Linh’s Fairy Tale

Author Potrait_Nguyen Thi Nga, Field Project AssistantNguyen Thi Nga

Field Project Assistant

Save the Children in Vietnam

June 9, 2017

 

Working in sponsorship, every journey makes an impression on my life.

I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with Linh, a 10-year-old girl enrolled in our sponsorship programs, as she welcomed her sponsor for a visit to her small village in the mountains of Vietnam. Here, in Phong Hai commune of Lao Cai province, people live high up in rural mountain villages and rely on agriculture, growing crops such as maize, rice, cassava or tea, to support their families.

I still remember the happiness that filled her face when she expressed her feelings about the day her sponsors would arrive. Her eyes lit up and she smiled brightly, and I felt a warmness touch my heart.

It was a rainy day, and she was playing with her friends while waiting for the exciting arrival. Suddenly, she caught the smile of her sponsors. She recognized them immediately – they had included a photo of them in their first letter to her which she cherishes.

Linh and her sponsors making gu cakes.
Linh and her sponsors making gu cakes.

What an amazing thing! Thanks to sponsorship, she was able to get acquainted with her two foreign friends, coming from a faraway country on the other side of the world – Italy. Their names are Federica and Manolo, a married couple who have been getting acquainted with Linh through letter writing over the past year as her sponsors.

She felt unbelievable, almost like a little princess from the fairy tales her mother had told her when she was younger. She felt one of those stories had become her real life when she met her sponsors, as they came to her school and met with her teachers, friends and her family.

“Hardly did I have [such a] memorable time like that. We talked to each other and played special games, like badminton… Then, we made traditional cakes.” These special cakes, called “gu cake”, is a traditional dish of the Dao ethnic group, an ethnic minority of Vietnam that lives in this area. It is made by wrapping a mixture of purple sticky rice, green beans, salt and pork in banana leaves and bamboo strings, and then boiling for a very long time, up to 5 or 6 hours. They are made to celebrate the Tet holiday, or the Lunar New Year, in Vietnam, and traditionally are placed on an alter to worship ancestors.

“It was also my first time to make these cakes by myself. It was such an interesting experience with my sponsors. What a pity! I could not speak with them a lot to express how glad I was because of our languages and my shyness. Perhaps, no words could ever describe my happiness at that time.” Linh said to me later, when reflecting on the visit. “I am truly a lucky girl to have met my sponsors in my life. Despite [the] far distance, they came to visit me with kindness and friendliness. I honestly appreciate their coming and love for me.”

Sponsorship staff member Nga, Linh and her sponsors, Federica and Manolo
Sponsorship staff member Nga, Linh and her sponsors, Federica and Manolo.

It was with a saddened voice when she spoke about saying goodbye to her sponsors. I would like to express my sincere thanks to those sponsors that visit our programs. It is such a unique and amazing opportunity to make a connection across distances and cultures. Thanks to our sponsors for their kindness in helping disadvantaged children in Vietnam and the world over. After participating in this visit, I have more motivation and passion about my work at Save the Children, with the big mission to better the life of children.

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

Despite Progress, Too Many Children Are Still Dying From Diarrhea

Originally published on HuffPost

Photo by Amr Dalsh / Reuters

Why are children still dying from this preventable and treatable illness?

In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the world changed dramatically. The smart phone was introduced. New planets were discovered. Yet children were still dying from a preventable and treatable illness that has plagued the world since the beginning of time.

A recently-published study in the medical journal “The Lancet” showed that deaths from diarrhea among children under 5 dropped by 34 percent from 2005-2015 — a major step toward ensuring that no child dies of a preventable or treatable disease. But half a million children still die from diarrheal diseases every year and millions more are sickened by unsafe drinking water, which turns a simple sip of water into a potentially life-threatening act for a vulnerable child.

As the fourth-largest killer of the world’s children, diarrhea is a particularly infuriating enemy. Clean water, proper sanitation and good hygiene practices can keep children safe from the water-borne illnesses that make them sick and deaths can be prevented with low-cost interventions like oral rehydration salts and, more recently, vaccines. These seem like simple solutions — but for a child living in poverty, without access to basic health care, and with a body that may already be compromised by malnutrition or other preventable illnesses, a simple fix is anything but.

Over the past 15 years or so, Save the Children has been working to strengthen the communities where children at risk of childhood death live — to reach children in the hardest-to-reach places in the world. By training and equipping community health workers to correctly diagnose and treat pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, we have been able to contribute to a massive reduction in child deaths worldwide.

In Bangladesh, which the study notes saw a 60 percent reduction in under-5 deaths from diarrhea from 2005-2015, Save the Children has helped decentralize pneumonia and diarrhea treatment from formal health facilities (mostly in large population centers) to community-level facilities. More than 1.2 million sick children received services from trained village doctors working in local clinics and communities, and 2,000 children were referred to formal health facilities for further treatment as needed.

The progress in Bangladesh and around the world is encouraging, but it’s not good enough and it’s not happening fast enough. Approximately 1,400 children still die every day in the world’s poorest communities and diarrhea-related illness, which can leave a child weakened and susceptible to other illnesses, has only fallen by about 10 percent in the past decade. So if we want to give every last child the opportunity to have a healthy childhood, we’re simply going to have to do better.

Using what we know works and leveraging local communities to deliver life-saving medication, we can further reduce diarrheal death and illness—and make huge progress toward Sustainable Development Goals #3 (“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”) while we see the benefit of fulfilling #6 (“Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”). This study is a great start, and it reminds us that we need more data to build the evidence for what we know works and to spark innovation around new solutions that will help save more lives.

The data shows us what’s possible. Our experience shows us what’s doable. Now we must show children that we refuse to measure progress in decades or centuries or even millennia, but in the healthy childhoods that all children deserve.