Learning to Have Fun in the Library

By: Ruth Carola Zambrana, Sponsorship Assistant, Save the Children Bolivia

“Teachers used to send their students to the school library as punishment (detention) but now students who are rewarded are sent to the library”, says Mariel a school librarian in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Mariel’s school library has been growing thanks to the support of Save the Children, who began working with her school in 2012. Encouraging children’s literacy and love for reading was one of Save the Children’s objectives and to do so, teaching materials, posters, and books were donated in order to make this space welcoming and exciting for children. A year later, the longed-for library began to operate.

Genesis, Mariel & Samir in the library

Mariel shares with us: “When I first started working here, I simply worked in the library and didn’t know what I had to do to make children want to come to the library”. Given the need to make the library an attractive place for children to be in and start reading and learning new things, Save the Children held Socialization and Library Implementation guideline workshops with the specific objective of arising the curiosity in children on what the school library may offer them.

After participating in these workshops, we now see children at Mariel’s school during school recess run to the library faster than to the kiosk. Children really started to enjoy being in the library and this was thanks to Mariel’s dedicated work of applying everything she has learned to improve her library. She explains: “The library implementation workshop has taught us how to give life to the stories children read. We have done this with our children by working with them to develop their own stories, practice origami, organize story time sessions, act out stories and also create a story roulette for children to pick out a book”. Children enjoyed working on stories so much that during the presentation of the school’s library to the whole school, children’s work was highlighted and they were able to demonstrate their work. Children themselves have talked about how the library has improved and how they loved how we have taken advantage of the materials that Save the Children has given them.

Mariel at her desk in the library

Ashly, on of Mariel’s students and also a sponsored child girl remembers: “Ms. Mariel encouraged us to make our own stories… mine was about a toad.” “Mine was about a boy and it was shaped as an accordion. Ms. Mariel has motivated us to invent our own stories” points out Alira (Ashly’s classmate) who also is enrolled our Sponsorship program.

The Power of a Letter

By: Tara Joseph, Sponsor Servicing & Quality Coordinator 

Claire-Rose is a 14 year old girl, living in Davenouce, a small community in Dessalines, Haiti. The youngest of her siblings, she has a special bond with her father; during her summer breaks she enjoys walking to the nearby rice fields to bring him a cold drink to refresh. In 2013, after a community mobilization campaign organized by Save the Children, Claire-Rose’s mother decided to enroll her in the Sponsorship program in the hopes of getting her to express herself more and learn about other cultures.

Shortly after her enrolment, Claire-Rose became sponsored and started exchanging correspondences with her new pen-pal. “When I received my first letter, I was very happy. It made me feel special to have someone that far away thinking of me”, she explains during her short interview.

Claire-Rose writing her response

The Save the Children field agents assisted her at first with reading and writing her letters, but gradually she was able to respond on her own. Today she can write her own letters and is always eager to receive packages and letters from her sponsor. Her latest package this year contained a bright pink sequined notebook: “My best friend was with me when I got the package she begged me to let her have this notebook, I didn’t give it to her, and I love it so much that I will use it as my diary to write all of my secrets”.

Claire-Rose writing

A previously shy and introverted child, Claire-Rose started making new friends when she became sponsored, since children are very curious. As she is receiving her sponsor’s letters, she’s becoming more talkative: she has a bigger view of other cultures, she created a strong friendship with someone that she hasn’t physically seen but who cares about her well-being and she gained more friends because they became interested in her exchanges with her sponsor. Besides attending school, playing and gardening, she added a challenging but exciting activity to her routine. Thanks to sponsorship programs and regular correspondence exchanges, children in Dessalines such as Claire-Rose are now getting a major literacy boost!

Claire-Rose showing her letter

Diary of a Girl Champion: Bringing the Stories of Malawi’s Girls to the U.S.

Written by Cecelia, age 16

This blog was originally published on Save the Children’s UK blog, Voices for Change

Introduction
I am Cecelia, 16, from Malawi and a champion for girls rights on health and education. I believe that girls deserve opportunities to reach their fullest potential. I talk to leaders in my community and my peers about girls needs and rights. I want girls to stay in school and complete their education and to see harmful cultural practices that lead to early marriage and teenage pregnancy to end. I desire to become a doctor to serve and inspire young girls.

I was selected by Save the Children to represent girls from Malawi and the region in New York and Washington DC to talk about our lives and advocate for them.

