With No Way to Return Home, Syrian Refugees in Iraq Live in Limbo

The boy standing in the cement block doorway called to us to take his picture.  We couldn’t resist his bright smile in the bleak and dust of the refugee camp.  We went over and snapped a few shots and he looked at them proudly on our cell phones.  His uncle, who was hovering close by, came to talk with us and soon we were sitting in their one-room cinderblock home, sipping warm Coca-Cola in tiny glasses.  Nawzad’s father, uncle and mother told us how the two families had ended up here in Domiz, a refugee camp near the border with Syria. They picked up and left when there was no longer a village, no house and no jobs to keep them there – no home to stay for.


Carolyn talks to Syrian refugees in the Domiz Refugee Camp
Photo Credit: Sebastian Meyer/Getty Images
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Cultural tips to consider when writing to children

DSCN1510Soungalo Kone, Sponsorship-funded Basic Education Manager

Bamako, Mali

May 30, 2013

colleagues and I feel truly privileged to be able to count on the ongoing generosity
of sponsors in our journey to ensuring a better future for poor children in our
part of the world. As I write this post, over 23,000 of you are tirelessly supporting
our activities, sponsoring roughly an equal number of children through our
Sponsorship Program.

has many gratifying aspects. One of them is that special, one-on-one bond that
develops between a sponsor and their sponsored child over the years. With this
in mind, our staff puts a lot of effort into ensuring every sponsor experience with
us is a truly enjoyable one. This blog post is one of those efforts, suggesting
content you may want to include when writing to your sponsored child.

Going to school – an essential right for kids

have many rights including accessing quality, age-appropriate education.
Communities expect non-family members, such as sponsors, to constantly remind children
of this important right and make sure they take full advantage of it. Parents
feel eternally grateful to those sponsors who talk about the benefits of
education in their letters and encourage children to be regular school-goers
and hard learners.

a different voice singing the praise of education could carry more meaning for
my child than the daily advice from me or his mother” says Seydou Bengaly, the
father a 9-year-old sponsored boy. This feeling is shared by many community
members who, despite the pervasive poverty that continues to be their bane, try
to see that children enjoy their right to education as much as possible.

Learning social values – a fundamental duty for children

in Mali, especially in rural areas, put a high premium on social morés and
values such as respect, sharing, help, sense of responsibility, etc. They do
their best to ensure these principles are inculcated into children so they will become
successful adults. However, parents are aware that it’s not (and should not be)
the sole responsibility of the family to bring up children and introduce them
to socially acceptable manners. Given the sociable and extroverted nature of
Malian communities, children interact with others daily. Everybody, sponsors
included, can play a role in ensuring children learn the basic tenets of

one’s self as a man or woman

in Mali are typically different than those used in the West. Children often have
difficulty recognizing from a name whether their sponsor is a male or female. This
cultural issue is best addressed by including a picture of yourself or saying in
your letter whether you are a woman or man.

remember that whatever you say in your
letters, the most important thing is that you communicate. Why not write to
your sponsored child today?

Brighten your sponsored child’s day – and future – by writing a letter today.

If you are not already a sponsor, become one today.

The Words that Changed a Little Girl’s Life: “You Have a Bright Future”

The words that inspired Elizabeth to
imagine a future beyond her family’s limited means and expectations, and
empowered her to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor, were written by her
sponsor. Save the Children’s Dr. Elizabeth Bocaletti was once a sponsored
child. This is her story.

Img010 - Elizabeth as a little girl in Guatemala (second from right)_sized
Elizabeth as a little girl in Guatemala (second from right)









Elizabeth grew up in a large family of
modest means in rural Guatemala. She was a good student, but opportunities were
limited, especially for girls. And yet, Elizabeth dreamed of becoming a doctor.
In fact, she was determined to do so. Elizabeth attributes her high aspirations
to the letters she received from her sponsor.

