The Proud Mothers of Saptari

author-portrait_nimma-adhikari-sponsorship-communication-officer
ANimma Adhikari

Sponsorship Communication Officer

Save the Children Nepal-Bhutan

September 29, 2016

If you travel to the southwest of Saptari, you will find yourself in the middle of tall, green rice paddy fields. We were awed by the beautiful, flowing green colors, where electric water pumps stream in a constant water source. However, as we moved deeper inside the village, the green turned to bare dry land, reflecting much more the living conditions of the families that call this area home.

A couple of weeks ago, we met with the community members and parents of children enrolled in our sponsorship programs in a village in Saptari district, our new programmatic area. Our intention was to determine how the community members felt about Sponsorship in their village so far, and how much they have understood about our programming, since we just recently began working in this area. Community members gathered with us in a small classroom, ready to listen attentively to what Sponsorship ultimately means for their children and families.

Guheshwori signs her own name on the attendees list, with a quiet but proud smile.
Guheshwori signs her own name on the attendees list, with a quiet but proud smile.

We had made sure to request female participation as well, since we anticipated the meeting would be filled with eager male voices only. We were glad to see several concerned mothers, draped in sari, their heads covered to veil their faces from the men in the room. I watched closely as one of the women, I later learned is named Guheshwori, signed her own name to the attendees list. For a woman, to be able to sign your name in a rural community such as this is very rare. I watched a quiet smile appear on her face as she signed, radiating female pride in joining this organized meeting, the kind of community event typically reserved for the men.

During the meeting, Guheshwori looked at me and smiled. She told me, “My sons are enrolled in the program,” in the Nepali language. I was surprised to hear Nepali spoken in this village, and must have looked it, because she then explained, “I am from Gaighat. I used to speak in Nepali but I started speaking in Maithili [the local language in the village] only after moving here after marriage.” She then started telling me how excited her children were to be enrolled in Sponsorship. One of her sons had even already started bringing program lessons home with him! He had approached her and began explaining eagerly why she must wash her hands before eating and after going to the toilet.

“My children tell me everything. They tell me what they want to study in the future and what they wish to become when they grow up,” Guheshwori went on. “I understand education is very important for my children. Only education will help them transform this community.”

 Guheshwori, second from the left, and the other female attendees playfully show the peace sign.
Guheshwori, second from the left, and the other female attendees playfully show the peace sign.

I nodded with happiness. This short conversation I had with this proud mother was more than enough to make my day. It showed me that even though we’ve just started forming a relationship with this village, already the benefits of our work is being realized.

When the meeting concluded, I was assured that Guheshwori, along with the other mothers who joined the meeting, would stop at nothing to see that their children were provided an education. And while doing so, she would gradually inspire her neighbors to join her in being just as involved.

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

The Jumping Game

author-portrait_hawa-diallo-community-development-agent-in-diomateneHawa Diallo

Community Development Agent in Diomatene

Save the Children Mali

September 27, 2016

Greetings, sponsors! I am Hawa Diallo, the Community Development Agent that works with Sponsorship in the rural village of Diomatene, in Sikasso.

In this community during the students’ break in the school day, all the children form small groups to play various games outside. But there is a particular game that all the girls like to play out in the flat, dusty schoolyard. This game is called simply, the jumping game. It is a competitive game between two young girls to measure their endurance in jumping.

First, a larger group surrounds the two girls competing and encourages them with singing, while clapping their hands along to the beat. They sing:

a-group-of-girls-enjoying-the-jumping-game
A group of girls enjoying the jumping game.

Two girls for one crown should jump 1, 2, 3,

And the first who gets tired is the wife of the hyena 

And the winner is the wife of the Lion King.

 
Culturally, the hyena is an unloved animal and seen as foolish, unlike the mighty lion who is a sign of bravery, courage and strength. So you can see, no girl wants to be the wife of the pesky hyena and thus the girls give their all to win the game.

and-the-game-continues
And the game continues!

The true aim of the jumping game is to develop a competitive spirit and love for physical activity amongst the girls, in a part of the world where sports like soccer are often reserved for the boys. The game encourages them to push themselves to exceed the limitations of their own strength. Most importantly, the jumping game gets everyone laughing during their break, before heading back inside, refreshed and energized, to return to their studies.

