Noble Gets Sponsored!

Author Portrait_Precious Mumba, Community MobilizerPrecious Mumba

Community Mobilizer

Save the Children in Zambia

June 29, 2016

Noble at home with his father, mother and siblings
Noble at home with his father, mother and siblings

Noble is 13 years old and a grade 4 pupil at one of the schools in the rural district of Lufwanyama, where Sponsorship works in Zambia. He is the firstborn in a family of four children, and the son of one of the volunteers that assists Save the Children in their community. He likes playing with his friends, and likes playing basketball the most. Though his community does not have any facilities for basketball specifically, he is eager to learn the sport better and one day play on the national team.

When I learned Noble would be sponsored, I first consulted his father to let him know of the exciting news. His father, one of the many dedicated community volunteers we work with, encouraged me to discuss with Noble about how he felt, once he found out he had been sponsored.

“I was very happy once I found out I had a sponsor, because I [now] have an opportunity to learn about things that happen in their country,” he told me.

Since that day, Noble has had a number of correspondences with his sponsor, through which the two have developed a bond. He also explained that he has learned all about the different ways of life between Africa and the United States.

“I used to admire my classmates when they received letters or small gifts from their sponsors. They would wear big smiles and dance around the classroom waving their letters in the air.” he said. Noble also told us that some students would even rush home right after classes to show their parents what their sponsors had sent them.

Noble being interviewed and learning about Sponsorship from Save the Children staff
Noble being interviewed and learning about Sponsorship from Save the Children staff

Now, Noble shares in that joy, and simultaneously has come to better understand how important his education is. “My father always tells me the importance of being in school and how the sponsorship funds help young children like me benefit at the different schools in our district.”

Whether they are sponsored or not, all children benefit from our education and health programs when we start working in a community. Despite this, the excitement of making a new friend in another country is very special for these children, whose world is often so small. Letter writing not only opens children’s eyes to new things, but also shows them the kindness and encouragement they may desperately need to foster a love of reading, writing and of learning. Consider sending a quick note to your sponsored child today!

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

Progress for Children in the Fight against HIV/AIDS

kechiKechi Achebe, MD, MPH

Senior Director, HIV/AIDS, International Programs

Save the Children US

June 27, 2016

UNAIDS and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) released their “AIDS-Free Generation” report at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS June 8-10th in New York, which indicated a 60% decline in HIV incidence among children since 2009 in the 21 sub-Saharan Africa nations most affected by the HIV epidemic. As a distinctive partner of UNAIDS, Save the Children contributed to these achievements through implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs throughout Africa and Asia, helping 11.7 million children in 2015.

UN General Assembly, June 8-10, 2016
UN General Assembly, June 8-10, 2016

The On the Fast-Track to an AIDS-Free Generation report highlights the many recent accomplishments made towards achieving an AIDS-free generation:

  • New HIV infections among children in the 21 sub-Saharan Africa countries dropped from 270,000 in 2009 to 110,000 in 2015.
  • New HIV infections among children have declined globally by 50% since 2010—down from 290,000 in 2010 to 150,000 in 2015.
  • 49% of children living with HIV around the world now have access to life-saving treatment, compared to 32% who received treatment in 2014.
  • Seven countries have reduced new HIV infections among children by more than 70% since 2009 (the baseline for the Global Plan).
  • In India, the only Global Plan country outside of sub-Saharan Africa, new HIV infections in children dropped by 44% and coverage of services to pregnant women increased from less than 4% in 2010 to 31% in 2015.
  • More than 80% of pregnant women living with HIV in the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had access to medicines to prevent transmission of the virus to their child—up from just 36% in 2009.
  • Six countries—Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda—met the Global Plan goal of ensuring that 90% or more of pregnant women living with HIV had access to life-saving ARVs. Six additional countries provided antiretroviral medicines to more than 80% of pregnant women living with HIV.
  • Access to treatment for children living with HIV has increased more than threefold since 2009—from 15% in 2009 to 51% in 2015.

