Into India’s Cities

View from Nazmul's house
A slum in the Ohkla area of New Delhi, India.

India is always a fascinating place for a visit to see Save the Children’s programs, but the one I made earlier this month was even more so than usual. I was meeting with Save the Children staff from all over the world to discuss key learnings from our urban programs. Since our founding almost 100 years ago, Save the Children’s focus has been on serving children and families in rural areas who have traditionally been the most marginalized, with the worst outcomes for kids in terms of health, education and abuse. But as populations shift, more and more disadvantaged families are moving to cities to try to lift their standard of living. In 2007 for the first time in recorded history, the number of people living in urban settings equaled those living in rural areas. As of 2014, 54 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. By 2050, it is expected that this percentage will grow to 66 percent. And now many of the worst statistics for children are found in urban slums. This data is often masked by the better averages in cities and, as the gap between rich and poor widens, the poorest children are suffering in terms of surviving and thriving.

 

For example, in India, more than 8 million children under the age of 6 live in slums and 71 percent of deprived urban children under 5 suffer from anemia. More than 54 percent of households in urban slums do not have toilets and public facilities are unusable due to lack of maintenance, leading to poor sanitary conditions, increasing children’s chances of getting sick and decreasing their chances for a healthy start. In areas of rapid and unplanned urban expansion, informal settlements often lack many of the basic services that city dwellers typically enjoy, such as electricity, clean water and sanitation, transportation, education and healthcare. In addition, the urban poor face higher food costs and a constant threat of eviction, removal and confiscation of goods.

 

Save the Children is working hard to shift our work to focus on both rural and urban settings – wherever the most deprived children find themselves.  As part of my recent trip, I witnessed a wide variety of urban programs operating in Delhi. This included a heartbreaking program that focuses on female sex workers. While the government does not want NGOs distributing condoms and educating sex workers on HIV/AIDS, they also don’t want to disclose the ages of these women. Sadly, however, many I met were clearly teenagers.  In fact, several looked no older than my own 13 year old daughter. They spoke freely to us about the challenges of making a living by selling their bodies to men, some living on the streets and some with their families while hiding their real jobs from them. We visited a bridge under which men frequent to seek sex from many of these women, in clear view of a police check point. It was a terrifying place, full of dark spaces and garbage and, based on the men watching us from the bank of the filthy stream that ran through it, clearly this was a well-known location for sex. Not only is being forced to sell themselves horribly demeaning for these young girls, but it’s extremely dangerous as well.

 

India bridge
Colleagues and I on our way to visit young sex workers under a Delhi bridge

The girls we met made tiny sums of money, most of which had to go for food or were given to their families for rent and other expenses.  They dreamed of going back to school some day and a few were able to stay in school at least part-time. When we asked them what they wanted to do when they grow up, like any teenage girl, they had dreams of being teachers, dancers and even doctors. Of course for many it is unlikely these dreams will ever come true.  But my prayers went out to them that hopefully a few would make it.

 

The teeming city of Delhi has literally hundreds of thousands of children living in extreme poverty, in some of the worst circumstances you can imagine.  There are complicated issues of land ownership, municipal laws and political corruption to overcome, but there is also the promise of better infrastructure, more services and more partners with which to create change for these children and their families.  As Save the Children looks to the future, our efforts for and with urban children will be key in delivering a better world for kids, no matter where they live.

Mardi-Gras in #Haiti

Faima

Faïmi P. Moscova

Sponsorship Manager

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

March 30, 2015

 

Kanaval is the largest of official public celebrations started in Haiti in 1804 in the Capital City, Port-au-Prince. Soon after, it started to spread to the other parts of the country but the official three-day celebration would continue to take place in Port-au-Prince only. These celebrations usually happen before lent time which is 46 days that precede Easter. The season of Kanaval always starts in January (pre-Kanaval) to end on Mardi Gras the day before Ash Wednesday that marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Nonetheless, the main three days of festivities always begin on a Sunday to end on Mardi Gras.

Karnaval

Kanaval is the largest of official public celebrations started in Haiti in 1804.

