The Great Light of Hope

Author Portrait_Boukary Jigo, Community Volunteer
Boukary Jigo

Community Volunteer

Save the Children in Niger

May 24, 2017

My name is Boukary, I am a Community Volunteer with the Sponsorship program in Maradi. I’d like to start by saying that I am very proud that my community is one of the 25 communities in which the Sponsorship program implements its activities. The fact that we had been honored as such was the first key element in my commitment to get involved in this program. We believe in the importance of education, we want our children to be educated. And Sponsorship is here to support us in the education of our children. When a child is educated, it’s all the community that benefits so I am excited for my community and its development.

Boukary with Fati, a sponsored child, at her home in Maradi.
Boukary with Fati, a sponsored child, at her home in Maradi.

As a volunteer, I help the Sponsorship team in monitoring children that are enrolled in programs to ensure their participation and benefit. In doing so we follow up on their school and class attendance. We also help with reaching out to children and parents not yet involved to explain how Sponsorship works to help their children. We are even honored in helping deliver sponsors’ letters to children.

Smiling Zahaina & Sailouba, girls in our Sponsorship programs in Maradi.
Smiling Zahaina & Sailouba, girls in our Sponsorship programs in Maradi.

The problems with quality of education is really a great issue in Niger, particularly in rural areas. Four children out of five cannot read or write a short paragraph, but we strongly believe that the Sponsorship program will positively change the situation. We already have school supplies that have been brought to the schools, reading camps that are set up and running, trainings that are being given to teachers and parents in charge of school management, and even bringing in more volunteers. It’s a great light of hope for parents and children.

Thanks so much to all our new sponsors in Niger, the most recent addition to our worldwide Sponsorship family. We can’t wait to share with you more successes as our work in Niger continues to grow!

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

 

A Letter from the Front Lines of the Refugee Crisis

Saving lives at sea

How did they get here? It’s a question I can’t help asking myself, every time I see a child rescued from the sea. This time it’s a boy of perhaps 17. Ali* (*name changed for security) is in our on-board clinic, just a few hours after we picked him up following his life-threatening ordeal at sea. His body is cramping due to malnutrition. He can barely speak. As I help him to eat he slowly regains some strength and manages a whisper. He gestures to his injured foot. I realize he is describing how it happened. His wounds are the result of torture in Libya. How he got here becomes a little clearer, a small part of the puzzle solved.

Search and Rescue's Team Leader, Gillian, assists in the rescue of over 300 refugees and migrants from an overloaded boat in distress.
Search and Rescue’s Team Leader, Gillian, assists in the rescue of over 300 refugees and migrants from an overloaded boat in distress.

“I think I can see something”, said a member of my team earlier that morning, binoculars raised. On the horizon, a microscopic black dot. It appears then disappears. It is 7:15 a.m. and we have been scouring the horizon since first light. A second opinion from our captain is equally inconclusive. As we move closer to investigate the outline of a tightly packed rubber boat soon becomes clear. The dinghy would not have lasted long. It was beginning to deflate and no one was wearing a life jacket.

A quarter of those rescued are children

After notifying the Italian coastguard and getting their approval to proceed we approach and find more than 100 people crammed on the flimsy dinghy. We deploy our fast rescue boats and soon they are aboard our search & rescue ship, the Vos Hestia. Around a quarter are children. Later that day we took on board 100 more from another rescue ship. Ali was among them.

By now, this is a story that is sadly all too familiar. But it’s worth retelling, because in recent days doubts have been cast on the way NGOs in the Mediterranean save lives. Specifically, people are seeing photos of refugees and migrants on rescue ships and asking, “How did they get here?”

We’ve been told we’re part of the problem, and even that we are colluding with the same smugglers who callously cast people off from the shores of north Africa in the dark, early hours of the morning knowing full well the coming sunrise might be the last their ‘clients’ ever see. This is categorically untrue. Those making these allegations are making assumptions that just aren’t factual.

The deadliest crossing on record

We never communicate with traffickers or people smugglers and only operate in international waters. We find refugees and migrants in distress through collaboration with other NGO vessels and the Italian coastguard and frankly, a huge dose of luck – luck that is still sadly absent for too many. Last year was the deadliest on record for people crossing the Mediterranean. Altogether around 5,000 refugees and migrants lost their lives. Close to 1,000 people have already died trying to cross this year.

Save the Children’s crew on board the Vos Hestia are fighting against the odds every day to limit the needless loss of life in the Mediterranean. We never know when the call will come. My team go to bed in their cabins each night knowing they could be roused at any moment. Just last weekend search and rescue capacity was pushed to breaking point.

