2014 Must be a Better Year for Kids

This past year, like so many other years, saw its share of challenges for children around the world. There were the more than one million refugee children who fled Syria, the tens of thousands of young children who lost their homes and loved ones in Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the over 300,000 babies in India that died on their very first day of life this year.

 


DSC_6020But the children I remember from 2013 were the individual kids I briefly got to know in my travels to our programs around the world.
Here are the stories of just a few of these children who are living in impossible and heartbreaking situations—but looking forward to a brighter future thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and partners around the world:

 

Exancé was a sad 13 year-old boy, tiny for his age, who I met in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November. Though he couldn’t tell us all the details of his young life, the haunted look behind his eyes told me that it had already been full of pain. Exancé was found on the streets, living in a filthy alleyway after his parents had turned him out of their house. He was surviving each day by hauling garbage for the fruit and vegetable sellers in the market, paid in scraps of food and a corner to sleep in. One of the vendors in the market is a volunteer for Save the Children and alerts our team when a child is found abandoned and looking for shelter. When I met Exancé, he was in a quiet courtyard meeting with our team, who worked to convince him to

Courageous Work in Freezing Temperatures

With more than half of the United States under a blanket of snow this week, it’s clear that winter is here! The frosty weather has arrived in full force—but it’s not just the Midwest or East Coast where winter is making itself felt. The winter snow storms have started in Lebanon and Jordan, and my Save the Children colleagues abroad are going above and beyond for Syrian refugees.

 

RS69214_IMG_1841I received an email from our Country Director in Jordan, Saba, who is leading a fearless team in very difficult circumstances. This past weekend, when accumulated snow flooded refugee tents, the team worked through the night to evacuate families to some of our Child Friendly Spaces, which were prepared as emergency shelters. They moved 134 families, including 431 children, into the heated shelters and provided warm clothing, food, mattresses and blankets. Saba noted that, despite the hours and the strain, “we will continue to work as needed” to look after children’s needs.

 

This snow is the first sign of the treacherous winter in the region that will only increase suffering for children and their families. Between November and February, temperatures can drop well below freezing—and for more than two million refugees

Gift for a Sponsor

Junima shakya

 Junima Shakya, Sponsorship Manager

Asanpur, Nepal

December 17, 2013

Friday is a fun day for children as classes run only for half a day. But Babita has a different reason behind her excitement. From early morning, she was excited to get to the Save the Children camp to write something for her sponsor. 

 

Babita with her gift for sponsorBabita is in 7th grade in a school supported by the sponsorship program in Asanpur village. After school, she rushed home, finished her afternoon snacks and reached the camp at 2:00 p.m.  

 

I was on a field trip to Babita’s village and had an opportunity to observe the camp. All the sponsored children from the surrounding area gathered to write something for their sponsors. Save the Children is collecting these messages and sending them to sponsors as gifts.

 

Babita waited eagerly for her turn. She wasn’t the only one who was excited. Other children looked very enthusiastic. Babita told me with a smile that she was going to make a drawing for her sponsor. She was planning to draw a nice red flower.

 

“I hope my friend abroad will be happy to see the flower I draw for her,” she says. She recalls receiving a letter from her sponsor. “I still have that letter with me,” she shares. “I hope once she receives the drawing I send her, she will write to me again.” Babita drawing for sponsor with sponsorship staff

 

I am happy Save the Children has initiated such writing from children to their sponsors. As I stood there, the air was filled with enthusiasm, giggles and joy. Their eagerness wasn’t just because they got to draw or make handprints on paper; the children were excited because it was an opportunity for them to connect with their valued sponsors.

 

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

After Typhoon Haiyan: Giving Children a Safe Place to Play

RobbieMcIntyre

 Robbie McIntyre, Humanitarian Information & Communications Officer

Philippines

December 11, 2013

“These children really love to sing, and it makes them smile” says Hanna, a 16-year-old volunteer at a Child Friendly Space in Mayorga, on the island of Leyte, which was badly hit by typhoon Haiyan one month ago.

“A lot of their houses were destroyed, and it has been a very upsetting time for them, but here they get the chance to play games like volleyball, to sing and to just be with other children.”

The children’s singing prowess goes without saying, as they belt out a hearty rendition of Jingle Bells for their visitors whilst one of the staff who run the CFS accompanies them on the harmonica. Some of us try to match them with a somewhat less assured version of Away in a Manger, but despite a generous round of applause from the amused children, we are altogether less tuneful and easy on the ear.

