Rian Celebrates the First Graduation Event

6a0120a608aa53970c01b7c82c71be970b-120wi Farida Rambu Wodji

Sponsorship Program Assistant

Save the Children in Indonesia

March 31, 2016

Proud ECCD graduates perform for friends & classmates at their graduation ceremony

Rian stood straight like a winner. Looking content and composed, a kataupa, or traditionally-woven Sumbanese cloth, adorned and towered on his head.

Today, this clear-eyed six-year-old transformed into a little Sumbanese warrior while celebrating his graduation from our Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) center, where sponsorship funds support the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills of children ages 4 – 6. A kito bage, a typical Sumbanese machete with a wooden handle, hung neatly across his left side. He exuded pride.
His face beamed with joy and his eyes lit up as he held the ECCD graduation certificate awarded to him by the chairman of the center’s parents group. Together with 17 other ECCD students from his sub-district in West Sumba, Indonesia, Rian shared in the joy of being in the first graduating class from this ECCD center.

In their traditional outfits, the children looked and felt like celebrities as they walked on grass mats and the camera rolled to capture their proudest moment. They constantly looked down with admiration at their graduation pins, which displayed their names and photographs. The kids felt so attached to their pins that they didn’t want to take them off even long after the festivities had concluded.

For many children, this graduation day is very special: an achivemenent to celebrate and be thankful for. This special moment is not only celebrated by Rian and his classmates, but also by kids at 31 other ECCD centers in the district where our Sponsorship program is implemented to ensure more children enjoy learning and provide them with the necessary stimulation during this golden age of their development.

As this is a first experience for most parents, the graduation is an eye-opening moment. Parents came to better understand that ECCD is not just a place for play, but is an important learning space for their kids. Parents felt proud and even mobilized their own resources to support the celebration. “ECCD graduation is a success that marks his passing into a new stage of his development,” one parent said of her child, with a huge smile. Village leaders and other community members also got involved with an increased sense of belonging and connection to the ECCD centers in their area.

Six-year-old Rian dressed up as a Sumbanese warrior to celebrate his graduation

As a Save the Children staff member working directly with the community, I found my involement fulfilling. Although our work is hard, it is rewarding. I push my limits to go beyond my work and to give a little more, creating special bonds with children and parents.

The graduation celebration has become a great place to build rapport with children and teachers. The joy I saw in children like Rian inspires me to continue my work with a song in my heart.

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

The Future Belongs to Educated Girls

This post is part of the blog series, “Her Goals: Our Future,” which highlights the connections between girls and women and the Sustainable Development Goals. It originally appeared on the UN Foundation Blog


March marks five years since the conflict in Syria began, the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, with 6.6 million people displaced inside Syria and another 4.7 million refugees seeking safety and assistance in neighboring countries and Europe. Children are among the most vulnerable of all, bearing the brunt of the war. They are being bombed, facing starvation, and dying from preventable illnesses.


For those who manage to escape and find safety in neighboring countries, they can’t escape the psychological trauma. To ensure we don’t lose an entire generation to the effects of war, Save the Children is running schools, distributing healthy foods, and providing support to the war’s youngest survivors. Our team has collected stories of children in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.


For some of these children, war is all they know.


One of the most compelling stories is that of Dana*, a 5-year-old Syrian child currently living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Her brothers and sisters share what a wonderful place Syria was before the war and how they will return one day, but she doesn’t want to go back as she only remembers the bombs and violence. When Dana was only 3 years old, she was left alone in the house during a bombing in the middle of the night. Her father was able to rescue her, but her house was burned down and her family lost everything.


Dana is now in kindergarten at a school Save the Children runs in Jordan. She told our team that she likes learning the letters of the alphabet and playing on the slide with her friends. Dana wants to be a kindergarten teacher one day to help other children learn what she knows.


