Learning Healthy Habits

Author Portrait_Anisa Naimi, School Health and Nutrition Officer
Anisa Naimi

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

February 28, 2017

My name is Anisa Naimi, I have been working as a School Health and Nutrition Officer with Sponsorship and Save the Children in Afghanistan for the past nine years. Sponsorship’s health and nutrition programs are designed to improve the health of children and to reduce malnutrition, which in turn enhances children’s scholastic performance. Healthy living habits are promoted by involving children in health campaigns held in their community or at their school. We arrange for at least two campaigns to be held in each village in which we work each year, on topics like the importance of healthy nutrition. Campaigns are coupled with the distribution of vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets so children not only leave with improved knowledge of how to stay healthy but leave a little healthier that same day!

Vitamin A campaigns and distribution is one of my favorite parts of my job. After we meet with community members and other local stakeholders who help us organize campaign days, we travel to the far away villages that we bring our Sponsorship programs to.

Children sharing health messages through songs.
Children sharing health messages through songs.

One such day we had to go very far, passing through rough roads, multiple valleys and by small villages. Once we were close to the school we started to see students and their parents walking from the nearby villages towards the school, where the day’s event would take place. All around us children were confidently calling out to the villagers through loudspeakers to encourage them to participate in the activities.

The first thing we do when we enter a school is prepare child-centered health education groups, so that children can have fun while learning with their peers. We lead the groups in learning about health topics through role playing, singing songs and playing games. Children also learn how to spread messages about how locally available fruits and vegetables provide good sources of vitamins, by holding banners they’ve made and sharing presentations.

This was an opportunity for the children and their parents to spend time together and learn about healthy habits. The children explained to their parents or guardians the messages they’ve learned, for example to eat organic foods which are cheap and available in their community, and most importantly nutritious. One of the girls told me proudly, “This campaign was very helpful for us. I used to believe that only those things that were very expensive, like meat, were good for our health, but now I can prepare healthy food using vegetables [that are] locally available, for my family.” Another said, “I spent a lovely day with my friends, and we conveyed health related messages to the nearby villages. I wish this day was celebrated more often!”

A group of children spreads healthy habits through their community.
A group of children spreads healthy habits through their community.

As a School Health and Nutrition Officer, I led the children in these exercises. I am happy to be spreading health messages to communities and schools to raise people’s awareness about healthy habits and behaviors, and improving people’s lives. During this year’s events the children were all very active participants. We have been inspired by the children to continue working hard to implement the program. They dream of a better future, and we can help them make that happen.

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

Communities Take Ownership

Author Portrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Operations Officer
Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Operations Officer

Save the Children in Haiti

February 24, 2017

Sponsorship’s ultimate goal is always to prepare the communities to be able to continue our programs on their own one day, without Save the Children’s support. As we are now about halfway through our planned time in Dessalines, from arriving in 2012 to our planned exit from the community in 2020, we want to make sure that the capacities of the communities and schools we work with are strengthening.

A child participating in one of our summer camp activities, making art from recyclables.
A child participating in one of our summer camp activities, making art from recyclables.

One aspect of our work through which we can assess the success of our programs is by the local summer camps, which were started thanks to Sponsorship funding. Week long camps this year welcomed more than 600 girls and boys from ages 7 to 16. Kids received lessons in arts and crafts on skills like making floral arrangements, macramé and ways to recycle trash into art. Children also benefited from sessions on health and hygiene topics, for example how to identify nutritious foods or, for adolescents, how to maintain their sexual and reproductive health.

These camps also provided an opportunity for the school council members, representatives from the local government, trained teachers and volunteers from the community to demonstrate the skills gained through trainings provided by Sponsorship. Save the Children in Haiti program staff watched as camp activities unfolded – both camp facilitators and children were eager to share all they had learned. For the adults present, it was clear they shared great interest and a common sense of duty and responsibility to ensure that the highest standards are maintained for educating the local children.

 Children performing a song during the closing ceremony for the summer camps.
Children performing a song during the closing ceremony for the summer camps.

The camps closing ceremony was the perfect moment for the participants and actors to express their joy with the summer camps and likewise the good work Save the Children is doing throughout the community. It was agreed on by everyone that next summer the camps would continue, and the community happily offered to lead in taking ownership in running the camps this time. We look forward to a smooth and efficient transition of activities!

Your sponsorship supports your child’s growth and development and empowers community members to sustain the work we’ve started. For our sponsors of children in Dessalines, we hope you continue with us on this journey through the end of 2020 – when our programs will be solely run by community members and we will move on to other areas in need in Haiti.

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

Taking Part in Something Big

Author Portrait_Florenda Albano, Program Officer & Sponsorship Partner
Florenda Albano

Program Officer & Sponsorship Partner

Save the Children Philippines

February 17, 2017

My name is Florenda, I am a midwife and nurse by profession. Although now, I basically have two professions – before, I felt as if I was not doing enough. I used to wonder what my real purpose in life was. These thoughts, however, were quickly silenced after I began my role with Save the Children’s maternal and child health programs in Mindanao. I knew I found my answer, and I was sure that I was taking part in something big.

