A Father’s Impossible Decision: Run to Safety or Seek Out Medical Care

The situation for Yemen’s children is nothing short of dire. Some 11.3 million children in Yemen are facing a triple threat of bombs, hunger and disease.

The journey for those trying to flee, however, is often no safer: families have to brave minefields and airstrikes and are forced to cross areas of active fighting, all in a bid to escape the embattled governorate. There have been 18,000 airstrikes since March 2018, killing 2,398 children and injuring countless more.1  Civilian casualties in the most impacted districts more than doubled in the start of July as the fighting moved to more populated areas, according to the UN’s Refugee Agency.

 Children’s injuries incurred as a result of airstrikes are often complex and require a specialist treatment. Families on the run need to sometimes make the impossible decision of whether to continue to flee towards safety or stop and seek out medical care, if they can afford it. 

Eight-year-old Razan* was severely wounded in one eye after a bomb exploded nearby as she and her father tried to leave. She was in agony for days and her family feared she was permanently blinded.

“When Razan was injured, the airstrike was just yards away from us. The airstrike hit an armored vehicle nearby and flying shrapnel hit Razan in the eye. I tried to get us to a safe place to have a look at her eye, and then I bandaged her up with my shawl. Then we had to carry on moving,” said Samir,* Razan’s father.

“Razan had to go five days without treatment because I didn’t have enough money. After five days I asked Razan whether she could still see through her injured eye. She lied and said yes. We went upstairs, and I asked her to count the birds outside, while I covered her good eye. She said there were two, but there were four.”

Razan eventually reached a specialist hospital, where Save the Children referred her for emergency surgery that should restore her eyesight.

Thanks to support from Save the Children’s donors, Razan received the special medical care she needed. But there are many more children like her who are not getting the care they need.

*Names changed for protection

 

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to help children in Yemen, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

1. OCHA 

Distance Means So Little, When Someone Means So Much

Pham Thu Trang

Communications Assistant

Save the in Vietnam

September 24, 2018

Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who has walked into your life, said “I’m here for you,” and proved it.

This is exactly how I would describe the friendship between Konrad and his sponsored child, Nguyen. They had only been able to get to know each other through the many letters they sent over a year, until the day they met face-to-face.

After coming all the way from Poland, Konrad next had to endure the long and tiring car journey from Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – to Thai Nien commune in Lao Cai province, where Nguyen lives high in the mountains. Despite coming such a long distance, Konrad didn’t seem to feel exhausted at all. Perhaps the excitement made the way seem shorter.

Konrad arrived at the school where 13-year-old Nguyen is studying, and was greeted warmly by Nguyen’s teachers, friends and his father. When being asked to find Nguyen among his classmates, at first it was a challenge for Konrad to find the little boy he had only seen through photos. Over the past year, the little Nguyen had grown into a good looking teenage boy with tanned skin, but his smile remained the same. Konrad recognized him after a few seconds.

Nguyen and his friends in their sponsorship supported youth club.

Nguyen was a little bit embarrassed at first when they caught each other’s eyes. As for Konrad, I felt like this full grown man turned into a shy and clumsy boy when standing in front of his friend, whom he was meeting for the first time. “I know Nguyen is shy because I also feel nervous,” said Konrad.

However, the barrier of shyness was broken as soon as they danced and played shuttlecock-kicking, a game in which players use their feet to keep the shuttlecock from touching the ground. Konrad found himself embarrassed again when being asked to dance in Nguyen’s classroom, but he overcame his hesitation and danced for everyone! I never thought that he could dance like this! A real dancing machine. He was also pretty good at playing shuttlecock-kicking. Sports really have the power to bring people together!

It’s also true that food unites people, bringing us together and bridging gaps. After some time spent playing games, Konrad joined a cooking class and helped Nguyen and his friends make a traditional Vietnamese salad. The salad is made with banana flowers, green papayas, carrots, boiled pork, lean pork paste, crushed peanuts and a special sauce which is made with fish sauce, sugar, lemon or kumquat, chilly and garlic. The class was divided into 3 teams and Konrad was nominated as a judge of their cooking contest. While everyone was focused on the competition, Konrad enjoyed talking with Nguyen as if nobody was around. They talked about their favorite sports – bicycle riding for Konrad and soccer for Nguyen – as well as shared experiences, memories and just had casual conversation about their lives.