Dana’s mother, Um Rashid*, said, “The future belongs to girls who are educated.” She has seven children, five girls and two boys, between the ages of 3 and 16. The young mother wants to return to Syria one day and admits it is hard to hear Dana say that she never wants to go back to Syria because as refugees that is the only hope they cling to. Yet she is grateful that her children – especially her daughters – are being educated while they are safe in Jordan. She said, “What do they have without education?” Without education they get stuck in marriage at a young age.


I agree with Um Rashid that education is key to ensuring a brighter future for Syria. The conflict is complicated, and we must continue to put pressure on world leaders to help stop the fighting, but in the meantime, we owe it to the children to do our part today – individuals can visit SavetheChildren.org to learn more and donate so we can continue to help children survive and learn.


*Names have been changed for security reasons.

If These Syrian Kids’ Drawings Don’t Move You, What Will?

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By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children | This post originally appeared in the Global Post.


After World War II, we said never again. But today, five years after the conflict began, hundreds of thousands of Syrians — mostly women and children — are suffering in what some refer to as “death camps.” People are living in communities cut off from the outside world by armed groups. Food, water, medicine and electricity are scarce. Schools, homes and hospitals are being bombed.

Put yourself in the shoes of a mother who watched her malnourished infant die in her arms because she wasn’t allowed to cross a security checkpoint. Imagine the fear a young child feels as his school is bombed and he sees his friends killed. Hungry children are waiting hours in line for bread. These are stories our team is hearing as we talk with those who have survived so far, and they were included in our new report, “Childhood Under Siege.”


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While it is hard to hear these stories of what it is like in Syria, and to see images of children who have died on the beaches while seeking safety, we owe it to the children to listen and not turn our eyes and ears away.


Consider what it’s like for 5-year-olds in Syria who have known nothing but war. An entire generation could either be killed, or experience a lifetime of hardship due to psychological damage and lack of an education. According to a September 2015 report from Germany’s chamber of psychotherapists, 40 percent of Syrian children who found safety had witnessed violence. More tragic still, 26 percent had to watch family members being attacked.


Yet, there is hope with the first-ever break in fighting, which started recently, and the peace talks that began in Geneva this week.


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Just like several decades ago, there are heroes risking their lives to help children and their families. Aid organizations are delivering food, water, and clothing, and are providing safe places to learn and play both inside Syria and throughout Europe where children have found refuge.


At Milan’s Central Station Mezzanine for Syrian children, a popular transit hub for families awaiting passage to northern Europe, children were encouraged to draw how they felt about home, war, and their journeys to safety. Our colleagues who were with these children sent us photos of these pictures.


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It was heartbreaking to see the children draw images of war that included bombs and people lying in puddles of red ink. But at the same time, I felt hopeful looking at the drawings of their homes in Syria, which included sunshine, playgrounds, smiling faces, and blue skies.


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The drawings were analyzed by Vitorria Ardino, President of the Italian Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress. She said, “Although many of the drawings depict fear and terror, there is also an element of hope for the future and gratitude for the help received.”


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While the war is complicated and world leaders work on a solution to end the fighting, one of the most important things we can do is to help Syria’s children continue their education. This conflict has starved millions of young minds, and that must stop now. Making sure that Syrian children are learning is not only the right thing to do, it also protects children and youth from being exploited by child labor, early marriage, and recruitment by armed groups. This creates a safer, brighter world for all of us.


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Last month, world leaders, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, agreed to mobilize funds to educate refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan as part of a broader United Nations appeal for Syria. This is a big step in the right direction.

We must tell our representatives to continue the positive momentum, and support the essential role education plays in returning the country to stability, and rebuilding society. And we must continue to support aid groups. We know we can’t be the ones to stop the war, but we can stop children from dying from malnutrition, provide a safe place to learn, and give them hope today. With our help, they have a chance at a brighter future. Syria, and all of us quite frankly, cannot afford a lost generation. The time to act is now.


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Mother & Emergency Brigade Leader

Author Portrait_Marco Antonio Lopez Quispe, Sponsorship Operations Assistant

Marco Antonio Lopez Quispe

Sponsorship Operations Assistant


March 21, 2016

I wanted to share Carolay’s story, a mother of one of our sponsored children who has participated in our sponsorship-funded emergency training program. 

