Look Who’s Got a Letter!

Sumba_Indonesia_First Blog Post_Agustinus_Blog Author_portrait

Augustinus Mau Tukan

Communications Officer

East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

October 31, 2014 2014


Receiving a letter from sponsors is a joy to be shared with others. For many children, letters they receive from sponsors are prized possessions which they bring home to show to parents, siblings, relatives, and friends. Here are some joyful expressions which we have gathered from the field.

Sumba_Indonesia_First Blog Post_Primus and her sister upon receiving the card from Primus sponsor

Primus, right, holds up his card from his sponsor

Primus, age 6, came to school with his mom and his younger sister to receive the card and letter from his sponsor. He took the card, showed it around with a beaming face and said, “This is mine.” His joy is shared with his sister and fellow kindergarteners at the local early childhood center as they giggle looking at the cards and the photo sent by Primus’ sponsor.

Stefanus, age 6, is the first sponsored child at his school to receive a letter from his sponsor. After seeing Stefanus’ excitement, other students asked when it will be their turn to get letters from their sponsors. Shy and excited, Stefanus said, “I want to tell stories and draw the Pasola horse for my sponsor.”

Sumba_Indonesia_First Blog Post_Aurelia_showing her drawing and response letter

Aurelia holds up a drawing and letter to her sponsor

Aurelia, age 7, still seemed not to believe that the letter sent by her sponsor was actually for her. She inquired, “Is it really for me?” It was the first letter that Aurelia has ever received so she held it tightly to her chest and wanted to go home promptly to show her parents. She is eager to write back and draw for her sponsor.

Astiana, age 7, received a letter and said she wants to study English so that she can read her letters in English and write back to her sponsor in English. She added, “For now, I’ll show my sponsor the place where I live through my drawing.”

It is amazing to see how letters from sponsors can spark contagious joy, breed a sense of worth, ignite inspiration to study harder, and cherish a dream of one day becoming different from who they are now.

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

Raising awareness of urban poverty on World Cities Day


Justin Mortensen

Convenor of Global Urban Strategy Initiative

Cilincing, North Jakarta

October 31, 2014


Every two months 10 million people are either born in or move to cities; a trend that will continue at least through to 2030. 94% of these people will live in cities in the developing world.

Each morning Sutriawati arrives early at the school where she is a Grade 3 teacher in Cilincing, North Jakarta. Even early in the morning the streets are busy as fishermen head to their boats; small business owners load their wares on motorbikes and children go to school. Sutriawaiti often jumps over rubbish-strewn puddles during her journey.


Sutriawati built 5 toilets for the the school

Cilincing is one of Jakarta’s poorest and most densely populated areas. It has one of the highest concentrations of poverty in North Jakarta. It is a glimpse into a new world that is dawning across the globe – a world of cities.

As the Healthy School representative at SD Pantai Indah Elementary School, Sutriawati knows that a safe and sanitary school environment is essential for creating a place where children are inspired to learn. “Parents complained a lot to the school superintendent about the fact that we only had two toilets for 417 people.”

More than a billion children now live in cities and towns worldwide. Many of them face an urban experience like the students at Sutriawaiti’s school. A world in which they live just over the horizon from the awe-inspiring vitality of ‘the city’, while struggling to meet their basic needs.

Save the Children understands that over the next 15 years this transformation will only speed up. We are responding by increasing the number of projects we run in cities.
Perhaps we can be more assertive here, and say this is the ‘changing face of poverty’ or the ‘urbanisation of poverty’.

Some have asked us why we are focusing on this since ‘real poverty’ is concentrated in rural areas. While there is no doubt that a significant proportion of rural populations face deprivation, we believe that the emerging urban poor represents the changing face of poverty. And that, more importantly, children are the first casualties of urban poverty.

Projects like the Strengthening Education through Awareness and Reading Achievement project in North Jakarta are an example of our commitment. The programme takes a multi-dimensional approach to school safety.