Annual Kanaval is funded by the government and businesses. In the past Kanaval celebrations were criticized for disregarding indecent dancing, music lyrics mocking the government. Therefore, Kanaval is becoming a more government run celebration. It has control of all of the events. However, the celebrations are an opportunity for people to indulge themselves, rejoice and enjoy the pleasures of life.

Karnaval_2

Kanaval is celebrated with parades, marching bands and music.

Kanaval is celebrated with parades, float bands, marching bands and music and most of the times with children participation. People wear masks, and costumes with lots of color. To give you a glimpse of this important part of Haitian culture, the attached pictures capture the essence of the Kanaval spirit currently happening with floats, marching bands and stands as well as a live video from the streets of Haiti. These cultural celebrations are important to people in sponsored countries. As mentioned, children enjoy these celebrations that help them express who they are. With well-kept communities, these traditions can be everlasting.

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

How to Write to Your Sponsored Child

Rachael

Rachael Wilke Lewis

Teacher

USA

March 23, 2015

 

Think back to when you were a child. You probably craved the attention of your parents and teachers, as well as your older siblings or the neighborhood kids. As the youngest of seven children in the 1980s, I danced to Prince with my oldest sister, played Pac-Man with my annoying older brother on our Atari, and watched gardening shows on PBS with my mother, all to spend time with them and receive some positive one-on-one attention. Decades later, children still want the same things. They crave our time, which can make a tremendous impact on their confidence. As a teacher and a mother, I see how the time and attention I give to the children around me empowers them to take risks and experience growth.

Letter_writer

As Save the Children sponsors, you have the unique ability to give students the gift of your attention through writing. You can invest your time in them while also supporting their literacy learning in the process. While reading is considered a passive activity because the words are already provided, writing requires students to put words on the page in a way that is uniquely theirs. Writing leads to success even for delayed readers because they are using familiar language to create complete thoughts, making rereading their own work easier and confidence-building. This even helps increase their reading abilities in the long-term as well. Since writing is simply communicating on paper, even very young or literacy-delayed students can tell a story or have a conversation through the use of a scribe.

The most important kind of writing (and learning) is authentic in nature. In other words, it has real-life meaning to students. Writing with purpose is most effective at motivating students to want to write. If they know their communications will actually be mailed, read and responded to, even reluctant writers have a true purpose in crafting their letters to you. The more you write and invest in them, the more they will respond to you as well. I am so happy that sponsored children nation-wide have someone who cares about their well-being and growth, and I think you’ll be surprised at how enriching this experience will be for you too. My students are most often my teachers!

So now that you know some great benefits your sponsored child will receive through your letters, you may wonder how to engage their interests. I have a few prompts to help you get started.

Tyriana

Suggested Topics:

    • Pets (include pictures if possible)
    • Favorite outdoor activities
    • The funniest thing that ever happened to you
    • Your favorite thing about school
    • Your favorite thing about your family
    • Your favorite family tradition
    • Your favorite kind of music
    • Something that you do well
    • Something you struggle with but are trying to improve
    • Interesting hobbies

Remember, the more you write, the more students will have a chance to practice their emerging skills. Thank you for making a difference!

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

There’s No Easy Way Back for Vanuatu

EvanSchuurman

Evan Schuurman

Media Officer

Melbourne, Australia

March 18, 2015

 

The following blog first appeared on Herald Sun

Loads of packages covered with “Australian aid” stickers sit in front of me as the C17 hurtles down the runway at Amberley Air Base, just outside Brisbane.

We are bound for Vanuatu, which has just been torn apart by Cyclone Pam, the strongest storm ever to hit the Pacific nation.

I’m among a group of about 40 aid workers and journalists on the flight. We’re joining others to provide immediate relief to the thousands of people — indeed, almost half the population — affected by the crisis.

Australia has committed a package of assistance to the relief effort including $5 million and medical experts and, together with the Federal Government, is playing a key role in the response.

We know the situation is bad but it is only once we are on the tarmac that the complete and utter devastation becomes clear — the airport has no power and uprooted trees with branches ripped off them litter the edge of the airfield. Vanuatuchild

Driving through Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, we are confronted with a scene of staggering devastation: collapsed roofs, fallen power poles, smashed billboards; concrete walls have come down and bricks are strewn along the roadside.

