Amina Was Almost A Child Bride

By: Simone Jussar, Quality Communication Coordinator, Save the Children Mozambique

Save the Children Mozambique’s adolescent development programs have been implementing activities about sexual and reproductive health, and non-formal education in order to provide opportunities and improve the life conditions of adolescents. We have worked with education and health partners and community radios station. Since implementation, the program has been successful in reducing cases of early pregnancy, early school leaving, and premature marriages in our impact communities through awareness lectures, plays with messages to discourage early marriages and early pregnancy, and demonstrative sections about the use of contraceptives, like condoms.

In Nacala-a-velha in the Muendaze community, lives the adolescent Amina, a 15-year-old student of the 7th grade. We learned that she escaped from an early marriage situation. Everything started when a gentleman who lives in Nampula city went to Amina’s home to talk to the adolescent parents. “He came in my home and told my parents that he was interested in marrying me and my father didn’t accept. He insisted and my parents forced me to accept. I refused saying that I don’t want to marry,” said Amina.

Amina’s father continued to pressure his daughter and went to the school to ask for a transfer, claiming that his daughter would study in another city where Amina’s relatives lived so that the school principal would provide him with Amina’s transfer documents.

However, STC field staff, teachers, and the school principal intervened and the transfer of the school was denied. They worked to convince the adolescent’s father to refuse the marriage proposal, and after many meetings with community leaders and the brother of a girl who lives in the other city that Amina was going to transfer to, it was possible to convince the father to let the adolescent continue studying in order to fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Amina’s teacher said, “Early marriages make the adolescent waste time, it’s important to study first”. Despite the significant reductions in cases of early marriages in the impact community as a result of Save the Children intervention in past years, there is still some cases of early marriage and it is necessary to continue sensitizing and mobilizing the communities to discourage early marriage, since some families prefer that their children marry instead of continue studying.

Amina with her family in the Muendaze community

Currently to avoid early marriage Amina, and other adolescents have been actively participating in SCT awareness campaigns doing theater-teens. Amina has been sharing her story with other adolescents. “I only cried because my father was serious to marry me and if I didn’t try to find help I wouldn’t be here today, so I thank Save the Children”, said Amina. The adolescent program has been implemented in 36 communities involving 18,953 adolescents with 7,731 boys and about 11,222 girls.

Persistent Work Leads to Positive Change

By: Cheeko Garcia, Media and Communications Officer

A graduate of Social Work, Stanley has been with Save the Children for five years now. He works as Sponsorship Assistant, his task requires him to work closely in rural communities. Over time, he has witnessed how the organization’s programs have improved the welfare of children.

Stanley, Save the Children Sponsorship Assistant

When Stanley first worked with Save the Children, he noticed that majority of Save the Children partner schools needed assistance even in the most basic things. Located in remote, mountainous, and hard-to-reach communities, these schools barely receive government support. “There were schools which do not have clean water for children to drink, children do not receive dental and health check-ups, there were not enough books to read, and other students go to class hungry,” he recalls. As a result, children often go to school weak, untidy, and distracted while others lose interest and chose not to attend school anymore. “I have also witnessed some parents who punished their children for misbehavior either by pinching or scolding them in front of other people,” he added.

Stanley devotes much of his time working in the field particularly with children and parents. Stanley travels to remote villages both in coastal areas and in highlands. Spending hours of travel through deep rivers, muddy roads, or rough terrain is common to him. Upon arriving in the communities, he walks through farmlands and around villages with huts made of dried nipa leaves and bamboo to look for children. As the bridge between sponsors and the children, he talks to the children to know how they are doing and have their photos taken. He also delivers to and collects letters from children.

Stanley conducts a workshop for volunteers from Maitum, Sarangani Province. The training is part of the organization’s commitment to capacitate its partners in delivering programs for education, health, and child rights, among others.

Save the Children provides much-needed help through its Sponsorship Programs. Through partnership, the sponsorship programs support schools and communities. The programs facilitate the delivery of basic needs such as clean water in schools, train teachers, advocate for public funds for children, develop school disaster preparedness plans, and provide assistance to children’s groups. Also through the programs, healthy habits for children, child rights, and positive discipline are promoted among the members of the community.

Stanley taking a photo of Honey Jean for the Annual Family Update

Today, Stanley says he has seen much improvement among parents and children alike. In schools, pupils wash their hands regularly, teachers conduct tooth brushing activities, and children teach proper grooming habits to their peers. Parents have refrained from hurting and humiliating their children. Students and their communities now enjoy clean drinking water in schools. Children who were trained by Save the Children have gained much confidence and have become more participative in school.

“I hope our sponsors will continue to extend help because I have personally witnessed the good impact of our interventions. My commitment to the work that I do stays strong because I see that children are happy, learning and protected,” says Stanley.

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

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.

Save the Children in Nepal

The First Letter

11-year-old Sabrin lives in the Mahottari district of Nepal, which serves as the district capital. Save the Children introduced its Sponsorship programs to the south-east of Nepal in 2018 in theMahottari and Sarlahi districts to address children’s poor access to education and basic health facilities. Sabrin is the first child in her area to receive letter from her sponsor. Here is an excerpt from our conversation with her at her home that she shares with her extended family, including her lovely eight cousins.

 

Save the Children in Nepal
Sabrin and Sushmita pose for a photograph while in school

Madam Sushmita (field staff) had come to our school many times before but that day she had come to meet me. She had a big smile on her face when she handed me an envelope. She told me that it was a letter for me from my friend who lives in another country. This was the first time she brought a letter; other times she would talk to us and take our photos. I had never received a letter before, neither had anyone in my community. Confused yet excited, I read the letter aloud while she listened intently. My friend lives in America and works at Save the Children. Madam Sushmita told me that Save the Children works for children like us so we can have good education in schools.