Our sole mission is to save the lives of people, particularly children, who are escaping violence, persecution and extreme poverty. We save people from the very real threat of drowning and protect the children we bring aboard. If the search and rescue efforts of NGOs like ours stopped, the death toll would only increase further.

We have also seen little evidence that the reduction of search and rescue missions leads to a decrease in attempts to cross the Mediterranean. The presence of search and rescue does not imply more people will cross, it simply means those who do are more likely to survive.

We shouldn’t be all that’s stopping the desperate search for safety from becoming a death sentence. But that is the situation we are in. Smugglers are knowingly endangering the lives of people seeking better futures at extortionate costs and extreme conditions.

Thousands of children are still at risk

There are thousands of children among those making the crossing and no child should drown in search of a better future. Until the EU provides safe and legal routes to Europe, both for those in need of international protection and for other migrants, people will continue to risk their lives to reach Europe. Questioning the impact of what we do as humanitarians is in our DNA. Everything we do starts from the principle that we must ‘do no harm.’

‘How did they get here?’ We ask it every day. The answer is violence, poverty and exploitation. The evidence shows that we make it more likely Ali and others like him will survive.

Gillian Moyes is the Team Leader for Save the Children’s Search and Rescue response

To learn more about our Search and Rescue Response, click here. 

“I’m a hero because I’m… smart!”

Malachi Blog - USP -1
Save the Children USA

May 17, 2017

In Southern Kentucky, 7-year-old Malachi is excited to send a personal note to his sponsor. This thoughtful little boy puts a lot of heart into the words he chooses. “I’m a hero because I’m… smart!” he writes. He then adds a colorful drawing of his mother, wearing a pink cape — an example of his very own super hero.

Growing up in Kentucky has not been easy for Malachi and his mother. Their small, rural community struggles with the all too familiar challenges of poverty – lack of teachers and materials for quality schooling, few jobs that pay a living wage, and high unemployment.

With his teacher’s help, Malachi is able to practice reading and get the writing support he needs to thrive.
With his teacher’s help, Malachi is able to practice reading and get the writing support he needs to thrive.

Malachi is lucky, however. He has a very close relationship with his mom – a single mother who is working her hardest to create a good life for her family. She has been able to find jobs, but their two-person family has faced significant financial setbacks in recent years, and she cannot meet his basic needs. On top of this, Malachi has had difficulties focusing on his studies in school.

But while they may not have many material possessions, they are grateful for the richness of the love they share and their strong bond. Malachi’s mom has been an advocate for Malachi and a strong supporter of his education.

“Malachi has expressed how much he enjoys the after-school program. I feel that he is safe and well taken care of,” says his mother. “I have to work, and it gives me a chance to better our lives.”

Before being sponsored two years ago, Malachi was tracking behind the average literacy expectations for kids his age. He didn’t always turn in his homework and struggled to focus in the classroom, more than his peers.

Since joining the sponsorship program, his word recognition, basic literacy skills and reading comprehension have all shown improvement. Paying attention in class is no longer a struggle.

-Check out that big smile! Thanks to sponsorship, Malachi now loves to read – and it shows!
Check out that big smile! Thanks to sponsorship, Malachi now loves to read – and it shows!

“After-school I go to Bulldog Club,” said Malachi, beaming. “My favorite thing to do there is read!” Malachi’s favorite books are about dinosaurs and he takes great pride in the fact that he can now read confidently.

The after-school program is funded by sponsorship and includes reading practice, writing support and listening to stories read aloud. Malachi’s mother is just one of many parents who has seen the after-school program make a significant difference to her children and in their close-knit community.

Save the Children’s literacy program helps give children growing up in America’s poorest communities a the opportunity to learn. Children in these places have the potential to improve their knowledge and boost their confidence — the stepping stones for a successful future.

Innovation Born of Crisis

The woman, wrapped in a colorful head scarf and long flowing dress, sat on a cement step in the middle of a remote village in northeastern Somaliland.  She proudly showed me the small mobile phone and the Save the Children registration card bearing her photograph.  Then she told me how it was transforming her life, in the midst of a horrific drought.

The small phone, with money transferred from Save the Children’s drought relief program into a monthly account, meant her children could eat and continue to go to school. It gave her the independence to ensure that funds were going to meet her family’s greatest needs.  And it allowed her to go to local shops and buy what she needed, using funds of about $90 per month transferred from her phone to the merchant’s phone in small increments—so no actual money changes hands. This allows her to pay for her weekly needs each time she goes to shop, despite the fact that all her assets had been lost.