“After I participated in the training from Save the Children, I realised the importance of prioritising the various aspects of the healthy school.” After the training, Sutriawati worked with the superintendent and school management committee to identify funds to “build five toilets, two for boys, two for girls, and one for the teachers”. She also organised the students to help her collect garbage every day before the start of class.


Sutriawati built 5 toilets for the the school

On 31 October 2014 Save the Children is proud to support the first World Cities Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Leading Urban Transformations’. UN Habitat launched Urban October, a month for raising awareness on urban challenges and opportunities with the public. It is the month for stimulating debates and moving forward commitments. We’re proud to support the urban transformation happening in the more than 300 urban communities we operate in across the world.

Many of the newest and most vulnerable city dwellers aren’t benefiting from the opportunities of the city. We believe that if cities are to transform – the world must ensure that all families are prospering. Everyone deserves access to good schools, health clinics, jobs, sanitation systems, and safe communities.

We have a historic opportunity to harness the potential of cities to reduce poverty. But we cannot ignore the urban poor. Help us raise awareness about the growing number of poor urban families across the globe. Tweet your ideas about how we can harness their energy to transform cities to @citiesforkids @savethechildren or @UNHABITAT using the hashtags #allurbanchildren #worldcitiesday or #transformcities #urbanoctober #HabitatIII.

Interview with a Sponsored Child’s Parent


Lassine Kane

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Farako Community, Mali

October 17, 2014 2014


Sponsorship staff regularly monitor programs and talk with beneficiary communities. The purpose of this exercise is to gauge the feeling of community members about Sponsorship-funded activities, assess their level of satisfaction with those services and make adjustments to them as necessary. It also provides an opportunity to get a sense of what parents envision for their children from an education perspective.

Lassine Kane, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator, has just wrapped up such a field visit. Here is an interview he conducted with Achitan, mother of a sponsored girl in Farako Community.

Mali Blog Post 1--Picture2 of Achitan

Achitan is a mother to 9 children: 4 girls and 5 boys

Lassine: Hello! Can you introduce yourself?

Achitan: Thank you for your visit. My name is Achitan. I don’t know my exact age, but am around 40 years old. I am married to Abdoulaye. I have 9 children who are all alive: 4 boys and 5 girls. We all live together here in the community of Farako. I am a housewife. In addition to my household activities, I sell firewood to make some money and take care of some of the day-to-day expenses of the family.

Lassine: Do you know Save the Children and its Sponsorship program?

Achitan: Oh yes! ‘Projet Save’ is an organization that works towards the well-being of children. They have a friendship program [Sponsorship] here through which they connect the children of Farako to people in white men’s country. ‘Projet Save’ has been around for quite some time now; I think they introduced their friendship program to Farako six years ago.

Lassine: Do any of your children participate in Sponsorship?

Achitan: Yes, Fatoumata, my third child who attends Grade 7, has a friend in the white men’s country. And her friend even sends her letters. When Fatoumata receives a letter from her friend, she feels very happy. Her friend often gives her advice and encourages her to attend school regularly and study hard.

Lassine: Which of the Sponsorship Programs do you value most in your community?

Achitan:Projet Save’ does many things here. But I would say that their education activity is what I appreciate most.

Lassine: Why? What does the education of your children mean to you? Do you think education is important?

Mali Blog Post 1--Achitan and daughter arranging firewood for sale

Achitan & her daughter arrange firewood for sale

Achitan: Neither my husband nor I went to school. Many adults in this community didn’t go to school either. Because of that, people suffer. Unless your own children attend school and can read and write, you have to go out and look for somebody who can read or write letters for you. And sometimes you feel obliged to give them something as a token. But what’s bothers me is when people who are not part of your family are aware of personal matters that are mentioned in the letter.

When a child goes to school, the entire family benefits from it. Take Fatoumata, my daughter, for example. She teaches me certain things she learns at school such as the importance of washing hands before eating or after using toilet.

We hear good things about those whose children went to school. They live in beautiful homes, eat good food and dress well because their children have become important people because of school. I too want my children to attain in school and care for my family.

Lassine: You really have some good points. But why then are all your children not going to school?

