Empowered Mothers Take Charge

As we sat and spoke with women at the counseling session on a warm day in Pakistan last week, it was clear to me that these women knew what they wanted—for themselves, for their families, and especially for their children. About 20 women, some in bright shalwar kamaz and others in dark burkas, sat under the shade next to a health facility. We discussed a topic important to millions of women the world over: how to build their families and plan for the future by thinking carefully about when to have children.

 

I was frankly surprised at the openness and candor of the women as I asked them sensitive questions about the decisions they make themselves and with their husbands, and the pros and cons of the available options. Pakistan remains a conservative society in many ways, but here the women demonstrated knowledge and understanding about the issue, and recognized how important it is to have the right to make reproductive decisions for their families. A mother’s choices have dramatic impact on the well-being of her children, which is why Save the Children works on the issue of family planning
with women around the world. For any mother, the health of her children—especially newborns—is affected by the age at which a mother first gives birth, adequate time between births, and the number of children she has.

 

This session was part of a comprehensive project Save the Children is implementing with the government in Haripur district, which rehabilitates health units to provide basic health services for pregnant mothers and newborns. The facility we visited earlier in the day is one of the most impressive facilities I have seen anywhere in the world at the primary care, or village, level. The spotlessly clean unit is staffed by two female doctors and several nursing staff as well as a pharmacist. A warehouse stocked with supplies is available on-site and the facility provides services 24/7 as needed. Women come here for prenatal visits, for family planning counseling and products, and to give birth in a simple, clean and safe facility with excellent care. Three women were in labor the day I visited and when I saw the care they received, I knew I would have felt comfortable having one of my own children there. In fact, in this district, almost 30% of mothers choose to give birth in the two primary care units that are part of this program. The other 71 facilities in the area account for about 60% of births and a small percentage of women go to district level hospitals. Clearly, many women in Haripur are choosing the quality and service they now find right in their own communities.

 

The challenge for our team in Pakistan now is how to expand our efforts beyond the two model centers, working with the government to implement the improvements we’ve made here across the entire district. We need to bring this effective model of health services to other poor communities where far too many children are still dying in the first critical month of life. If you would like to learn more about our maternal and newborn health programs, and the local health workers who are making a difference, please click here.

 

 

The Real Sponsorship: Not Money but Commitment









Angie Montes

Angie Montes, Communications Officer

El Salvador

August 26, 2013


Our
daily routine: drive a truck to distant communities where we’re met by enthusiastic
children, parents and teachers eager to partner with us to achieve a better
quality of life. But some days are particularly rewarding, and I want to tell
you about one.

 

 

 

March
21st was not just another regular visit to Caserío San Antonio Arriba
in Ahuachapán department, especially for 5-year-old Brenda and her sponsoring
family from the United States, Ana Flores and her daughter Camila.

 

Brenda
and her curious peers were waiting for the “foreign lady” to come through the door.
Surrounded by kindergarteners, they finally met! Although I frequently hear about
sponsor/sponsored child relations built through letters, it was a different
feeling when an excited Ana hugged Brenda and said, “I´m Ana, your sponsor.”

Ana showing Brenda and peers a picture of them

Ana showing Brenda and peers a picture of them

The
visit only lasted a few hours, but quality time was spent talking and learning
about how Brenda and her community live and about limited health/education opportunities
and other barriers in rural areas. They also talked about and how poor families
manage to move forward. It was surprising the way they understood each other, mothers
and daughters, same ages and dreams, but different potential to fulfill them.

I´m
sure that, despite her age, Brenda understood that behind that unknown face was
a tangible opportunity to better her life.

Mothers and daughters having quality time at school

Mothers and daughters having quality time at school

 

To
be honest, even after a year with Save the Children, I never realized how committed
a sponsor can be to their sponsored child. Ana Flores taught me that sponsoring
a child is about much more than a monthly donation. It’s about creating a way
for vulnerable children to attain better opportunities to succeed in life,
which is exactly what Brenda has now.