A woman with cash transfer via mobile

 

The people in this region depend on livestock like goats and camels.  Their whole life revolves around moving from place to place with their animals to graze, selling a few goats a month or a camel twice a year to support the entire family.  But when the drought started last year and the rain failed to come, there were no more grasslands for grazing and no water to give to the animals. First a few died, then several more each day. Many of the women I spoke to on my visit this week had lost all their animals.  Those with larger herds had gone from 200 goats to just 40 over the last few months.

The cash program managed by Save the Children and other partners and funded with money from the European Union serves as a lifeline for these families.  And because mobile money can be transferred directly to the phones (which are also provided if recipients don’t have one), it is a secure and efficient way to ensure that money gets into the hands of mothers who will use it to benefit their children.  We can also benefit from the data available through the telecom companies, which details how much has been used each month and at what merchant—allowing us to track usage and patterns to improve our programs for families in dire need.

Carolyn in village

 

Best of all, the children of this community are not going hungry, they are staying in school and they are able to survive one of the worst droughts to hit Somaliland in decades.

And even halfway around the world in the middle of an extreme drought, I found that some things about new technology are true everywhere.  When I asked one of the women if they had trouble learning how to use the phone, they said no…they just got one of their children to help them.

Just like me and every other mother around the world!

Empowering Women in Egypt

Author Portrait_Amal Abdallah Mohammed, Former Community Health Worker
Ayman Abdel Hafeez

Sponsorship Health Assistant

Save the Children in Egypt

May 10, 2017

Amal is a 60-year-old wife and mother to two boys, Haytham and Islam. She is also a former community health worker at a family health unit in Abnoub, Egypt. After graduating, she delivered sessions about health topics like how to have a safe pregnancy and the dangers of improper nutrition for young children. She also conducted home visits with new mothers and their infants, and introduced local women to the health unit’s medical services so they knew when to come and what was available for them there.

However, she never received a word of praise from her managers and colleagues for her hard work. To make things worse, she was even faulted for pouring her heart and soul into her job.

“I almost hated my job, and my life,” stated Amal. “It was a very dark period,” she said. “I felt gloomy, which negatively impacted my relationship with my family and husband.”

Amal meeting with a local woman about her livelihoods project.
Amal meeting with a local woman about her livelihoods project.

Everything turned upside down and life began to smile back at her after the head of Sponsorship’s health programs in Egypt, Mr. Fouad Montaser, paid her a visit. He was blown away by her work.

“I was on top of the world,” she remembers fondly. “Finally I met someone who pushed me to help others, someone who believed in me and is interested in my work,” explained Amal.

In recognition of her efforts, Mr. Fouad nominated her to be in charge of raising health awareness in the local community. Through home visits and community-based sessions, she covered topics like proper breastfeeding, how to address respiratory system infections in children and manage personal hygiene for the benefit of whole families.

Additionally, through the “Arab Women Speak Out” Sponsorship initiative, she taught local women important life skills, like how to effectively manage conflict with their husbands and family members. She also helped women start their own small businesses by using simple and available resources, for example buying cheap home appliances and reselling them to make a profit, or how to successfully raise and care for a chicken flock at home. Since culturally women in this area are not encouraged to travel or work outside of the home, our programs are helping them to become active members of their society for the first time.

Amal visiting a participant of Arab Women Speak Out in her shop
Amal visiting a participant of Arab Women Speak Out in her shop.

Today, Amal has and continues to promote local women’s sense of worth by empowering them to become active agents in the social development of their communities. By encouraging groups of women, ranging in ages from 15 to 45, to speak about problems related to their domestic life, social status, health and hygiene, together they are able to come up with durable solutions.

Thanks to support from our sponsors, real change is being made not only through our educational programs that reach children, but also those that empower their parents and community members to implement change themselves. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your partnership!

 

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

Shashank Shrestha/Save the Children

Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!

Originally published on HealtyNewbornNetwork.org

Midwife Rita helped deliver Rupa and Rajkumar’s first-born daughter this year at the newly constructed Taruka health facility in rural Nepal, a facility Save the Children helped rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake. The proximity of a health post and availability of a skilled auxiliary nurse midwife helped save the newborn’s life. Even though Rupa had visited the health post often to ensure her pregnancy was proceeding, she was still anxious as her delivery approached. She had heard awful stories of women losing their lives during childbirth. But by delivering in a health facility with a skilled, well-equipped, and respectful midwife, both mom and baby survived childbirth and the days following without complication.