DSC02466 - Elizabeth leads a community children activity in El Alto, Bolivia
Elizabeth leads a community children activity in El Alto, Bolivia











“These letters said things like, ‘You
are a great girl, a good student. You will go far. You will have a bright
future,’” Elizabeth remembers, “And I know that these words influenced my life
– the way I understood my future. They opened my mind to new possibilities.
They gave me a certain determination to make an impact on the world.”

DSC00072 - Launching of the Neonatal Strategy at the Panamerican Health Organization
Launching of the Neonatal Strategy at the Panamerican Health Organization with Charlie McCormack, former Save the Children President and CEO












Elizabeth did fulfill her dream,
earning her MD in Pediatrics, and then a Master’s degree in Public Health.
Today, Elizabeth works for Save the Children as an Advisor on our work helping
children survive and thrive throughout Latin America, where she continues to
make an impact on the world every day. The dream even lives on in her own
children, both of whom are studying to become doctors.

DSC01030 - Working with SC staff in Dominican Republic
Working with Save the Children staff in Dominican Republic









Elizabeth will always treasure her
sponsor’s words of inspiration and empowerment – and we thank her for sharing
them, and her story, with all of us.

DSC01130 - Introducing the Regional Neonatal Strategy in Washington, D.C.
Introducing the Regional Neonatal Strategy in Washington, D.C.











“Never underestimate the power of your words

on the life of a child.”

 – Elizabeth Bocaletti, MD, MPH,

Save the Children Advisor, and former sponsored child

DSC03393 - Visiting Save the Children programs in Sinaloa, MexicoVisiting Save the Children programs in Sinaloa, Mexico











Brighten your sponsored child’s day – and future – by writing a letter today.

If you are not already a sponsor, become one today.

Responding to the Oklahoma Tornadoes

Tracy - headshot - June 2010 - croppedTracy Geoghegan, Save the Children Staff

Moore, Oklahoma

May 23, 2013

I’ve been here
since the day after the monster tornado devastated many parts of this city. Hundreds
of families are homeless and thousands are in need. I’ve been visiting the
shelters talking with parents and children who have lost everything.

“I feel like I just
came out of a daze and realized I’m homeless,” a mom named Kristi told me.
The tornado collapsed the roof to Kristi’s apartment building, and then it
poured the next day. Her family has lost everything. “So many things go
through your mind. You reach for a toothbrush and you don’t have it. You reach
for a comb and you don’t have it. You think, how am I going to pay the bills?
How am I going to get mail? There’s nothing left.”
Oklahoma Tornado Photo Credit: Justin Clemons/Getty Images for Save the Children

Kristi’s 3-year-old
daughter Peyten misses her stuffed rabbit. “I wish I could go home,” she

“She doesn’t have
anything to play with,” says her mom.

Peyten’s 13-year-old brother
Jhaunel likes to play video games and go outside and play basketball. He can’t do
those things now because he lost his games and he doesn’t have a ball.

People here
are amazingly strong and positive despite all they’ve been through. I’ve seen
countless families whose homes were destroyed and who are facing futures full
of uncertainty. They say they’re just grateful to be alive. They don’t cry.
They rarely complain. But one thing I hear repeatedly from parents is that
their kids don’t have enough to do – they need activities to keep them busy and

The Save the
Children team here has responded to every major disaster since Hurricane Katrina.
Most recently we have been helping families affected by Hurricane Sandy and the
horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our experts
know that what children need most after their lives have been upended is a
return to normalcy.

Today we’ll
set up our first “child-friendly space” in a shelter here. This will be an
oasis of calm and fun activities for the children. It’ll also give overstressed
parents a break so they can start putting their lives back together. Our staff
will use play activities to help the children heal their emotional wounds. When
children have been through a traumatic experience, we know it’s very important to
give them a way to express what’s inside them. It may be fear. It may be anger.
Every child is different, but they all need to play and laugh again in a safe
environment. This will be an important first step for the children of Moore,
and we are eager to provide this for every child in Moore who needs help on the
road to recovery.

