Why Help American Children?

Nicole

Nicole Smith

Sponsorship Team

Fairfield, USA

April 27, 2015

 

Having recently joined the US sponsorship team at Save the Children (STC), I have been afforded a privileged perspective of the mechanisms behind US humanitarianism as well as an understanding of its real-world challenges. From building program evaluation tools and data analysis that shape the future of US programming to reviewing thousands of photos of sponsored children, my time with STC sponsorship enables the necessary marriage of lofty goals with knowledge of what supporting children day-to-day in schools across the country takes.

But why children? Why American children?
My time with STC prompts me to reflect on the fruit of our work. As a cultural anthropology Ph.D. student researching humanitarian aid, I perpetually ask why help goes to one and not another person, cause, or place. Through my studies, I know that American children face unique developmental, environmental, and health-related challenges. Few places in the world do we see children experiencing simultaneous malnutrition and obesity or illiteracy amidst free education. My studies also tell me that, despite the challenges, targeting US youth can result in significant and sustainable impacts.

For my colleagues and I, the answer to “Why help American children?” is because STC successfully addresses the unique challenges US children face by making local impact for the next generation. I know this from the program results STC tirelessly tracks, but also as a sponsorship team member, I get to hear from the children themselves. The Lexington, KY office reviews thousands of letters from children to their sponsors. It is common to read “Now I know I’m a smart boy”, or “I’m good at reading” in a child’s scribbly handwriting. While STC tracks program results, hearing first-hand that a child isn’t “afraid to read out loud in class” breathes life to statistics behind sponsorship and the programs it funds.

Knowing that work done by the STC sponsorship team ultimately contributes to benefitting children in local communities and across the states is not only personally gratifying, it substantiates humanitarianism for the many American children facing unique challenges today.

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

Walking Near the Epicenter: #NepalEarthquake

Our voice in the field is Save the Children's Senior Director for Humanitarian Operations Gary Shaye.  

Gary Shaye_81905The news of yesterday’s earthquake in Nepal was extremely personal for me, especially when I saw that its epicenter was in the very area through which I had walked so many times during my seven years there with Save the Children.  

My Work in Rural Nepal

Several years ago, I was assigned to initiate Save the Children’s country program in Nepal’s Gorkha District, midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Save the Children’s programs at that time were focused in Gorkha, in an area of small, rural villages, north of the main road. From that road, our team spent three to six hours walking to the villages where we worked. Later, our work expanded to even more distant parts of Gorkha, reaching populations who lived as far as four to six days’ walk from the nearest road. Over the years, we worked in hundreds of remote, rural communities and with many thousands of Nepal’s children and families.

What News of Rural Children

I am deeply troubled and saddened by the loss of life and the horrific devastation in Nepal’s densely populated urban areas of Kathmandu and the neighboring cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, as we’ve all seen in the news. However, because the communities nearest the epicenter are so remote, with roads often blocked and access so challenging, news from rural areas is slow in coming. I have walked those roads and worked closely with those people, so I am anxious to know how they are. I worry that the simple mud and brick homes, as well as the many schools Save the Children helped villagers construct, may not have survived the quake. Mostly, I worry for the lives of those children and families.


15-NP-10_162441Children in Crisis

I have worked for Save the Children now for nearly 40 years, half that time spent in the field, including as Country Director in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So I know what Nepal’s children and families are likely facing now. Children in crisis are always among the most vulnerable – and they often suffer more. There is an overwhelming sense of loss – loss of home, loss of family members and friends, loss of the safety and structure of school. Every aspect of children’s daily routines disrupted. Children may be injured. They may be separated and alone. In an instant, a child’s life is turned upside down.

We Must Help Them Now

We must provide immediate aid to Nepal’s suffering children and their families, both in its urban areas and its remote, rural communities. And we must help them now, because we are indeed in a race against the onset of the monsoon rains, as close to six or seven weeks away, which will only increase our challenges.

Far Away, But Close to My Heart

When one travels by foot, scores of times, over the same roads and across trails, you really get to know and love a country and, most importantly, its people. I learned a lot on my journeys in Nepal.

So I am going to do whatever is possible now to let everyone know about the remarkable and resilient people of Nepal – especially those who live in areas that are remote in distance, but for me, so very close to my heart.

How You Can Help 

Please give generously to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake. 

Nepal Earthquake: Aid Worker’s Firsthand Account from the Field

A firsthand account of the massive earthquake and Save the Children’s plans for how to help the children of Nepal.

