Uganda Team Learns from Ethiopian Colleagues

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Sekujju Abu

Education Manager

Central Region, Uganda

December 29th, 2014

 

Save the Children is planning to launch sponsorship programs in Uganda later this year. To learn more, staff from Uganda traveled to nearby Ethiopia to observe sponsorship programs and operations.

My team from Save the Children in Uganda and I were warmly welcomed by our colleagues at Save the Children in Ethiopia. There we were given an introduction to sponsorship and how it’s supported in Ethiopia by the sponsorship team.

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We learned sponsorship programming has four core programs, Early Childhood Care & Development, Basic Education, School Health and Nutrition, and Adolescent Development. It was very interesting to learn about the sponsorship operations as well, such as procedures for photos, letter writing and reviewing, collecting annual updates on families, and generally understanding the achievements and challenges experienced by the team.

We then visited the Early Childhood Care & Development classroom, which was set up to be child centered with energetic and empowered teachers. I found the Literacy Boost program inspiring, as it was very rich in print materials and a great environment for early learners. Most interesting was the confidence the children showed at such a tender age while being tested in class. Seeing the four sponsorship programs implemented in the field in Ethiopia will help us to smooth our sponsorship start up back in Uganda..

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Special thanks to the Save the Children team that is working to ensure every child attains the right to survival, protection, development, and participation. Thank you to the drivers for taking good care of our lives while travelling to Ambo and the different sites. And most of all thank you to our sponsors for their dedication to making lasting changes in the lives of children.

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

Special Celebrations at Family Day

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Claudia Claros Cano

Sponsorship Program Implementation Officer

Cochabamba, Bolivia

December 22, 2014

 

My name is Claudia Claros Cano and I work as a Sponsorship Program Implementation Officer for Save the Children in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I wanted to share with you the special celebration we hold here with our children and their families, called Family Day.

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Mothers Fabiana Ramirez,Justina Ramos, Elizabeth Zapata y her children Tania, Elizabeth

This event happens once a year and has gained special importance in the lives of the children here in Cochabamba. Family Day gives family members and their children a chance to celebrate the meaning of being a family and to spend quality time with their loved ones by participating in fun activities together. This event has been promoted by local government and organizations, and is enthusiastically supported by schools. Family Day provides hope in a community where families are the core and fundamental pillars of society.

At the schools, principals and teachers work with parents to organize Family Day to include uncles and aunts, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and other relatives in enjoying reflection spaces and interactive fun and games. This allows them to share time together and learn positive messages for family life, how to preserve their families, and the importance of team work within the family. In many of the games and activities, children are active participants that guide their parents or guardians in learning helpful and meaningful family values and positive messages about family unity, while also feeling their protection and care. One of the parents participating said, "It was fun, we laughed a lot, and I saw that together with my family we are capable of doing many things if we do it together." Another parent said, "I spent a lovely day with my little boy, I wish this day was celebrated more often."

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Claudia Claros participating with children and their parents during Family Day's activities

Families also share an apthapi, a communal potluck style lunch. Afterwards families play sports and participate in other recreational activities. As this year's Family Day ended, families returned to their homes tired but very happy to have had the opportunity to spend a special day together and hoping to have similar opportunities in the near the future.

What special memories do you have of playing, learning, and growing with your family or extended family? Do you have a special day that you celebrate in a memorable way?

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

Where Health and Education Meet, Children Win

The following blog first appeared on The World Bank.

 

Every mom wants a healthy baby. And in the early days of a child’s life, parents and doctors understandably focus on how the baby’s physical development—is she gaining weight? Is he developing reflexes? Are they hitting all of the milestones of a healthy and thriving child?

 

But along with careful screenings for physical development, there is an excellent opportunity to tap into those same resources and networks to promote early cognitive, socio-emotional, and language development. This helps children everywhere have a strong start in life, ensuring that they are able to learn as they grow and fulfill their potential throughout childhood.

 

Save the Children works with partners around the world to integrate early childhood development interventions into programs in innovative ways—figuring out what works in local contexts and building an evidence base with governments to effectively support children and parents in the early years.

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In El Salvador, for example, we worked jointly with the Ministry of Health and National Academy of Pediatricians to design a screening tool to measure development in children under five. This empowers doctors and health workers to screen for development alongside health check-ups. Now when parents take their children to “healthy child control’’ checkups, children receive a comprehensive developmental evaluation so that the medical staff can identify risks early and advise on age-appropriate activities. By encouraging parents to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months or mimic the babbling sounds that their two to four-month old baby makes, these health experts are putting parents and young children on the path to success.

 

Medical staff in communities throughout El Salvador have been trained on this screening tool, and among 100 health centers evaluated, Save the Children found that not only are medical staff using the screening tool, but 95% are using it properly. The program has been brought to schools nationwide, and the Ministry of Health expects to reach hundreds of thousands of children, from birth to age five, in the early years of implementation.

 

Non-state actors like Save the Children can work with governments to find innovative approaches that meet the specific needs of the local population, and government commitment can turn this approach into scalable, sustainable change for children. This type of partnership is a win-win: When all parties are willing to look at a problem from new angles, real and lasting solutions can help children in those critically important first few years of life.

