The Warning Bell Has Rung: Will the World Hear It?

The tiny boy’s chest rose and fell fast as he lay on the thin mattress of the hospital bed, his grandmother by his side. As I watched him struggle, I asked the doctor looking over him what was wrong. His diagnosis was severe malnutrition complicated by a serious case of pneumonia. Pneumonia kills more children under 5 than any other single disease in Ethiopia and, layered on top of a case of severe malnutrition, Mohammed’s little life hung precariously in the balance on the day I met him. This was his second visit to the district hospital in the last few months and his mother and grandmother had traveled over 100 miles to get him there. He is one of 400,000 children in Ethiopia now suffering from severe malnutrition due to lack of food caused by the worst drought in 50 years.

 

In the United States, El Niño is causing warm spells in the Northeast, flooding in the Midwest and forest fires in California—but its severity and duration this year is wreaking havoc on Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa and threatening tremendous progress made over the last 25 years. Ethiopia is a country I often hold up as an example of what can be done, especially with strong government leadership and partners. Ethiopia has reduced child mortality by two thirds, meeting that element of the Millennium Development Goals several years even before the 2015 target; the vast majority of Ethiopian children are enrolled in primary school; and the country’s innovative health system serves families through clinics in even the poorest communities with more than 30,000 health workers supported by the government. Governments and partners invested in an early warning system that monitors rainfall and soil moisture, which rang the alarm in mid-2015 that a drought was imminent. But alarm bells don’t do much good—and won’t save children’s lives—if no one listens to them.

 

CarolynEthiopia copy

 

I met several struggling families on my trip to the Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia this week. For many, their cattle had died or been sold off for half their value due to lack of food for the animals. Almost 80% of the population is dependent on rain-fed agriculture, so the failure of three successive rainy seasons has left families with no crops to sell or to eat. Now they are receiving monthly rations and children are slipping from moderately malnourished to severely so, every day. Children have started dropping out of school because they must instead walk for hours to collect the scarce water that is available.

 

The Government of Ethiopia has mounted a strong response to the drought, vowing that they won’t see the suffering of 1984 repeated. Governments like the US, Norway and the U.K. have also stepped up aid to Ethiopia to provide food, water, animal feed and health services like treatment for malnutrition through Save the Children and other organizations on the ground. But many others haven’t. The sheer scale of the drought means more resources—food and money—must be mobilized now, both from those who have already given and especially from those who have not. There’s no time for delay.

 

I left the Dubti Hospital that day with the very real worry that Mohammed might not make it through his tremendous struggle against pneumonia and malnutrition. But thankfully he was receiving the medical support he needed. At the same time hundreds of thousands of others were struggling just like him that day, and each day since, often without food or access to medical care.

 

The warning bell has sounded—we cannot be deaf to it. We cannot wait for more children to suffer before we are moved to act.

Celebrating the Kick Off of Sponsorship in Uganda

Author Portrait_Samuel Tusubira, Sponsorship Manager, Uganda

Samuel Tusubira

Sponsorship Manager

Uganda

December 21, 2015

Kicking off the sponsorship program in Uganda could not go without taking time to celebrate this grand moment, not only for children and their communities but also for the entire staff of the Uganda Country Office. 

Happy children enjoying on the day of enrollment

Happy children enjoying on the day of enrollment

The children and communities in Uganda face many challenges, such as abject poverty, health hazards like malaria and HIV/AIDS, low access to and quality of education, and abuse of their human rights. For them, the start of a sponsorship program is like a new dawn of hope coming alive from a terrible night of wonder. 

Children and their caregivers could not hide their joy on realizing that the long-anticipated sponsorship program had finally kicked off and children were actually being enrolled. The enrollment was initiated after several sensitization meetings with local leaders, community members, teachers, caregivers and children, during which Save the Children staff told about the organization, the sponsorship program and the ways of partnering for the wellbeing of children. The inauguration of the sponsorship program is envisaged as a long term opportunity for joining efforts in addressing issues affecting the welfare of children, with a special focus on better education.

The enrollment exercise included caregivers signing or thumb-printing on the consent forms, staff filling in the biographical information for each child, and the taking of the children’s portrait photos. The day was full of fun and excitement, especially for the kids upon seeing their individual photos in the camera. I observed that the way sponsorship activities are conducted can always be made fun for the children.

It was a worthwhile moment for Save the Children staff to set aside a little time to celebrate the effort and support. Everyone had contributed towards bringing us to that moment in some way, through proposal writing, carrying out feasibility studies, supporting “go” or “no go” decision making as we selected our communities and programming, plus the many other steps involved in the startup process.