Achitan: No, you are wrong. All of my children attend school except the last one who has not yet reached the school going age. But I don’t know whether they will be able to complete school because we are a poor family struggling to make ends meet. But we will try to keep them in school, because school is important.

Mali Blog Post 1--Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter in class

Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter, attends class

Lassine: Do you have any message for the friends [sponsors] of the Farako children?

Achitan: Yes. The support that the friends of children are providing Farako with is crucial. And everybody here is benefitting – school children and their parents. I am very grateful for their commitment and generosity to the children of Farako. I can assure you that my sentiment is widely shared here – just ask around and you will see for yourself.

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

The World’s Ebola Crisis: Disastrous for Mothers and Daughters

In the course of a regular day with my 13 year-old daughter, I check in on how her day went and tell her I love her.  It’s pretty standard stuff for moms.  And as President and CEO of Save the Children, I’ve seen how children’s health, happiness and safety are paramount to mothers in every corner of the globe. That’s why last week, when I called my daughter from Liberia, I stayed on the phone a little longer than usual—so grateful to hear her voice and know she was safe and well.


The conditions in Liberia, where Save the Children is responding to the Ebola epidemic, are some of the worst I’ve ever seen.  Children are always among the most vulnerable in a crisis and this is no exception—2.5 million children under five are living in the hardest-hit areas across the region, and 75% of all children infected in the current epidemic have died. Even those who are not infected themselves risk losing their parents to this terrible disease and often end up alone and ostracized by their communities. Fear, like the virus, is spreading rapidly.


Martheline with her three younger siblings, who she is now caring for in the wake of their mother’s death from Ebola.

I met a young girl named Martheline, who is about my own daughter’s age. When her mother became ill with the Ebola virus, there was no money for a doctor and no way to access local services. Martheline nursed her mother at home, and then mourned her when she passed away.  Having lost her father several years before, Martheline was left to care for her three younger siblings—while a fearful community left them to fend for themselves. Even though they were not infected by the virus, every day has become a struggle for survival.


This crisis is also taking a toll on the incredible progress the world has made to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths in Liberia and around the world. Already weak health systems are collapsing under the strain of the outbreak and many health facilities are closed—meaning that children are missing out on vaccinations and basic health care, putting them at great risk for preventable childhood diseases, and more women are giving birth at home in dangerous conditions. The effects of this virus are devastating and far-reaching.


The people I met in Liberia are no different than those I’ve met anywhere else in the world. They want the chance to be self-sufficient. They want to be able to support their families. They want to live with dignity and pride.


The most important thing we can do now is to focus on giving those affected by Ebola the chance to live safe, healthy lives once again. That’s why Save the Children is joining forces with those in the region to halt the spread of Ebola. In Liberia, we’re building Community Care Centers to provide community-based care closer to home, training health workers, and providing medical equipment and protective kits to families. We’re also working with orphans and other vulnerable children to ensure they are protected in this time of crisis by providing survivor kits to meet their basic needs and reuniting them with extended family whenever possible.


I know it can be easy to feel hopeless in the face of such devastating death and disease. But the global health community has already proven that by working together and partnering with people on the ground, progress is possible. Together, we eradicated smallpox. We are well on our way to do the same with polio, yellow fever and measles. 17,000 fewer children die each day than in 1990. There are millions of children alive today because we believed in the power of local health systems and we believed in the power of working together.


We must act now to support mothers, daughters, families and communities in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Martheline didn’t just lose her mother to Ebola—she lost her childhood to the virus. It’s up to us to make sure she doesn’t lose her future too.


Donate today to help Save the Children build and manage Community Care Centers for Ebola patients and their families and distribute Survivor Kits to meet orphaned children’s basic needs.

Liberia Ebola Response


Robbie McIntyre

Humanitarian Information and Communications Officer


October 9, 2014 2014


As the Ebola death toll in West Africa continues to rise, we are rapidly scaling up our response in order to match its reach. But, along with most of the humanitarian and international community, we are playing catch up. The initial response to this crisis was too slow, and too small.