October 8, 2019
The long-awaited trip to the United States finally arrived. I was so excited and looked forward to my first experience on the plane and to explain to them [immigration officers] about my mission in New York.

After landing in New York, we checked in and went on a small tour around New York City. I saw Times Square and Central Park and they are really beautiful! Back at the hotel, I met Anxhela, another girl champion from Albania.

October 10, 2019
That night I kept waking up not believing I was actually here. I prepared for the day and went to the Save the Children offices to meet Anxhela and others.

We got a briefing on the Child Safeguarding Policy and the UN and then we went to UNICEF offices for a panel discussion on Preventing Families from Separation and Protecting the Rights of Children Without Parental Care. A young girl panelist impressed me for ably expressing herself. I rehearsed more to do the same the next day.

October 11, 2019 
Today I have my first big task here in New York, I was going to speak at the annual Girls Speak Out at the UN headquarters. We walked to the UN building and went through security checks. We each got a t-shirt for the event and we rushed to the washroom to change.

As guests arrive I felt a little nervous. I scan the crowd trying to locate my chaperone, Alinafe, who I spot smiling at me and I happily wave my hand to her.

The program starts and girls narrate their country stories that affect them such as trafficking, teenage pregnancies, early marriages among others. My turn came to tell the Malawi story: Everyone is listening attentively as I tell them what to be a girl in my country means, issues affecting my fellow girls and I ask for support from government, policy makers and my peers to work together in order to bring change in the lives of many girls. I also spoke about the work I do in my community to promote girls’ health, particularly girls’ sexual and reproductive health needs, so that they are able to stay in school.

October 12, 2019
Today’s event is “Bridge the Gap for Girls” and we are at Brooklyn Bridge. Everything is colorful here. Cameras are everywhere and it seems everyone wants to take pictures of me, Anxhela and Karen-another girl champion from Peru.

Save the Children US CEO, Carolyn Miles officially opens the meeting and she invites us to the stage. Karen goes first to give her remarks and I am next then Anxhela. I talk about girl’s health, and emphasize that if girls are given opportunities they can reach their full potential. Next, we cut the ribbon to mark the beginning of the bridge walk. We all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which is very long and beautiful.

October 14, 2019
Monday morning we reach Washington DC and more activities are lined up. I am excited and I look forward to going to Capitol Hill and meet many important people.

October 15, 2019

Today I am part of an all-girl panel discussion at the Senate House with Anxhela, as well as Fatima and Vishwa, two other girl champions supported by Plan International. Somehow, I am nervous yet confident that I will deliver. I spoke about the importance of girls’ voices and the meaningful participation of girls in policy spaces. I got good feedback after my speech.

I met some members of the Congress and my message to them was that most girls don’t get to finish school due to teenage pregnancies and child marriage and this is a situation that needs to change.

 

My advocacy journey here is almost reaching the finale but not until Anxhela and I have participated in a breakfast round table discussion with the women caucus at the Capitol Hill office. What a rare chance to meet and interact with women leaders. I was excited to receive any pieces of advice they would give to a young girl like me. I feel very happy after the meeting as I have learnt a lot from this encounter.

Finally, we meet Congresswoman, Lois Frankel in her office. Talking to her directly about my work and then asking for support for my fellow girls back home and across the region makes me feel like I am doing real advocacy. Mission well accomplished.

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work, visit our website

The Annual Family Update Experience

By: Daisyderata Chitimbe, Sponsorship Servicing Facilitator

Edited by: Memory Mwathengere

From a distance, as I rode towards one of the primary schools I facilitate on my motorbike, the sight of pupils wearing white and blue uniforms lit up my spirit. Slowly, as I got closer the pupils burst into a song that went: “Aunty Daisy tiwalandile tiwalandile” in our vernacular meaning “Aunty Daisy we welcome you”. For years, they have familiarized themselves to the sound of my motorbike and married it to my name.

Every day is an opportunity to make a difference and this is what I live for. Having clocked ten years working with Save the Children, one would think the passion of being a Field Facilitator would have died. But it seems as years are going by, the more I fall in love with my job like a beautiful story wine that becomes mellower with time.

Aunty Daisy

It was that time of the year again we do Annual Family Update (AFU). Annual Family Update is an exercise we conduct annually to update child records and photographs of children enrolled into sponsorship. Young boys and girls were excitedly waiting for Aunty Daisy to capture their photographs. They were neatly seated under a mango tree whilst waiting for me to get my camera and tablet out.

