Let Healthy Mouths Do the Talking!

Author Portrait_Maria Rosario Garcia

Maria Rosario Garcia

Philippines

January 18, 2016

February is National Oral Health Month in the Philippines. Since oral disease is a serious public health problem among Filipino children, this occasion is very important in reaching the majority of public school students who suffer from tooth decay and infections. To keep our Oral Health Month celebrations engaging, Save the Children in the Philippines enlists help from Child Health Promoters. These trained children can share information with fellow children about these significant health issues and help to make a big difference in achieving our goal of zero cavities and good habits for a healthy smile among all children. 

Neil Patrick the Child Health Promoter

Neil Patrick, the Child Health Promoter

An excited grade 6 student in Caloocan City has been confidently doing just this. His name is Neil Patrick and as a Child Health Promoter, he leads other children to good practices and shares his knowledge about being healthy by speaking for the younger children.

Neil Patrick and other Child Health Promoters like him have been receiving trainings from our School Health and Nutrition program about how to pass on information and lessons to other students. With Save the Children’s support they are also provided with materials like books and hygiene kits that they can use during their sessions.

“Last year, as the school year began, I became a Child Health Promoter in our school when I was encouraged by my classmate,” says Neil Patrick after we asked how he got his assignment. He continues, “I feel like I am fulfilling my dream of becoming a teacher by coaching young ones on the proper way of brushing their teeth and how to maintain a healthy smile. Not everyone has the understanding of how to take care of their teeth, that is why children in our school are very fortunate to be in front of me and to learn these skills now.”

Neil Patrick telling a story about dental hygiene to a captured young audience

Neil Patrick telling a story about dental hygiene to the young audience

Neil Patrick enjoys being a storyteller and speaking in front of the many children in his school. He reads a book titled Ay! May Bukbok Ang Ngipin ni Ani! or Ani has a Bad Tooth! to them during the Oral Health Month celebration.

He tells us as the next batch of children wait for him to begin and to listen to his story, “It is fun talking to kids because they are like my brothers and sisters. I am happy and I feel inspired whenever I help them.” With great role models like Neil Patrick, Save the Children in the Philippines is building a brighter future.

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

A Letter for Esnart

Author Portrait_Goodhope Siwakwi, Community Mobilization Officer, Save the Children Sub-Office, Kalulushi, Zambia

Goodhope Siwakwi

Community Mobilization Officer

Kalulushi, Zambia

January 11, 2016

“Another delivery for Esnart,” I thought as I got ready that morning. Excited, I tied the parcels to my motorbike and set off for Bulaya, the community where Esnart goes to school.

The morning was filled with birds singing, celebrating the rising of the sun and the rain showers. It was a wonderful day. As I approached the school, I heard children singing and excited voices. They were having a short break from class. Some seemed to be nearly in a frenzy as they ran around outside, enjoying playing soccer and other games.

At the sound of the motorbike, everyone’s attention shifted as they recognized me from the sponsorship enrollment exercises, the day that we gather the children’s information and officially enroll them in our programs. The children grouped around me, each one anxious to receive a letter from their sponsor.

Esnart’s mother greeted me warmly, “Mwaiseni Mukwai” meaning ‘Welcome,’ expecting me as I had told her earlier to be present at the time of the delivery. Esnart greeted me more shyly, but was eager to see what was contained in the parcel for her. I untied them from the motorbike and began to open them to go through the contents with the parents and teachers. I handed Esnart her letter and she excitedly thanked me, saying she was very thankful and felt special to have a sponsor to write letters to.

Esnart’s mother fell to her knees and clapped three times, as practiced in our local culture, to show gratitude. She was short of words on how grateful she is for the sponsorship support of her daughter and her community.

“My sponsor is my role model and when I grow up I want to be a nurse so that I can help sick people in my community.” Esnart said.

Children love receiving any form of communication from their sponsors. It motivates them to go to school as well as other children to go to school themselves and enroll in the sponsorship program. It is so helpful for them to know that other people are concerned about them and love them too. Thank you, Sponsors!

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

Little Thuy Overcomes Her Shyness

Author Portrait_Tran Bich Phuong, Field-Based Project Assistant, Save the Children in Vietnam

Tran Bich Phuong

Field-Based Project Assistant

Save the Children in Vietnam

January 4, 2016

One of the most rewarding bonuses of my job is that I can see with my own eyes how our programs can affect one particular child. 