 

Thanks to our early experience and success, Save the Children was invited to be part of the El Salvadoran government’s team to design the new national early childhood development curriculum. We are now, along with other organizations, supporting the national roll-out of the curriculum and providing feedback to the government on community and center-level implementation.

 

Early childhood development is not limited to health, and it begins long before a child enters the classroom. Now, thanks to the leadership of the El Salvadoran government, the partnership of NGOs like Save the Children, and the support of health workers, parents and communities, children across the country are getting a stronger start in life—and the chance to build a better future for themselves.

Letter Delivery Brightens Everyone’s Day

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Thuy, Tran Thu

Vietnam

December 15, 2014

 

After traveling winding roads through the mountains of northwestern Vietnam, I finally arrive at the school. Being given the chance to deliver sponsor letters is always the most enjoyable task. Seeing me, children wave their hands and give big smiles, with visible curiosity in their eyes.

“It’s so great. This is the first time I got a letter from a person living in another country. It’s also amazing that my sponsor is Vietnamese. You see, he knows Vietnamese and he writes me in Vietnamese. I’m so happy.” says Duc, a third grader. Hoang Thi Huyen (11400281) shows the letter she writes for her sponsor

Ngan, 7 years old, jumps up and down when receiving a letter from his Italian sponsor. “Let’s see the photo and letter my friend gave me. That’s an adorable girl. She is 7 years old, just like me. She is really pretty, right?” Ngan asks me while reading the letter from her sponsor.

Like Duc and Ngan, the other sponsored children show bright smiles whenever I deliver their sponsor letters. “I’m really excited. I have never heard about America before and I know nothing about it. Now, through my sponsor’s letters and photos, I know what it looks like…. Well, there is a very beautiful sea there.” Tu, a first grade student, shares. “I will tell him about my friends and school. I like drawing very much. I will draw pictures for him.”

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (11400279) show the letter she gets from her sponsorAfter saying goodbye to the children, I leave the school with my bag full of letters and drawings and feel so happy. Connecting children from this mountainous area to their sponsors living on the other side of the earth is such meaningful work.

What do you write to your sponsored child about? Consider not how different their lives must be, but that they are just children who are very excited to receive something from a friend so far away. Tell them about how you spend your time, your pets, your family, or your hobbies. Ask them what they learned in school, about their teachers and friends. Pictures are a wonderful way to brighten a child’s day and to share a little piece of your life, and gives them something to treasure.

How Your Snowman Sweater Can Change a Child’s Life

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

 

There’s no better time than the holidays to remind children to be thankful and to give back to others in need. However, that is not always easy during this busy time of year.

 

That’s why Save the Children is using a holiday tradition of donning “festive” sweaters as an easy, fun way to raise awareness about helping the youth of the world in need.

 

Kids can help make the world better by wearing a holiday sweater on Dec. 12. Photo by Dan Burn-Fort / Save the Children.
Kids can help make the world better by wearing a holiday sweater on Dec. 12. Photo by Dan Burn-Fort / Save the Children.

On Dec. 12, Save the Children’s Make the World Better with a Sweater holiday fundraising campaign is dedicated to rallying people to wear their quirkiest holiday sweaters and give just $5 to children in need. You can fly solo or spread the joy even further by engaging your children, work colleagues, friends and family in a festive sweater party. Not only will you be making a fashion statement, but you’ll be bringing attention to Save the Children’s mission of giving children living in poverty a healthy start, an opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

 

Look into the recesses of your closet; many of us, parents and kids alike, have a holiday-themed sweater we only wear once a year. If you don’t own an iconic holiday sweater, you can buy, borrow, or even glitz up a regular sweater with tinsel or cut-outs of stars and snowflakes.

 

Who knew a sweater could do so much? But why stop at involving your children in our sweater day? There are many other ways children can brighten the environment and the lives of those around them. Parenting blogs are a great resource to search for other inspiring ideas for involving kids in giving back this holiday season.

 

Front Row Mama suggests children write thank-you notes to the custodians at school; put candy canes and a note on the cars in the teacher’s parking lot; leave a package of diapers and wipes on the changing table in a public bathroom; and help prepare a meal for a family in need.

 

Mom Start recommends children find a local “Giving tree” and pick someone to shop for; save up old soda cans, then return them for the bottle deposit; then choose a charity to donate to; go through their closet and clean out any old toys they don’t want any more to donate; and be challenged to do one nice thing for another child every day for 12 days.

 

Amy Bizzarri of Social Moms Network encourages children visit an elderly neighbor, shovel a neighbor’s walk or driveway, help at a local animal shelter and create activity boxes for children in homeless shelters. Carolyn_Sweater

 

One additional option is to donate or buy a gift from Save the Children’s gift catalog. Kids can chose from items like sending a girl to school or giving a family a goat. And thanks to our partner, Johnson & Johnson, you can double your impact. The company will generously match each dollar donated through our gift catalog.

 

Perhaps you have a few ideas that you do with your children to share? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

 

I hope you will join us this Friday, Dec. 12 to turn these holiday celebrations into something more meaningful and fun for the entire family. Together, with sweaters, we can transform children’s lives and the future we all share.