Having gotten my gadgets ready, I began orienting them in readiness for the photo taking session. They were already smiling in eagerness- grinning from ear to ear. One after another they came. “Can I see myself please”? They would ask and at the sight of their photograph they would burst in laughter. “Ah I want another photo.” In no time, the day was already over having captured 100 photos of learners. My arms were aching and the feet got swollen, having stood for long the whole day.

Daisy showing Angella her picture

It was like this each and every day for three months. Regardless of the hurdles, the beauty of the smiles was my consolation and knowing these the lives of these children will be greatly impacted. Thank you to sponsorship for giving me an opportunity to make lasting changes.

Cradle Ceremony for First Baby

By: Jamila Matin Aziz, Education Senior Officer , Saripul Province

Freshqan-e Meyana is one of the villages in the Sancharak District of Sar-i-Pul province. Sponsorship programs started working in Freshqan-e Meyan in 2009. People in the Sancharak district have similar costumes and traditions but it differs slightly from village to village, it happens sometimes that one tradition is only for one village and the neighboring village does not do that.

One of the traditions in the Freshqan-e Meyana village of Saripul province is a cradle ceremony for the first baby. This story is about Bushra, the first baby girl in the family, whose grandmother, Bi Bi Zahrakhal, wants to make her cradle and do the celebration. Bushra is the first baby in her family and according to the custom, her grandmother (mother of Bushra’s mother) should prepare the baby’s complete bed set with the cover-up sheet made of expensive handmade velvet.

The grandmother also prepares several sets of winter and summer clothes, towel, toys, and a bathroom set including, soap, shampoo, and baby powder. BiBi Zahrakhal also prepares clothes for all of her son-in-law’s family members.

Bushra’s father needs to host a party on the day of the ceremony for women who accompany her grandmother. Women of the village first go to Bushra’s grandmother’s house and then take all the things her grandmother prepared including the cradle and bring them to Bushra’s house. Whoever is interested, takes the cradle and sings and dances, and then Bushra’s family welcomes the guests. The singing and dancing takes place in the yard and then they go inside. The guests drink tea and eat candies.

(Right to Left) Zahrakhal, Mahboba, Fatima, and Karima singing and clapping

After singing and drinking, tea time occurs where the gifts are shown to the woman in the room, and then lunch is served. After lunch they put the baby in the cradle and her grandmothers says, “Bushra don’t be afraid of cats’ mews, don’t be afraid of dogs’ barks, and don’t be afraid of motorcycle’s noise.” Usually, in this session, the baby falls asleep and all the guests congratulate the baby’s mother and father. Family members pray for the baby’s wellness and then they leave the baby’s house.

Bushra sleeping inside the cradle
Save the Children U.S. Programs

Summer Boost Helps Kids Stay on Track

By Julia Morledge, age 15

Julia sponsors Emil, age 6

Edited by Jenée Tonelli, Sponsorship Communications Specialist

 

At 15 years old, my family has been sponsoring through Save the Children longer than I’ve been alive.  I’ve written to children over the years and received their letters and drawings in return, but have always wondered more about my sponsored child!  So, it was very exciting when my family and I visited the Save the Children Summer Programs in Tennessee.  Being from New England, it was so great to see what daily life was like for kids in rural, southern America!

The Save the Children Programs help to keep kids on track with their learning over the summer to make sure they don’t fall behind while school is out. My family and I sponsor because we have always believed that reading is especially important for these kids to learn, as our current society requires literacy to be successful.

One large goal of the program was to make reading fun for these kids. Everything they did with the kids was learning disguised as fun, which was really amazing to see. Before going out to see the programs, I was expecting a generic type of daycare for parents to drop their kids off while they worked. However, these kids were having a great time participating in all of the fun activities Save the Children had to offer while learning at the same time.

I was also so happy to see there was a connection between the staff and the kids that seemed to drive them to want to learn and accomplish more. For many of these kids, the Save the Children staff are their number one supporters.

Julia reads with Lareina in her home as part of the Early Steps to School Success program

I’m more convinced than ever that every one of us has the power to make a difference in this world, and by investing in our young generations and teaching them how to become ambitious learners, we are investing in the future. Save the Children provides support to these kids and gives them the tools to help both themselves and those around them.