Rita’s story is just one of many we should celebrate today on International Day of the Midwife. However, there are other stories that won’t end as happily. Today, nearly 830 women will needlessly die giving birth, more than 7,200 babies will not survive childbirth or the last three months of pregnancy, and another 7,300 babies will die within the first hours and days after birth. That adds up to 303,000 women and 5.3 million infants every year whose lives are lost. Nearly all of these deaths could be prevented if high-quality services were available to every woman and baby everywhere.

And while 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries, rich countries like the United States are not exempt. Thousands of families suffer the tragedy of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity every year in developed countries.

This week, US celebrity Jimmy Kimmel shared his emotional story about his son’s heart defect on national television and expressed praise and appreciation for the midwives who supported his family throughout the process. Jimmy said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” This statement is no less true in low-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. And for marginalized populations, like those who live in hard-to-reach areas, and are victims of conflict and humanitarian crises.

No mother – anywhere – should have to risk her life or that of her baby by going through childbirth without the expert care of a midwife or other skilled birth attendant. Yet, globally, one in four women gives birth without such care. And 2.2 million give birth all alone. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2015 there would be a shortage of more than 3.5 million health workers – including a million midwives. This means that mothers and children have no one to diagnose and treat their illnesses, provide immunizations, or help them stay healthy.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life! Partnerships are central to midwifery. Midwives partner with women, families, and communities to provide lifesaving healthcare to mothers and babies, from before pregnancy to the first months after birth. They collaborate with doctors and facility staff to devise treatment plans and deliver high-quality, respectful care. They serve in government ministries and other decisionmaking bodies to make policy and funding decisions that ensure midwives have the resources they need. And they teach, mentor, and supervise to ensure midwives both practice what they know and learn new skills.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths requires more qualified midwives, more empowered midwives, better resourced midwives, and more respect for midwives. How can we strengthen these partnerships? For one, we can listen to midwives’ voices. The upcoming Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives is another opportunity to engage with midwives to strengthen support of their work. I am making it a priority this week and in the coming weeks to listen to the voices of midwives.

If you are a midwife or want to recognize a midwife for her partnership for life, please write to the Healthy Newborn Network with your story and we will be sure to share it.

For the Mothers and Babies of Abnoub

Author Portrait_Samar Abdel Fattah, Health Worker
Samar Abdel Fattah

Health Worker

Save the Children in Egypt

May 3, 2017

25-year-old Samar lives in Abnoub, Egypt and worked as an unpaid volunteer for the Community Development Association for Orphan Care, known locally as CDAOC, for a full year. However, she felt that she could do even more to help children in need. She wanted to prove herself and also showcase the work she was already doing to help local children. She took on a number of health projects initiated and funded by local foundations and government entities, including the Ministry of State for Family and Population Affairs. In these projects she conducted health-awareness campaigns, for example spreading messages on the importance of keeping a clean home and properly disposing of garbage to reduce the spread of disease, among community members.

Samar conducting a training with local nurses.
Samar conducting a training with local nurses.

Despite her efforts to document and share her successes, Samar didn’t feel that her work was well recognized. Until one day, the senior supervisor of health projects from Save the Children paid her a visit. Samar jumped at the opportunity to connect with the organization. She introduced him to her work, and he went on to spread those successes in improving health and hygiene in communities to other governorates all over the country. After that, when Save the Children was looking to select new health program team members, they chose CDAOC to partner with and specifically reached out to Samar.

Samar began conducting workshops to train female village leaders, community representatives, mothers and nurses on Sponsorship’s evidence-based and innovative programs, which spread health messages to local women using tools like educational videos and play-acting to keep them engaged. Topics include how to recognize dangers signs during pregnancy, the health benefits of breastfeeding infants, the importance of vaccination, basic first-aid for accidents in the home, and much more.

Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!
Samar with participants of one of her health sessions, and their children who will surely benefit!

She also received trainings in what Sponsorship calls “Kangaroo Mother Care”, an initiative which imitates the way the kangaroo carries her baby. This improves mother-to-child attachment, providing newborns with continuous affection and tenderness that aids in a healthy upbringing. Through these sessions and other trainings, Samar learned how to examine a new-born child, as well as deliver community- and home-based meetings for pregnant women and mothers of newborns on skills for the healthy nutrition and care of their babies.

Today, Samar feels fulfilled in her life. She is now a certified trainer of the Assiut Health Directorate, thanks to her work with Save the Children, and possesses countless health certificates. Her name glows next to the names of university professors, doctors and hospital managers on training materials that are shared nation-wide. We are very proud to have her as a partner!

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