Konrad and Nguyen together in the cooking class.

As a teacher, Konrad has a great concern for education, especially for the school where Nguyen is studying. During the visit, the head teacher showed him around the school and provided detailed information about matters that he was concerned about. Konrad was impressed, and asked about the child-centered teaching techniques being used and about the youth club available at the school, all supported by sponsors like him. The youth club is a great place for adolescents to share knowledge and learn about sexual and reproductive health, and other problems faced by teenagers. Konrad was even able to participate in one of the youth club meetings, and was happy for the opportunity to share his viewpoints about the importance of friendship. He made an example of the friendship between him and Nguyen – a friendship without borders.

Konrad is an energetic man but his voice was shaky and barely covering a sob when saying goodbye to his dear sponsored child. A handshake, a hug and a best wish from Nguyen was a priceless farewell gift that warmed his sponsor’s heart. “Thank you for visiting me. I hope you are happy and healthy every day,” Nguyen said to his sponsor. Konrad promised to come back and I’m really looking forward to that day, when we can make the best memories together again.

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

what happens to children after a hurricane

Life After a Hurricane: How Save the Children Supports Children and Families During Disasters and their Aftermath

Before Hurricane Florence hit, save the Children deployed our emergency response team and pre-positioned essential child-focused supplies designed to help vulnerable children during disasters and their aftermath. Our teams are committed to supporting the children and families in their long-term recovery, as the emotional distress of evacuating home and being out of school can take its toll on children. 

As the roads in North Carolina re-open after Hurricane Florence, our humanitarian relief experts continue to assess the storm’s impact on children and provide assistance to those in shelters – even reaching New Bern which saw record flooding. We continue to work tirelessly to address the needs of thousands of families who were forced to evacuate their homes, fearing the worst.

In post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in 2005, Save the Children developed Journey of Hope, a child-informed program that draws on children’s strengths to support their resilience. Journey of Hope has helped thousands of children and their caregivers affected by the 2017 hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico cope with loss, fear and stress. Here is the story of one such family. 

After Hurricane Harvey, fifty-four counties in Texas were declared a state of disaster. Rainfall was measured in feet. Two more devastating U.S. hurricanes would follow, all within a month of one another. Each of them leaving children and families reeling. Families like Alexia and her son DeAndre. 

As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Alexia and her 10-year-old son, DeAndre, watched the water levels rise and cover the floors in their apartment. When the bathroom ceiling caved in, Alexia knew they needed to go, but she worried about her son being stuck in a shelter without the space to be a kid.

At the shelter, Alexia brought DeAndre to our child-friendly space, where he soon made friends, played games, created art and went on field trips. Alexia says this allowed him to disconnect from the stress of the storm and gave her peace of mind knowing that he was safe and happy. Our staff stood by Alexia as she made arrangements to get out of the shelter and helped her ask the right questions to ensure they weren’t forgotten.

And one year post-Harvey, DeAndre unlocks the door to their new, fully furnished apartment. He has his own room and a playground around the corner. “If it wasn’t for Save the Children, we wouldn’t be in an apartment. We would probably be either moved around to a different place from the shelter or we would be out on the street,” says Alexia.

With your support, 261,170 children and adults from the Texas coast to the greater Houston area have directly or indirectly benefited from our relief and recovery programs.1  Additionally, nearly 39,000 children and adults from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville impacted by Hurricane Irma have directly and indirectly benefited from Save the Children-supported programs made possible through the generosity of our donors.2  In Puerto Rico, more than 116,000 children and adults have benefited from our Hurricane Maria relief and recovery programs.3 

Today, more than 1 million people in coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Florence pounds the coast. How many children and families will watch the water levels rise and cover the floors the way Alexia and DeAndre did when a hurricane struck their home? 

Save the Children needs your generous gift to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.