It seems nothing has been spared. Much of the city is without power and the water system has been badly damaged, increasing the risk of disease spreading. There are more than 25 evacuation centres scattered around the city and many, by necessity, are in schools, which will put pressure on the education system.

It’s clear immediately that the devastation of the storm will be felt for many months, probably years — long after the journalists have headed home. Yet amid the chaos, it’s extraordinary how the Vanuatu people are picking up the pieces of their lives and starting to go about their business.

Already some shops are reopening — although everything is being offered for quick sale because of the lack of refrigeration — and many of our Save the Children staff are back at work, with much to do. I wondered if I’d be so quick to get back to work if my home and much of what I owned had been destroyed by a storm.

Just days after the storm, there’s an urgent need for food, water, shelter and communications.

Large swathes of farmland were ripped up by Cyclone Pam and entire crops were lost, as well as the livelihoods that went with them.

In the outer islands, people have only a couple of days of food — and that’s if they’re lucky. Right now, getting food to people as quickly as possible is the absolute priority. Then in the months ahead, there’s a huge job to be done helping people buy and plant new crops and replacing damaged machinery.

Communications is another critical need. In Port Vila my phone signal flickered between “SOS” and a local carrier. As you head just outside the city the reception is even worse — beyond that it is nonexistent.

Aid agencies are yet to make contact with staff members in other parts of the country, meaning that the exact scale of damage and destruction still isn’t fully known.

Physical access is difficult. Roads are blocked by fallen trees, power poles and other debris. As more staff and machinery are flown and shipped in, that will improve, but for now we can only hope the storm was more forgiving in other parts of the country.

Before the storm, Save the Children worked with local communities to prepare for cyclones like this as well as preparing for flooding, earthquakes and landslides.

In Penama and Shefa provinces — where 90 per cent of homes were either badly damaged or destroyed by Pam — we provided education kits on disaster preparedness with session plans and activity guides to teach children how to keep themselves and their families safe.

We also identified community leaders to push the program through local schools, reaching more than 22,000 people.

There were evacuation drills, educational songs and lessons about keeping safe. Children were also encouraged to make sure their families were prepared, developing household plans and keeping important documents like birth certificates safe.

In the days leading up to Cyclone Pam, staff went door to door in many parts of the country ensuring disaster plans were being put in place and encouraging those in low-lying areas to evacuate.

We can only hope that when we finally make contact with those communities that are so far unreachable, the news will be better. Either way, the people of Vanuatu will need help for a long time.

The pallets of aid are an important part of the recovery process, but beyond that schools will need help to reopen and children, who are most vulnerable in disasters, will need special care and psychosocial support so they can recover and roads and infrastructure will need to be rebuilt.

There’s no easy recovery from a storm like Pam. Our Pacific neighbour needs our help and we must be there until the job is done.

Donate to Save the Children’s Cyclone Pam appeal here. 

We Built a School!

Reichman

Judy Reichman, M.D.

LA Associates of Save the Children

Gosu Kora, Ethiopia

March 16, 2015

 

Having traveled for 20 hours to reach Addis Ababa in Ethiopia at 3 AM on January 17th, I did not know if I could gather up the energy to get in a jeep and travel 130 kilometers that same morning to see the school that our group of LA Associates of Save the Children had funded. But when I and the three women who went on this trip arrived, we forgot our fatigue as we were met by hundreds of children, parents, village elders and horseback riders who sang and cheered as we traversed the dirt road leading to the village and school.

School_welcome

Students Welcome LA Associates of Save the Children

Until this year, in order to get to a school for primary education the children had to walk two hours each way from their village! The little ones could not do it, and the older girls were not allowed to attend school unless they had separate latrines. These children and their parents dreamed of their chance to acquire an education; they knew it was the only way they could break their existing bonds of poverty. Save the Children has worked for decades with the government of Ethiopia to help establish schools throughout the country.