In Honor of Josephine Gay, Safe and Sound Schools

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Michele Gay

Co-Founder, Safe and Sound Schools

Newtown, CT

December 11, 2014

 

Save the Children’s Get Ready Get Safe initiative is designed to help US communities prepare to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us in times of crisis – our children. We keep kids safe, securing the future we share. We’re pleased to work with Michele Gay and Safe and Sound Schools to help ensure that children can be safe in all types of emergency situations.

Almost two years have passed now since the morning I packed up my three daughters and sent them off for another day of school in Newtown, Connecticut. With my husband returning from a week of work in Massachusetts and our youngest daughter Josephine’s 7th birthday party set for Saturday, our family was excited for the weekend. But only two daughters were returned to me at the end of that day, December 14, 2012. Joey was killed in her first grade classroom only moments after I dropped her off at the front door and into the loving arms of one of her teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

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Josephine Gay was a victim of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012

Since the long, desperate hours we spent that day, waiting to receive the words that would forever change our lives, we’ve learned that she has never really left us. As a family of deep faith—and with the support of family, friends, and others near and far—we have discovered in many ways, how Josephine lives on in this world.

She has called us—all of us—to do better by our children. We cannot take back the choices of the man who attacked and killed Joey, and 25 of her beloved friends and teachers at school that day. Nor can we take back the mistakes and blatant inactions of so many that allowed his profound mental illness to fester to the point of such unprecedented tragedy. But we can, at least, do better, by our surviving children and our school communities.

To do better, I work in my Josephine’s name, for safer schools in America. I founded Safe and Sound with Alissa Parker, in honor of Joey and her dear friend Emilie Parker, also killed on December 14, 2012. Our nonprofit foundation is dedicated to educating and empowering school communities, parents, students, teachers, administrators, emergency responders, and mental health professionals to make our schools safer—together.

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Josephine Gay at age 2

Safe and Sound is a hub of free school safety resources designed to help guide communities across the country as they too look to “do better” for the precious people who come to grow, learn, and teach in school every day. With a panel of national school safety professionals, we develop and collect best practice materials and resources. We travel the country visiting, speaking, and teaching in school communities and for professional organizations about school safety and looking for partners in advocacy, education, and community support, partners like Save the Children.

In this work, we’ve learned a great deal. From Save the Children, we learned that more than 21 states lack basic safety standards for schools and child care. From the U.S. Department of Justice, we learned that the national average response time to an emergency is about six minutes. Most tragedies like ours are over before help even arrives. And from the National Fire Academy, we learned that our nation has not seen a single fire related death in a K-12 school in over 56 years, since the inception of fire safety education and protocols. Sadly, we cannot say the same for other school safety issues like suicide, bullying, severe weather, natural disaster, physical assault, or armed attack in our schools.

In all that we’ve learned, perhaps nothing is more important than this fact: We—parents, educators, leaders and community members—are not powerless in keeping our children safe in school.

Today (December 11), on Joey’s birthday, we invite you to join us, not only in her memory but also in honor of the precious children in your life.

Visit us at www.safeandsoundschools.org, where you will find a wealth of information and experience to help you work for safer schools in your community. Check out our free, printable toolkits at http://www.safeandsoundschools.org/straight-a-security/. Support our mission for safer schools. It’s time to get to work together for safer schools today.

Early Childhood Care and Development for Lufwanyama District

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Annette Malilo Konsolo

Information Clerk

Zambia

December 5, 2014

 

On a sunny morning, we set out on a trip to Lufwanyama District on the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. As a new staff member, I was anxious to visit one of the community schools I had heard so much about.

ECCD children playing with the building blocksWe branch off on a gravel road with a lot of potholes, almost impassable when combined with the effects of the rainy season. We see children walking to school and some just playing around the huts. The school Head Teacher, Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Teacher, PTA members, parents, and volunteers welcome us warmly and take us around the premises. They briefly share with us the challenges and successes the school has seen before taking us to see the ECCD center.

In the classroom we are received by some smiling, some shy faces of local children, working on sorting blocks according to color and size. Some say they want to become teachers and some doctors. I could tell the sky is the limit for them, these children are eager to learn. The teacher explains that some children could not manage to walk the long distance to the center, especially with the rainy season causing high waters and impassable roads, otherwise school attendance would be higher.

Grade five pupils having a lessonOutside, Save the Children is constructing a new ECCD center, the foundation of which has already been laid. We also observe School Health and Nutrition programs being implemented, through the school’s vegetable garden and a shelter being used as a kitchen, where parents and volunteers cook food for the children.

It was interesting to see a high number of girls actively participating in the classrooms, an indication that our African culture is slowly adapting to change in terms of educating girls. This is unlike in the old days when girls were asked to remain home to do house chores while only boys were encouraged to go to school.

With the work Save the Children is doing in collaboration with the government, our country will develop to its full potential. A solid foundation laid through early childhood education will bring the dreams of the children of Lufwanyama to life.

What does Early Childhood Care and Development mean to you? What do you know about your own early childhood care and develpment growing up?