DONATE NOW TO THE HURRICANE FLORENCE CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND

 

1. Hurricane Harvey: One-Year Report 

2. Hurricane Irma: One-Year Report 

3. Hurricane Maria: One-Year Report 

The Irrevocable Harm of Indefinite Detention of Immigrant and Refugee Children  

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.
Written by Megan McKenna, Senior Director of Communications and Community Engagement at KIND

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides legal support services to unaccompanied and separated children, working to ensure that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation. Earlier this summer, Save the Children initiated a partnership with KIND to support their critical work serving children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

harm of indefinite detention on immigrant refugee children

“Please don’t forget about us.”
-Unaccompanied child held in custody in California

The prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrant and refugee children in detention facilities – which the Trump Administration is proposing in new regulations – is without question an attack on the core values of the United States and will fundamentally change the way the U.S. treats vulnerable children.

The detention of children – regardless of the conditions – harms them in the short and long-term in profound ways. Studies have found that immigrant children held in detention are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, development delays, and attention deficit disorder. How deeply children are affected and the long-term impact depends on a variety of factors such as the age of the child, the trauma the child experienced previously, how long the child was held and under what conditions, and the child’s situation in relation to the child’s parent or caregiver.

In the best of circumstances, immigrant and refugee children have a difficult time understanding even the basics of the U.S. immigration system as they are new to the United States and know little to nothing about U.S. systems, law, or processes. They most likely do not speak English. They are scared of people in uniform, terrified that they will be sent back to the very harm they fled and carry a tremendous amount of uncertainty for their future.  

As a KIND beneficiary in Los Angeles said, “I was all alone. I was scared and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I didn’t understand the guards and that made them angry.”

Prolonged detention compounds any trauma immigrant and refugee children suffered in their home country that caused them to flee, or on the life-threatening journey to the United States. Most KIND clients have been traumatized in some way, many as a result of gang violence, including sexual and gender-based violence in their home country. These root causes of migration and the deeply personal emotional scarring they cause can become secondary to the damaging emotional and psychological impact of prolonged detention, thus impairing a child’s ability to make a case for U.S. protection.

Detention of children is unnecessary. Alternatives to detention have been used in the past and been very successful.

The findings of two doctors within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has investigated DHS facilities, perhaps say it best. They wrote in a July 2018 letter to Congress, “In our professional opinion, there is no amount of programming that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified.”

Or, as a girl described during her time in detention, “[The officer] told me to stop crying….I tried, but I couldn’t stop.”

To learn more about how Save the Children is providing direct assistance to migrant children and their families, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

After School for D’Miya

Melissa McCaughan

Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Save the Children U.S. Programs

September 17, 2018

D’Miya is 8 years old and lives in Mississippi. She is entering third grade and participates in the after-school program supported through Save the Children in her community. Once a shy child, she now beams with confidence. Her smile lights up a room and she has blossomed, because of sponsorship.

D’Miya comes from a very low-income area. Jobs are scarce and many people can’t afford the basic educational resources, like books or school supplies, needed to support their children’s education. D’Miya’s grandparents inquired about the after-school program because they felt it could help her be more successful in school. Her basic reading skills were not quite where they needed to be for students her age, and she was having difficulties with writing as well. She also generally wasn’t excited about school or her classes, and didn’t feel motivated to participate in lessons.

Since entering the program and receiving the additional support outside of school that she needed, D’Miya has made new friends and her test scores in reading have improved. D’Miya’s teacher describes her writing as excellent and notes improvement on her literacy assessments too. She is now able to read more books and has the opportunity to use computers in the afterschool program. D’Miya now describes school as “fun!”

D’Miya writing to Laura and her students at the Primrose School.

“You get to read in school!” smiles D’Miya. She has a positive attitude now and has become more active in class discussions and activities.

D’Miya also enjoys writing to her sponsor and seeing the pictures that her sponsor draws. “I feel very, very thankful,” says D’Miya, in regards to having a sponsor who writes her. She likes having someone to write to that she hasn’t met, who can tell her about life outside of her community. It makes her feel good to receive a letter.

D’Miya’s sponsor, Laura from the Primrose School, sends her birthday cards and drawings. Laura’s young students in the toddler room she teachers in also write special messages to D’Miya. She receives letters from Laura every couple of months, and responds telling her about her newest favorite books. She also loves drawing pictures for her sponsor.

Outside of school, D’Miya enjoys playing on the swing set at the park, swimming, running and riding her bike. Her hero is her daddy who plays with her and shows her how to fix things.

When D’Miya was little, her mother passed away, and although she has great admiration for her father he isn’t always around to take care of her. She now lives with her grandmother and grandfather. Without any brothers or sisters, D’Miya can get lonely. However, writing to her sponsor has fostered an emotional connection for her that she would not have had otherwise.