Plaque

A Plaque Dedicated to Los Angeles Associates of Save the Children

Once a school is built and supplied the government then provides the teachers and together with the community continues to run them. The local school often becomes the center for democratic participation in governance, child health, child rights and community welfare. It was with this in mind that the LA Associates of Save the Children raised the funds to establish the school in this village. The opportunity our journey afforded us to experience the joy and gratitude of the children and their community was extraordinary. Save the Children is an amazing global organization and we now have a West Coast presence here on LA. I feel honored to be a part of it.

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

Counting Down to “Ebola-Free”

GregDuly

Greg Duly

Country Director

Liberia

March 2, 2015

 

The fight against the Ebola epidemic in Liberia appears to be moving in the right direction. It’s been 20 days since the last case of Ebola has been recorded. Indeed, the last Ebola patient was released from an Emergency Treatment Unit on Thursday of last week. The countdown to declaring Liberia Ebola-free has begun!

Having said that there is still so very much to do. The entire health system, which was weak prior to and now decimated by Ebola, needs to be rebuilt. One of the reasons for "building back better" the health system is so that Ebola cases & other high infectious diseases can be spotted quickly and mitigation protocols put in place immediately. This is a huge undertaking, but essential, and Save the Children will remain at the forefront of this collective effort. Some of the work Save the Children is engaged in is community-sensitisation designed to not only help communities understand and implement basic practices that will prevent the return of Ebola but also rebuild people’s trust in health services and the health workers themselves.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the entire school system was shut down for a 7 month period. This proved very disruptive to children’s learning. I am very proud of Save the Children’s leadership, in tandem with UNICEF, in the development of national protocols for ensuring that schools are places where children can learn and play without fear of contracting ebola. In addition, Save the Children delivered materials and training to 940 schools (more than 20% of the nation’s schools) over a three week period. However, many children are still out of school due to their inability to afford various costs because of the death of the breadwinner(s) in their families. Save the Children is helping these families so that children can get back to school. Ultimately, Save the Children will work on improving the quality of the learning experience of Liberian school children, many of whom finish school without the necessary knowledge and skills.

Many children lost one or both parents during the epidemic. Estimates are that up to 3,000 children may have been orphaned as a result. The nature of the epidemic was such that in many cases these children were abandoned by their relatives or neighbours due to fear. Save the Children has been at the forefront of training foster parents specifically for the purpose of providing them the skills needed to take care of these orphaned children. Given the stigma associated with Ebola-orphaned children, one must admire the altruism and courage of these foster parents.

Additionally, our team provides psychosocial support to children who have had to deal with the loss of family and friends, and have been through an extremely stressful time. During one single week in just one county, 126 cases of children needing psychosocial support were reported to Save the Children.

The epidemic has disrupted the livelihoods of many, many families. Due to the delay in planting the rice crop, rice yields were quite low resulting in a 20 to 30% increase of this staple crop. In response, Save the Children is developing a program which will reach 5,000 households.

So, whilst it is encouraging that Liberia is on track to get to zero, the effects of Ebola will be long lasting and affect children in many ways. There is much to do but thanks t0 the support of our donors, Save the Children is well positioned to make a huge contribution.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.

A Visit to Harirampur

Rajee

N.A Rajee

Senior Sponsorship Retention Officer

Harirampur, Bangladesh

March 9, 2015

 

Unzila lives in the colorful and fruitful village of Harirampur. She is currently in the sixth grade at Harirampur secondary school and her goal is to continue to read and learn. She enjoys reading books provided by Save the Children to enhance her reading skills.

Unzila_book

Unzil in the Sixth Grade at Harirampur Secondary School

Unzila’s family is very supportive of her endeavors and dreams to one day obtain a career and become very successful. Her father is a farmer and her mother is a house-wife. She has one older brother, two younger brothers, and one older sister. Her mother wants her and her siblings to receive a good education. She feels an education can qualify her for a good job or future career and will help her rise in life. Her mother wants her daughter to be a police officer when she grows up.