As
Ana wrote on her blog after her visit, “Getting
to meet Brenda has made our bond to her, her mom and community that much
stronger, but I truly believe that the process of sending and receiving letters
and correspondence can create a connection that's very real. As a sponsor, you
can really become part of this child's emotional life and her of yours. It's
priceless
.”

Interested in joining Ana and the rest of our community of
sponsors? Become a sponsor today!

One Day in the Life: Egypt








Portrait (2)

Mona Moneer, Adolescence and Livelihoods Manager

Egypt

August 20, 2013


I was born and raised in Minya in
Upper Egypt where I still live. Every day, I travel for about 2 hours by car or
train to Abnoub district in Assiut Governorate where I work. Rural villages in
both Minya and Assiut Governorates are among the most disadvantaged in the
country, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to work at Save the
Children to improve the lives of marginalized and disadvantaged children in my
community.

In the filedThe best thing about my long drive is
that, while I am getting pleasure from the charming view of the agricultural
road, I think about the children who are benefiting from our programs. The
moment I reach Abnoub, I feel I have entered a new world. I like the simplicity
of life in Abnoub and the taste of its sweet air. People here are very sincere.
Children are so vulnerable, but smart and very cute, and everything is
different than in the city.

One day when I was monitoring some
activities related to our program “New Beginning,” a project that aims to
develop the financial and saving skills of adolescents, I was asked by a few girls
in the program to spend time with them. They wanted to raise some issues
related to the program design, and asked me to schedule a meeting with the head
of the Board of Directors of our partner, the local Community Development
Association. When they met, the girls asked for the inclusion of girls in
capacity building interventions related to mobile phones and electricity
maintenance, traditionally restricted to boys.

A girl answering a question asked at one of STC’s sessions

A girl answering a question asked at one of Save the Children’s sessions

This group of girls was very
organized and well prepared during the discussions. I was very happy and proud
as I watched them express their opinion clearly and confidently. I felt that
Save the Children had a very significant impact on these young girls’
personalities that will enable them to have a better future. 

World Humanitarian Day: Unsung Hero Devotes Her Life to Help Syrian Children in Crisis






Anonymous_blog

Tue Jakobsen, Communications Officer

Save the Children in Iraq

August 19, 2013


Hadeel
is 28 years-old and is from Baghdad. Nine months ago, she moved 280 miles away
from all of her friends and family into the Iraqi desert to work as a Child
Protection Officer for Save the Children. She was the first woman to work in the refugee camp near Al Qaim.   



Hadeel1A well-educated psychologist, Hadeel decided to do
what very few others do: leave career, friends and family to live in an
extremely dangerous and inhospitable place haunted by extreme temperatures and
reoccurring sandstorms.

“I am passionate about child protection. I was offered
better jobs back in Baghdad where I have my friends and family, but I wanted to
work in child protection and so I ended up here.”

Part of Hadeel’s compassion comes from her own
experience as a refugee.

“My family fled to Syria when the war started here in
Iraq in 2003, and we stayed there for one year. While living as a refugee in
Syria, I experienced firsthand how children fleeing their home need special
care and attention. And I feel that I owe it back to the Syrian people to
support them the best I can, since they supported my family and my people 10
years ago.”

 

The
forgotten refugees

West of Baghdad, the Iraqi province of Al Anbar
stretches for hundreds of miles along the border with Syria and Jordan to the
west and Saudi Arabia to the south. It is mostly desert and, while it is Iraq’s
biggest province, it is also the least populated. The harsh climate proves hard
to live in for even the most rugged Iraqis.

The road from Baghdad follows the Euphrates Riber, and
after a seven-hour drive you reach the small border town of Al Qaim. Here, close
to the Syrian border, lies a refugee camp unknown by the most of the world: Al
Obeidy. Compared to the well-known Za’atari camp in Jordan, one of the world’s
largest, this is a small camp.