 

Beginning to rebuild

Using basic materials like bamboo and tarpaulins, the community in Mayorga built the Child Friendly Space themselves, and it has proved invaluable as it allows children to play together in a safe place whilst their parents attempt to get on with rebuilding their lives. The Child Friendly Space’s veritable treasure trove of a toy box includes board games, skipping ropes, volleyballs and footballs for the children, which have proved incredibly popular, the football being punted around with such enthusiasm that the stitching has started to come loose. It is clear that for many of the children, the frightening power of the 173mph typhoon winds ripping through their community is still fresh in their minds, but being looked after by our passionate volunteers and getting a chance to be around other children is helping them cope with and assimilate their experiences.

SavetheChildren_Haiyan_blog_Dec_2013Hanna is brilliant with the children, encouraging them to break out into song and leading the way whenever they forget the words. She does an incredible job, but feels privileged to be able to help in her time off before she returns to college in January. “I have experience of teaching children, so Save the Children trained me up to be able to volunteer in this Child Friendly Space. I come here every day and I really enjoy it. It’s just good to be able to do something to help.”

 

Providing more safe spaces for children

Save the Children has already set up more than 25 Child Friendly Spaces on the island of Leyte, reaching more than 2,000 children like those at the one in Mayorga, and training 75 volunteers like Hanna to look after them and run the sessions. Ten more Child Friendly Spaces will soon be set up in Ormoc, to the east of the island. It’s a simple and yet powerful way to give children who have been through a hugely distressing experience the much needed opportunity to express themselves and play with the sort of carefree abandon that every child should.

Profile: Parent of a Child who benefits from Sponsorship-Funded Programs

 

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 3 - Shazia Azizzada - Blog Writer 1Shazia Azizzada, MIS (Management Information System) Officer

Afghanistan

December 10, 2013

Khal Mohammad of Faryab Province is not educated as there was no school available when he was a child, but he still serves his people by participating in Save the Children programs. He is an active member of the School Health and Nutrition Committee and feels responsible for mobilizing community members to support programs and send their children to Child Focused Health Education groups.

 

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 3 - Parent of a Child - Khal Mohammad with his grandchildren“Being illiterate,” he says, “is like having eyes and not being able to see. Now that we have a nice school, I strongly support children attending and growing up to be teachers, doctors and engineers to build their country.”

 

Seven of Khald Mohammad’s 26 grandchildren go to school and two more enrolled this year. These two girls attended Save the Children’s Early Childhood Development (ECCD) programs, he says, and, according to their teachers, they perform much better than children who did not. That’s why he encourages his villagers to send their children to the groups.

 

“Before Save the Children started their programs,” he says, “almost no one knew about the importance of education or hygiene or child protection, but now community awareness has increased. For example, it was common to drink river water, but families now collect safe water from the school well. The quality of education has improved too, and more children are enrolled in school.”

 

He compliments Save the Children for the programs implemented in his community and for helping people understand how to play an active role in village development. 

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

Local Cuisine: Mayi from Haiti

Blog AuthorFaïmi P. MoscovaManager Sponsorship

Haiti

December 2, 2013

 

Local cuisine: Mayi (my-ee)—a Haitian nourishing commodity

We are pleased to share information about Haitian cuisine. This time, we will talk about mayimoulen – the Creole name for a dish made from cornmeal, a traditional food found throughout the country.

 

Corn HarvestKnown for its excellent cuisine, this Haitian food is a mixture of local native flair – a combination of local ingredients and spices. It tastes great and is economical, easy to cook and fast to prepare. Maybe that’s one reason people choose mayimoulen at mealtimes. There is a popular belief that eating cornmeal makes people stronger than eating rice. Whatever the case, cornmeal is a highly nourishing food and an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron and vitamins such as A, B1, B2 and folic acid. 

 

There are multiple ways to eat and cook cornmeal. At breakfast, it’s eaten plain as hot cereal, or as Akasan (AK100), a sweet-tasting, cornmeal-based nutritional supplement drink. At lunch and dinner, it is often cooked with beans and served with a vegetable stew. For dessert, one can enjoy cornmeal cake.

 

CornCorn or maize was originally introduced to the island of Haiti by the native Taino Indians. It is the principal economic crop, with the greatest yield reaped during the rainy season. Corn is easy to grow in both the mountains and the plains with multiple harvests possible each year. It stores well, making it readily available all year round at a low cost.

 

Traditionally, a good harvest is celebrated by villagers on May 1, the national Labor and Agricultural Day. This is when community fairs display farm produce to promote local foods. On this day, cornmeal is almost always served in Haitian households to celebrate the season’s bounty.  I personally believe maïs-moulu tastes best all by itself. Corn after griding