Something that I take for granted are the many supporters surrounding me, constantly pushing me and wanting me to succeed in life. After seeing many children who didn’t have much or any support at home, I could see clearly that Save the Children was providing much needed support for all of these kids. With just one group of cheerleaders, my sponsored child is being given the opportunity to break the poverty cycle and seek a better life for himself.

I’ll never forget how inspired I felt watching these kids develop a passion for learning! It gave me hope for the future of our world.

Frustration and Optimism: My Mixed Emotions for Reducing Healthcare-associated Infections at Birth

This post is part of a series authored by the BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) team. BASICS is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%.

Written by Wendy J. Graham
Professor of Obstetric Epidemiology, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Today, advances in healthcare routinely enable miracles of survival and recovery. But some discoveries have been forgotten or demoted in the race to implement the latest. The importance of hygiene at the time of birth goes back centuries.* Yet here in the 21st century, so-called “places of care” bring increased risks of infection to patients and health workers when basic preventive principles are not followed. Safe water to drink, a clean surface to deliver upon, and good hand hygiene by those attending you – how more basic can it be?

After nearly 40 years in public health, I am re-invigorated by the chance to be part of what the BASICS partnership proposes: integrating four agencies’ best practices and learning in infection prevention in healthcare settings into one systematic approach in partnership with countries to dramatically reduce infection rates at the point of care.

Health facilities – and especially maternity wards – are the natural environment of my interest and passion for change. Initial work in Botswana in the late 1970s and early 1980s – at the time when HIV/AIDS was just emerging, gave me a firm grounding in the tough realities of healthcare in under-resourced settings, together with a lifelong admiration for health workers who provide care 24/7 in such circumstances.

It’s in these maternity wards where many mothers and newborns acquire infections. They’re often busy and overcrowded places, with invasive procedures, instruments that may not be sterilized between use, and major infrastructural and supply challenges to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. The photo here of a ward in West Africa captures this situation – indeed, with women being asked to bring their own bottle of bleach when they came to deliver as there had been no cleaning fluids in the maternity for months.

This is a striking reminder of the hidden costs of care families endure and the weakness in the health system, which means women deliver where “safe care” cannot be guaranteed and where health workers cannot protect themselves from infection risks either. Both “cannot’s” are violations of basic human rights.

This is why I’m so excited about the potential of BASICS to empower all health workers about proper hygiene and infection prevention practices and enable health systems to provide safe care equitably and routinely. And we mean “all” – acknowledging the crucial role in facilities played by workers who are not care practitioners – such as cleaners, orderlies and maintenance staff –  in creating a clean environment. These often-forgotten “workers for health” also have great potential to be agents for change.

But, of course, it’s not just the four BASICS collaborators and the crucial country partners who want better health outcomes for mothers and their newborns, and for them to leave a facility without a life-threatening infection.

Access to health facilities providing clean care was the second-highest demand of the 1.2 million women and girls in 114 countries who took part in the White Ribbon Alliance’s 2018 global What Women Want campaign on reproductive and maternal health needs. Women and girls overwhelmingly demanded clean facilities, clean toilets in maternity wards, a clean bed, and skilled health providers with sterile supplies and clean hands. 

None of these demands are impossible to achieve. The crucial innovation proposed by BASICS is to take the best evidence-based practices of each partner and create one comprehensive package of training, access to clean water in facilities, an innovative cleaning product and systems change in order to institutionalize and sustain clean care in the partner countries.

I am optimistic that BASICS can result in better quality healthcare that will save tens of thousands of lives and millions of dollars by averting healthcare-acquired infections.

In the time it has taken to read this, many more health workers’ could have washed their hands, many more women could have delivered on clean beds and with sterile instruments, and many more babies could have been discharged home without an infection from the facility. This advance does not require a new discovery – we know what to do now.

BASICS will be a catalyst for the miracle of survival and good health for mothers and newborns. 

To learn more about BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%, visit savethechildren.org.

 

*Graham WJ, Dancer SJ, Gould IM, Stones W. (2015) Childbed fever: history repeats itself? BJOG, 122:156–159.

Save the Children a Core Partner on $209 Million Contract to Advance Universal Health Coverage through the Development of Sustainable Systems for Health

Save the Children’s health breakthroughs depend on responsive, equitable, quality-focused health systems to carry out and integrate effective health interventions and sustain impact for the future. We have set the strengthening of systems for health as a strategic priority to help us ensure, by 2030, no child dies from preventable causes before their fifth birthday.