Yet more than 2,000 Syrians – more than half of these
children – have sought refuge here. Dwarfed by other refugee camps across the
region, Al Obeidy does not receive the attention and support needed; competition
for attention is hard when around two million refugees have now fled Syria, and
many millions more are still trapped inside the country.

“The families in the camp fled the insecurity of Syria
but ended up in Al Qaim where the security isn’t good either. Many left family
members behind and haven’t been able to get in contact with them since. And now
that the border is closed there is little hope for separated families to
reunite any time soon,” says Hadeel.

 

“The
situation is very dire”

Save the Children is one of the few aid agencies
working in Al Obeidy camp, and Hadeel has worked with Save the Children there for
the last nine months.

“When I arrived in the camp for the first time, the
conditions were really bad. It was very unclean and with a distinct smell of
trash. We had serious concerns about the impact on the children’s health. And
at the same time there was a complete lack of services for the refugees in the
camp.”

Over the months she has been able to follow closely how
the conditions in the camp have developed.

“To be quite honest, the situation hasn’t changed much
since I arrived. We recently relocated to a new camp and that should have
improved the refugee’s situation, but the tents here are in a very bad
condition. They have been affected by the bad weather in winter and now they
are contaminated to a degree where children get respiratory diseases from
living in them. The situation is very dire.”

 

Help
children cope with life in camp

The conflict has had a terrible impact on Syria’s
children. Reports estimate that at least 7,000 children have already lost their
lives. And stories of the abuses of children such as torture, sexual violence,
beatings and threats are everywhere. The children have a great need for
psycho-social support, says Hadeel.

“The children are very affected by what they have been
through, though they don’t want to talk about their experiences. But from their
behavior and their paintings it is clear that they have experienced things no
child should. I remember one girl who came to our Child-friendly space. For the
first couple of months all she drew were pictures of war and weapons destroying
her home.”

How do you work with children affected by war? The
recipe, Hadeel describes, is to try to restore a sense of normality in the
children’s lives.

“We have a wide range of activities in the Child-friendly
Spaces. Some are designed to keep the children physically active. Some are
focused on getting the children to express their emotions through painting,
drawing or storytelling. Others are focused on information-sharing and
skill-building: learning about basic child rights or joining a computer
training class. And we also try to raise the children’s awareness on issues
like hygiene and health. We try to restore as many parts of the children’s
normal life as possible while at the same time provide the specialized support
they need.”

Hadeel has no doubt that the activities help the
children adapt to life in the camp.  

“We had a five-year-old girl who attended our
Child-friendly Space but didn’t really participate and kept to herself. She was
very sad and had clearly been harmed by her experiences in Syria. The
facilitators then put a lot of effort in getting her involved while giving her
room to draw by herself. And slowly, after two months, she started to open up.
Now she participates in the activities and builds relationships with the other
children.”

While Save the Children’s programs and activities are focused
on children, the impact reaches the entire family. Parents don’t have to worry
about their children’s safety while they are at the Child-friendly Space. That
gives them some much needed time to solve practical problems.

“We get positive response from the parents. Their own
capacity is stretched and their biggest concern is their children, so it is
also a refuge for them to send the children to a safe space. We had one family
with four children attending activities, who, during a focus group interview,
expressed their gratitude that we could host their children”.

 

“We are
really making a difference”

Despite Hadeel’s commitment, she admits that it hasn’t
been easy to move to Al Qaim, and that she does pay a price for her devotion.
Hadeel3

“It wasn’t an easy decision. My father supported my
move. He has always support me what ever I did. But my mother and my sisters
asked me not to go. They are concerned by the security situation out here, and
none of them have been able to visit me out here because of the unsafe travel
through Anbar.”

And life far from home can be a challenge even though
you are still in your own country.

“This isn’t an easy place to live. Life here is just
so different from in Baghdad. The community here is also very different. For
example, I didn’t were a head scarf back in Baghdad, but here I have to. We
depend on community support so it is important to follow the local customs. But
my work with the children means a lot, and we are really making a difference.
So it is definitely worth it.”

