores while others packed up
their most precious belongings and headed off to evacuation centres all over
the island. This is stark contrast from the scene last year, where many failed
to heed warnings from authorities to evacuate.

“I’m happy that my parents brought my
siblings and me here before the storm,” a child at an evacuation centre in
Cagayan de Oro told me. “We feel safe here from the storm.” Cagayan de Oro was
one of the worst-hit cities in Mindanao after Typhoon Washi. Many children
displayed signs of distress following that disaster and required psychosocial
support from the government and aid agencies like Save the Children.

RS48117_Picture1[1]Indeed, it is a relief to see that both
children and adults were more vigilant ahead of this typhoon, the worst storm
to hit the Philippines this year. Mindanao does not experience typhoons often,
and as a result, the residents here are less prepared than others.

Still, immediate relief like food, water,
medicine and other household items are needed.Water, sanitation and hygiene, or
WASH, is my area of expertise and we know that water supplies may be
contaminated, and with large swathes of
Mindanao flooded and without electricity, assessing the extent of the damage and
bringing water trucks to evacuation centres will be tricky for the authorities
and aid agencies alike.

Click to donate to our Philippines Annual Monsoon and Typhoon Children in Emergency Fund.

Save
the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 and has decades of
experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines. We have mounted
large-scale emergency responses to Typhoon Washi in 2011 and Typhoon Ketsana in
2009.

“I can’t buy them blankets with my own money.”

December 3, 2012


Nada_syria

Nadia, 30, has four young children. Zahra, her youngest, is only
five months old. Her other two daughters, Hela and Shahad,
have begun coughing. They are living in a bare building in northern
Lebanon, where they have taken refuge after fleeing growing
violence in Syria. With winter approaching, the mother-of-four
increasingly fears for her children’s health and wellbeing.

“We left – they were bombing our village. We didn’t dare to sleep in our houses from the
bombing. Our neighbour’s house was destroyed, to the ground. We ran away and came here.
We ran here, me and my little children. I was pregnant. Now it has been eight months. We are
living in the cold. It’s very cold here. We haven’t any blankets, or even food for the baby.

Life is hard here. It’s cold. We are scared of hunger. We are scared because we don’t have
blankets. We are scared of the winter … all of my children are sick.

Looking down at baby Zahra in her arms, Nadia says, “This is my daughter. She’s sick. She’s five
months old and shouldn’t be in such a room. It’s very cold. There’s nothing to warm us. We
don’t have a heating system. We don’t have fire or gas.
If we want to heat something up, we
make a fire outside. If I want to wash the baby, we have to make a fire, heat the water outside
and then wash her.

“We weren’t like this in our country. It wasn’t our choice to leave. We are forced to live here.  It’s not our decision. We want to go back to our country as soon as possible, because our
circumstances were better there. We were happy and comfortable in our country. But we
were forced to come here. We were too scared. That is why we came here. We ran away
from bombing.”

But finding respite from the conflict has not ensured a safe existence for Nadia or her
children. With no income and next to no money, Nadia isn’t able to buy her children food,
milk, winter clothes or blankets to keep them warm and healthy. “I can’t buy them blankets
with my own money. I feel I am weak because I can’t offer anything for my daughter
. She’s five
months old – she doesn’t know anything. i’m the one who is supposed to offer her what she
needs. She’s only five months old, she’s still so young.”

___________________________________

Click here to learn about our work to help Syrian children in need and donate to help us reach more