A Letter to Show Her Friends

Child Portrait_Hajara

Save the Children in Uganda

May 30, 2016

In this age of technology, one would think that paper letters are irrelevant and therefore have no effect on anyone’s life. However, watching the smile spread across the face of young Hajara, a sponsored child in Uganda, tells a different story.

When Hajara received her first letter from her sponsor, she was overjoyed at the thought of receiving something from someone a great distance away and whom she had not seen face-to-face before. The letter was delivered to her by Eva, a Community Sponsorship Officer with Save the Children in Uganda, who also supported Hajara in reading and understanding the contents of the letter. We’re not sure if our sponsors can imagine the immense satisfaction that letters provide to children. Perhaps equally important, sponsors’ letters help children develop a love of reading and writing, while also learning about new words and places.

Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter
Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter

When asked how she felt about receiving a letter from her sponsor, Hajara said, “I feel very happy.” That statement may sound simple to many people, but because these children have a limited vocabulary, the word “happy” for Hajara encompasses feeling loved and special, too. Her sponsor referred to her as “another pretty niece,” which Hajara tells us made her feel really special. Attached to the letter was also a drawing of a homestead, showing three family members doing house chores. Hajara noted aloud that chores at home are a part of life not only in Uganda, but are responsibilities elsewhere, too.

After they finished reading her sponsor’s letter together, Eva helped Hajara to write a reply. Most of the children in our sponsorship communities know what they want to tell their sponsors, but may need help in getting the exact words right for expressing their ideas. Thus through letter writing, children have an opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills, which results in better school performance.

Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor
Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor

Hajara proudly mentioned that she plans to show and tell all her friends about her letter. She will then give the letter to her mother to keep safe for her, and will occasionally ask to reread it. She shares that she feels more encouraged and motivated to study hard in school knowing that someone out there cares about her future.

“When a child receives a letter from their sponsor, I am excited for them. They are always eager to receive letters and always ask if they’ve received any whenever they see me. When sponsors send drawings like the one Hajara received, the children can learn,” says Eva happily.

In a community faced with numerous issues and challenges, a letter gives hope, builds children’s self-esteem and encourages them to stay in school. Just this special piece of paper, which travelled from a faraway land from the hands of someone thinking of them, gives children something to keep as their very own, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

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

Building Relationships with Communities in Zambia

6a0120a608aa53970c01b7c85d2188970b-120wiDanny Chimpengele

Community Mobilizer

Save the Children in Zambia

May 17, 2016

As I looked around my new area of assignment in Lufwanyama, a lot of thoughts ran through my mind but the need for development was clear. Save the Children had yet again identified a community where we can greatly help children develop to their fullest potential. Thanks to Sponsorship, neighboring communities have seen more children attending school, being provided a much needed meal during the school day, gaining access to medical care and making improvements in their literacy skills. Now, it is time for us to bring these successes here.

I met with a 43-year-old volunteer, Evelyn, to see how our relationship with this community was forming. She has children of her own enrolled in the Sponsorship program, and was selected as a ‘Child Minder’ for her community. For Evelyn, this means going door-to-door to help children respond to their letters from sponsors and also talking to parents about the importance of education. Building this relationship between community members and our programs is a very important part of our process. In this way, we increase parent and caregiver involvement in their children’s studies, strengthening learning outcomes for children by encouraging parents to provide additional support in the home.

Expecting me, Evelyn smiled and pointed to a wooden stool nearby and asked me to make myself comfortable while she finished up her work. I quietly observed while she enrolled another child into the Sponsorship program, collecting necessary background information, consent forms from his parents and educating the family on what benefits our programs provide.

Evelyn conducting child enrollments into Sponsorship
Evelyn conducting child enrollments into Sponsorship

When she was done, I asked her why she had chosen to be a volunteer for her community. She told me, “I love children so much and I wanted to be a part of the team that contributes to the development and good quality of education I have seen in other communities [where Sponsorship works]. I feel it is my responsibility to teach the children the importance of education in our time.”

She couldn’t emphasize enough the joy parents here had expressed towards the programs. I was amazed to learn that even one of the children of the village Chief had been enrolled. He had shown a keen interest and appreciation for the program, an invaluable relationship to build in order to solidify and promote our ongoing work here.

Evelyn has enrolled over 50 children in our Early Childhood Care and Development programs, and over 70 in Basic Education, spanning the ages of 3 up through 14. Her goal is to extend the program to even more children and families, and she expresses her gratitude for Save the Children sponsors for making all this possible. Thank you, from Evelyn in Lufwanyama, sponsors!

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

A Sponsored Child Becomes an Education Expert

Faïmi P. Moscova

Sponsorship Manager

Save the Children in Haiti

May 9, 2016

Save the Children started working in Haiti in 1985. Five years later, Sponsorship activities were introduced—established to improve the lives of children and their families through community development, education and health programs.