Before Sponsorship came to their community, Carolay and her daughter Veronica didn’t have any knowledge of how to react in emergencies or natural disasters, such as earthquakes. Save the Children sponsorship programs taught her risk prevention skills and how to safely manage crisis situations, with first aid training and evacuation drills both at home and at school.  Carolay and her Emergency Brigade students during an emergency drill at school

Nowadays, Carolay is in charge of the school's student Emergency Brigade. She leads this group of students in taking responsibility for ensuring the safety of their peers at school. With the help of Carolay’s training and guidance, these students have developed their own emergency plans and evacuation routes, and have mapped risk areas inside and outside the school. Broken up into groups of two or three children, the Emergency Brigade monitors the entrance and exit points of the school for the other students, guiding them safely through potential hazards like stairs to avoid accidents.

Carolay and the Emergency Brigade identifying risk points and safety hazards at schoolCarolay is committed to her work with the Emergency Brigade and now feels prepared to deal with any emergency situation that might occur in their community. Her next challenge is to increase other parents’ involvement in the Emergency Brigade. She tells me, "I believe that children are the future of our country and it is important to strengthen their knowledge on preventing dangerous situations and have them learn how to fend for themselves. That is why I thank the sponsors who support Save the Children."

A big thank you from Carolay, Veronica and all the other children at their school in Cochabamba – sponsorship has truly made their school a safer place. Thank you, sponsors!

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

Advocacy: The Road to Change

15-Advocacy (7)Olalla Duato

Student Ambassador for Save the Children

March 14, 2016

When people aspire to make a difference in the world, some may dream of going to faraway places. They hope to venture to the very spot where people are in need – performing good deeds firsthand. While immediately rewarding, we must remember that one does not have to travel far to make a change. It is possible to start amidst your own community – with your own voice.

Rather than focusing on the place where the struggle exists, one should examine the source of the struggle – striving to alter the policy that causes hardship in the first place. During my short time volunteering at Save the Children, an employee told me an analogy that conveyed this idea.

It is all much like a road trip. You can have the path planned out – the directions printed, the stops determined, and the tank full of gas. But with a broken car, regardless of preparation, you aren’t going to make any headway. In this analogy, the car symbolizes the policies in place. If the underlying policy is flawed, it will be very difficult to make any progress.

While at Save the Children’s DC office, I set out to learn what policy was all about. Before this experience, I did not fully appreciate the importance of advocacy. As a high school sophomore, I doubted that anything I would say would be significant or have any sort of impact abroad. Nonetheless, after advocating on Capitol Hill, I quickly realized the power of my words in making a difference.

I met with staffers regarding the Reach Act – a bill supported by Save the Children as part of a powerful coalition. The legislation hopes to end preventable maternal and child deaths worldwide by building on the strategies currently in place. The bill has gathered considerable bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.


It was thrilling to see the congressmen that I met with signing on to the initiative. At that point, it became clear to me that my voice was valuable. And even though I wasn’t witnessing any instant results, I knew that people around the world would eventually be grateful. Advocacy, by strengthening the policies in place, is setting the foundation for long-term, effective change.

Olalla Duato is a high school sophomore at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey

Elijah Develops a Love for Learning

Save the Children US Programs

March 14, 2016

Like so many children in the poor rural areas of the United States, Elijah, a 6-year-old from Eastern Kentucky, struggled in school. His reading was below grade level and he rarely wanted to participate during class. Elijah was dangerously at risk of becoming one of the 24 percent of children in Kentucky that do not graduate from high school.  Elijah tells us he now enjoys school almost as much as basketball!

But thanks to the support of our sponsors, Elijah has made great strides. Through our literacy programs, students like Elijah now have online access to books. Since he joined Sponsorship programs, Elijah’s family has seen a real change. Now he enjoys school almost as much as playing basketball.

Now, Elijah often volunteers to read aloud, has scored 100 on recent reading quizzes and is now reading above his grade level.