D’Miya’s grandmother hopes that D’Miya will “succeed in life to the fullest and have the opportunity to go to the college of her choice.”

D’Miya reading with friends at the afterschool program.

The sponsorship coordinator at D’Miya’s school, Deanna, said, “I believe she will accomplish anything she sets her mind to. She is determined and driven when it comes to completing a task, so she has great potential to do big things. I feel as though her love for helping others will be seen throughout her future in one way or another.”

Deanna describes D’Miya as having a bubbly personality and a great sense of humor. “She has opened up more to others rather than staying more to herself. She has grown as an individual, and made great improvements in school,” said Deanna.

Long after Save the Children moves out of her community, D’Miya will benefit from the impact it has made in her confidence and her success in school. Likewise, the connection she has formed with her sponsor will benefit her for a lifetime.

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

Gerald Gets Healthy

By Sam Labu

Community Sponsorship Officer

Save the Children in Uganda

September 14, 2018

Gerald is a 10-year-old boy from Kakiri sub-county in the Wakiso District of Uganda. He is in 3rd grade and is an active member of his school health club, which was set up through the sponsorship program in his community. The goal of this club is to provide an avenue for children to learn and participate in improving their personal health and hygiene.

In Uganda, school pupils face a number of challenges related to poor hygiene and sanitation. Before Save the Children started working in Gerald’s community, children did not have access to safe drinking water at school.

Drinking contaminated water from the nearby wells and harvested rainwater was the order of the day for pupils. This caused many diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid which caused students to miss school a lot. “I used to miss school because of diarrhea and stomach aches, I didn’t know that it was because of the water we were drinking at school,” says Gerald.

Through Save the Children’s Healthy Girls and Boys program, our goal is to improve the health and education status of children to enable them to learn and develop to their full potential. School health clubs were set-up in every school reached by sponsorship to empower the pupils with the knowledge to keep themselves healthy. In Uganda, we’ve reached over 80 schools with this type of health education program, including mentoring and training for nearly 3,000 girls and boys.

The pupils and their teachers as well were educated on the dangers of drinking unsafe water. Along with that, access to safe drinking water was provided to the schools. For example, sponsorship provided SODIS devices, which stands for solar disinfection of water, and safe water tanks to store boiled drinking water in. The teachers in each of the schools were also trained on how to incorporate health education into the classroom, for example teaching children how to use and maintain the new water tanks. Gerald’s school received spouts which use a ceramic water filter – a type of filter which purifies and disinfects water using a layer of silver nitrate.

Gerald, as a member of his school health club, has also learned how to guide the other students in where to access the clean water and encourages them to drink it, to keep themselves hydrated and avoid needing to drink from the dirty water sources. “I always remind my classmates to drink the safe water from the spout because it will help them not fall sick and miss school.” says Gerald. He and his fellow club members are also responsible for keeping their school compound and classrooms clean and orderly, as well as maintaining handwashing facilities at school and assisting the younger students in washing their hands.

With access to safe drinking water in the schools, the pupils no longer miss school because of diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid. They are healthier and more eager to learn.

“Thanks to Save the Children, I am healthy, I go to school every day and I am working hard to be a lawyer in the future.” Gerald said with a hopeful grin.

With support from Save the Children through the school health clubs, Gerald and other pupils know the dangers of drinking unsafe water and are empowered to be great advocates for better sanitation and hygiene practices in the community.

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

Typhoon Mangkhut approaches Philippines

The Philippines Braces for Super Typhoon Mangkhut: 3 Things You Need to Know

The Philippines is prone to deadly natural disasters

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on November 8, 2013. It was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killing 6,000 people and leaving millions homeless.1   

With vivid memories of the havoc wreaked just over a year ago, Typhoon Hagupit struck the Philippines in 2014. While Hagupit roared in from the Pacific as a Category 3 typhoon, it did not prove as deadly as Haiyan. 

The two years after Typhoon Hagupit brought with them additional storms. Typhoon Koppu in 2015 and Typhoon Haima in 2016. 