The self-flagellation and recriminations must come later. What must come now, with not one iota of a caveat, qualification or delay, is an unprecedented global effort to prevent Ebola from shattering the futures of a whole generation of children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

I write this from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. This country accounts for more than 2,000 of the 3,400 estimated deaths from Ebola across the region, but with cases going unreported, some choosing to die without seeking help, and others succumbing in communities which are barely accessible, that is almost certainly a gross underestimate. UNICEF calculates that around 2,000 children in Liberia have lost both parents to the virus.

And what faces a child in this position? The chances are, they will be a ‘contact’, meaning they were in very close proximity to someone who had Ebola. For those who are identified, this means 21 days under quarantine being monitored every day for symptoms. For some children here, it means being pushed to the margins of society, and rejected by a community whose instinct to help is paralysed by their sheer terror of this horrific disease.

RS85579_4 of 5 kids who lost their parents to Ebola in MonroviaAll this means that Jennifer*, is comparatively fortunate. She is living under quarantine with her aunt, her two brothers Robin*, 6 and Luke*, 12, and her 13-year-old big sister Sarah* (* indicates all names have been changed to protect identity). Their mother became sick a little over a month ago, and passed away on September 7 at MSF’s ELWA treatment centre in Monrovia. Just two weeks later, their father died in the same facility. It was only at this point that the children were placed under quarantine with their aunt.

We provided them with a 21-day Survival Pack. It includes food, water, and hygiene items to help sustain them whilst under quarantine. We will give psychosocial support to try and help them cope. But like all children here now, they face a precariously uncertain future. Not everyone will accept that they are safe to be around and to play with, even when they emerge from isolation.

Save the Children has been running a mass public campaign to educate people about Ebola. Messages are broadcast three times a day, every day, on 14 different radio stations in 8 of Liberia’s 15 counties. They are estimated to have reached 260,000 people. We created tens of thousands of Ebola awareness posters and factsheets for the Ministry of Health to distribute, and we are now running training sessions with healthcare workers on infection prevention and control to allow them to reopen clinics that have been forced to shut.

Although the challenge is unprecedented, and the prognosis for the spread of this virus wildly unpredictable, there are some certainties – a co-ordinated global effort on the scale required will save thousands of lives, and there are going to be many, many children who require the world’s compassion, care and attention for some time to come.

Save the Children is scaling up its operations. The Ebola Treatment Center we built in Bong is being run by International Medical Corps and already saving lives. We are building another in Margibi, where our teams are also hard at work constructing 10 Community Care Centres and mobilising communities to use them so that people are not left to die with no access to health care.

But it’s not enough. We know it’s not enough. The families here know it’s not enough. The international and humanitarian community must pour money, technical expertise and equipment into Liberia and across the region. We must not reflect on this crisis in years to come and realise we did not do enough, and that thousands of people lost their lives as a result. Please support our Ebola Children's Relief Fund.

Prep Rally Brings Community Together to Keep Kids Safe

Elizabeth-pulliam headshot

Elizabeth Pulliam, Program Specialist


October 7, 2014


Lightning strikes as an instantaneous thunderclap bursts around your house. You begin to wonder if the batteries in your flashlight are working or if yesterday’s grocery purchases will spoil before the power is restored. You see, your child is calm and knows exactly where to find the flashlight. These are behaviors she learned from Save the Children’s Prep Rally program– new emergency program that teaches kids basic preparedness skills through interactive activities and games.

Tucked into the heart of Appalachia, Owsley County, Kentucky is a very rural area with disaster risks covering everything from flooding and tornadoes to wildfires and earthquakes. Children are the most vulnerable during disaster, and as a nation, we are underprepared to protect them during emergencies. Twenty-one states lack basic regulations for protecting children in schools and child care and 74 percent of parents don’t feel very prepared to protect their kids. The Prep Rally Program was created with the understanding – that we can’t prevent disasters from happening, but it’s how we prepare for them that will make the difference.