A couple of excited girls line up to have their portrait taken for the first time

A couple of excited girls line up to have their portrait taken for the first time

After enrollment, Uganda Country Office staff were able to gather, clad in their amazing red Save the Children t-shirts and caps, to toast to the day’s event, dubbed “Uganda Sponsorship Go-Live”. We all watched as our Country Director Barbara Burroughs pressed the enter button that finally launched the webpage showing children from Uganda being promoted around the world.

The day’s celebration closed with cake cutting and some refreshments, as well as a group photo. The whole staff held up their caps in glee towards kickstarting an 8 to 10 year program aimed at promoting the wellbeing of children through strong, focused and proven programming.

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

Tracy Meets Patrick and His Community

Author Portrait_Agnes Zalila, Sponsorship Manager, Save the Children, Kalulushi Sub Office, Zambia

Agnes Zalila

Sponsorship Manager, Save the Children, Kalulushi Sub-Office

Zambia

December 14, 2015

Today is an extraordinary day not only for Patrick but for all the children in his community and the entire Save the Children team in Zambia. Today his sponsor is visiting him and she is the first sponsor to ever visit since the inception of the sponsorship program in Lufwanyama, Zambia! 

Tracy with Patrick and his classmates

Tracy with Patrick and his classmates

Patrick, age 6, lives in one of the communities where Save the Children has recently opened an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Center. He and other children in his community all benefit together from the sponsorship program. He feels very lucky to have the opportunity to go to the ECCD Center and learn so much. The community never had such learning facilities for children Patrick’s age until Save the Children phased in. 

Patrick’s sponsor Tracy was greeted by the Sponsorship Team and then taken to Nkana, the community where Patrick lives with his family. First, Tracy went to Patrick’s school where a warm gathering including parents, teachers, caregivers and children was expecting her. She was given a big welcome by everybody, most importantly from Patrick who was very shy, but excited. The two seemed to be short of words as they stared at each other and exchanged big smiles.

Tracy then had the opportunity to witness some program activities on health and nutrition, specifically those that address the issues of water and sanitation. Additionally, even though schools were on holiday, Tracy was able to meet with Patrick’s friends and classmates.

Tracy pumping water at one of the pumps

Tracy pumping water at one of the pumps

Tracy greatly appreciated this experience. She plans to share the story of her trip with her students back in New York, so they too can understand more about what life is like for children in Zambia. We encourage more sponsors to visit the communities and programs Save the Children supports. Tracy has pledged to come back and says she will be more prepared next time as she understands the realities better now. The Zambia Country Office team hopes that she will be an ambassador for the country and encourage many other sponsors to take the journey as well. The community also thanked Tracy as one of their generous sponsors and expressed their great appreciation for her support towards improving the education and wellbeing of children in their community.

What is most notable today is that now the community, children, staff, Tracy and Patrick can attach faces to the other end of the sponsor-child communications.

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

Teaching a Trouble Maker to Love Learning

Author Portrait_Vinita Thapa, Junior Officer, Media and Communication

Vinita Thapa

Junior Officer, Media and Communication

Nepal

December 7, 2015

On my first day in Achham, a hilly district in the far west of Nepal, I landed in Santosh's grade 3 classroom. Filled with many colors and drawings displayed along the walls, the classroom looked like an indoor playground decorated with teaching materials, most of which were made by students and teachers.

As I sat down to learn how the teacher ran her classes, I spotted Santosh, sitting and listening to the teacher while also managing to laugh and smile quietly with his classmates. He looked a bit mischievous. However he would raise his hand to answer questions and participate actively in the group learning activities.  

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-01-13/5f941cce659943b1856a951b94a272da.png

Santosh showing off the car he made out of mud and sticks

I spoke to his teacher to know more about him. Santosh had been known as a boy who picked fights with his teachers and friends in school. Due to his lack of interest in his studies he had to repeat grade 2, while all his friends progressed to a higher grade. I became more curious about him.

When I had the chance to ask him some questions, I asked Santosh about his experience in school. He shared that initially, he disliked coming to school because he was having a hard time understanding what was happening in the classroom. When he was unable to complete the lessons being taught, he was often punished.

In Santosh’s school, teaching styles gradually changed after the implementation of the Active Teaching Learning method, which encourages teachers to use locally available learning materials and to allow children to become an active element in the learning process. In an active teaching and learning class like Santosh's, teachers and students are on the same level, discussing, drawing, singing, dancing, taking turns asking questions and answering them, and laughing as they spend time in class. Santosh excitedly told me about the ways he learns in class, using balls, blocks, colorful charts, songs and even natural materials like stones or sticks. He proudly showed me a car he made out of mud and sticks.