Our voice in the field is Brad Kerner, part of Save the Children’s team on the ground responding to the deadly earthquake in Nepal. He was in Nepal when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck and is in Kathmandu assisting with our emergency relief efforts. Here he shares his firsthand account of the massive earthquake and Save the Children’s plans for how to help the children of Nepal. 

Brad Kerner_162443Nestled in the majestic Himalayan mountains, Nepal is near the top of the world and home to Mount Everest. I’ve always been in awe of the snowy peaks and fond of the gentle Nepalese children I’ve had the honor to work with over the years.

I was hiking with friends on the rim of a pristine lake. We were enjoying our day off, celebrating a colleague’s birthday. Then suddenly in the distance, we saw buildings start to shake. Then the rumbling sounds started. People ran out of buildings, but the shaking ground knocked them off their feet like game pieces on a chessboard that had been turned over. We felt the ground shake as the shockwave came crashing toward us. We huddled together, instinctively, for stability. I’ve never been more frightened in my life – I was paralyzed with fear and clung to my friends for dear life. We watched as buildings collapsed and houses came crashing down. The sounds of destruction and dogs barking filled our ears. The quake lasted little more than a minute – but it felt like an eternity.

15-NP-5_162433At first, we didn’t know the extent of the damage. Communications were down. My wife saw the news back in the states and was frantically trying to contact me. Thankfully, she reached me within a few hours.

We slept in a tent for the night and then headed back to Save the Children headquarters in Kathmandu, where our staff was readying our response to the disaster. What’s typically a 4-hour trip took more than 7 hours, but we were grateful that the roads were relatively intact. So many homes have been damaged and destroyed. The aftershocks make it unsafe to be inside. It is still cold here in the mountains, and it rained last night, but people are fearful to return to their homes and are sleeping outside in makeshift tents.   

Our teams have been working around the clock in response to the earthquake. The first phase includes the distribution of emergency supplies like tarps and other materials children and families need to survive. The next phase will also include protecting children who have been orphaned or separated from their families during this tragic disaster. As a public health professional, I have great concerns about the potential for the spread of disease in the coming days. With little or no access to clean water and proper sanitation, conditions are ripe for diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. These diseases are already the second leading cause of death for young children around the world. 

We are doing everything we can to keep children safe from harm and help families recover in the aftermath of the earthquake. We have more than 500 highly trained staff members in Nepal, many of whom have received intensive emergency response training. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our donors that will enable us to give children what they need to survive this horrific disaster and recover in the days, weeks and months to come. On behalf of Nepal’s children and families, thank you.

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More about Brad: Brad lives in Connecticut with his wife and children. They have two sons, ages 7 and 5, and a 10-month-old daughter. A veteran aid worker, Brad has been with Save the Children for a decade, and this is his 10th trip to Nepal. He had been working in Pokhara, Nepal on our health education programs – about 125 miles away from the capital city of Kathmandu – not far from the epicenter of the earthquake. Brad is highly regarded by his colleagues for his expertise and adored for his good humor. He is also one tough man – literally! When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he is an avid endurance athlete. He has competed in the Tough Mudder – a hardcore, 10-mile team obstacle challenge. 

How You Can Help 

Please give generously to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake. 

Nezamuddin Learns to Make #Teaching Easier and Fun

Author

Amanullah Qasemi

Education Officer

Faryab Province, Afghanistan

April 20, 2015

 

Nezamuddin is one of the teachers in Gorziwan district of Faryab Province, one of the Sponsorship impact areas in Afghanistan. He is 57 years old and has been a teacher for the last 12 years. Nezamuddin teaches history, math, Dari, and Islamic subjects for grades 7th to 9th and is also a member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). He is married and has seven children, four sons and three daughters. He has 14 grandchildren and all his unmarried eligible sons, daughters, and grandchildren are going to school.

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Nezamuddin Presenting

Nezamuddin is a very friendly man and always welcomes me warmly when I meet him out in the field. He says that the majority of parents in their community are illiterate due to limited access to education and several years of civil war. He adds that also a decade ago parents were not interested in sending their children to school because they didn’t know about the importance of education. But after Save the Children started programs in their village in 2006 and established the PTA as a bridge between the school, the community and the parents, PTA members and teachers mobilized the community and raised awareness. Now the majority of school-aged children are attending school. He says that now all parents in his village believe that education is the right of each child and have dreams for their children to complete their education and become teachers, doctors, and engineers and serve their community by earning money for their livelihood from such a good way.