We are pleased to announce that Save the Children is one of four core partners of Abt Associates on a $209 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to support scale up of quality reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services through the Achieving Sustainability through Local Health Systems activity. The five-year global project will:

  1. Reduce financial barriers to health services;
  2. Ensure equitable access for poor, underserved and socially excluded populations ; and
  3. Improve the quality of care for clients.

Save the Children will provide leadership to strengthen inclusive health system governance, engage civil society organizations to promote social accountability, enhance health systems at the community level, and sustainably scale up life-saving interventions. Our efforts will contribute to improved sustainability and resilience within health systems in as many at 52 countries to ensure mothers, newborns and children can access quality health services.

Additional partners include Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Training Resources Group and Results for Development, among a large consortium of deep expertise.

The Blue Dye Innovation that Makes Disinfecting Health Facilities More Effective and More Visible

This post is part of a series authored by the BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) team. BASICS is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%.

Written by Jason Kang, Co-founder and CEO, Kinnos

In 2014, I co-founded Kinnos in response to the West Africa Ebola crisis. At the time, one of the biggest problems contributing to high rates of infection was ineffective surface decontamination caused by human error and gaps in training.

Disinfectants like bleach are transparent, making it easy to miss spots; hydrophobic, making it bead up and roll off the surfaces it’s meant to disinfect; and only effective if used for a specific contact time, meaning healthcare workers must ideally wait for a certain period for pathogens to be inactivated. These problems are universal to disinfection in facilities outside the scope of epidemic outbreaks.

Highlight, our patented additive, colorizes the disinfectant so that users can easily see where it has been applied. Highlight modifies the liquid properties to eliminate droplet formation and improve adherence to surfaces. The color fades as the contact time needed for the disinfectant to work passes, indicating when decontamination is done.

To put this into context, our time at the Ebola Treatment Unit in Ganta, Liberia, was particularly memorable – I remember the intense heat and how incredible it was that staff were wearing layers of stuffy, personal protective equipment for 4 to 6 hours at a time. However, this also meant that they were only too eager to remove their protective gowns and coveralls, often not waiting the requisite contact time for the disinfectant sprayed on their protective garments to work.

Combined with the inherent difficulties of achieving full coverage with bleach, we quickly understood why health staff were up to 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than the average person.

When healthcare workers started telling us that Highlight was making them feel more confident in their own safety and easing their stress in such high-risk situations, we realized that our technology was tapping into an invaluable resource: peace of mind. Interacting with the healthcare workers who had volunteered to put themselves directly in danger to help others was humbling and inspiring, and doing our part to make their lives even a little bit better was incredibly motivating.

The breakthrough that Highlight represents – the ability to overcome training and language barriers to empower health workers and those who clean facilities with a feeling of confidence through disinfection they can see – can have a profound impact in reducing healthcare-associated infections globally as part of the BASICS solution. In our mission to prevent infections and improve patient safety, we have not forgotten about the people who are tasked with the important step of disinfection.

In addition to our humanitarian focus in low- and middle-income countries, Kinnos is working to radically reduce healthcare-associated infections and the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance within the U.S. healthcare system.

We’ve partnered with leading medical organizations to pilot our technology in hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and other facilities. It’s a sober reminder that infections affect society at large and are an urgent global problem that require a concerted effort to solve.

The fact that someone today can receive a life-threatening infection from a place where they expect medical care and treatment is unacceptable, and we are motivated to make this a problem of the past.

Historically, so many resources have been devoted to diagnosis and treatment, even though it’s recognized that prevention is key to sustainable healthcare. We always knew that surface disinfection was only one key part of the larger infection prevention ecosystem, so having the opportunity to enact a system-wide program with the rest of the BASICS team is extremely exciting to me.

The world has been waiting too long for an initiative like BASICS to set the standard of infection prevention.

The Beauty of a Community Coming Together at the Border: An Emergency Responder Shares Her Story

Save the Children and GSK have been global partners since 2013 and have worked together in the U.S. since 2015. Together, our two organizations are helping children, with GSK providing corporate and employee donations to directly aid children. Angie is a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) employee who, as part of a partnership between Save the Children and GSK, was recently deployed to Las Cruces, New Mexico where Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces in transit shelters for children and families released by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. Here is her story.