This is a story about a woman, Santia, who was once a sponsored child and is now working for Save the Children in Haiti as an Education Training Quality Officer. Santia is married with three children: two girls and a boy. She has a degree in education and since graduating 12 years ago, has been working in her field for Save the Children.

Santia, now a Save the Children Sponsorship staff member, has been deeply tied to Sponsorship since childhood

From a young age, Santia felt like she was orphaned by both parents because she was not cared for as a child. She was filled with unhappiness, felt isolated and lonely and her basic needs were neglected. It wasn’t until she enrolled in Sponsorship in grade 2 that things started looking a lot brighter for young Santia. She remembers how her classes changed when the school received learning materials, like school benches so the children had something to sit on during class. She received a healthcare card that gave her access to the community health clinic for minimal fees. This was the first time she and other children in her community would be able to receive healthcare, as it had previously been restricted. She also remembers writing letters to her sponsors throughout the nearly 8 years she spent in our program. During that time she enthusiastically took part in the many activities organized in her community, benefiting by learning about topics such as personal hygiene and health skills which she had never learned from her parents.

Santia tells us that Sponsorship programs have vastly influenced and inspired her, and she attributes her achievement of completing her education to the support she received from Sponsorship. She believes that learning about child-centered development programs has motivated her lifelong pursuit of self-development. “I will continue to work and ensure that Haitian children receive a quality education,” she told us. She continued to say that she is so grateful for the sponsors who enabled her to progress to this level in her life despite her difficult beginnings. “I suffered much in life because of the absence of both of my parents when I was growing up,” she said.

Santia knows that Sponsorship gave her a strong start in life that she wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. She thanks Save the Children and her special friends – her sponsors – for their generosity and continuous support. “Save the Children has made remarkable contributions to education, health and nutrition in Haiti and I wish them continued success,” she said.

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

Our Sponsors’ Visit to Lao Cai

6a0120a608aa53970c01b7c8488578970b-120wiTran Thu Thuy

Communication Assistant

Save the Children in Vietnam

May 4, 2016

Moved, thankful and hopeful. These are the feelings that still remain with me after returning from my trip with two of our sponsors to Lao Cai province of Vietnam to visit their sponsored child, Vuong.

It was a sunny morning when we reached Nam Lu commune, in Muong Khuong district. The tiring 50 kilometer journey through winding, rough mountain roads was forgotten as soon as we arrived at the primary school where Vuong, a little girl of the Nung ethnic minority group, is studying. To our happy surprise, Vuong, with her father and a few friends, welcomed us with a melodious performance of traditional songs and dances. Despite this energetic greeting, when we first sat down in one of the classrooms to talk, little Vuong was so shy that I had to focus all my attention on hearing her soft voice, so that I could translate what she said to the sponsors.

Vuong and one of her sponsors pose for a selfie that has them both smiling

After that, I was so moved to see the two sponsors taking every opportunity to break the barrier between themselves and the children. They joined Vuong and her classmates in an exercise to prepare learning materials for the new school year, and in cleaning the playground. As the day went on I could see they were achieving their goal. It looked like taking photos together, with Vuong and her friends, was the most exciting activity for both the sponsors and the children, and left them all smiling. There seemed to be no more language or cutural barriers between them, I felt, once they were all laughing.

Besides talking with Vuong and her friends and family, the sponsors also took some time to speak with the teachers in Vuong’s school to better understand the particular challenges facing their community. “I didn’t expect that children here had such a difficult life,” the sponsors told me, almost in tears. “After this visit, I understand more about children’s lives in this area. I really hope that my contribution, together with the community and Save the Children’s efforts, will help the children here have better conditions for their development and a better life,” they shared.
Due to her limited Vietnamese, as many of the children in the villages where we work do not speak Vietnamese as their first language, Vuong didn’t talk much. Despite this, you couldn’t miss the feeling of happiness and pride in her eyes. The frequent smiles flashing across her face revealed all that. At the end of the visit, I could see that both the sponsors and Vuong felt much closer to each other. Before the sponsors left, Vuong drew a picture of herself in her home. “I hope that when my sponsors see this picture, they will think of me,” Vuong said.

By the end of the day, everyone was joking and having fun!

I bet any Save the Children staff member would wish to be in my position at that moment, so that they could see how happy the sponsors were when they received the picture from her and heard what she said. Special moments like these make all our hard work worthwhile.

The visit came to a close but the images of affectionate glances, strong hugs and joyful smiles from both the sponsors and the little girl are still very vibrant in my mind. I’m sure they will follow and inspire me day by day, urging me to bring more and more smiles to the children of this mountainous area, in Lao Cai.

We know not all of our sponsors will be able to visit their sponsored children, but if you are we encourage you to make the trip of a lifetime! Making that face-to-face connection with someone you know only through letters and kind words is such a unique and powerful experience, and will surely never be forgotten by you or your sponsored child. Contact our Sponsor Visits team today for more information at ChildVisits@savechildren.org!

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