Hadeel finds some light in the children’s dreams for
the future.

“I am especially happy about the long lasting impact
we make on the children. Many of the children tell us that when they return to
Syria they want to work as teachers or as children’s activity facilitators and
volunteers with Save the Children. It is touching and gives a sense of hope for
the future,” says Hadeel.

 

The Journey of a Letter





Rhonda Childers

Rhonda Childers, Sponsorship Manager

US Programs

August 6, 2013


Save the
Children gives you a lot of information about the great things we’re doing in
schools here in the U.S., like sponsorship-supported Literacy, Summer Boost and
Healthy Choices programs, but you may not know a great deal about exactly how your
letters and cards reach your sponsored child. I thought you might enjoy
learning how we manage this process.   

USP_Blog_Pedro

Pedro from Tennessee with a letter from his sponsor

If you’ve been
a sponsor for a while and communicating with your sponsored child, you already
know what fun it can be. You send off a letter or email and in a while you
receive a reply.  Pretty simple, huh? Not
exactly….

When your
letter to your child arrives in our Sponsorship Services office, a Sponsorship
Services assistant opens the letter, reads it and logs it in our correspondence
tracker and into our database that contains a record for every child enrolled
in Sponsorship. Then they attach a fun return piece of stationery and, twice
weekly, send a bundle of these letters to your child’s school.

At the
school, we have someone who acts as a liaison, delivering the letter to your
child and sitting with them while they read it and write their response. Perhaps
your sponsored child is too young to craft a letter on their own. If so, the
liaison will “help” by being the writer as the child dictates. Doesn’t it sound
like fun to sit with a child as they read or listen to a letter written just to
them from their special pal?

The liaison
then sends the child’s letter to us. We read it, log it and mail it to you. This
is usually a very smooth process, unless there is a disruption in school
because of holidays or extreme weather when it can take a bit longer. There can
also be delays around the holidays just because of the volume of mail that pours
in. You should see this place at Christmas! We have three folks here in the
office that process every piece of incoming and outgoing child/sponsor mail for
the entire U.S. They are always busy! 

You may be wondering
why the letters don’t go directly to the children and save a lot of work here.

USP_Blog_Courtney

Courtney from Kentucky composing a letter to her sponsor

There
are a couple of reasons, with child safety being the most important. We monitor
the correspondence to make sure nothing inappropriate is included in any
communication. For example, it’s sometimes easy to forget and put in an address
or phone number and certainly, in this age of social media, we almost take it
for granted that it’s fine to pass along email addresses and Facebook invites.
We respect your privacy as a donor, too, and seek to protect that information
as well.  A bit more complicated, but
well worth it. 

Now you know
how your letters and cards are getting to your sponsored child. If you haven’t
corresponded with your child yet, I encourage you to try it. Children enjoy it
so much, and it can be wonderfully rewarding for you as a sponsor as well.

 

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

All About Carolyn

Carolyn S. Miles is President & Chief Executive Officer for Save the Children, the leading independent organization inspiring breakthroughs in how the world treats children, achieving immediate and lasting change in their lives. The global Save the Children movement currently serves over 125 million children in the US and in 120 countries.

 

Carolyn joined the organization in 1998, was COO from 2004-2011, and became President and CEO in September 2011. During her senior leadership tenure, the organization has more than doubled the number of children it reaches with nutrition, health, education and other programs. Resources have gone from $250m to over $620m, 90% of which go to programs for children. Carolyn has focused on hunger, learning outcomes, and preventing child mortality as her signature issues.

 

Earlier, she worked in the private sector in Hong Kong for American Express and as an entrepreneur. While in Asia, she the confronted deprivation of the region’s children and committed herself to their welfare. Carolyn has served on numerous boards, including Blackbaud, InterAction, USGLC, MFAN and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where she received her MBA.

 

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and learn more about us at www.savethechildren.org.