Despite this groundbreaking progress, the report also highlights prospective areas of improvement:

  • Nigeria reduced new HIV infections among children by only 21%.
  • Still only half of all children in need of treatment have access to ART.
  • Early infant diagnosis coverage remains low. In the majority of the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of childrenborn to women living with HIV received HIV testing within the first two months of age in 2015.
  • New HIV infections among women of reproductive age declined by 5% below the target of 50%. Between 2009 and 2015, around 5 million women became newly infected with HIV in the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death among adolescents on the continent.

To continue to address these areas, at the meeting, UNAIDS and PEPFAR—in collaboration with other partners—

Vice President of SC US Global Health, Robert Clay, meets with Myanmar's Minister of Health, Dr. Myint Htwe on June 10, 2016 during the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.
Vice President of SC US Global Health,
Robert Clay, meets with Myanmar’s Minister of Health, Dr. Myint Htwe on June 10, 2016 during the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.

launched their Super Fast-Track framework for ending AIDS among children, adolescents, and young women. Titled “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free,” the initiative will build upon current progress made towards the previous Fast-Track framework to end the global AIDS epidemic. The new Super Fast-Track framework sets ambitious targets to:

  • eliminate new HIV infections among children;
  • find and ensure access to treatment for all children living with HIV; and
  • prevent new HIV infections among adolescents and young women.

The link to several press releases at the event can be found here.

Julita Loves Reading and Writing, Thanks to Letters from Her Sponsor

Author Portrait_Lameck Kampion, Sponsorship Field Officer
Lameck Kampion

Sponsorship Field Officer

Save the Children in Malawi

June 23, 2016

Sponsorship operations for Save the Children in Malawi are school-based, meaning that the meeting point for children and sponsorship staff is at school. However, on some occasions, for example during the long school holiday between July and September, sponsorship staff must visit the children in their homes. It was during this time that my duties took me to visit a young girl who benefits from our programs, Julita, and her family to deliver a letter from her sponsor.

A happy Julia after receiving a new letter from her sponsor
A happy Julia after receiving a new letter from her sponsor

When I arrived at their home I was warmly welcomed. As I settled in I offered to read the letter aloud. The whole family gathered around and listened very attentively, enjoying hearing this latest update from Julita’s sponsor. They sat pleased, with constant smiles on their faces as I read.

The family then shared with me how much these letters mean to them. They told me that receiving letters from Julita’s sponsor is the most beautiful and valuable thing for their child. Receiving a letter symbolizes that someone cares about and values you, and that your special friend living so far away wants to hear from you, time and time again. Not only this, but receiving a piece of mail provides a special treasure and memory for children, who have so little, to cherish.

It wasn’t surprising to learn that the letters from Julita’s sponsor have also been a source of encouragement in regards to her education. Her interest in school tremendously increased when she started receiving letters from her sponsor. She began working hard at her studies and now makes sure never to be absent from school. She has also developed a strong passion for reading and writing.

Before enrolling in Sponsorship, Julita had never received a letter from anyone. It was exciting for her to know that her letters were not coming from Malawi, but from abroad, an experience cherished by all her family members. For her parents, they feel that their child is privileged because someone somewhere in another country cares for her education and wellbeing. They feel blessed to have her in the Sponsorship program and are committed to always encouraging their daughter in her studies.

Julita and her whole family looks forward to receiving letters from so far away, on another continent!
Julita and her whole family looks forward to receiving letters from so far away, on another continent!

Julita’s hard work has indeed paid off. Her parents shared with me that she passed her final exams in grade 3 and was promoted to grade 4 for the coming school session. They attribute this achievement to the letters of encouragement from her sponsor and her resulting blossoming enthusiasm for reading and writing. In addition, they are thankful for the sponsor’s financial support, for example which helped the school in building a desperately needed new school block. This will allow students to learn in a quality, child-friendly learning environment.