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Nezamuddin in a Work Group

Nezamuddin has seen a noticeable difference since Save the Children entered his community. He says that lecture was the only teaching method before, but now he and the other teachers use different active child-centered methods in the class, through interesting and child friendly teaching and learning materials. Nezamuddin continues to receive training on child-centered methodologies, positive discipline methods, and disaster risk reduction. Save the Children has also provided access to books for the children, playground equipment in the school yard, safe latrines and drinking water, construction of a school boundary wall for ensuring safety, and school desks and chairs. Nezamuddin says these have all been factors to increase child attendance rates and learning outcomes. The children are interested in attending class and participate and learn better. Nezamuddin adds, “As a teacher, teaching a class has been much easier and more enjoyable for me now comparing to the past.” Nezamuddin thanks Save the Children and sponsors for supporting their school, teachers, and children and providing such a golden opportunity for them!

Your sponsorship has helped to make the Gorziwan district PTA and other teaching programs possible. What other ways would you like to hear about how your sponsorship helps children?

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

Helping Children Understand Their Rights

Faimi

Faimi P. Moscova

Sponsorship Manager

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

April 13, 2015

 

The Convention on the Rights of a Child, a United Nations human rights treaty, is quite complex and utopian to a child’s mind, but when summarized and explained it becomes more tangible. Being conscious of this, the Sponsorship Education Team used this approach to increase children’s participation in commemorating the Global Child Rights Day. As our program in Dessalines includes children’s advocacy within the schools and communities, we wanted to do something special for the children themselves to be promoters of their own rights.

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A Student Her Work on Children’s Rights

The activities were welcome by the nine participating schools and teachers were very supportive in facilitating the peer learning sessions. The peer learning experience played an important role in helping the children to understand their entitlements and their roles as members of their communities. The students benefited from an in-depth examination of the children’s rights principles, to then compare to what challenges they face every day. Afterwards, children from 1st to 3rd grade were invited to create drawings, while children from 4th to 6th grade developed short essays, reflecting on the rights they had learned about and their points of view.

Students then presented their works to their communities, with the support of their respective school staff. One memorable text was written by a 5th grade girl who is a restavèk, a domestic worker who goes to school in the afternoon. She never thought about being a victim in regards to her rights, but as she acquired full knowledge she wanted to raise awareness by sharing her story. She told of the things that she would have loved to enjoy as an adolescent. “People don’t give children restavèk enough food to eat, they don’t let them sleep early whereas they are the ones to wake up first in the morning.” She continued, “Even children in restavèk must have the right to sleep, to go to school, and the right to have three meals a day.”

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Three Students Receiving Awards

With her new knowledge on her rights as a child, she believes with a good education she will be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. What do you know about the Convention on the Rights of a Child? How does helping children understand their rights in relationship to their community and the greater world support their education and their development?

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

New Consensus Challenging Us to ‘Embrace Previously Unimaginable Possibilities’

DevexBlogA consensus is emerging within the global development community about the rapidly shifting landscape: It is no longer about government or institutional donors, international nongovernmental organizations and projects.

 

Complex global challenges, evolving science and technology, and new resources — including private investments, are challenging us to think in new ways and embrace previously unimaginable possibilities. Poverty, illiteracy and hunger are seen as some of the great economic and business challenges of our time, worthy of the best minds and plans from both the business and philanthropy sectors. We are at a time in history where we can actually imagine solving these thorny problems. Read more at Devex.

My First Field Visit

Charity

Charity Banda

SHN program Officer

Lufwanyama. Zambia

April 6, 2015

 

I recently joined the sponsorship team as SHN Program Officer after having worked with Save the Children as Training Coordinator under the Health project. This was my first visit to a center that is being supported under the sponsorship program. I was looking forward to seeing what really goes on.

The first Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) center we visited is at slab level and the community school is at footing level. The next ECCD centre we visited is at roof level. The team I travelled with praises the volunteers for the works that are looking proficiently done and moving at a good pace. The volunteer teachers and builders from the ECCD centre and the community school are very happy and inform the visiting team that the community has already organized more sand and stones and are anxiously waiting for the rains to subside in order for them to continue with the construction works.

The ECCD teacher tells the team that the attendance has been low for the past two days because children are afraid of attending school for fear of the stray dogs that have been terrorizing the community members. However, the officers from the Veterinary Department have been to the area to try and arrest the situation.

I am wondering why they are so excited when the works are just at slab and footing levels and far from completion, they tell me they know that they will soon have a safe place to teach and learn from unlike the past when the structures they were using were almost death traps for both the children and pupils, they say they cannot wait for the day these will be completed.