Unzila knows that the importance of a Save the Children’s intervention is immense because this organization makes many services available in her community and that she as well as other children like her greatly benefit from them. She receives books, de-worming and iron tablets and health related information. February 21st marks International Mother Language Day celebration and the hand washing day organized by Save the Children. These are Unzila’s favorite events.

Unzila_class

Unzil During Class at Harirampur Secondary School

With the help of her sponsor, her family, and Save the Children services Unzila benefits greatly from being a sponsored child. For Unzila, receiving a letter from the sponsor and reading it is a lot of fun. She is a curious girl and would like for her sponsor to write letters about the school children, especially those who are her age, what kind of things they learn in school, and the birds and beasts found most in their (sponsor’s) country. Although Unzila’s sponsor, Michael, has never visited her, she thinks it would be much joy if he did. She nourishes the fantasy of introducing her sponsor-friend to teachers and friends at school, giving him flowers, showing the canals near her home, the barbed wire Bangladesh-India borders and entertaining him with biscuits and chanachur.

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

Ebola: Fighting While Surviving

GregDuly

Greg Duly

Country Director

Liberia

March 2, 2015

 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Blog_March_2015As I reflect on the three weeks of my assignment thus far in Liberia I continue to be impressed by the dedication and sacrifices made by the Liberian national staff. We’ve had tremendous support from expats who’ve come from all parts of the world but our team is nearly 90% Liberians. Demonstrative of the incredible sacrifice and effort that the country has made. 

Unlike international personnel, these staff have had to “live” the reality of the Ebola epidemic in ways the rest of the world cannot contemplate. Not only are our national staff expected to work each day – and for the first few months of the epidemic this meant working seven days a week and 14 or more hours a day – they have also had to keep their families safe or find treatment for them. Simultaneously fighting the epidemic while being victims of its brutality. 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Kebeh_March_2015

Locals like Kebeh, a midwife in our Community Care Center, make up 90% of our aid workers in Liberia

The entire team has done an incredible job across a number of sectors, addressing the direct causes and problems of Ebola Virus with initiatives such as Emergency Treatment Units, Community Care Centres and Active Case Finding/Contact Tracing] while also addressing the indirect issues such as getting schools in shape for children to safely learn in them and aiding those children who have been orphaned.

Ultimately it will be Liberians who rebuild the country but that doesn’t mean the international community can’t help. I am very proud of the dedication & commitment of our Save the Children colleagues who’ve courageously left their current postings and offered to serve in Liberia, but I am humbled by the wholehearted commitment by our Liberian colleagues who have really stepped up to tackle this dreaded scourge.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.

Changing Mindsets

Joao

Joao Sitoi

Sponsorship Manager

Chitlalo, Mozambique

March 30, 2015

 

During August, I went to Chitlalo with a group of colleagues for an appointment with the local leadership. Save the Children was arranging to phase out of the community. We wanted to talk about our achievements and to assess community satisfaction.

Amelia_2

Volunteer Amelia Mondlane advising a family on illness prevention, hygiene and environmental sanitation.

The community mentioned several achievements made with help from sponsorship funding, including classrooms, a well, latrines and the ongoing training of teachers. Amelia Mondlane, a health activist and sponsorship volunteer in the community, raised an important issue that was remarkable to me. “Our community has changed a lot because Save the Children taught us about the causes of diseases,” she said. “At first, we did not know that water can cause diseases. Many people, children and adults, suffered from diarrhea and malaria in our community. When Save the Children built a well in the school, a group of local community members was trained to look after it and to do maintenance.”

The group Amelia is in charge of was committed to changing the mentality of their community, showing them the strong impact of building latrines. Before that, very few families had latrines.

Amelia

Amelia Mondlane volunteering in Chitlalo, Mozambique

“Our kids could only use latrines at school,” Amelia told us. “Once back home, they were forced to defecate in the bush, and it worried us so much. It was not easy, but today after many years, almost everyone has a latrine.”

Another thing mentioned was that after it rains, every family is tasked with covering the remaining rainwater around their houses because it can attract mosquito nests. “Today,” Amelia finished, “there is no more diarrhea and malaria has been greatly reduced. Thank you Save the Children! We learned a lot from you, and we are implementing everything with success!”

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