Santosh looked happy in the classroom, finally able to understand what his teachers taught. For him, school has become fun because his teacher is now more like a mentor or friend and less like a disciplinarian or authority there to punish him.

Speaking to Santosh took me back to my own school days, when the only way the teacher taught was through textbooks and us repeating whatever was being taught. Being unable to memorize lessons completely had landed me in trouble many times and I too was punished. I remember how much it discouraged me and instilled a sense of fear.

Santosh and his friends in their colorful classroom

Santosh and his friends in their colorful classroom

Spending a day in Santosh's classroom reminded me that things have changed now, even in this remote part of my country. Now classrooms are playgrounds where you learn through play.

As a part of the Basic Education program, Save the Children provides training to teachers and school staff to help them make classrooms more interactive and joyful. We are proud to say that with the help of our dedicated sponsors, the program has now reached sixteen districts in Nepal. Thank you for your support!

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

A Community Leader Knows

Author Portrait_Mengos Nazare Sebastiao, Basic Education Coordinator

Mengos Nazare Sebastiao

Basic Education Coordinator/Guinée

Mozambique

November 29, 2015

João Ussene is an old and wise man, born in Mecunula and still living there with his family. Currently he is the community leader and serving as chairperson and president of the primary school committee. 

The kind face of João Ussene, community leader and president of the primary school council

The kind face of João Ussene, community leader and president of the primary school council

In his own words, João tells us that he knows from A to Z what is being implemented by the Save the Children sponsorship program in his community.

Before the program entered, the situation in the school was not good. Children were studying in very poor conditions. There were no classrooms, desks, chairs or adequate blackboards. Additionally the school had untrained teachers, so João tells us that both children and teachers were really suffering.

When Save the Children started to implement sponsorship programming, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, he says, and things started to change. Currently the school has new classrooms, an administrative block and 7 latrines under construction. Moreover, teachers are benefiting from monthly trainings through the Literacy Boost program, a Save the Children approach to improving reading skills that will allow teachers to help school children to read and write throughout the different stages of their educational development.

The community leader tells us he can see smiles on the faces of children when the community is receiving school materials and parents are now really engaged with school issues. Both these results of the sponsorship program positively contribute towards motivating children to go to school and keep going to school. João sends a very big koxukuro (thank you in Makua, the local language) to sponsors, expressing his great gratitude and appreciation for their generosity in helping his beloved community look ahead at a brighter future.

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

Tablets for Field Work

Author Portrait_Adama Soro, IT Manager, Bamako Office, Save the Children Mali & Guinée

Adama Soro

IT Manager, Bamako Office, Save the Children Mali/Guinée

Mali

November 23, 2015

Adama Soro is the IT Manager at the Bamako Office of Save the Children in Mali and Guinée. Recently he travelled to Sikasso, the sponsorship impact area we work in here in Mali, to train sponsorship field agents on collecting child data electronically with a tablet.

For the first time ever, the sponsorship team underwent our child enrollment process using the tablet. To explain a bit more about our process, each child enrolled in our sponsorship program has a form that contains biographical information about him or her and allows the field worker to identify the child through his or her portrait photograph. Each year, new information on all the children enrolled in sponsorship is collected and updated in our sponsorship database. This information is used to populate an annual report on each sponsored child for his or her sponsor. This update includes information such as their current grade, favorite subject, daily activities, dreams for the future, favorite activity or game and the different programs that he or she participated in during the year. The field workers also take a new photo of the child. This new tool will help avoid any child data confusion.

The team testing out the new technology in the field

The team testing out the new technology in the field

After the theoretical training was conducted at the Sikasso office, the sponsorship team, along with the IT manager and staff who work in the field, travelled to the impact area for the first live test of our new technology. Niena was chosen as the first test community, located about 75 kilometers from Sikasso. The data collection is always done at schools in the community. We searched for the children by name in the tablet and used their stored picture, now easily viewable on the tablet. The child then confirmed if it is his or her photo and we started to update the child data electronically.

Each field worker did a test using the tablet for at least one child. They found that the electronic data collection is much faster and more efficient than paper collection. The whole team looks forward to gaining familiarity with this new technological tool in sponsorship: the tablet.