Owsley County community leaders, including school staff, emergency services, first responders and government officials, banded together to plan a Prep Rally that would help children in Owsley Elementary School’s Afterschool program be ready to weather any storm. Photo Aug 28, 3 18 38 PM

The Prep Rally covers four basic Prep Steps that help build children’s resilience: 

  1. Recognizing Risks
  2. Planning Ahead
  3. Gathering Wise Supplies
  4. During Disaster

During after-school programming in the week leading up to their Prep Rally, Owsley students read books about preparedness and survival as part of their literacy lessons. They discussed the risks for natural disasters in their community and learned how to design a safety plan at home and how to reunite with their families should disaster strike.

On the day of the community Prep Rally event, the children kicked things off with a Get Ready Get Safe cheers and the Mayor of Booneville declared it Get Ready Get Safe Emergency Preparedness Day! The mayor also led the Preparedness Pledge, encouraging the children to talk with and make a plan with their families. Then children rotated through five themed stations including the Pillowcase Project, Red Cross coping skills, fire safety, tornado safety and water safety. Children were able to talk with local firefighters and police as well as climb aboard and explore fire truck and emergency medical helicopter.

“The students became more familiar with the types of disasters and how to be better prepared to cope with them,” said Phyllis Bowman, Owsley’s afterschool program coordinator. “Even though we are a small community with limited resources, the response from our emergency people was great. This is indicative of their support of our children."

1055In addition to getting kids pumped to prep, the community Prep Rally created a dialogue between schools to work with emergency services agencies, and government officials about how to best prepare and protect Owsley County.

“The Prep Rally provided the children of Owsley County a valuable educational experience with the emergency services and preparedness personnel in our area,” said Bart Patton, Chief of the Booneville-Owsley County Volunteer Fire Department. “It encouraged the children to go home and prepare, along with their parents and guardians, plans to help them through disasters safely. We were all proud to be part of the program.”

The Owsley Elementary event is just one example of a successful Prep Rally- which has been implemented in 10 states serving thousands of children and families. The best part of the Prep Rally curriculum is that it can be shaped to fit the specific needs of your community—whether it’s a scout troop, afterschool, summer camp, or the beginning of tornado season.

Is Your Community Prepared to Protect Kids in Emergencies?

Get the FREE downloadable Prep Rally Kit: www.savethechildren.org/PrepRally

And register your Community Prep Rally for the chance for Save the Children ambassador Lassie to visit your event!

For more information, email GetReady@savechildren.org

Inside the Heart of an Epidemic

I am not sure that in my 16 years with Save the Children that I have seen—and felt myself—such  palpable fear in a place as I did last week in Liberia.  But it is a fear that comes at you in waves, an undercurrent that runs under what looks on the surface to be the normal daily life of a very poor country in West Africa.


In the market, people are going about their business, buying and selling wares, going to work, cooking in small sidewalk stalls. But right away you start to notice the billboards, the signs, all calling out that Ebola is real and what to do to keep safe. You see the washing stations at every store, every stopping point—and after just a few hours, the fear starts to seep in. My colleagues point out the sirens, signaling another Ebola case has been picked up, and images of the victims flash through my head.


The fear comes as I wash my hands in chlorinated water from a small bucket with a spout everywhere I go, as my shoes are sprayed with the same chlorine solution each time I get in and out of a vehicle or go into a building, as I try to remember to shake hands with no one, to touch no one, to not get too close, even to my own colleagues. Fear comes with the constant message on the radio inside the car as we drive—”Ebola kills”—over and over again.


But the real face of fear in this epidemic is in the faces of the families and children I met – children and families that have lost mothers, fathers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters.  Those who have survived quarantines, but who are now shunned by their communities and cut off from basic services.  I see the fear in the children I met who have been orphaned by the virus and are living in makeshift shelters, under houses, inside storerooms.  Whole families of children living day-to-day as best they can without their parents. Their fear, and the fear of those around them, shows starkly in their eyes. WP_20141003_13_34_02_Pro


There are an estimated 3,700 orphans across the three hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.  In Liberia alone, the number is estimated at 2,000, with new children becoming orphans each day as the virus ravages mothers and fathers. One little girl I met, seven year-old Elizabeth, was living under a house with her older brother just steps away from where their mothers body had been taken over a month ago.  They had come and burned all their belongings and sprayed down the room but the children would not go back inside.  While they survived the 21 day incubation period, they now faced the prospect of starvation and stigma as people in their town are too scared to even look at them.