Please support our work to help children and the community impacted by the tornado. Click here to donate online or text TWISTER to 20222 to donate $10 to help the response effort. Standard rates apply.


Mobile Giving Details: The Fine Print

Msg and Data Rates May Apply. A one-time donation of $10.00 will be
added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance.
All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are
billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is
available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of
Save the Children by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the
terms found at www.hmgf.org/t.
Messaging and Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by
texting STOP to short code 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

Save the Children Mini-Marathon Supports Early Education Program

Claire headshotClaire Garmirian – Communications Intern, Save the Children

Westport, CT

May 22, 2013

Cheers from family and friends
greeted runners who, undeterred by rain, sprinted through the finish line at
Tod’s Point in Greenwich, Conn., on Sunday. More meaningful than the medals
received and the fast times recorded was the reason for running.

Mini-marathon 1
Children, teens and adults begin to run, walk and stroll 2.62 miles at Tod’s Point to raise funds for Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program.
The fifth annual Save the
Children Mini-Marathon saw children, teens, adults and even strollers covering 2.62
miles to raise funds for Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success
program. Participants raced the clock to support literacy and early education
programs for children living in poverty throughout the United States.

The event was held by Save the
Children’s Greenwich Leadership Council and the Greenwich Track Club, along
with corporate and family sponsors.

co-chairs Marilyn Roos and Luz Agrest of the Greenwich Leadership Council began
the Mini-Marathon in 2009 to involve the Greenwich community with an
organization they cared about.

Mini-marathon 2“It
was a time when races were becoming more popular and people were interested in
racing for causes, and we felt Save the Children was a very good cause,” said

 U.S. Sen. Richard Blumethal, D-Conn., himself
a supporter of Save the Children for more than 25 years, opened the event by
presenting a proclamation from Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei that
declared May 19 “Save the Children’s Day.”

 “I feel a lot of love from the community,”
Roos said. “I feel like people have embraced this cause.”

race was truly a community event. It was a day when children were empowered to
help children. One young participant, upon crossing the finish line with a
friend, said, “We’ve done it! We’ve saved children.”

Mini-marathon 4Teen
involvement, in particular, was crucial for the success of the Mini-Marathon.
In the months leading to the race, members of the Greenwich Teen Council
publicized the event. After-school hours were dedicated to utilizing social
media, sending postcards to local businesses and residents, and putting up
posters. On the day of the race, the teenagers were some of the first
volunteers at the site, arriving at 7:30 a.m. to sort T-shirts, refreshments
and goody bags for the runners they later helped to register. Much of what
motivated young members like Lauren Lang, Kate Webster, Sage White and Teen
Council President Selby White to volunteer was a sense of closeness to the

[cause] is really close to us because it has to do with education and
children…and also it’s domestic, so it’s people within our country,” said Selby
Mini-marathon 5
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., second from left, with Save the Children Mini-Marathon organizers, from left, Luz Agrest, Bill Bogardus and Marilyn Roos.

at the race voiced a personal connection to early education. Bill Bogardus,
director of the Greenwich Track Club, has acted as race director every year of
the Mini-Marathon.

“I am
a teacher, and I have two little children in preschool, so it just kind of all
blends together and just makes sense,” said Bogardus, referring to this year’s
Mini-Marathon designating funding to Save the Children’s Early Steps to School
Success program. “I mean, research shows that the more kids are getting
involved in education, that if they have an early kind of jumpstart program,
they’ll be better once they get to kindergarten. And it’s all about giving them
the tools and resources to learn and experience different things at a very
early age.”

The rainy
weather Sunday did not distract Roos from the reason she and so many others put
this event together every year.

raining, but everybody is still very much in the game here, and they’re
enthusiastic and they have really had a great day and enjoyed it,” she said. “I
just hope this race continues to be an integral part of the spring in
Mini-marathon 7
Members of the Greenwich Leadership Council’s teen group, from left, Sage White, Kate Webster and Selby White, register incoming participants in the May 19 Save the Children Mini-Marathon in Greenwich.