Save the Children responded to all four typhoons, supporting the rebuilding of homes and livelihoods of over 1 million people, including 826,000 children.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut could be a category 4 storm

While the slow moving typhoon strengthened to category 5 status on Wednesday, with sustained winds of up to about 180 miles per hour, current modelling has the storm making landfall as a category 4 typhoon on Saturday morning. Super Typhoon Mangkhut looks set to pummel coastal communities in the Filipino island of Luzon, the country’s most populous island and home nation’s capitol of Manila. 

In 2016, Typhoon Haima weakened from a category 5 storm to category 4 just before making landfall, tens of thousands of homes and displacing more than 90,000 people in Luzon.

Millions of children are at risk

Heavy rains, flooding and landslides could put million of already vulnerable children at risk.

Save the Children has emergency team deployed to Santiago, Luzon with pre-position relief items positioned across the country, including thousands of household, hygiene and back-to-school kits. 

“We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, Save the Children Philippines CEO Alberto Muyot said. “Once the storm passes, our team will work with local authorities and other aid agencies to assess the scale of devastation caused by the typhoon and determine what the needs are of those affected.” 

 

1. Save the Children 

My Journey of Hope – One Year After Hurricane Maria

One year after Hurricane Maria

Written by Angelica Cadavid | Photograph by Gary Shaye

When I arrived in Puerto Rico, I didn’t know what to expect. Almost a year after Hurricane Maria, I wondered what I would see. Would my mother’s beloved island still show the scars of the devastation that roared upon its shores on September 20, 2017? What about the children?

What I saw was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. The physical signs of Hurricane Maria were everywhere. I kept telling my non-Puerto Rico based colleagues that the island didn’t look like this before the storm. Everywhere were the markers of what were once family homes and local businesses, now in ruins. One girl I spoke with told me the hurricane blew the roof off her home. What was equally traumatic for her family was finding the remnants of other people’s lives that the storm had blown into their house, things like shoes and other personal items.

While many of the children and families that I spoke with painted a picture of loss, our conversations also turned hopeful. Communities like Fronton and Mulitas were coming together to support one another, especially the children. An abandoned basketball court is now a beautiful community center. It’s a place where children can play in a safe, protected environment, make up for lost school days, and heal from the trauma of loss and fear caused by the storm.  One young boy told me he was afraid and angry after the hurricane but now he feels protected after participating in our Journey of Hope program.

Families told me how much the programs meant to them, but until I saw our community activities in action, I had no idea. I wish every Save the Children supporter could see the joy on the children’s faces. Even those kids that had started the day a bit sullen were soon laughing and playing. 

Almost one year after Hurricane Maria, there is still so much need on the island. It took 10 months for the community of Mariana to get electricity. But Puerto Ricans are resilient and with help and the continued dedication of Save the Children staff, local leaders, parents and supporters – Puerto Rico si se levanta (Puerto Rico will rise up).

To learn more about Save the Children’s emergency responses and ongoing recovery work in Puerto Rico, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TO THE CHILDREN’S EMERGENCY FUND TODAY!

 

Preparing for Hurricane Florence

More than 1 million people in coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Florence, anticipated to be a Category 5 storm by the time it makes landfall, continues towards shore. 

All along the coast, concerned residents are taking necessary emergency preparedness precautions and springing into action – boarding up their homes, filling their fuel tanks with gas and heading towards safety. However, families with young children need take additional steps around hurricane preparedness, including providing children with understanding and control around the emergency. As the national leader for children in emergencies, Save the Children is here to help. 

Talk about Hurricane Florence
Preparing young children for a hurricane emergency can start with letting them know that it’s alright to be afraid in disaster situations. Explain to your child what may happen once Hurricane Florence makes landfall using simple, age-appropriate words. Reassure your children that during Hurricane Florence, many caring adults — including parents, teachers and first responders — will be working to keep them safe. 

Identify Evacuation Routes
If you are among the 1 million people ordered to evacuate the coastal areas in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, reassure your children that you have identified the best evacuation routes and review the route together. 

Pack an Emergency Go-To Bag
The process of putting together an emergency go-to bag will help children understand what could happen during and after Hurricane Florence. For example, a flash light and non-perishable food are essential emergency go-to bag items that will come in handy should the power go out. A few favorite toys, medicine and personal hygiene items are also important to have in an emergency go-to bag should your family be away from home for a few days or more. 