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

Arninda Gets Inspired

Author Portrait_Erniatun Hartini, Communication Officer - Sponsorship

Erniatun Hartini

Communication Officer – Sponsorship

Indonesia

November 16, 2015

Arninda, a third grader in West Sumba, Indonesia, beamed with excitement as a Save the Children staff member delivered a letter to her, knowing that she just received something from her Korean sponsor. She proudly showed the letter to her friends in class and teacher.

“I always wait for Save the Children staff to come here and to deliver a letter from my sponsor. I am proud to be a sponsored child. Every time I receive a letter, I always show it to my friends and I cannot wait to show the letter to my parents at home. They are proud of me since I have a friend abroad through Save the Children’s sponsorship program. I call my sponsor a ‘friend’,” Arninda said enthusiastically.

As she read through her letter, Arninda’s eyes shone brightly. Her Korean friend congratulated her achievement in school during the last semester, for achieving first rank with the best grades in her class. “I heard that you achieved the first rank in your class during the last semester. Congratulations! Honestly, I have never had scores so high. I am so proud of you!” Arninda’s voice trembled with excitement as she read the praise aloud. 

Arninda receiving a letter

Arninda receiving a letter

The letter has motivated Arninda to study even harder. She is very happy to be supported by a caring and loving sponsor. Although she walks over a mile to school everyday, it does not matter to her anymore. She never complains even though it is always difficult during the rainy season. Her spirit to study harder grows with the knowledge that she is so well supported by Save the Children’s programs. She wants to make her parents and also her sponsor proud.

Arninda also said that she would like to learn English so that someday she can write a letter to her sponsor in English. She wants to show her gratitude to her sponsor in this way. She has already learned some English words such as “hi” and “thank you” to get ready.

Arninda is a smart and clever student. Her teacher says she is a fast and enthusiastic learner. She never leaves class even when its raining and the road is slippery and she never loses her enthusiasm to study. Arninda shares that she wants to be a teacher. “I am inspired by my teacher to share my knowledge with others. I want to stand in front of the class and teach, like my teacher does. Being a teacher is an awesome job… I want to make Sumbanese children smarter by receiving a better education.”

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

A School Principal on the Sustainability of Sponsorship

Author Portrait_Yamileh Theodore, Sr. Officer Sponsorship Operations

Yamileh Theodore

Sr. Officer Sponsorship Operations

Haiti

November 9, 2015

Recently I travelled to the town of Dessalines, where I met Jeanty, the school principal. Save the Children has partnered with his school in Haiti since 2012, however Jeanty has been working there since 1996, when he started as a teacher. Jeanty is not only a school principal but considered a notable and wise member of his community. He was eager to talk to me to testify on the positive impact of the sponsorship programs in his school and community. 

Principal Jeanty behind his desk

Principal Jeanty behind his desk

In the peaceful environment of his office, Jeanty begins by telling me how helpful and effective the different activities being implemented by Save the Children are. According to him, the Basic Education and School Health & Nutrition programs are the most important because they help improve children’s performance and wellbeing in schools. He really appreciates Save the Children’s support through the trainings provided to teachers and school principals. Additionally, he expresses the importance of Save the Children’s role in securing school supplies, pedagogical materials and especially books through the book loan program.

Jeanty affirms that Save the Children’s program package of interventions also reached schools and the community as a whole through nutrition and hygiene education trainings. He remembers last summer our organization marked its presence in this area by providing first aid kits to all partnered schools, as well as medicine and first aid care that positively impacted people in the communities. Additionally they offered parents, teachers and children training on hygiene and first aid care that included proper hand washing, teeth brushing and environmental care techniques. The most visible impact he remembers seeing was students becoming an intermediate in the dissemination of information, sharing what they learned with parents, other children and the whole community.

Jeanty recognizes also within Save the Children’s Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) program “Parent, pitit ann pale” or “Parents, children let’s talk”. This program addresses the daily realities of Haitian families and teaches parents how to talk to their children about sexual health and the prevention of STIs, AIDS, early pregnancy, the use of drugs and other forms of juvenile delinquency. Jeanty remembers that for a long time, the community saw many young girls getting pregnant. “Now, we have seen a decrease in this situation thanks to Save the Children.” He continues, “We can now see the presence of parents’ committees in the schools that incite them [other parents] to be more involved in their children’s school life. Something that didn’t exist before.”

Jeanty meeting with a few teachers

Jeanty meeting with a few teachers

He believes the school belongs to the community and no longer to him, which makes him feel very proud.