In indigenous tribes in the Philippines, seeing children married at an early age, and female teenagers cradling their suckling young ones, has become nothing less than ordinary. Female teenagers are not only challenged with the dual roles of wife and mother at such an early age, but they also lack access to local health facilities which prevents them from having regular check-ups while pregnant or even a safe delivery.

Florenda sharing information about breastfeeding and nutrition with new mothers.
Florenda sharing information about breastfeeding and nutrition with new mothers.

Unfortunately, these challenges do not end after delivery. There are many young children in the communities in which we work who are undernourished, especially children under five years old. A child’s development is most crucial during his or her first 1,000 days of life, so not having proper nourishment within this particular period poses grave health risks, as well as irreversible damages.

With both mother and infant care in mind, we train health professionals in birthing and delivery practices, and orient parents on proper care for mothers and infants. Our Sponsorship team braves the far-flung areas of Mindanao to build the knowledge of parents and parents to-be on the benefits of regular before- and after-delivery check-ups. In order to reach these areas, we must often make the last leg of the journey on foot, walking for hours up mountainous, bumpy dirt roads. For some villages, we even must fashion makeshift rafts to cross rivers – which during the rainy season are constantly flooding and changing.

Michelle and her baby Alyssa attending the maternal and child health session in a rural health center.
Michelle and her baby Alyssa attending the maternal and child health session in a rural health center.

There would be days when my feet would ache, and there will continue to be, but our real journey has just begun. I see that change has come not only for myself, but also for the young generation in the communities I’ve traveled to. Young mothers are learning how to keep their babies healthy, and nothing is more important. I know that they also see the possibilities of what we can do together.

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


Not Business as Usual: Nurturing Country Ownership in Rwanda

By Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research. Department of Public Policy and Advocacy.

Akazi Kanoze is a USAID-supported project that includes strong partnerships with the Rwandan private sector to develop marketable skills for youth including welding.
Akazi Kanoze is a USAID-supported project that includes strong partnerships with the Rwandan private sector to develop marketable skills for youth including welding.

As the Trump Administration turns its attention to international development policy, it should endorse and deepen bipartisan principles – such as country ownership – that promote stability in developing nations and security for the United States.

As illustrated in the recently published report The Power of Ownership, USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) operate a variety of projects that exemplify country ownership principles and practices. The report, by Save the Children and Oxfam America, showcases examples in Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, and Rwanda where ownership promotes stability and self-sufficiency.

Over the long term, ownership establishes the foundation for new types of relationships with the United States. Eleven of the U.S.’s closest trading partners are past recipients of U.S. international assistance, and the developing world is one of the largest markets for U.S. exports.  Rwanda’s transition over the past 30 years illustrates the importance of country ownership in development.

The Rwandan Genocide

In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide lasted 100 days without international intervention before it was halted by the Rwandans themselves, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) entered the country from neighboring Uganda.

By the time the genocide ended, an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people were dead. In the wake of the genocide, some estimated that Rwanda was the poorest country in the world. Findings from a 1995 survey of Rwandan children found that during the genocide 90 percent had witnessed killings, 35 percent lost an immediate family member, and 15 percent hid under a corpse.

Today it is a nation transformed. The World Bank rates Rwanda as the third best business climate in Africa and notes its “remarkable development success over the last decade which includes high growth, rapid poverty reduction and, since 2005, reduced inequality.”

Rwanda’s journey from the 1990s genocide to stability and economic growth owes much to the nation’s partnership with international donors. As the Power of Ownership report demonstrates, the Rwandan private sector plays a strong role in the country-led, inclusive growth the country has enjoyed in the decades following the genocide.

Akazi Kanoze

Akazi Kanoze – which means “a job well done” in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s native language – was designed to contribute to the national goal of generating 200,000 off-farm jobs annually for the country’s burgeoning population of unemployed youth. Since its inception in 2009, it has provided vocational skills and work readiness training to tens of thousands of Rwandan youth.

While it was launched in urban areas, it has expanded into the Rwandan countryside, and is now integrated into the government technical and vocational education and training (TVET) even reaching refugee communities on Rwanda’s western border.

Akazi Kanoze, started as a partnership between the U.S.-based NGO Educational Development Center (EDC), and key Rwandan employers in the construction, welding, hospitality, and childcare sectors, among others.   Working with civil society and business leaders, EDC helped strengthen and expand Rwanda’s TVET infrastructure and curriculum to better equip Rwandan youth to enter the workforce.  The project identified youth capacity gaps and labor market needs that were then addressed by Akazi Kanoze job skills training modules. The project design included a Rwandan business advisory council to ensure strong lines of communication with the local private sector and insight into the country’s labor market needs.

Today, the project continues in another form.  USAID and EDC worked with local staff to create an independent Rwandan nonprofit – Akazi Kanoze Access – to carry the project forward, diversifying funding beyond USAID.  With the financial support of a private foundation, Rwandans are now taking full leadership over the project.

Inspired by USAID’s Local Solutions initiative, Akazi Kanoze demonstrates one way that country ownership principles can be translated into action, helping to ensure that foreign assistance builds self-sufficiency rather than dependency.  Click here to learn more about Akazi Kanoze and watch a short video featuring the project.