What do you write to your sponsored child about? You can ask about their family or their favorite games to play with friends, or include a picture of yourself or your family! Try offering words of encouragement, letting him or her know how proud you are of their achievements in school. Remember, just receiving a small note from abroad is exciting for your sponsored child, and their siblings and parents alike!

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

Children’s Education is Simply too Important to be a Casualty of War

A blog post by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International and former Prime Minister of Denmark, and Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and former Prime Minister of Australia

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When Ali* and his family fled their home in Syria shortly after the war broke out, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs and hope for a better future. Five years on, that hope has turned to despair. Now in Lebanon, none of the family’s six children attend formal schooling, and 15-year-old Ali and his younger brother must work to support their family, digging potatoes for just $4 USD per day.

With wars and persecution driving more than 20 million people worldwide – half of them children – to seek protection in other countries, many are struggling to access basic services. This includes healthcare and education, and the important day-to-day needs of food and shelter.

While education is the single most important tool we can equip children with, it is often one of the first casualties of conflicts and emergencies. Less than 2 percent of global humanitarian funding is currently provided to pay for learning during crises – thereby wasting the potential of millions of children worldwide. Formal learning provides children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, while giving them hope for the future. It also gives children who have experienced the trauma and horrors of war and disaster the stability and sense of familiarity they need to be children, while protecting them from the risks of exploitation. Despite the generosity of many countries hosting large refugee populations – the vast majority of which are developing countries – most are struggling to provide refugees with the most basic services, including education. The situation is especially bleak in countries where a third generation of children has now been born into displacement.

Enrollment in primary school among these vulnerable children is well below the national average in places like Lebanon, Uganda, Kenya and Malaysia – a gap which is even more startling among secondary school-aged refugees. In fact, refugee children globally are five times less likely to attend school than other children, with 50 percent of primary school-aged refugee children and 75 percent of secondary school-aged children completely left out of the education system.

A poll commissioned by Save the Children in April found that 77 percent of respondents in 18 countries think children fleeing conflict have as much right to an education as any other child. Yet, for 3.2 million refugee children around the world like Ali and his siblings – who want nothing more than to learn and go to school – education is often an unattainable dream. We simply cannot allow this to continue.

Nearly one month ago at the World Humanitarian Summit, several organizations, including the Global Partnership for Education and Save the Children, joined forces with governments and donors to stop education from falling through the cracks during emergencies. Save the Children also committed to campaigning to get all refugee children back in school within a month of being displaced. Being a refugee cannot be synonymous with missing out on a quality education or being denied a better future – especially when vulnerable children have been forced to flee their homes and countries through no fault of their own. In short, refugee children deserve the right to a quality education as much as any other child.

We know that host countries need support from the international community and understand that no single country can solve this challenge on its own. But we also know that political will is key to solving this challenge.

Our goal is simple – to get millions of refugee children affected by crises back in school, where they belong.

The Education Cannot Wait fund has the potential to be a game changer, but only if governments, donors and aid organizations come together to prioritize, support, coordinate and properly fund this mechanism.

While $90 million USD have been generously pledged to date, billions more will be needed over the next few years if we are to reach our goal of getting 75 million children affected by crises back to school by 2030. Only then can we meet the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the UN, and ensure that no child in the world is ‘left behind.’

Accountability and transparency will be key to the success of Education Cannot Wait – so too will be ensuring that any money pledged for education in emergencies is new, and not simply taken from aid already earmarked for life-saving services like healthcare and nutrition.

In September, world leaders and donors will come together at two key global meetings on the issue of refugees and migrants – this most pressing challenge of our time. We urge those in attendance at the UN high-level meeting and the leader’s summit to prioritize education for children in emergencies and protracted crisis, including those who have been displaced.

With the right opportunities and the chance to learn, children like Ali will no longer be pressured to work – giving him and his family the hope they need to rebuild their lives, and potentially their country, if or when it is safe for them to return.