We’re happy to report that Elijah is not alone in his success this past year. Our generous sponsors have made success stories like Elijah’s possible for hundreds of children in the United States. Thank you for all that you have done – and continue to do – for children.

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

Urbanization, Food Security, and Youth Employment


Patricia Langan crop_1Patricia Langan


Project Director, International Programs, Department of Hunger & Livelihoods

Shawnee Hoover

Associate Director, Global Policy & Advocacy, Save the Children


A stunning fact: nearly 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050.

As our primary goal is to increase food and nutrition security for all people, we must consider the ability of youth to forge productive livelihoods so they can feed themselves and their families.
Youth today are highly mobile. According to the FAO, they represent the main share of migrants worldwide. Many are moving from rural to urban areas and leaving behind the traditional agriculture practiced by their families. Today’s youth make up the largest generation in human history, representing a quarter of the world’s population under age 24.
In understanding the ramifications of youth migration from agriculture, it’s important to consider the full nexus of youth, urbanization, and food security.
In rural environments, youths play an important role in the food security of their households and communities through on-farm as well as off-farm employment. Many youth are seeking new roles as innovators in agriculture, be it small-scale or commercial, rather than inheriting the traditional way of agricultural life.
With higher education levels, better literacy and numeracy, and more technological facility, youth can contribute to improving productivity, running farms more like businesses, and increasing profits. They can help the growth of markets, value chains, and commercial farming, and strengthen ancillary non-farm industries in rural areas.
To the extent we work with rural youth to increase farm productivity and build out livelihood opportunities in ancillary industries, more youth will want to stay in their rural communities rather than migrate to cities. In places such as Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, and Nicaragua, Save the Children is doing such work.
Still, those youth with different aspirations than their parents will continue to look for non-farm employment in rural districts or migrate to find it in cities. This is completely rational. Youth in urban areas often have greater opportunities to access education, technology, and infrastructure than rural youth.
Working in 120 countries, Save the Children witnesses the push and pull effect on youth mobility. On the one hand, youth flee when they see life on the farm as an economic dead-end. On the other hand, they are attracted by the promise of cities for economic and social opportunity.
A comparison of seven country studies found that migration improves household food security. Similarly, recent studies in Bangladesh and Nigeria found youth migration had a net positive impact on food security.
Many youth migrate seasonally, and return home again to help with planting or harvest. When they migrate for wage jobs, they send remittances that help rural families’ food security. The remittances and increased skills brought back to rural areas through youth migration fuel positive impacts on poverty reduction and food security. We have to accept that migration is inevitable, whether temporary or permanent.
However, youth migration presents significant risks as well. Youth who migrate are more vulnerable in terms of personal safety and because they often enter into informal sectors with few social protections. Preventing and addressing inequalities and the dismal welfare of children and youth living in urban slums must also be part of the equation.
More research is needed to understand why and how youth migrate so policies and programs can better support the positive impacts of migration, limit the negative ones, and ensure the net effect is positive for food security in both rural and urban areas.
Research can also be helpful in enabling youth to get the education and training they need to improve the management and productivity of farms, investments of remittances, and help those who migrate do so successfully so as not to contribute to the growth of urban slums.
One approach is to focus on youth themselves, particularly on at-risk adolescents who are key to tackling malnutrition, by increasing their capacity to save and manage money, find decent jobs, and build their own businesses. For example, in the largest cities in Asia, Save the Children is providing migrant youth with trainings, job linkages, micro-business planning, and access to capital through its Skills to Succeed program. These skills better prepare youth whether they stay in urban areas or migrate back to the countryside.
One important step the U.S. Congress can take right now is to enact the Global Food Security Act, which requires the United States to pursue a coordinated strategy across 11 federal agencies on global food and nutrition security. Channeling that level of concerted investment will be a critical step in helping to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 while ensuring no one is left behind, including adolescent girls and youth living in poverty.  

This post was created in coordination with the Chicago Council 2016 Global Food Security Symposium and originally appeared on The Chicago Council for Global Affairs website.