Make Emergency Contact Cards
Every child in your family should have an emergency contact card that includes three emergency contacts any first responder or caregiver can reach out to, in case your family is separated during the Hurricane Florence. Save the Children has an easy tool that allows families to create an Emergency Contact Card together.

Save the Children is closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and is assembling a team in North Carolina to help children and families bracing for the powerful storm. With your support, our caring professionals are prepared to help vulnerable children during and after the storm. 

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s emergency responses and ongoing recovery work, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT THE HURRICANE FLORENCE CHILDREN’S EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND.

Strengthening Community through Vroom

Written by Sandra Anthony, Save the Children Ambassador, Marion County School District, Mississippi

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much – Helen Keller

For me, “community” is rooted in fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals. One of the most important obligations of a community is to make sure that its children have a chance at a successful future. Protecting vulnerable young members of the community who do not have a voice – from neglect, poverty, abuse and violence – is essential. It is also the community’s responsibility to promote education.

When I became community and kindergarten readiness ambassador for Vroom, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, my eyes were opened to the need for more educational development in our small, rural community of Foxworth, Mississippi. We did not have the resources for parents to support their children’s learning outside of school and the closest library is 30 miles away. Many families lack transportation. I knew there had to be a way to inform parents how important it is to educate young children at home before entering kindergarten. Yet, for families living in poverty, parents often wake up in survival mode and stressed about whether they can pay the electric bill or stretch the food supply. As a result, I found that many parents were forgetting to take an active part in the education of their children.

The arrival of Vroom transformed our community.

With the help of Vroom tips, I was able to connect with local businesses and churches in the community and demonstrate how they could support early child education. To reach a broader area, I set up a social media Vroom page highlighting how easy it is to incorporate Vroom into everyday activities. I literally saw the community begin to light up! I began to receive feedback from parents on how they incorporated Vroom into small daily tasks like cleaning, bathing and riding in a car. Understanding the need for these resources, stores allowed me to put up posters and flyers. I created Vroom placemats for restaurants to pass out to families waiting for their meals so they were able to have a literacy experience together. Three churches allowed me to come speak about Vroom. During these events, I would have Vroom pamphlets, posters, tip cards, shirts, keychains and books to distribute. At the community’s fall festival event, children were able to pick pumpkins with tips attached to them. As the word spread, people would actually stop me as I walked down the street or call and say that they had seen my posters and wanted to know more about the five basics of Vroom (Look, Chat, Follow, Stretch, and Take Turns).

It was during these conversations that I met Katheryn Lowery and her daughter, Abby Raye (at left). Mrs. Lowery stated that she was 36 when she found out she was expecting. She was not familiar with Vroom techniques and did not believe she had the skills to teach her daughter. What an opportunity, to share with her that she already had what it takes to be a brain builder. Now when I see her, Katheryn tells me how much she loves Vroom tips and how she is better equipped as a parent to support and identify appropriate development milestones for Abby Raye.

Enthusiasm for Vroom throughout the community has continued to grow, and local leaders, businesses and churches have become Vroom partners. At a local collaborative meeting, I gave community leaders the opportunity to try Vroom tips out themselves. Mark Rogers, a local journalist, and Chief Deputy Sheriff Jamie Singley couldn’t hold back their laughter as they practice the “Smile and Wink” activity. By taking part in actual Vroom activities, community leaders experienced the actual effect of the Vroom tips versus just listening to the benefits that they offer. After the meeting, these leaders went out and continued to spread the word about the importance of early learning for children.

Vroom has strengthened our community in many ways. Law enforcement personnel share Vroom tips and books with children during security checkpoints. Medical clinics display Vroom posters and books in waiting rooms and the local custard stand gives out information at their drive-through window. Child protective services has mandated that parents who have had their children taken away attend the Vroom Play & Learn groups to increase their knowledge of early literacy to help them regain custody of their children. The local newspaper publishes articles highlighting the importance of Vroom for early development and local radio station invited me on air to emphasize the benefits of Vroom.

Without the support of community and the Vroom initiative, it would have been impossible for me to reach out to the families in Marion County and share strategies to help children learn early. However, with community support, the children entering kindergarten this year in Marion County are much better prepared for success. Helen Keller was right; alone we can do so little, together we can do so much more.

 

To learn more about how Vroom is innovating Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program, visit our website.