Jeanty concludes with me by saying that Save the Children’s work has considerably changed their way of doing things, especially in the partnered schools. They have a clear understanding on how to delegate tasks and manage their schools. “I am very motivated to work with Save the Children because they teach us not to always expect to receive but to give to others. I know for sure now, if the organization leaves the community we will be able to continue the work they started.”

He hopes that the organization will go further to reach other communities where the needs are greater, and wishes a long life to Save the Children.

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

Thank You from Tatiana, Age 12

Author Portrait_Tatiana, School Health and Nutrition Brigadier

Tatiana

School Health and Nutrition Brigadier

El Salvador

November 2, 2015

Today was the first meeting of the year for our School Health and Nutrition brigade at my school in El Salvador. I couldn’t attend because I was taking care of my youngest siblings, but my sister did and she told me they chose 3 new members for the brigade. They are all 5th grade students. That brought me really good memories of the day I was chosen by my classmates, because I was also in 5th grade. I’ve been a brigadier for 2 years now! Just as they did today, my classmates voted for me to be part of the school brigade, and I accepted because I’ve always liked to learn new things and to share the knowledge with other kids. 

Tatiana washing her hands

Tatiana washing her hands

I’m currently studying in 7th grade and I’m 12 years old. In all the time I’ve been part of the school brigade, I’ve learned how to teach my classmates to properly wash hands and to always keep our school clean. We also advise them to eat healthy food instead of junk food, so they can stay healthy.

As part of the school brigade, we have the opportunity to improve things in our school. For example, last year we had the idea of building a fence around the school perimeter to improve security. We presented the project to Save the Children and they said it was possible to do it. As a result of that, now we have the fence and only students can get in. We all feel safer now.

School fence built as a result of a brigade project in 2014

School fence built as a result of a brigade project in 2014

I like being a brigadier because I learn a lot of good things. My parents tell me this will help me in my future. When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer, so I can help other people. Now I’m also better in other things such as speaking in public with no fear. And I can teach my siblings to wash their hands before eating and after using the latrine.

Finally, I want to tell all sponsors that we’re very happy to know they support our community. I’m always excited when I receive letters from my sponsor, because she tells me about her life, about her puppy and that she is engaged. I think something that sponsors could share with us is how they decided to become a sponsor.

I know there are still more things to improve in my school, that’s why my sister and I will continue to be part of the School Health and Nutrition brigade, so we can make more projects and teach good things to all the children in our school.

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

Home-Based Preschools in Egypt

Author Portrait_Maha Sabry, Project Manager in Orphans Care Association, Abnoub

Maha Sabry

Project Manager in Orphans Care Association

Egypt

October 26, 2015

One of my priorities as a project manager with the sponsorship program of Save the Children in Egypt is children under the age of 6 years old. Children at that age used to be mostly ignored by their communities. For many people it was a vague stage of life, it was hard for them to understand what the child might need. Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program aims at increasing the low percentage of enrollment in preschools, especially in remote areas in Egypt. 

During a visit to an ECCD class, Maha assesses the children's understanding of some words

During a visit to an ECCD class, Maha assesses the children's understanding of some words

When we started the collaboration with Save the Children, through implementing home-based preschools, people started to see the importance of that stage in children’s lives. The home-based preschools project was very successful in finding alternatives to respond to the lack of preschools in Abnoub. People became very well educated on the importance of the preschool stage, resulting in community members reaching out to Save the Children to help them provide more of these services.

Seeing children throughout my visits to the home-based preschools was very touching and inspiring. I was thrilled with the changes we made in those children’s lives, how successful the project was in building a better future for them, and how the children and communities became aware of many new things. Those children helped me realize the importance of what we do.

In one of my recent visits, I met a boy named Mahmoud, while he was playing with blocks and trying to build something. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied “I am trying to build the best thing in Egypt.” I stood there watching him and waited for him to finish as he built the pyramids. When I asked him why the pyramids, he said proudly “because the pyramids are one of our great marks that was built by our great grandfathers and I am trying to be like them.” I was very amazed to see how proud he was of our ancient history at such a young age, and how he had goals and was able to reach them, even on just this small scale.

Maha playing a game with preschool children

Maha playing a game with preschool children

Another memorable experience was with Mona, a girl I met in another recent visit to the field. Mona cares a lot about her personal hygiene. She was taking her time washing her hands when she saw me watching her. She explained to me that she has learned in preschool the importance of washing hands with soap, killing germs and using her own towel.

I have always loved being a part of the home-based preschools project, but seeing the changes with my own eyes has made me proud and even more willing to give my time and energy to this great cause. Thank you to all the sponsors who help make this possible.

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