Hopes Written Down

José Tobar

José Tobar, Sponsorship Officer

El Salvador

May 13, 2013

Having the
chance to work on translating letters between children and sponsors is kind of
like witnessing a journey between two worlds. On one hand, we have a person
who’s usually writing from a developed country.

Emerson, it is great to be your sponsor. My name is Michelle, and I hope we get
to know each other and that you reply to this letter soon. I live in California
with my two children and my little cat. We live near the San Diego beach. How
is it where you live? What are your hobbies? What do you want to be when you
grow up? ”

El_Salvador_RICA_Anita_answering_1On the other
side there is child who lives miles away from them. What bonds these two? Some
may say it is the will to lend a hand from one person to another whose needs
are greater, but I think it’s more than that. It’s a set of hopes shared by them
both; one hoping to see a change in this world and willing to do something to make
that happen and another who is just starting to live and might still not fully
understand his or her reality, just a heart full of wishes, aspirations and
goals. The basic mind of a child who knows what he or she wants to become
without considering all the obstacles that may arise.

Michelle, This is Emerson and we are very happy to meet you. I also live near
the beach! I am going to first grade and I love riding bicycle with my friends.
I want to become a doctor when I grow up and I live with my mother and grandmother.
I thank God for letting me meet you and I hope that I can meet you personally
some day. Take care, Emerson.”

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

Cyclone Mahasen Moves Toward Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar Districts of Bangladesh

Mahasen authorKhaza Uddin – Communications Manager, Save the Children


May 16, 2013

Mahasen hit the coast of Bangladesh near the southern district of Patulkhai early
Thursday and is now situated 130 miles from the ports of Chittagong and Cow’s
Bazar. Warning signals have risen to seven out of a possible 10 and one person
has already been reported dead.

Mahasen photo
Damage from Tropical Storm Mahasen in Kalapara Sadar Upazila , Patuakhali district Thursday morning. Trees were uprooted and homes significantly damaged. Photo by Save the Children.
and transportation have been disrupted, cutting off several communities in the
south of the country. At least 25 villages in Patuakhali District were flooded on
Wednesday due to a storm surge that washed away the flood control dams built to
protect the people behind them. This storm surge was reported to be at least
five feet height damaging 500 houses in its wake. In another southern district,
Jhalokathi, heavy rainfall is ongoing as water levels of most of the rivers continue
to rise. Cyclone shelters are packed with vast numbers of people and it is
feared current dry food supplies are insufficient to meet demand.  

Government of Bangladesh has ordered 1 million people in a total of 15 coastal districts
to take shelter in safe places including cyclone shelters. However, the number
of shelters available is not believed to be adequate enough to accommodate all
the evacuees.

is predicted that at least 8 million people will be affected during the course of
cyclone Mahasen, 4.1 million in Bangladesh. Save the Children have already
initiated our response targeting the districts of Barisal, Patuakhai, Barguna,
Khulna & Bagherhat, Satkhira, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar in partnership
with 8 coastal based implementing partners. We have mobilized 1,500 ready to
use food packs and 500 lifesaving non-food items, 5,000 Disaster Risk Reduction
trained youth volunteers and 700 Village Disaster Management Committees who are
all ready to respond. Damage assessment teams are also ready and will start
work alongside national and international NGOs. Save the Children also has on
standby four speedboats ready to respond to the needs of the communities – and
particularly children  -in each sub-district
affected by the storm surges and flooding.


How You Can Help

Children affected by Cyclone Mahasen need caring people to
support our relief efforts. Please give generously to the Cyclone Mahasen
Children in Emergency Fund. Donate now. 


Save the Children Supporters Draw Community Together in Annual Sale

Byron_KittleByron Kittle, Save the Children Intern

Westport, CT

May 14, 2013

Every inch of the Daum
family’s lawn and driveway in Larchmont, N.Y., was stacked with a
treasure-trove of clothes, electronics, furniture and books this past Sunday.
At first glance, the tag sale may seem like any other large sale of its kind – well-stocked
and well organized – but the numbers tell a different story, one of commitment
and community.