One of the key pieces of our response is to work with the Department of Social Welfare in Liberia to ensure we know where these children are and get them basic survival kits which include food, household items, soap and hygiene supplies and clothing. Then we begin to try to reunite them with extended family whenever and wherever possible, a painstaking process to trace family members that may be hundreds of miles away.


But the bigger issue in this crisis is breaking the back of transmission of the disease, reducing the reproductive rate of cases to below 1—and bringing down the fear.  The messages, chlorinated water, and radio programs have done part of their job but people must leave their houses and get into care and stop infecting others at the first sign of symptoms. Tragically, there is just not enough care and beds available.


Save the Children is building 10 Community Care Centers in Margibi county—smaller centers where people can go and get tested, where those testing positive are isolated from others before being transferred to a more sophisticated Ebola Treatment Unit, getting basic care while waiting for a bed and receiving visits from a mobile team of doctors and nurses. We are also building an additional Ebola Treatment Unit to serve Margibi, one of the epicenters of the epidemic, modeled after a center we already built in Bong County.


While the fear of this visit was very real, there was also hope.  In my last hours in Liberia, I visited a transition center for orphaned children in Montserrado, with 10 children who still could not yet be reunited with their families.  While you could still see traces of fear and certainly sadness in their eyes, they lit up when asked to sing a song and proudly told me about their dreams.  One little boy, Edward, told me with a confident smile, that he wanted to be President.  Right at that moment, I believed it could come true, if we could just end the fear and death all around us that have no place in a child’s life.


Please help us do more to halt the outbreak and provide lifesaving outreach and protection for children.

Ebola Crisis: Giving Parents in a Terrible Situation the Knowledge to Protect Their Families


Daisy Baldwin, Humanitarian Information & Communications Trainee

United Kingdom

October 2, 2014


The Ebola outbreak is all over the news and the numbers can feel overwhelming.

At least 6,553 people have been infected across the region and over 3,083 have already died from the disease.

In Sierra Leone there are 5 new cases every hour.

Yet for people living in the affected countries, this crisis isn't about numbers. It's only about loved ones who are sick, and who are dying.

Sam's story

Sam is around three years old and lives in the remote district of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone, which has been heavily affected by the outbreak.

When Sam's mother caught Ebola, she brought him and his little brother Peter to the Ebola treatment center run by Médecins Sans Frontières‎. Neither Sam nor Peter was found to have symptoms of Ebola, so they were taken to an interim care center supported by Save the Children.

Sam was very thin when he arrived, and later developed a sore throat. The team at the care center made sure he had the treatment he needed to get better.


In Sam at an Ebola interim care center in the remote, disease-struck district of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone (Ashley Hamer/Save the Children)

A terrible fate for a tiny child

Sam's younger brother Peter was not so lucky. He developed symptoms of the disease and was immediately transferred to the treatment center but sadly, he died shortly afterwards.

However, there is a little good news in the midst of this family tragedy: Sam's mother has made a full recovery. She now lives at the care center with Sam, where she is able to help out.

Sam is not currently believed to have Ebola, but he and his mother must wait until the 21-day incubation period is over to be sure. At the moment Sam is healthy and being cared for.

Support is vital
Without the support provided at the Save the Children-supported interim care center, Sam would have been more vulnerable to catching this deadly disease. Instead, he has been looked after throughout this extremely traumatic experience.

Unfortunately, this interim care center is one of very few such places currently operating in Sierra Leone.

There are 2.5 million children under five living in areas affected by the Ebola outbreak. They are at risk of catching the disease themselves but also of losing their parents or carers.

The scale of this outbreak can seem paralysing; but we can help, and we must act.

Awareness and education
It's vital that we continue to raise awareness and educate people on preventing the disease's spread. It's equally important that there are sufficient care facilities and trained staff to handle cases.

When Sam's mother got sick, she recognised the symptoms and knew where to go. In a terrible situation, she did the best for her family. We want to enable many more families to do the same.