All of my friends were curious too. They asked Sushmita madam if she had letters for them as well. My new friend’s name is Sue. She likes to cook and play games…so do I! I was very excited to read her letter but I was sad to know that she broke her leg and needs some time to recover in the hospital. She already knew that I want to become a doctor when I grow up. When I heard about her broken leg, I imagined that if she had been here and I were already a doctor, I would have treated her with care.

Just like me, Sue enjoys reading. I wrote her that Nepali is my favorite subject. I like to read stories and there are many stories in my Nepali book. I wish I had more information about my friend in her letter…what her favorite foods are and the foods people eat in her country. I wanted to know about her family too and what kinds of clothes she wears. I also want to know if she is feeling better now.

Save the Children in Nepal
Sabrin showing us her neighborhood while her school is off for monsoon vacation

Everything I could remember, I told Sue in my letter. Eid is the festival I enjoy the most- I told her that too. I also prayed for her speedy recovery. I wanted to tell her so many things but I did not have enough space. I could not write more even though I wanted to! I will write more once she feels better and writes me back.  

 

Save the Children in Ethiopia

It’s More than Luck

By Zewge Abate

Internal Communications Manager, Save the Children in Ethiopia

Mebrit, 32, has four children and lives in a small village in Central Tigray, in northern Ethiopia. Being a mother is tough in her community, where families are largely dependent on subsistence farming. In addition to the daily care of the house chores – including but not limited to cooking, cleaning, looking after the children and washing clothes – mothers also help their husbands with farming activities such as sowing and weeding. 

 

Save the Children in Ethiopia
Mebrit learning about parenting with Community Health Worker, Medhin

There is a saying in Ethiopia that “luck is what determines a child’s development” and most community members perceive this as the truth towards child development. Mebrit always thought she was doing her very best to help her children grow well. Like all mothers in her community, she carried them on her back while doing the house chores and running errands, fed them as well as she could and love them so much. But since March 2018, when she started taking part in Save the Children‘s trainings for mothers with young children, she realized, “There is much more to what I was doing as a mother.”

Mebrit said her one-year-old baby, Helen, “is the luckiest because I apply my knowledge from those sessions to support her to grow physically and mentally.”

Something that Mebrit learned from the early learning trainings for parents was how to use the items she has available, such as corks, to make learning into a game for little Helen, and help her make sense of the world.

Now, she also talks to Helen more than she used to. “Even if she does not understand what I say, talking to Helen and telling her stories contributes to her future linguistic skills.”

Save the Children in Ethiopia
Mebrit teaching her youngest daughter Helen with household items

Mebrit teaching her youngest daughter Helen with household itemsLittle Helen was able to walk on her own a little before she turned one in August, and Mebrit told me, “Neither her sister nor her two brothers were able to walk until after they turned one because I didn’t help them the way I helped Helen, holding her hands and always encouraging her to move.”

Early learning and parenting program, provided through Save the Children’s child sponsorship program, has changes children and parents’ lives in over 50 villages or kebeles, in the local Amharic language.

“[Before, I] sometimes shouted at them when they messed up,” Mebrit said, remembering how her relationship with her children has changed since the trainings. Having attended seven early learning sessions so far, she now makes sure that all the time she spends with Helen is spent playing and helping her thrive. 

Medhin, a local health worker that supports sponsorship’s programs in Mebrit’s community, shared “I am very happy to see mothers actively engage in playing with and helping in their children’s physical and cognitive development.” Specifically for Mebrit, Medhin said, “I can definitely say little Helen has grown super active because of her mother’s regular early learning activities.”

Thanks to sponsors, Save the Children in Ethiopia is improving the growth and development of children in Central Tigray during their first 1000 days of life, by enhancing their connections and bonding with their caregivers through developmentally appropriate play and communication boosters.

Mother and Daughter Beat the Odds Together

Every mother dreams of giving her child the best future possible. Valentina’s mother, Claudia, is no exception. But raising her only child in Sonsonate, El Salvador, where 75 percent of children do not complete basic education, means the odds are stacked against her.

“As a mother, … I was nervous about responsibility and providing my child with quality learning/education,” said Claudia. Which is why, when Valentina was only three months old, her mom enrolled her in our child sponsorship program and joined a parenting circle, where Valentina engaged with adults and other babies her age.

“I [have] noticed a difference in Valentina’s attitude … She used to cry around others and didn’t like to play with other kids,” said Claudia. “Her exposure to what was taught in the parenting circles changed that.”

Four-year-old Valentina loves reading about animals.

This past year, Valentina’s teacher asked for Claudia’s support in her daughter’s kindergarten class. Through Save the Children’s parenting circle and volunteer training, Claudia knows about the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills of children and how to engage them, making her an invaluable resource in the classroom.

Her daughter couldn’t agree more. “I’m happy my mom is at school,” said Valentina, who is part of a reading club that Claudia helps run. After listening to storybooks, the children participate in engaging activities such as drawing pictures based on the story. Because of these educational opportunities, Valentina loves doing her homework, especially when it involves letters. Soon she’ll be able to write her name all by herself!

During reading club, Valentina and her classmates draw pictures based on the story Claudia read.

School isn’t the only place where reading is encouraged. At home, mother and daughter bond over books about animals — Valentina’s favorite — space and the planets. Said Claudia, “I want Valentina to know, when she gets old, that I was there for her, reading to her.”

Today and every day, we celebrate moms like Claudia, who inspired the Ministry of Education to adopt Save the Children child sponsorship’s strategies, which are being implemented in all kindergartens, first grades and special education classes nationwide, giving children like Valentina the best chance to succeed.

Valentina sneaks a smooch while her mom, Claudia, volunteers in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom.