Letter G Makes Me Learn More

By: Sherin

Edited by: Yasintha Bere, Data Quality and Communication Officer

I am Sherin. That’s what my friends always call me. I am a little girl and I am 8 years old from a beautiful village far from the city. I am a third grader now since two months ago. Walking down the street with friends to school every day is the thing I love the most. We have much fun taking one kilo meter distance to and from school with lots of chit chats and singings. I have much love to my friends.

It was like just yesterday I entered primary school. There was an enthusiasm for making new friends, yet anxiety there was also for not performing well at school. Soon there were many in my list of great friends, yet I also started learning with some difficulties to recognize letters. Letter “A” became my favorite, simply because it’s the first letter alphabetically and that it was easy to write. It is not that easy, even quite difficult for letter “G” in comparison. Thanks to my great teacher who always assisted me through this learning process. I had my days full of learning letters, but also coupled with fun activities like singings, dancing, and plays.

In the second grade, I experienced new thing in my learning. Save the Children ran a program to assist us in the improvement of our literacy. It was started by some kind of test on our reading capabilities. Then came activities such as setting up our classroom with colorful letters and books and even providing us with books at community level. The latter is called “Reading Post”. I really like the reading post at community since it allows me to play and learn to read with my friends after school. It is open every Friday. We are facilitated by a community volunteer, who is, by chance, my pre-school teacher.

Sherin and her friend drawing in Reading Post

I have a favorite book at reading post. It is about caring for sick people. I love reading this book again and again, as I want to become a doctor. We are even allowed to borrow book for a week and I will always bring home this book. Besides, we are also provided at reading post with additional lessons on healthy life style and the importance of regular shower and breakfast. I see this as an important addition to my future goal.

With involvement in these activities, I find myself well improving in reading ability. I can now read long text and can assist my friends who are still strive with reading. I am confident that soon my friends and I can read as fluent as the older grader.

Sherin and friends reading during Reading Post

The Strong Will of a Father

His name is Hamissou Ibrahim. Kids affectuously call him uncle Ibrah because of his volunteering actions for the cause of children.
Married and father of four children, Ibrahim was one of the first students in his village. After six years in primary school, he failed his secondary school entrance examination.

This failure did not taint his life. Like other peasants in his village, Ibrahim makes a living by farming and herding animals.

However, the failure of the first generation of students in the village has been the main cause of parents’ neglect and lack of confidence in education.
People who have succeeded in being self-sufficient in this community are traders and those who travel abroad in neighboring countries. Parents, because of their lack of confidence in schools, encourage children to learn trading, herding and farming.

Hamissou feeding his animals

In 2016, the sponsorship program started in his community with ambitious objectives for children. Through parents, teachers and children’s sensitization and training, and innovative projects such as literacy boost and positive discipline, reading clubs and early childhood care centers were implemented in communities with many varieties of toys and learning materials.

Having failed in his own education, Hamissou decided to devote his time to the sponsorship program.

As a community volunteer for sponsorship operations, a reading club host, and a kindergarten teacher, Hamissou has become a pillar for the sponsorship program in his community. He helps community development agents locate children and monitor their presence at school, he teaches younger children in kindergarten, and helps pupils with reading difficulties at school in reading clubs.

Hamissou reading a letter to Harira, a sponsored child in Niger

“Parent ignorance has handicapped children’s education for decades in my village. When I was made aware of the objectives set by the sponsorship program, I decided to devote all my time for children’s welfare,” Hamissou said.

“Changes brought in communities by the sponsorship program are evidenced in every child’s behavior. Good hygiene habits, body cleanliness and the children’s high performance in secondary entrance examination (62 %) in my community.”

All these changes have allowed for parents to have a new vision of school and has created a new light of hope in every child’s life.
Children, parents and teachers do not run out of praises for Save the Children for all the efforts made in changing life at village and at school.
Hamissou concluded by saying, “the sponsorship program has succeeded liberate parents from ignorance and has fashioned our life for better. We earned something which remains a treasure forever, our behavior change”.

A Reading Club Mentor’s Story of Rediscovery

By: Kalenzi Uwear Prisca, Program Officer

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and a big mango tree casts a loving shade over a group of young children shielding them from the blaring Ugandan sun. The echoes of laughter and glee are pleasantly uncharacteristic of the routine learning environment that one would expect from a regular Ugandan school. Even more amazing is the elderly gentleman who laughs and plays along with the children. It is easy to tell that he is enjoying himself.