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

Ownership and Sustainability are Foundational in USAID’s Policy Revisions

By Gloria Steele, Senior Deputy Assistant Adminstrator, USAID

Children in a reading camp in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Save the Children: Philippines
Children in a reading camp in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Save the Children Philippines

On September 7th the US Agency for International Development (USAID) released full revisions to the Automated Directives System (ADS) chapters 200 and 201. For those unfamiliar with the ADS, it articulates USAID’s policy and procedures on a wide range of topics. From USAID’s hiring process to how Missions negotiate and develop multi-million dollar bilateral agreements with foreign county governments, the ADS contains all the rules of engagement. These recently updated chapters provide policy for USAID’s internal policy development process, as well as strategic planning, project and activity design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

For the average American, the ADS revision might not be the most exciting reading material. While policies and procedures can be boring to read, putting them into action is not. New policies will give USAID Missions and their staff the authority to improve development practice and make lasting change in countries around the world—something the average American can get excited about.

A topic that is foundational to the revised policy is promoting sustainability through local ownership. Local ownership is vital for effecting enduring change. As the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia and the former Philippines Mission Director, I fully recognize the importance of local ownership, sustainability and systems strengthening.

During my time in the Philippines, I encouraged my team to embrace local ownership and change the way we work with Filipinos. There is significant capacity in the Philippines to achieve lasting development results, and USAID should continue to look towards local actors to drive development. The commitment of local CEOs under a partnership that we had with the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) resulted in a collaboration between local businesses and the academe in transforming the relevance of university curricula. This has significant implications for fostering inclusive growth by addressing the phenomenon of “jobless growth rates “in the Philippines.

While many Missions around the world are already supporting local ownership, the revised ADS will formalize existing efforts and require all Missions to change the way they work. A few highlights from the new ADS can illustrate how shifts in policy may change the way USAID operates around the world.

Per ADS 200, USAID development policies should now be grounded in four principles: evidence-based, inclusive, sustainable, and coherent. While all are important principles, I can’t stress enough the importance of inclusive and sustainable. Our programming should always encourage participation of local actors, including those often marginalized, and give them decision-making power. This inclusiveness can help ensure that our programming is sustainable and valued by the citizens of partner countries.

Revised guidance for Program Cycle Operational Policy, reflected in ADS 201, also lays out four foundational principles for successful program implementation, one of which is to “Promote Sustainability through Local Ownership”. The principle goes on to say:

“The sustainability and long-term success of development assistance ultimately requires local ownership and strengthening the capacity of local systems to produce development outcomes at the regional, national, sub-national, or community levels, as appropriate. USAID should seek out and respond to the priorities and perspectives of local stakeholders, including the partner country government, beneficiaries, civil society, the private sector, and academia. These processes should be inclusive of the poorest, most marginalized populations and women and girls. USAID assistance should be designed to align with the priorities of local actors; leverage local resources; and increase local implementation to sustain results over time.”

According to the new ADS, the existing Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) process continues to serve as the platform for implementing development policy in the field. CDCS’s must “Promote the principles of aid effectiveness, including partner country ownership, strategic alignment with partner country or regional development priorities, harmonization with other donors and mutual accountability”. This will continue our efforts to build strategic plans that align with citizen’s needs and achieve results that stand the test of time.

Having worked many years for USAID, I can say we have come a long way. Over 10 years ago, donor countries and developing countries met in Paris and committed to supporting local ownership of development. Agreements in Accra and Busan deepened and strengthened that pledge. However, those commitments made by the US government, and many other donor countries, lacked a tangible accountability mechanism. The revised ADS 200 series illustrates how those high-level commitments are trickling down to where it counts- the operational level where real change happens. And that is absolutely something to be excited about.

 

 

 

A Letter for Stephano

author-portrait_memory-champiti-quality-communications-coordinator Memory Champiti

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children Malawi

September 20, 2016

The rain poured on endlessly, hammering on the rooftops and turning the sidewalks and roads into vast oceans. Soaked men and women sold goods on the sides of the road. Young girls and boys skipped rope in the rain with resounding, joyful voices. Something about this day made me feel hopeful.

As we slowly drove up to the entrance of the school we planned to visit that day, I could not help but enjoy the beautiful faces of the children outside, clad in their uniforms of emerald green shirts and charcoal grey shorts and skirts. This was how my ninth day at Save the Children had started. I have recently joined the team as the new Quality Communications Coordinator, to ensure the stories and letters our sponsors receive help them understand the great work their donations support.

Stephano in his green school uniform.
Stephano in his green school uniform.

I had been looking forward to this day, as I would see firsthand one of the communities in which Sponsorship works. We would be delivering a letter for Stephano, a 13-year-old boy who attends grade 6 here, from his sponsors.

In the company of Henry, our liaison for Stephano’s community, we got out of the car and were welcomed enthusiastically by the Deputy Headmaster of the local school, Mr. Jonazi, who led us to the staff-room. Just moments after a jubilant young boy showed up beside me. Mr. Jonazi, in his soft spoken voice said, “This is Stephano.” My face quickly lit up. Immediately, we went back outside to retrieve Stephano’s small package from abroad.

As I handed him his letter, the joy could not be concealed from his face. He grinned from ear to ear like a Cheshire Cat. He carefully poured over every word of his letter before settling down on a plastic chair outside the school to compose his response, under the now clear and calm skies.

“I am very grateful for my sponsors,” he said earnestly as he finished his letter for them. I carefully tucked his letter away, to be transported back to our main office before making its long journey to the hands of his sponsors.

Stephano sharing his story with Memory.
Stephano sharing his story with Memory.

The days experience truly melted my heart. I now know that I am a part of making a profound difference in the lives of children in this community. Small things, like having a letter to call your own, can help a child feel fulfilled and empowered. As I look forward to my career ahead with Save the Children in Malawi, I am excited to witness more powerful visits with children like this one.

 

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

Death and Taxes in Central America

By Andrew Wainer, Director of Policy Research at Save the Children U.S.

The Panama Papers revealed global elites’ maneuvering wealth around – and through – a porous international tax infrastructure. While international tax malfeasance is not always strictly illegal, it also isn’t necessarily victimless, particularly in the developing world.

The impact of tax avoidance is particularly stark in the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – where regressive taxation and the lack of the rule-of-law are grimly intertwined.

Global Financial Integrity (GFI) estimates that illicit financial flows (IFFs) – international, illegal movements of money – cost developing nations $1.1 trillion in 2013. According to GFI, these cash outflows from the developing world, “Have a terrible, subversive impact on governments, victims of crime, and society.”

Latin America remains the most unequal region in the world and the Northern Triangle is notoriously poor at taxing and spending equitably. While some Latin American nations employed progressive taxation to reduce income inequality during the 2000s, regressive tax policy in Central America exacerbated its already severe inequality.

In recent years, Guatemala had the lowest (12%) tax-to-GDP-ratio of any country in Latin America and Honduras and El Salvador were only slightly better. By comparison, Brazil’s tax-to-GDP rate was 36% and Denmark’s was 48%.

“The World’s Epicenter for Extortion”

In addition to regressive tax structures, Central America is also plagued by some of the world’s highest crime rates, including extortion. InSight Crime, an organization that analyzes organized crime in Latin America, calls the Northern Triangle, “The world’s epicenter for extortion.”

And poor communities are disproportionately its victims. According to, La Prensa newspaper Salvadorans pay $400 million annually in extortion, Hondurans pay $200 million, and Guatemalans pay $61 million.

Poor Central Americans caught in the middle of formal, legal tax structures that privilege the rich and illegal practices that target the poor. Small businesses are typically more vulnerable to extortion because they often can’t pay for private security services. El Salvador’s small business association states that small business owners pay $30 million per month and that 10 small business close each month due to extortion.

But the economic impact of extortion is comparatively mild compared to the violence that surrounds it. Poor Central Americans can risk their lives if they refuse to pay the region’s gangs: La Prensa states that more than 300 bus drivers were killed in recent years due to extortion.

Taxation Critical to the Citizen-State Compact

Strengthening the citizen-state compact and the rule of law will take years, but in recent months there have been promising initial steps – within Northern Triangle itself and with U.S. assistance to the region – toward redirecting the tax system to the benefit the region’s most vulnerable citizens:

 

  • The “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle” – developed by the Northern Triangle nations with the support of the United States – includes strengthening financial management as one of the plan’s four pillars. It states, “Public spending must be transparent, efficient and effective.”

 

  • In 2015, the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a $28 million agreement with the government of Guatemala to, “Support efforts to increase revenues and reduce opportunities for corruption in tax and customs administration.”

The emphasis on the fair collection and spending of public revenues is crucial to strengthening the rule-of-law and reducing the violence that has driven tens of thousands of children from the Northern Triangle. Given the myriad socioeconomic challenges facing the region and the resources needed to address them, the growing focus of US foreign assistance on strengthening tax systems is timely and encouraging.

One year after Alan Kurdi photo, the moral test of a generation

The body of a 2-year-old boy who washed ashore in Turkey was identified as Alan Kurdi, seen here, left, with his brother, Galip, who also drowned. The boys and their mother, Rehen, died during a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in September 2015 to escape war-torn Syria. The boys' aunt, Tima Kurdi, who lives in Canada, posted this image to Facebook.

Originally published on CNN.com

Every week last summer news of refugees streaming into Europe dominated global headlines. Yet it wasn’t until September 2, one year ago, that the world reacted in horror to the image of Alan Kurdi — the 3-year-old Syrian toddler who drowned trying to escape a war that was older than he was — dead on a beach in Turkey.

Like the photo of the naked girl burning from napalm during the Vietnam War or images of starving children in Ethiopia in 1984, would Alan’s photo prompt action by world leaders to end the suffering that has caused millions of people to risk their lives in search of safety?

Sadly, the answer so far is no, and the world must do better. Since Alan died, more than 4,000 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters have died trying to make a similar journey across the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration. The situation is so dire that Save the Children, an organization for children in need, is launching a search and rescue boat to prevent children from drowning as they try to get to Italy from Africa. Globally, during the same period, the International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 6,000 migrants died attempting to find a better life.

How will history reflect on our lack of action?

Just last week, humanitarian organizations including Save the Children called for a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo, Syria, to allow for aid and food to reach the families under siege. That’s a first step, but political solutions to end fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and elsewhere must remain the goal to bring about peace and to ensure that another generation of children doesn’t grow up surrounded by constant violence.

The reality is that even when such solutions do develop, not everyone who has left can or will go home. Some still do not feel safe returning. For others, their land or home is gone. For others still, there is no reason to go home because they have been permanently resettled in their new home country — earning a living, integrating into local communities and making economic and civic contributions.

Regardless of why people left and whether or not they can return, there are three steps we can take to improve the lives of displaced people the world over.
First, we need to continue to support countries at the front lines of the crisis with immediate needs. I just returned from Berlin, where I met with refugee families. They told me that the majority of their basic needs such as food and shelter are covered, but their biggest concern is their children’s future. Nearly every family I’ve spoken with says the main reason they fled their country is so their children could have an education and a childhood.

Another example is Lebanon — a small country where more than 25% of the population is refugees. This country has taken in families in their time of need, but they need additional funding from the international community for extra shifts at school so more children can access quality education, vocational training and cash subsidies to avoid a rise in child labor.

Second, as leaders prepare to meet in New York for the UN General Assembly, they should commit to the principle that no refugee child should be out of school for more than 30 days. Given what these children have been through, we need to focus on more than just their immediate physical needs.

 

After basic needs are met, few things are more beneficial than an education to help a child recover from the psychological trauma of violence. Learning inside a classroom helps children gain skills that enable them to become productive members of society and embrace a future of hope, not one overshadowed by the false promises of extremism.

Finally, we need to change the negative and generalized way that we think about the 65.3 million people worldwide who are currently forcibly displaced. They are individuals who would collectively make up the 21st-largest country in the world, with a population larger than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined. They come from all races, religions, professions and more than 150 countries.

Many have experienced or witnessed violence on a scale that most Americans cannot fathom. Each has a family and has had to leave a job and oftentimes a home. We need to understand that those displaced are people with great potential.

President Barack Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees is just 18 days away. This fall will also see the election of the ninth UN secretary-general and elections in more than 20 countries. It is time for the world to step up and make a greater commitment to help refugees, help the countries who host them and give refugee children a future they can believe in.

The Sustainable Development Goals After One Year – Already In Need Of Course Correction

by Michael Klosson, Vice President for Policy and Humanitarian Response, Save the Children

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post 

In the weeks leading up to last year’s United Nations General Assembly, world leaders and activists were united in their optimism about launching a new set of global goals that would set a bold direction to 2030. One year on how are we doing? In short, not well enough. These inspirational goals require us all to stretch, but far too many are hunkered down in business as usual.

While celebrating the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we knew that we could do better. MDG achievements were impressive, but generally limited to those groups who were easier to reach. MDG progress was based in averages and masked inequalities. Less privileged groups did not see the same improvements, excluded from progress by their gender, ethnicity, caste, and place of birth, among other factors. Countries in conflict also saw few improvements. According to the World Bank in 2011, “No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single MDG.”

Recognizing the need for bolder action, the UN orchestrated one of the most participatory projects in its history to define 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to move everyone, both in developing and developed countries alike, toward a better future by 2030. Embedded in this new framework was the transformational commitment that “no one would be left behind.”

One year on, overall progress toward the 17 goals in support of reaching everyone is already off track. Research from the Overseas Development Institute suggests that only three of the goals, including ending extreme poverty, are on a path to success with some additional effort, while nine goals, including many affecting children such as reducing maternal mortality, ending hunger, ending child marriage and boosting secondary school completion, are progressing much too slowly and require a major step change. Five goals, including reducing income inequality, are moving in the wrong direction. The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators has yet to approve a set of global indicators to measure progress on the SDGs, and the promise to disaggregate data by gender, age and ethnic group – so critical to the goals’ transformational impact — does not appear very high on countries’ priority lists.

After their strong launch a year ago, world leaders have missed opportunities to throw SDG implementation into high gear. The World Humanitarian Summit, the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the Financing for Development Forum, and the recent G20 Summit were big opportunities for pushing the SDG agenda forward, yet failed so far to trigger concrete action accelerating progress. As one UN representative said during the HLPF in July, “Leave no one behind isn’t something that will happen by everyone just repeating that phrase again and again at the UN.” The SDGs need to be taken more seriously if the world is to be successful in delivering on these goals.

While most countries have been slow to begin implementing the goals, there is good news: some have confronted the challenge and begun to design plans for achieving success. Twenty-two countries agreed to participate in national reviews at the High Level Political Forum in July. Colombia and Sierra Leone are examples of countries that have already worked to orient national institutions toward meeting the SDG goals. In addition, both countries have made monitoring and improving data a priority. These examples underscore the fact that with political will and determined effort, progress is achievable.

Meanwhile, Germany has worked to position itself as a leader in the process of achieving the SDGs. Not only did the German government note its need to address goals that were relevant to the country’s highly developed context, but it has also taken steps to address the goals in its distribution of international aid and by wielding its influence in the European Union.

In recognition of the fact that inclusivity is at the heart of the SDGs and indispensable to achieving them, such as ending preventable child deaths or ensuring all children learn, Save the Children launched in April the Every Last Child Campaign. This campaign shines a spotlight on groups of children excluded from progress to date because of who they are or where they were born. In every country where we are present, Save the Children is working to galvanize the necessary political will, resources and innovative programs and policies that will accelerate progress and bring “leave no one behind” to life. Our campaign recognizes that the SDGs will not be achieved without ending both poverty, but also discrimination against excluded groups of children. We set out three categories of initiatives – fair finance, equal treatment and accountability – which could turbocharge SDG implementation by overcoming barriers of exclusion.

The SDGs could be transformational but with 14 years still to go, they have yet to generate sufficient urgency. There are opportunities on the horizon to bring forward the magnitude of those goals so leaders feel the weight of their responsibilities to act now to fulfill them. We see the September 19 high level meeting at the United Nations on refugees and migration and President Obama’s September 20 summit on refugees as two such moments to tackle an unprecedented crisis of forcible displacement involving 65 million people, half of whom are children. This crisis has to be resolved if SDG implementation is to get on track. We have called on leaders to commit to provide access to quality education for all 3.6 million refugee children out of school in the near future, in keeping with the SDGs. Making these calls are in the context of defining and agreeing to national interim “stepping stone” targets, such as child survival or learning, will generate urgency by showing the trajectory required in 2020 that is necessary to reach the 2030 goal.

As new leaders take office in coming months in the U.S., at the UN, and in other countries, we will work to promote increased political attention to SDG implementation, improved data and accountability, institutional changes, and a priority focus on excluded groups. The ambitious commitment “to leave no one behind” cannot wait.

 

15 Years of Promises

author-portrait_sylvine-bule-data-officer

 

Sylvine Bule

Data Officer

Save the Children Zambia

September 16, 2016

After a tiring trip to one of the most hard to reach areas in which Sponsorship works in Zambia, we arrived at a small community school that has been struggling to stay functional for a very long time. The main aim of my trip to this village was to hear from different members of the community, including parents, teachers and children, on the current condition of the school and the needs of its students.

I will never forget the words spoken by one of the teachers upon our arrival, “Madam, we have heard promises from various other organizations willing to help us to build a better school. For 15 years we have waited for such words to come to life.”

The current conditions of the crumbling small school block.
The current conditions of the crumbling small school block.

“15 years?” my heart sank at the thought of the community being in such dire need for so long as I looked at the crumbling building.

She led me to the classroom block made up of two small rooms. In the first, young students took refuge in what appeared to be a class session. Children from the ages of about 3 to 6 were squeezed tightly onto small benches, with 8 or 10 children teetering on each one. The benches were simply made with loose planks supported by burnt earth bricks.

As the children noticed a strange face enter the room they all stood up and shouted, “Good morning madam!” I smiled back and responded happily, despite being troubled by the poor classroom conditions.

I was again led to a different class where my heart sank even more. It was a class of two different grades forced to share one teacher and learning space, a common circumstance in villages like this and a detriment to the learning of both age groups. A small board hung nailed to one of the mud walls, with the already limited writing space divided in half to accommodate the different lessons for each grade.

“This is a class of grade 4 and grade 5 children,” the teacher explained. “I have to start with the lower grade, teach them and then give them an exercise to write. Once I am done, I split the board into two, and write for the other grade on the other half.”

The classrooms were both very full – the children with bare feet and soiled faces, yet very eager to learn. I noticed already there were some school materials branded with the Save the Children logo, the beginnings of more work to come. I felt proud – though small, our contributions already were changing the lives of some of our country’s least privileged children.

Community members gather in jubilation to hear a new school will finally be built.
Community members gather in jubilation to hear a new school will finally be built.

I could only imagine how the community would feel once a school was finally built for them, a goal that Sponsorship will be able to help them achieve for themselves. I thought about the lasting and sustainable solutions the new school would bring. In the faces of those young children I envisioned doctors, lawyers and yes, future presidents of our country – with a story to tell and with Save the Children a happy part of it. It is possible, I thought to myself. We will change these children’s lives forever.

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

 

Five Years of Sponsorship Success for Five-Year-Old Ricardo

author-portrait_by-carla-urrutia-sponsorship-quality-communications-coordinatorCarla Urrutia

Sponsorship Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children El Salvador

September 9, 2016

Two hours away from the capital city of El Salvador, surrounded by hills of withered lawns, rural dusty roads covered in bumps and friendly people full of hope, you’ll find the quiet community of Cuyagualo, in our sponsorship impact area of Sonsonate.

It’s in this setting that I meet with Yeni, age 28, a mother of one of our sponsored children, Ricardo. She shared with me that in 2011, she received an invitation from one of our community volunteers to attend an Early Childhood Development Parenting Circle withricardo-and-his-kindergarten-teacher-miss-yaneth her then baby son Ricardo. She told me that this invitation changed her life and the life of her son forever.

Even since he was a baby, Ricardo was very shy and not interactive. Once they started attending the Parenting Circle regularly however, Yeni noticed that Ricardo’s social skills greatly improved, as he learned to relate with the other children by playing, singing and dancing.

The community volunteer who works with Yeni’s parenting group tells me she admires Yeni, as she has never failed to miss any session! After having such a positive experience with Sponsorship’s Parenting Circles, she took Ricardo to our Book Rotation sessions, where over the next two years he developed a deep love for reading and learning.

This year, now five-year-old Ricardo started kindergarten. His mom thought it would be difficult for him because he loves sleeping in, but so far he has had no problem waking up early to go to school. Miss Yaneth, his kindergarten teacher, tells me she notices remarkable development skills among children that have attended Save the Children community strategies like Early Childhood Development Parenting Circles. She says when these children start school, “They already know their colors, can identify letters and numbers, know how to properly hold a pencil, and are more organized, responsible and outgoing.” Ricardo is doing great so far in school, and more importantly, he’s enjoying and lova-happy-ricardo-and-his-classmates-enjoy-some-healthy-snacksing it!

This meeting with Yeni made me think about how positively someone’s life can change in the course of just five years, and how time and experience prove that our programs make a huge difference in children’s development. In 2015, just like Ricardo, more than 1,000 children participated in our Early Childhood Care and Development strategies in El Salvador, and with the support of generous sponsors, we’ll reach many more children and families every year – providing them the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed in life. Thank you, sponsors, for making this possible!

 

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

“Bewildered and Covered in Blood.” Syria’s Children One Year After Alan Kurdi’s Death

11 year old boy from Syria
11-year-old Tamer fled Syria with his family. He now lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

September 5, 2016

On September 2nd, the one year anniversary of Alan Kurdi’s death, there was a lot of reflecting on what the world has done since to prevent such needless loss of life.

Many rightly conclude not nearly enough.

Almost 4,000 people have drowned since Alan’s death – over 3,000 of them this year alone – trying to reach European shores from Africa and the Middle East.

And for those who remain in Syria – the country Alan and his family died trying to flee from – there is utterly unthinkable suffering and despair.

Inside Syria

The situation in Syria right now is possibly the worst it has been since the conflict began over 5 years ago.

There are still around 250,000 children living in besieged areas across Syria. And the reports we’re receiving from our partners working to reach these children grow increasingly more tragic.

Donate to our Syria Crisis Appeal

We all saw the shocking images from Madaya at the start of the year. Skeletal children, pleading to be fed.

The town has been under siege by government forces and affiliated militias for more than a year. No aid has made it into Madaya since April and families are facing deadly shortages of food and medical supplies.

Yesterday we received a report from our partners that moved me to tears.

The situation has become so desperate, and children so emotionally and physically crushed, that medical staff say at least six children – the youngest a 12-year-old girl – and seven young adults have attempted suicide in the past two months, unable to cope with torturous conditions.

Escaping Syria

Even for those offered an escape route, such as the evacuation of Daraya last weekend, there are concerns for their safety and freedom of movement as they are transferred into shelters in government-held areas.

It shouldn’t require an entire community to leave their homes for families to get access to vital food, water and medical supplies.

There is a humanitarian imperative to ensure sustained and regular access for aid convoys to all besieged towns. But this continues to be denied.

Bombed school in Syria.
A Save the Children supported school in Syria that has been bombed.

One year on

Since Alan’s death, children continue to pay the price of this war.

The world was once again stunned at the image of Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old boy from Aleppo, sitting bewildered in the ambulance, covered in blood and dust.

Aleppo is witnessing among the most extreme bombardment this crisis has seen.

Just this weekend our partners reported that 11 children have been killed by an airstrike, then as their grief-stricken community paid their respects to these young lives, their funeral was barrel bombed.

Other unverified reports suggest that in July alone, up to 340 children in Aleppo were injured by airstrikes and other-war related injuries and 101 died after being admitted to hospitals.

But where is the outcry?

The complete apathy around the Syria crisis is an insult to the thousands of children, like Alan, who have died as a result of this conflict in some shape of form.

At the weekend it seemed like some glimmer of hope might be there for the thousands of children trapped in Aleppo – Russia and the US agreed a path to get all parties around the table to discuss a 48-hour cease fire.

We all know that to make sure we can safely conduct effective and efficient humanitarian activities, the ceasefire for Aleppo must be extended beyond 48 hours, but this would be a welcome first step.

But one week on from this promise and we’ve seen no evidence that parties can agree to even this short pause in fighting. This is not acceptable.

 

Syria’s children cannot wait any longer.

Anniversaries of such tragic moments serve to remind us that we must do more to protect children in war. We should feel upset today, we should feel angry, but most of all we should demand action.

Donate to our Syria Crisis Appeal today.