The family has held the tag
sale every year since 2000, and its proceeds, which were nearing $145,000 as of
Sunday, have all gone to Save the Children. The family tradition stems from a
bat mitzvah donation.

“We first became
involved with Save the Children when my eldest daughter Carly chose to donate
her bat mitzvah gifts to Save the Children’s education programming in rural
Appalachia,” said Michelle Daum. “Afterward, Carly and my husband Fred traveled
to Appalachia to visit the programs. They were both so moved by that trip and
the work of Save the Children, that my husband suggested we find a way to keep
giving. And the tag sale was born.”

Their first tag sale was
held the next year, raising $3,000. And over the years, with the introduction
of fundraising tools like an online donation page and silent auctions on more
expensive items, the proceeds and involvement have gone
up steadily.

This year, donations
from around 800 families helped keep the sale stocked, and the combination of
sales and donations were approaching $20,000 on Sunday, with all proceeds going
to Save the Children’s emergency relief programming in the U.S.

Daum family
Michelle Daum and her husband Fred, center, with daughters Carly, left, and Justine. Their charitable tag sale has become a community “institution” in Larchmont, N.Y., according to attendees.Photo by Byron Kittle.
On Sunday, Michelle Daum
took some time away from being manager of the day’s events, to talk about what
makes her family’s tag sale such a resounding success year after year. The
recipe for tag sale success, she indicated, is one of good sale items,
community support and a good cause.

“It’s completely a
community effort … you see this outpouring of both helpers and buyers,” Daum
said. “Everyone loves looking around, and most everyone finds something they
want. Donors like to know that their donated items will be cherished by

The tag sale has a
simple formula – the Larchmont community bands together to accumulate enough
merchandise to draw a crowd, and the shoppers get to save money on an eclectic
assortment of items and support Save the Child at the same time. That doesn’t
mean the job is easy by any stretch.

“It’s a very difficult
juggling act,” Daum said, to “move the merchandise” at bargain prices but also
conduct an effective fundraising effort.

The tag sale also seems
resilient to setbacks and delays, with this year’s rain date not putting a dent
in attendance.

“This is the first year
we had a rain date, and yet the turnout has been tremendous,” Daum said. “We
had people here helping this morning at 6 o’clock, which I’m so grateful for.
The buyers have clearly come back.”

Daum said some people
come from as far away as Hudson, N.Y. (an almost 3 hour drive), to participate
in the sale. One shopper, a woman named Chris, said she’s been coming to the
sale since its inception because of Save the Children’s mission.

“I’m in education, and
have been for 42 years,” she said. “And children are probably the most
important resource we have in the world, so that’s why I’m here.”

That sentiment was
echoed by a number of other attendees. Betty Comerford is a Larchmont native
who has been helping the Daums and Save the Children for well over a decade.

Tag sale items
Around 1400 families were asked to donate to the Daum family’s annual tag sale in Larchmont, N.Y. This year’s proceeds will go to Save the Children’s emergency relief programming in the U.S. Photo by Byron Kittle.
“It’s such a great sale
and such a great cause – it really rallies the community,” she said. “It’s like
an institution in Larchmont now – ‘the Daum’s Save the Children Sale’ – so
people keep coming back year after year because they know it’s going to a good

Another regular is
Jennifer Hayward from White Plains, N.Y.

“I am thrilled to come
here each year because, A, I get great things; and, B, [Save the Children]
really helps,” she said. “They’re helping kids all over – I got a great price
and I gave a few bucks extra because it’s going to a great cause.”

One of the sale’s first-time
volunteers this year was Gina Cantelmo, who also works for Save the Children.

