11 Year Old Awa Meets Her Sponsor

Awa

Awa *A Sponsored Child in Mali

Sponsored Child

Mali

February 2, 2015

 

"My name is Awa. I am 11 and I am in 5th grade. In December last year, my sponsor visited me! It was a big event in my village. My local buddies and I welcomed him by offering him a calabash full of beans, rice, and oranges. This is how important visitors are welcomed in my village.

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The welcoming ceremony took place at the home of the chief of my village

The welcoming ceremony took place at the home of the chief of my village. From there, he and I and a large crowd of village people went to my place. We chatted a lot. He asked questions and we asked him questions. We then proceeded to my school, because it was a school day. He sat in the back of my classroom and watched my teacher deliver a lesson on a mathematics topic. I was so proud and I felt very important! My sponsor also visited the Local Early Childhood Development Center that Save the Children supports.

The visit ended in a parting gift exchange. He offered me some school supplies and toys. My family and I gave him two roosters in appreciation for the time and money he spent to come over and see us. Finally my sponsor picked up two small stones in our compound and said he would keep them as a keepsake and proof that he visited me.

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Awa and her friends from her village

I was very happy to be visited by such a nice person from a faraway place!"

Save the Children hopes all sponsors consider visiting their sponsored children. The experience of traveling to your sponsored child's home, meeting their family and community, and seeing their way of life is an unforgettable memory that you will cherish forever!

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

A Message from the Middle: Maintaining the Child- Sponsor Connection

Carla

Carla Urrutia

Sponsorship Operations Assistant

El Salvador

January 26, 2015

 

Working as a Sponsorship Operations Assistant, I have been able to witness many wonderful stories. A big part of what I do is maintaining the connection between sponsor and child. When I translate letters, I get to see how the relationship between sponsors and children grows stronger. When I visit the communities where we work, I get to see how the correspondence is delivered and received. I have seen how children treasure the letters they receive, sometimes for years!

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Uri reads letters from his sponsor

I remember meeting a little boy named Uri a few months ago. He is now 12 years old, but five years ago he started building a strong connection with his sponsor. I asked him about the letters his sponsor had sent him and his whole face lit up as he proudly showed me a box full of dozens and dozens of letters, postcards, and photos he has kept with so much love since 2008. He showed me a postcard with a picture of a big building and pointed out one of the many windows, saying, "I think this is where my sponsor lives." A child's imagination never fails to impress me!

Uri told me he feels really happy every time he receives a letter from his sponsor and he wishes he could meet him someday. I understand what he means, because I see the same joy and enthusiasm in all the letters I translate.

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Carla working at a school in El Salvador

Uri's story is only one example of how priceless a letter can be to a child. It is really heartwarming to know that I help in the process of maintaining the communication between children and their sponsors. It is also great for me to know how much our sponsors cherish our work and appreciate our translating and delivering the letters. For Christmas or Easter sometimes sponsors send really nice messages to the staff here, wishing us all the best. I really love my job and I always do it with great affection, because I know that behind every message that I translate there is a person that has written it with love and looks forward to keeping in touch with someone far away.

Try sending photos, postcards, and handwritten letters to your sponsored children. They may be more time consuming to create and slower to arrive than emails, but they give children like Uri something special they can treasure with their own hands.

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

A New Year and a Recommitment to Saving Lives

I can hardly believe that it’s already 2015! This year has stood as a milestone for so much of our work for children in recent years, so 2015 promises to be a mixture of sprinting to the finish in some areas and setting out a new course in others.

 

Today I’m in Washington for the exciting launch of action/2015, a worldwide movement made up of organizations, individuals and groups who believe that decisions made this year are critical for our future. The action/2015 coalition is focused specifically on meeting the Millennium Development Goals (set in 2000 for completion by the end of 2015) and determining what we must do in the next 15 years to reach our goal of ending preventable child deaths and extreme poverty by 2030.

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Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have had an enormous impact on the lives of children around the world. Perhaps most significantly, today more children than ever before are living to see their fifth birthday. In 2000, an estimated 9.9 million children around the world died before age 5. This number dropped to 6.3 million in 2013. The 3.6 million lives that have been saved during this timeframe is far more than a statistic – it is a staggering and heartening reminder of the power we have to better the lives of children, families and communities throughout the world.