We have already trained more than 3,000 community health workers, to go from house to house explaining how to prevent infection.

We have also set up a treatment center in Liberia, and planning to set up more.

So far, we have reached more than 265,000 people across four countries. But we need to do much more. Please support our Ebola Children's Relief Fund.

I’m an Ebola Child Protection Advisor

My name is Amy, and I’m in Liberia responding to the Ebola crisis – the deadliest outbreak in history. It’s perhaps the most challenging assignment of my Save the Children career.


Amy Richmond, Child Protection Advisor


October 1, 2014


My name is Amy, and I’m in Liberia responding to the Ebola crisis – the deadliest outbreak in history. It’s perhaps the most challenging assignment of my Save the Children career.

Waking up to Ebola
Waking up in my room, this Ebola assignment feels almost routine – like any of the dozens of emergency assignments I’ve been on for Save the Children. My surroundings are strangely familiar. A simple bed, the glowing red alarm clock circa 1982 and heavily screened windows through which stifling hot air wafts, even in the early morning. But once I step outside, I realize this is an assignment like no other. First, I’m overwhelmed by the sharp smell of the chlorine-solution used as a disinfectant here, then by the otherworldly sight of workers fully outfitted in infection control suits, as well as the often graphic Ebola prevention signs. I take a deep breath. Now, the real work begins. 


In addition to helping kids stay healthy and safe, Save the Children is also proving emergency supplies and nutritious food in the hardest hit areas.

The tragic discovery of little David
The children we’re helping here are facing overwhelming tragedy. Perhaps the most tragic is the story of an 8-year-old boy. I’ll call him David – a common name in Liberia.

On a routine area survey, where relief workers go house-to-house searching for people who may have had contact with the Ebola virus, aid workers came across David. He was in his home – about the size of a garden shed, though not as well built – surrounded by the dead bodies of his family.

I shudder to think what David went through being there when his family died from the painful sickness caused by the Ebola virus. No child should go through that horror. Miraculously, he survived. It’s our job to ensure he can overcome this tragedy and find a safe place for him to grow up.

Why I do what I do
I've been a Child Protection Advisor for over a decade now. I've seen the worst of what the world has wrought on our children – deadly conflict in Syria and Iraq, famine-like conditions in East Africa, devastating hurricanes on America’s coastline, terrible typhoons in the Philippines. And through it all, – children have paid the heaviest toll. And that’s why I do what I do.



Little children think the health workers look like aliens from outer space in their protective gear. The suits might look scary, but they help protect the dedicated workers from the outbreak.

Little ones are always the most vulnerable in crisis – and Ebola is no exception. It’s our job to protect them. My colleagues and I keep kids safe from harm, trafficking and unspeakable abuse. We help children overcome horrific, traumatic experiences. We also reunite children with family members if they get lost or become orphaned. Children need all of this help, and more, here in the midst of the Ebola crisis.

Taking necessary precautions
I know I can’t take care of children, if I don’t take care of myself. And Save the Children has very strict protocols to ensure my good health and safety. Everywhere I go, I use hand-sanitizer, wash with chlorine solution and step through a bleach bath or am hosed with a foot shower. I take medicines, wear infection control gloves and have protective nets to keep other diseases at bay, knowing there’s little access to health care here. And I’m exceedingly careful about what I eat and drink. Although my pants are all bleach-stained, and my hands are raw from the chlorine, I know I’m doing everything I can to stay well, so I can do my job – protecting children.

Making a difference for kids
We work long, grueling days, but at the same time, we’re energized by knowing we’re making a difference for vulnerable children in this crisis. The days are full and varied. In the morning, I read the latest briefings and meet with our Child Protection team on our response work for the day, which may include caring for orphaned or unaccompanied children like David. In the evenings, we work on documents to secure much needed funds this essential Ebola crisis response.

Finally, I collapse on my bed in the oddly comforting red glow of the alarm clock. Ready to sleep for a few hours – and do it all again tomorrow.

To learn more about our response to the Ebola outbreak, click here