“It’s a well-oiled
machine – the Daum family has this down to a science, and we’re thankful that
they have chosen us to be the beneficiaries of this event every year,” Cantelmo
said. “I’m so thankful that everyone is willing to give up part of their Mother’s
Day to support this worthwhile cause.”

And the community plays
a huge part in the sale’s success. According to Michelle Daum, around 18
volunteers arrived before dawn on Sunday to help her organize the merchandise
and prepare for the day’s activities.

“All the goods you saw
were in boxes and bags on our driveway until 6 a.m. Sunday morning,” she said.
“It was a huge community effort to get all that out and displayed.”


A Mother Knows

Anonymous man

Nastasia Paul-Gera, Save the Children Fellow

West Showa, Ethiopia

May 13, 2013

visited West Showa, Ethiopia, in October 2012 as a Princeton in Africa Fellow
for Gender for the Save the Children, Ethiopia Country Program. 

Sponsorship program works extensively across West Showa, and adolescent mothers
are among its beneficiaries. The program’s primary beneficiaries are children,
but work with these young mothers acknowledges that girls and boys do not live
in a vacuum. Children of adolescent parents are at higher risk of health
complications, as well as academic failure. Interventions that target children
can’t afford to ignore their mothers and fathers, who play a critical role in
children’s physical and social development.

is one of seven countries that account for half of the 8 million children born
to adolescents every year. Studies show that these mothers face a higher risk
of physical and social disadvantages.  Moreover,
they are frequently school drop-outs and are at higher risk of exploitation and

help them, the Sponsorship program began an Adolescent Mothers’ Group in West
Showa, with approximately 30 participants. The group is a forum for discussions
about reproductive health, life skills, self esteem, family planning, and
HIV/Aids, among other subjects. Participants in the group have studied up to 3rd
grade – or not at all. The small room they work in is set up like a classroom
and adolescent mothers, with their young children in their arms, sit together
and, guided by a curriculum, discuss these issues.

of the topics the mothers discussed during my visit was hygiene. They stated
that hygiene and water management are the responsibility of women and girls.
Interestingly, they mentioned that, once a girl is in school, her domestic responsibilities
will lessen and she has a greater chance of staying in school. However, if she
leaves, she is responsible for all household activities. The mothers also discussed
reproductive health, a taboo topic prior to the formation of the group. Through
the course of the curriculum, the women will explore family planning, sexually
transmitted diseases and child spacing.

two final topics discussed during my visit were female genital cutting (FGM/C)
and abductions, both extremely common practices. The young mothers stated that girls
are often cut without their parents’ consent, so practitioners of FGM/C are an
important entry point for efforts to eradicate the practice. Abductions, they
stated, are also extremely common. Girls are frequently abducted and raped on
their way to and from school and, given the cultural taboo that forbids these young
girls from returning to their parents’ home, they are forced to marry the men
who raped them. Community leaders are an important entry point to challenging the

adolescent mothers I met were undoubtedly sensitive to the gender-related
challenges in their community and to the actions needed to address the
challenges. They are already playing a role in re-shaping harmful community
practices, primarily through information-dissemination to community members.
They recommended expanding child-to-child programming, as well as involving men
in some of the discussions. Yes, these young women are a vulnerable,
marginalized and frequently ignored group, but they are also a resource with the
capacity to bring about great positive change within their communities. The Adolescent
Mothers Group helps address their vulnerabilities, while capitalizing on their

to one group member, “We are different from our mothers who were dominated by
our fathers. We are also decision makers.”

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

A Mom’s Best Or Worst Day

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.


Every day, thousands of women celebrate one of life’s most amazing experiences — becoming a mother. But every 30 seconds a mother’s first moments with her baby are cut short, on the very day she gives birth.


Until now, we didn’t know how common this heartbreaking experience is in the United States and around the world. But Save the Children’s new report shows that one million babies die the day they are born.


State of the World’s Mothers 2013: Surviving the First Day also shows that today we have the evidence and cost-effective tools to save up to three quarters of newborn babies, without intensive care.

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