 

While we have a lot to celebrate when we look at the progress made against the MDGs, we cannot afford to be complacent – far too many of the poorest and hardest-to-reach children are being left behind. We need to finish the job of ensuring every child can reach his or her potential, and action/2015 is a fitting forum to further this work.

 

At today’s action/2015 event in Washington, I was delighted to join a bright, energetic group of students – our future leaders – as they gathered together to meet with government leaders and share their dreams and ideas for how we can realize the MDGs by 2030. The students I met with impressed me with their thoughtful, smart ideas, and I was struck by their heartfelt belief that we can better our world if we work together. These students intuitively know that the investments world leaders make now will determine the progress we can achieve in the next 15 years. While individuals, donors, NGOs and the private sector can innovate, partner, advocate, support and ensure accountability, governments must lead the way in order to achieve the MDGs and meet the promise we made to children and families 15 years ago.

 

CarolynSelfieUltimately, events like the action/2015 launch – and particularly the young people I met with today – bolster my belief that we really can realize our goal of transforming children’s lives and changing their future as well as ours. The New Year offers us all the opportunity once again to recommit to our core beliefs and highest aspirations, and I am glad to write that Save the Children remains fervently committed to helping all children. And action/2015 is one way we’re working for children. We’re committed to driving the completion of the MDGs and ensuring that the post-2015 agenda maintains the positive momentum we’ve achieved and spurs further progress. I hope you will join us in this work. You can learn more about action/2015 and the MDGs at www.savethechildren.org and www.action2015.org.

A Hopeful Future

Luzayo

Luzayo Nyirongo

Communications & Advocacy Officer

Malawi

January 19, 2015

 

This year marks a monumental period of change for Malawi. For the first time in our history, the Republic of Malawi went though tripartite elections. Presidential, Parliamentary, and local government elections had never been held simultaneously before in Malawi’s 50 years of independence. Also, this year Malawi celebrates its 50th birthday. There is a lot to be proud of.

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The Streets of Zomba

As soon as they were given the green light, political parties, potential members of parliament, and soon to be local councilors, took to the streets promoting themselves in a busy campaign period. All cities, towns, and villages were canvassed with political party colors. For months on end the entire country was gripped in the events that led up to the elections. Whether you were interested in politics or not, you were bound to get engaged in a discussion. The electoral race was very personal to people, and political conversations were widespread across the country. Malawi was ready for change and people were expressing it. Citizens were vested in every single detail coming out of government.

Malawi has changed considerably compared to just a couple decades ago, in the era of the late President Hastings Banda. People now have a voice and can be open to express their opinions. In fact, this year Malawi climbed two steps, from 75th to 73rd, on the World Press Freedom Index, after having made remarkable strides in 2013, climbing 71 spots from 146th in 2012. Additionally, thanks to the press, the entire country was able to keep track of the presidential race through three televised debates, which also made history for us!

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The Streets of Zomba at Sunset

I am privileged to be part of a generation filled with a desire and passion for change. As we have just ushered in our newly elected President, Peter Mutharika, and are headed in a hopeful direction, I wish this same resilience and passion for change that Malawi has witnessed politically spills over into the developmental work across the country – impacting the lives of the families and children we serve at Save the Children and organizations alike.

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

The Difficult Journey of Delivering Sponsor Letters, and the Joyful Reward

Ery

Ery Rambu Rewa

Project Assistant

Indonesia

January 12th, 2015

 

The Difficult Journey of Delivering Sponsor Letters, and the Joyful Reward When Save the Children geared up for a sponsorship funded program in Sumba, Indonesia, I was really excited to join the team. As a native Sumbanese, I was excited to work to improve the quality of education at the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers and Primary Schools in my home country. As a project assistant I have gone to schools in the villages on a regular basis for teacher training activities and for delivering sponsor letters to children. I am proud of the hands-on nature of my work, which allows me to witness the challenges and also joy experienced by children and teachers in the communities.