Thuy smiling brightly with the letter she wrote to her sponsor

Thuy smiling brightly with the letter she wrote to her sponsor

On my second day, as any excited rookie might feel, I fell into worry knowing that my job was not going to be easy. Thuy, the girl whose sponsor’s letter I was delivering, was a very shy girl who could not or did not care to say a word to my colleague and me. I have had some poor experiences working with children her age and circumstance. She was only 6, spoke very basic Kinh (the common language in Vietnam,) wrote even less and might have never met any strangers before in her lifetime. Though she said she was very happy to receive a letter from her “big friend” [Sponsor] in a faraway country, she seemed to struggle and showed very few signs of enjoying writing. It took us nearly one hour and a lot of effort to help Thuy to reply to her sponsor with a letter of just 40 words.

Over the next several months, my trips to the field lessened but the image of that little girl still appeared in my mind. I wondered how she was and whether she was less shy and smiled more. Though we were now using community volunteers for most of our letter delivery, a letter from Thuy’s Sponsor caught my eye as it made its way through our office and I took the chance to see her again.

Even though it was a weekend and I was not supposed to work, I felt so excited for the opportunity. After one hour travelling by motorbike along a terribly rough road, crossing two springs and countless mountain slopes, I arrived at Thuy’s house. I waited a bit for her while she was out playing with her neighbor friends across the hill. When she returned home and saw me, her smile was replaced by a look of reservation. I thought to myself, “Again this will be me sweating through my attempts to talk to and get closer with her, while the poor little girl remains silent as if I were not there.” I would spend the whole day there, I thought, doubting myself.

Thuy (left) with her mom holding her younger brother (center), and her cousin (right)

Thuy (left) with her mom holding her younger brother and cousin (right)

To break the ice, I suggested Thuy let me take a picture of her. She then surprised me and proved she was not as nervous as the last time we met! She actively asked me to take a picture of her with her friend, her mom and brother, and also with Ron, the dog. She smiled and posed very naturally! Knowing that I came along with a letter, she became enthusiastic to see it and then read it with unconcealed happiness. Although she was still struggling a bit with her reading and writing skills and it took quite some time to help her compose her letter, it was not so difficult to pull the words out of her this time and she was visibly enjoying herself! It was a pure delight knowing Thuy actually liked to write and to be written to. Thuy even asked me to spend a night with her family, which surprised me the most!

Was Thuy’s positive change the result of our activities and the interactions between her and her sponsor? I realized I could never know for sure. However, I do know that she surely enjoys writing letters now. Knowing that there is someone out there who cares and wishes her well puts a smile on her face. And what else could be more important than a child’s smile?

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

Sponsorship in Arizona

Author Portrait_Trish Zilliox, Program Specialist

Trish Zilliox

Program Specialist, Save the Children US

Arizona

December 28, 2015

To work as a Program Specialist with Save the Children, I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and since then have enjoyed learning so much about my new town and the communities I live with, work with and travel to see. In my role I am tasked with ensuring our literacy, healthy choices and nutrition programs are operating robustly and engaging the students attending them. In addition to overseeing these programs, I partner with Sponsorship which serves each of the schools we work with. Sponsorship is a primary funding source, and thus a lifeline for sustaining Save the Children’s programs that reach hundreds of children in Arizona. 

One of the many sponsored children in Arizona benefitting from our programs

One of the many sponsorship children in Arizona benefitting from our programs

The communities Save the Children partners with in Arizona are in rural areas, struggle with high poverty and exhibit great academic need for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Four of the six sites I currently support are located on reservations of the Navajo and Apache Nations. It has been a remarkably insightful experience to get to know the communities, schools, staff and students. The unique culture of each nation is pronounced and tended to respectively. These communities and families are very tightly knit, and I’m honored that they have welcomed me in.  

There is an undeniable need for Save the Children to partner with these schools and districts. Challenges these communities face include high rates of unemployment, alcoholism and domestic violence. The feeling of extreme rural isolation is palpable, as are the challenges that come with it. Many families, for example, live without running water and electricity. This subject was eatured on NPR in January of 2015. I encourage you to visit www.navajowaterproject.org to learn more!

The beautiful Arizona landscape

The beautiful Arizona landscape

I have acted as a Sponsorship Liaison as well at some schools, and overseen Sponsorship operations in the process. It is a very intimate experience when sponsors write to their sponsored children. The kids’ eyes literally widen with wonder and curiosity. Letter writing is a meaningful way for these students to learn and interact with the larger world. Often we keep a map handy when we distribute letters, as they are great for sparking curiosity and learning about different parts of the country. Sponsor-to-child correspondence plants the seed for this idea that a friend somewhere far away is thinking about the life of these students’, their families, their school life and general wellbeing.

It really means so much to receive a letter. My only wish is that every single sponsored child is able to share in this unique experience. If you are writing to your sponsored child, your letters are changing a life. If you haven’t had the opportunity to write to your sponsored child yet, I highly recommend it. Your life just might change too.

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