To learn about Save the Children’s work to help refugee children, click here. 

*Name changed for protection

The End of a School Year that Never Began

downloadIf your children are like mine, June is filled with excitement for the end of the school year and the prospect of a summer of fun. My daughter just graduated from 8th grade and I remember well the excitement of my older sons when summer rolled around.  But for the 3.2 million refugee children around the world who are out of school, they can only dream of being in a classroom. Their school year is not ending, because sadly it never began.

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children. Over the summer, Save the Children will be pushing hard to ensure that every last refugee child has access to education and is learning.

Education sets children up for success, provides hope and opportunities for the future, as well as a sense of stability and normalcy for those who are overcoming traumatic events. It also prepares children with the skills needed to rebuild and help develop their home countries if and when they return.

It’s crucial that no refugee child is out of school for more than one month after having had to flee their home in search of safety. While that may seem like a tall order to some, there is no technical or financial reason that the international community cannot come together to make this principle happen.

Equally sad, tens of thousands of children around the world, if not more, will likely spend their summer fleeing conflict, be it on foot through the desert, in a rickety boat for hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean or Andaman Sea, or stuffed in the back of a crowded truck by human traffickers. This year alone, nearly 3,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, and we are hearing reports that 34 people, including 20 children, were found dead in the Sahara desert just last week. In 2015, nearly 400 people died in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, not by drowning but because of starvation, disease and abuse by smugglers.

3-year-old Syrian girl Salwa* puts her shoes on with the help of her mother before the leaves her tent to go outside and play with her friends. Additional Information In response for the winter storms that are hitting Lebanon Save the Children staff members in Bekaa valley, in the the eastern side of Lebanon visited refugees and offered them weatherproofing kits. Plastic sheets and wooden timbers were also distributed to help refugees support their tents.
3-year-old Syrian girl Salwa* puts her shoes on with the help of her mother before the leaves her tent to go outside and play with her friends.

We need to work harder to ensure that children on the move are better protected. Girls and boys who are forced to leave their homes, sometimes separated from their families, are at significant risk of abuse and exploitation. Such long and dangerous journeys also negatively impact children’s physical and mental health. Focusing on education and counseling can make all the difference.

Too often refugees are thought of in the abstract. Today, on World Refugee Day, it is critical to remember that refugees are people like you and me. They have had to leave their homes, and everything they know, in search of safety and security. These people are struggling through unthinkable circumstances, and deserve the same rights, protections, and respect as we all expect.

I will always remember a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan a few years ago near the start of the Syrian conflict.  When I asked a 15-year-old boy there, one who had been a star student at home in Syria, what his future held, he told me, “I have no future”.  It’s not what we should hear from a 15-year-old boy.

We need negotiated political solutions to the multiple conflicts forcing families to flee their homes, from Syria to South Sudan. But for the child who is 10 years old yet has never been to school, the dream is simply safety for her family and to attend school. World leaders, aid organizations and private corporations who care about our future can and must do more to make that dream a reality.

I Have a Passion to Help These Kids

Author Portrait_Crystal Chambers, Sponsorship Liaison
Crystal Chambers

Sponsorship Liaison

Save the Children U.S. Programs

June 15, 2016

My name is Crystal, and I would love to share with you what it is like to be a Sponsorship Liaison for Save the Children here in the United States. I have been fortunate enough to work for Save the Children for the last seven years. I was hired to be both an in-school and after-school tutor for the literacy programs Save the Children partners with my schools to deliver. Two years ago, when a position opened up with Sponsorship, I stepped into the role of Liaison!

As the Sponsorship Liaison for two schools in my community, I can say ‘blessed’ is an accurate way to describe how I feel about my job! When I walk through the school doors, I am always greeted by children eager to see me, and wondering if they received any letters from their sponsors. The joy on their faces is what I look forward to when I start each day.