Sponsorship Programs in Zambia supports construction and rehabilitation of some ECCD centers and Community schools in Lufwanyama District to provide a quality learning environment. St Joseph’s is one of the communities were such constructions are taking place. The community’s contributions towards constructions or rehabilitation works are sand, stones and unskilled labor. Save the children program provides cement, roofing sheets, doors, glass panes, while Ministry of education provides skilled builders. In the mean time most children have their lessons from nearby local churches.

I am very excited and encouraged to be part of the team that will work with this community and help bring the much needed change to provide quality education to children. I can already see myself wanting to visit every month to follow up on the many good things I have seen and heard. Like the community, I can’t wait for the day these buildings will be complete and in use.

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

Searching For Family In Idleb City, Syria

*Muhamad

Save the Children Aid Worker

Idleb, Syria

April 2, 2015

It was Friday evening when I got the call. My family inside Idleb city wanted me to help them get out, to escape the fighting and airstrikes. It was two days before I was finally able to get there and in that time I could not speak to them as all the lines were down. I didn’t sleep those two nights. Sunday morning I was in a car with two of my friends, all of us searching for our families who we had lost contact with, going back to our home city that we had not seen for more than two years.

The journey to Idleb felt so long because we were so silent thinking about how the city would look. We held our breath as we crossed deserted check points. We were three grown men in a car with eyes full of tears shouting, “We are here; we are inside our city; we are finally here.”

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(Photo not from Idleb)

All around were destroyed tanks and cars, holes gaping in the sides of the buildings. After a few streets we drove past the main fuel station that had been destroyed by an airstrike. Then we reached a hospital in the city center that was still on fire after having been hit by an airstrike; it was here that those caught in the latest fighting were brought, the injured and the dead.

Finally I arrived at my street. With teary eyes, I jumped the stairs and knocked at my door full of happiness. ‘Open the door, it is me, I am back!’ But there is no response. Sitting on the stairs I feel hopeless wondering, ‘Where are they? Are they safe? Is Lara my niece crying and waiting for me to come back as I always promised I would?’

Disappointed with myself for being late, I struggle down the stairs. As I reach the street, I see three dead bodies left on the pavement in front of my house.

Driving around the city in an attempt to find my family I stop at a number of schools that now stand abandoned although you can still see the children’s drawings attached to the fence. I met three teachers I knew who were very concerned about their relatives and their students. A teacher said to me with a sigh, ‘Do you know Mohammed R? His child is a student in my class. Their house was destroyed by an airstrike yesterday night; I don’t know what happen to them. I hope they are alive.’

As we stood watching a group of children in the street, another of the teachers said, ‘Poor children, they have lost everything. They lost their happiness, their education, and their dreams! Who is going to help them.’ He did not know that I am now working for Save the Children.

I kept driving and saw the fear on the faces of people staring up at the sky and a few minutes later, I heard a big explosion close by. Driving away, I saw a family of three adults and five children squeezing themselves into a small car. All the children were crying and a woman was saying to a girl of about seven and a boy of about five, ‘My dears don’t cry, the aircraft is far from us.’ Once they were in the car they left, one of the many families fleeing the city for somewhere a little bit safer. Moving out the city are trucks and cars filled with people, searching for somewhere to stay. Many are moving in with extended family members, into collective shelters, others into makeshift camps on farmland in the hope of safety that in Syria is always so elusive.

Most of the services in the city have stopped, although a few shops are open and some organisations are providing emergency food and other help. One of my friends is a doctor, and he said that because there is no electricity throughout the city he is worried about the vaccines stored in the medical stores. Another friend’s sisters told me that the government building where all the students’ records are stored is in an area where there is frequent shelling and airstrikes. If these are lost, what happens to those children’s futures?

Since the fighting in Idleb started over two weeks ago all children have stopped school and amongst the thousands of people who have already fled Idleb are many teachers. My sister is one of these. She is worried about how and when she will be able to start her work again. All these teachers need a way to support their families and are now looking for other sources of income. Education is so important to people in Idleb, and before this latest fighting attendance at the schools in the city was very high – at odds with much of the rest of the country. Education is what parents tell me is one of their major concerns for their children. But with teachers and families dispersing, schools filling up with displaced families, or even targeted in the fights, where will these children go and who will teach them.

Finally after driving through my city for hours, I go back to my house hoping that my family might be there. They weren’t but a neighbor tells me that they managed to leave the city and are now in a town two hours away. I have still not seen my niece Lara, my sister or the rest of my family but at least I know that for now they are safe.

* is a pseudonym

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