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My recent trip to an ECCD center in the Wanukaka sub-district was an eye-opening experience. I was tasked to take letters from sponsors to four children in the area. Our ride by motorbike to get to Wanakuka was quite slow, as we passed through bumpy roads and met flocks of buffalo walking ignorantly, sometimes blocking the road. Although the school was close to the road, the students, walking from nearby villages, had to cross a river to get to the center. It was the rainy season and the water level at the river was chest-high for children, so Eky, one of the sponsored children, and his three classmates could not meet us at the center.

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We encircled the river and moved down wet, slippery roads in search of the homes of Eky and the others. Many times I had to get down from the motorbike allowing my colleague to ride through deep slippery mud. It took us more than an hour before we finally found Eky’s house. While sitting down on the bamboo-floored living room, I read the letter to Eky in his local language. Eky’s eyes lit up as he listened to me, smiling shyly, eager to see the letter himself despite being unable to read. Eky’s joy, sincerity, and eagerness was so inspiring. The children’s enthusiasm for receiving the letters melts away the challenges delivery of them brings.

What do you know about the community where your child lives? Do they have to cross a flowing river with chest-high waters to get to their school? Remember that Save the Children staff in the field work hard every day to access some very remote areas, and we appreciate your patience in the sometimes lengthy delivery process!

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

Haiti Earthquake Five Years On

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Sarah Tyler

Head of Communications, International Programmes

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 12, 2015

 

"If my mother and father were alive I would be protected. They wouldn't let me live like this."

These are the words of Lovely*, a shy 12 year old who is a child domestic worker. Myrlande, my counterpart in Haiti, is translating Lovely's words into English. She's visibly shaken by Lovely's story. But Lovely* is very matter of fact; it's obvious she doesn't think her situation is uncommon. It's what life has handed to her.

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I've returned to Haiti on behalf of Save the Children Italy, which, five years after the earthquake, commissioned an award-winning photographer to produce a series of portraits of children. I was here a few days after the destructive 2010 earthquake that killed over 230,000 people and left two million homeless. I feel strong ties to Haiti, so when I had the chance to come back I grabbed it.

We are sitting in a small school in Port-au-Prince. It's a location chosen because of its anonymity. The child protection officer sitting with us is pregnant. I wonder what she thinks of Lovely's situation? Myrlande and I are here to interview child domestic workers. Domestic child labour is a major problem in Haiti, with up to 225,000 children aged between 5 and 17, mainly girls, virtually living as slaves. They are trapped in this lifestyle because of a series of twisted events. Some of them are orphans, but often they have been given away by their own parents or extended family in the hope that other families will, in exchange for the child doing chores, provide them with the food and shelter and access to education that their own families cannot afford to give them. Sadly, these hoped-for benefits rarely materialize, as the children are often given to an equally poor family that lack the resources to provide for even their own children.

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Lovely* tells us that she's regularly beaten and there are frequently days when she isn't fed. She wakes up at 5 am, prepares the household meals, fetches water from the local well, and does all the cleaning and laundry. Did I mention that she is just 12 years old?

She continues. "I don't even go to school. I used to go to school, I got to the third grade but ever since my mom and dad died I never went back to school. I would like to go to school. I would like to become someone tomorrow, although I don't know what. I want to tell other children in the same situation, those children like me that don't have a mother, that don't have a father just like me, not to be discouraged because life is like a ball – it rolls and rolls and you never know where it's going to take you."

In Haiti, Save the Children is working at the national level to raise awareness about child abuse, and at the local level it is working with child protection organisations to eradicate this practice. But we leave Lovely* with a heavy heart, knowing that all NGOs working on this issue need to move so much faster if we want to give children like Lovely* the chance of a better life.

Back in the car we make our way through heavy traffic. The rubble that once lined the roads is mostly gone, the collapsed buildings have been rebuilt. Small businesses and markets alongside the road are teeming with produce, but the pigs are still here, wading through rubbish and polluted water in the gutter at the side of the road.

Our next stop is a primary school that Save the Children supported immediately after the earthquake – we helped to remove rubble and repair classrooms – and our support here continues today as we provide teacher training and school supplies. Education is a major focus of our work in Haiti. It needs to be: only 2 in 10 children in Haiti learn to read by the end of first grade, and 15% of children dropout before grade 6. Over 50% of Haitian adults are illiterate.