Crystal reading with sponsored children in the school library
Crystal reading with sponsored children in the school library

The children in our schools are in desperate need of love and attention. Many of them have parents that are not around or are in jail, so the responsibility of raising them is passed off to other family members. Sponsorship works with our schools to help fill this gap by having wonderful sponsors write letters to these children, having caring staff members deliver those letters, and helping children to reply.

When I meet with children who have letters from their sponsors, they are excited to know that someone cares for them. It makes them feel special to know that someone has taken the time to write.  That is why they are so eager to spend time with me! When I sit with them while they write their responses, the kids want to share everything with their sponsors. They are so tickled to know someone is interested in what they have to say! So while their situation at home doesn’t change much, they know they have a friend in me and a sponsor somewhere that is a friend as well.

Having Sponsorship care about our community and our children means something to us. It means something to the family members caring for the kids. But the most important thing is that Sponsorship means something very special to the kids we are helping.

When I think about Sponsorship and the benefits of having our schools be a part of the program, I know that we are a lucky group of people. I take my job very seriously, and I devote a lot of time to making sure things are done correctly. The kids at the two schools I support are important to me! To give anything less than my all would be taking from the children, and I am not going to deprive them further. I have a passion to help these kids. They are like my own, and I take a lot of pride in that. Being a Sponsorship Liaison is more than just a job or a title. It’s about trying to make a difference in the life of a child. In the end, when everything is said and done, if I have only helped one child then I know I made a difference. I love my job!

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

Rwanda Literacy Boost Team Visits Ethiopia

1Author Portrait_Pierre Célestin Rutayisire, Book Provision and Use Officer

Pierre Célestin Rutayisire

Book Provision and Use Officer, STC Rwanda Country Office

Save the Children in Ethiopia

June 8, 2016

Members of Save the Children in Rwanda and Save the Children in Ethiopia
Members of Save the Children in Rwanda and Save the Children in Ethiopia

In November, a team of nine staff members from Save the Children Rwanda traveled to visit our colleagues in Ethiopia. The 5 day visit was to share learnings on our early reading program, Literacy Boost, which is currently being implemented in both countries. This program is based on evidence of what works in teaching children to learn to read: a well-trained teacher, plentiful and interesting books to read and a supportive home and community environment.

Thanks to Sponsorship funds, the schools and communities we visited in this region of Ethiopia have made remarkable progress in improving learning environments for their children, such as by setting up regular reading activities and distributing books. We were able to visit the reading clubs the team in Ethiopia had helped establish, during which both children and community facilitators showed they were very engaged in the day’s activities. According to Ali, our Sponsorship Regional Manager in Ethiopia, over 90% of all Literacy Boost students met with their Reading Buddies or fellow students they have partnered to read with at least 2-3 times a week for shared reading sessions.

Teachers told us that the trainings they have received on the Literacy Boost approach have been very helpful, which give them the opportunity to practice their teaching methods and receive helpful feedback from trained teaching experts. In Literacy Boost, because we believe learning takes place both inside school and out, we work with teachers, parents, community literacy volunteers and youth to create a holistic reading program that sets the stage for a brighter future.

Monique from the Rwanda team observing classroom activities
Monique from the Rwanda team observing classroom activities

We learned that school authorities, community members and government institutions too had been involved in and supportive of Literacy Boost here. Thanks to the strong relationship the Save the Children in Ethiopia team has built with their local partners, the communities and school authorities are very interested in continuing Literacy Boost on their own.

Ensuring strong community engagement is very important for Sponsorship programs. Our colleagues in Ethiopia had worked hard to raise awareness on the importance of quality education and the benefits our literacy programs can provide. Through meetings and training sessions, they educated parents and helped them learn how to advocate for their children’s best interests. By promoting these sustainable policies on the larger community level, more girls and boys can gain access to high-quality, age-appropriate learning opportunities.

During the trip, we received friendly and warm hospitality from the Ethiopian team. Our many thanks, from Rwanda!
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.