Sponsorship is “Save the Children’s Engine”

Author Portait_Noemi Maidana, Sponsorship Assistant
Noemi Maidana

Sponsorship Assistant

Save the Children in Bolivia

February 10, 2017

Hello, my name is Noemi. I am a Sponsorship Operations Assistant for Save the Children in Bolivia, here in Cochabamba. I would like to share with you some of the valuable work Sponsorship makes possible, and one of the amazing people that works directly with the families and children we support.

Meet Justa, a primary school teacher who has been working with children for over 22 years.

Justa is a very active, hardworking and loving teacher. She explained to us that before Save the Children started working in her school both students and teachers faced many problems. “This was a largely forgotten school by local authorities. [We] had many needs and were used to old fashioned and routine-based teaching methodologies.”

Justa explaining the Sponsorship enrollment process to children.
Justa explaining the Sponsorship enrollment process to children.

When Sponsorship arrived, Justa viewed having Save the Children work in her school as a great opportunity to further improve educational quality for her students through its various programs. She regularly participates in Sponsorship workshops, meetings and activities to learn how to make her lessons more engaging and improve her teaching processes.

She understands the importance of the operational piece of Sponsorship, and how helping our programs run like a well-oiled machine on the ground directly relates to the funds we receive through donors. This combined with her great experience in our workshops and trainings motivated her to become a Sponsorship Operations Lead Volunteer in her school. She tells us Sponsorship is “Save the Children’s engine”.

In volunteering to facilitate sponsorship operations, Justa helps enroll new children into our sponsorship programs. The first and perhaps most important step of this process is meeting with parents to explain what Save the Children does and how it helps children, schools and communities. Justa thus acts as an ambassador for our programs in her community, helping to explain the purpose of our strategies in health and education, and sharing results from other Sponsorship supported areas and those already occurring in her school. She also encourages parents and teachers to attend events and fairs on topics like health, safety and education, to help them improve the learning of the children in schools and at home. By organizing meetings with parents and community members, volunteers like Justa help us continue to reach even more children in need.

Justa with her students, Rosmery, Sindel, Teresa, Maria, Cristian, Luciano, Brayan & Roberto.
Justa with her students, Rosmery, Sindel, Teresa, Maria, Cristian, Luciano, Brayan & Roberto.

Justa shares, “I believe that all children receive help thanks to the support that each sponsor contributes to Save the Children’s programs. I think that losing a sponsor is like losing a family member. Therefore, I consider [it] very important that children participate and exchange letters with their sponsors.”

Have you written to your sponsored child recently? When you do, dedicated Sponsorship team members in each of our country offices sit with your sponsored child to help them compose letters to their sponsors, and learn about reading and writing while they do. Someone like Justa will be beside him or her, guiding them to put their thoughts into words and say hello from across the globe.

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

Spreading Early Learning Across Mali

Author Portrait_Phillipe Nia An Thera_Early Childhood Care & Development Coordinator
Phillipe Nia An Thera

Early Childhood Care & Development Coordinator

Save the Children in Mali

February 1, 2017

In the spring of 2016, Save the Children in Mali’s early learning program received an in-country technical visit from program experts. This was to support a presentation to be made to the National Education Minister of Mali, who asked for a better understanding of Sponsorship’s signature ELM, or Early Learning and Math, approach.

This visit was a true breath of fresh air because it allowed us to present more of our Sponsorship early learning tools to the National Directorate of Preschool and Specialized Education, and other local and government partners. This gave greater visibility to our innovation in the field of childhood learning, allowing the Minister of Education to develop a broader view of what Save the Children is doing in the country in education, and particularly in the early childhood program.

Children learning as a group.
Children learning as a group.

ELM is an approach which uses play and games to make learning about reading and math more fun for young children, ages 3 – 6. Activities cover topics such as talking and listening, the alphabet and understanding words and sounds, as well as counting, patterns, measurement and shapes. Most importantly, ELM teachers facilitate group and team building exercises amongst the children, fostering an understanding of teamwork, forming friendships and being respectful to one’s classmates.

Lessons learned during this vital development stage will serve children for their whole lives. This approach has been seen as a rediscovery of social practices around children, fostering collaboration, discussions and group work, always in respect of the freedom and dignity of others. By the ELM approach, the need to agree on the rules of life and to respect those rules is highlighted for children in the classroom.

Children engaged during an ELM lesson.
Children engaged during an ELM lesson.

Teachers and caregivers who have participated in ELM trainings have described this approach as revolutionary, because it allows greater interaction between adults and children, with an enriching package of activities.

In short, this visit was really beneficial for us to aid the advocacy work we are doing with the National Directorate for the integration of Sponsorship’s proven early learning methods into nationwide curriculum in Mali. Today, Save the Children is the designated focal point for the next Forum of International NGOs, a gathering during which international NGOs meet with local Malian partners to coordinate their efforts in areas such as education and health. We are honored with this opportunity, and look forward to furthering our actions in the field of childhood across the country

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