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Although signs of the earthquake are mostly gone, the memories of that day are still very fresh for the children we meet. They tell us their stories of that fateful day. There's Jeantal who couldn't save the baby he tried to protect when a wall fell on top of them. He says he now develops terrible headaches every 12th January, the anniversary of the earthquake. He is clearly still shaken by his memories.

Then there's Oswaldynyo, who is 9, who refers to himself as "petit homme" or "little man". On his forehead is a scar he got from a falling cement brick. He's been telling us about the evacuation drills he is doing at school so he can protect himself if there is another earthquake. He tells us he loves school, and he holds his schoolbook tight to himself during the interview, preferring to look through it than at us. He's worried that his parents won't have the money for schoolbooks or his uniform.

And then there's Betchina, a soft spoken and shy 13 year old. She shows us her knee, which still has a massive scar where a block of concrete fell on her during the earthquake. She wants to become a nurse to help injured people and to provide for her parents.

These children bear physical scars from the earthquake, but there are also signs of emotional scars. How do you reassure children whose lives have been turned upside down that this won't happen again? In our work there are often times when we meet children who leave a very strong impression on us. Bettchina is one of these children. I leave her hoping with all my heart that she gets what she wishes for.

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Camp life has become a permanent fixture for over 85,500 people displaced by the earthquake. Of these more than half are children. There are approximately 123 camps still in existence. Basic services like clean water and health care are very limited in these camps, and cases of abuse are prevalent. During my trip, we met five children living in one of the largest camps. They were all girls, and they all told us that they were worried about their own safety. They were afraid of armed gangs and afraid of going to the toilets at night because of the fear of being sexually abused. But despite all the fear and harsh conditions in the camp, these girls were such an inspiration. They are leaders of our child protection clubs and they were all so positive about continuing their education and making sure that their rights were respected. In fact something quite remarkable happened during these interviews. When we were interviewing Marie Darline, she turned the tables on us and began to quiz us about our mission and vision, and how we would continue to support her goal to become a diplomat. It was then Katiana's turn to test her Spanish on me, since she decided that she had spent long enough answering our questions!

I left this camp full of awe for our community workers working with these children and creating such resilient young leaders. And I'd like to share Katiana's words about them:
"I would like to congratulate you on the work that you're doing. Save the Children is helping us however they can so I ask you to continue. It would help me a lot and would help the community a lot if you kept doing the work that you do here."

I want to promise Marie Darline and Lovely* that we will be there for them, but the reality is that the cameras and reporters have gone, funding has dried up for Haiti, and I can't help remembering an overused line from NGOs five years ago. "Don't forget Haiti" we said in unison. Have we?

Interested in learning more about our programs in Haiti Click here to learn more.

Sporting a Healthy Attitude: A School Sports Tournament in Egypt

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Lamiaa Nagib Younis

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Egypt

January 5th, 2015

 

I love my job and I am passionate about child welfare! Every day, I am thankful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of parents and children in the community where I work here in Egypt. Despite the challenges and obstacles that working with children impacted by abuse or neglect brings, there are many initiatives that inspire hope. One example is the school sports tournament we held, allowing students from different schools to compete in soccer and running, to promote a healthy life style while having fun.

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A group photo of children participated in a marathon

Save the Children’s School Health and Nutrition program works to improve health status, reduce malnutrition, and enhance children’s scholastic performance through promoting healthy living habits, in particular through practicing sports. However, this has not been easy for us lately, as the school year has been shortened and sports classes have been minimized or even cancelled altogether. We knew it was important to provide the opportunity for students to engage in sports activities in a fun and safe environment, even if it was only for one day.

The tournament took place at a local school, where students gathered dressed in their uniforms, excited and ready for the competition. The day began with running and ended with soccer. During the short recess before the final soccer match, I could hear the students motivating their fellow classmates to win the game. It was a great game, with both teams scoring. At the end of the match the score was tied so we had to go to a shootout to decide the winner!

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Lamiaa with student beneficiaries

At the end of the day though, it did not matter which team won but that the children headed home with smiles on their faces.

What other ways does participation in school sports help children and their community? What ways would you like to see sponsorship programs develop health and fitness activities?

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