 

The Beauty of a Community Coming Together at the Border
Written by Angie, GSK

In early August, I was incredibly honored to have been selected for 6-month program that would allow me to take a leave of absence from my full-time job at GSK and work with Save the Children. My specific placement with Save the Children is with the DC-based U.S. Domestic Emergencies team.

This group is responsible for managing and implementing Save the Children’s emergency responses – simply put, the team deploys into communities so that families and caregivers can meet the unique needs of affected children.  My assignment is to identify and improve the operational efficiencies of the current model so that teams of people can deploy within 24-72 hours after an emergency strikes.  Additionally, I also deploy with the team to emergency response sites. Just three short days into my assignment, I was asked to do just that and support Save the Children’s efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border. Of course, my answer was yes. 

To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into, but knew that help was needed. On July 19, I landed in El Paso and headed out to Las Cruces to meet a team of incredibly dedicated Save the Children staff and volunteers.  Thus began my work at the southern border.

The most common question from my family and friends is, “How are things at the border?” We see things in the media, and the purpose of this story is to give you my answer. Yes, there are stories and things I have seen that will leave a lasting impression and take some time to process and understand. Then there are the stories that we should all hear and embrace.

Save the Children and GSK have been global partners since 2013 and have worked together in the U.S. since 2015. Together, our two organizations are helping children, with GSK providing corporate and employee donations to directly aid children. Angie is a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) employee who, as part of a partnership between Save the Children and GSK, was recently deployed to Las Cruces, New Mexico where Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces in transit shelters for children and families released by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. Here is her story.

The Save the Children crew on the ground is the epitome of what working with a team should be.  They received me with open arms and got me quickly up to speed. We would brief and debrief at the beginning and end of each day and ensured we looked after each other’s health, security and well-being.  Some of my best memories of deployment were cooking dinner for the team and chatting about our lives and everything in between, or travelling to a destination playing trivia and discovering new songs to listen to.  We laughed and helped each other out on our tough days by simply listening to each other.

We had many tasks, but the most important was to set up child-friendly play spaces in two shelter locations for children of families transiting onto their next destination after clearing detention. We did this every day and welcomed kids and parents open arms.  The thing is, based on my time in New Mexico, our work is a brief moment in someone else’s story. A child’s story. A child’s life. The children come into our child-friendly spaces and in the matter of a few seconds, they feel safe. They feel like they are children again. They just want to play and be kids. We created gardens, undersea magical kingdoms, and made it snow in the heat of a New Mexico summer using our imagination and some art supplies. We played soccer, football and endless games of Jenga. Every day, I saw new faces and smiles, and heard the laughter of children who had faced harrowing journeys. Despite different languages, we found a way to communicate, and more importantly, connect. 

I met a mom and her daughter who traveled for days with little or no food to get to the border. Upon reaching our space, the mom finally got to breathe and relax with her 2-year-old daughter. This beautiful mama sat in a rocking chair with a blissful smile on her face, while I played with her precocious daughter. She smiled, knowing she was about to give birth to her second child. She smiled, despite being separated from her husband and not knowing when she might see him again.  She smiled, moving into an uncertain future with a relative she had not seen in 6 years. 

I met another family who were waiting at the transit shelter for another family member to pick them up. That family member dropped everything and hopped into a car to drive 15 hours to pick up his sister and nephew. While they were waiting, the son very sweetly took care of his mom and all of the little ones around him. He played games, read to kids and colored. There was a kindness and curiosity about him that was infectious. We spent the latter part of the day looking at a map so he could understand where he came from and where he was heading. His curiosity shone brightly and by the end of the afternoon, a large group of us were standing around the map telling our stories. There were at least four different languages among us and yet we all understood.

After three weeks in the field, I now have an answer for those who ask about what’s happening at the border. I have met people with the courage, vulnerability and compassion to place humanity and common decency at the core of everything they do. I have seen the beauty of a community coming together to help people and children know that all is not lost and to inspire them to keep moving on their journey. I have seen the brilliant smiles of parents and children and heard their laughter. The work that team is undertaking at the border is quite possibly the first positive interaction some of these kids have had while heading towards their new homes. And yes, a brief moment in their lives, but hopefully a lasting memory that kindness, empathy and compassion can triumph over adversity. 

So please remember these stories – these are the stories that matter.