At 58 years, Mulindwa Yahaya has been helping children to learn and improve their reading skills for almost a year now. “I first came to the reading clubs when I brought my grandchildren would drop them and sit a distance away waiting to take them back home. Over time I drew closer and noticed that it was different and unique unlike any other classes I had ever witnessed” says Mulindwa.

Mulindwa, a reading club mentor

He tells me that as the number of children grew bigger the club needed more mentors to manage the growing numbers, thus began his journey with the club.

“I had seen the mentors play, dance with the children and tell stories. I thought I was too old for this but the energy is contagious” Mulindwa says adding that after all he was old and frail and not highly educated. The need for more mentors provided a chance for him to contribute something for his community and the wellbeing of the children. “The decision to become a mentor has almost rejuvenated me…jumping and dancing has given me a new lease on life. Although I teach the children, they are always teaching me something new. I am always looking forward to these classes because when I am here I feel young again.” Mulindwa reflects fondly.

The reading club is an intervention introduced by Save the Children to boost literacy at community level. It gives a chance to both school going and non- school going children to improve their literacy skills. The children use materials that are locally made and naturally occurring in their environment. This brings the concepts closer to home. There are currently 3 reading clubs and12 more being rolled out in the sponsorship program in Uganda under Basic Education with ECCD. The clubs are run by mentors like Mulindwa who offer two hours every week to teach children innovatively.

Mulinwa reading a story for Betty and Samuel during the reading club session

The mentors are trained and given skills to lead the clubs. All one needs to be a mentor is to be able to read and write, facilitate a class innovatively and have love for children. “I am glad I chose to be a mentor. I joined the club to help the children but in the end the children have given me so much more. They make me feel young again. The children who are in reading clubs have become more assertive and perform better at school. I am proud to be contributing to their success!

A Heart-Warming Welcome

By: Pham Tra My – Sponsorship Assistant, Save the Children in Vietnam

During the wake of tropical storm Nida that hit Lao Cai Province in August 2016, Phin Ngan Commune was among the most affected areas, causing massive destruction on personal and property damage. “1 of our 13 school sites was destroyed during the flash floods and landslide,” said Ms. Huyen, Principal of Phin Ngan Preschool.

The trip started at 7.30AM. Our original plan was to visit Tuan, Mr. Bruni’s sponsored child. However, like many other children in Lao Cai, Tuan spent the summer away from home as he joined his parents when they travelled to another place to seek extra income.

Together with Mr. Bruni and Ms. Pacione, our car went up the hillside gravel roads that led to the school site. Before our eyes lied vast rice terraces, small lakes, and a few houses that belonged to the local people. We were warmly welcomed by district officials and school staff, who were kind enough to spare an hour from their busy working day to meet Mr. Bruni and his companion in person.

Ms. Huyen then showed us around the school site. Our attention was drawn into the small toilets that were currently under construction. “So… how do the children [go when they need to]?”, asked Mr. Bruni. “They use potties,” Ms. Huyen answered. According to her, some parents were contributing labor work in the construction of the toilets and safety fences around the playground so everything would be ready by the time summer vacation ended.

The sponsors were later invited to join a Parent Club session, an activity initiated by Save the Children’s Early Literacy and Math at home (ELM) program, with the purpose of helping parents gain the skills to help their children learn at home. What we took from the session was that teaching children at home did not have to be complicated; parents can use very common items found around the house (like corn kernels, pebbles, or tree leaves) to familiarize kids with numbers and counting skills. Moreover, incorporating numbers and counting into daily chores helped children learn faster. For example, a mother would ask “Could you bring me 7 garlic cloves to prepare dinner?”

Parent Club session

To welcome the sponsors, school staff and parents had prepared some games, which included tug-of-war and sack jumping. Though hesitated at first, Mr. Bruni decided to hold one end of the rope, exclaiming “I haven’t played this game in 25 years!” with a big smile.

Tug of war game

Despite the children shyness and language barrier, Ms. Pacione quickly acquainted herself with the little kids that followed their parents to the Club session that day. Some of the children were wearing traditional Dao attire. And there stood out one little boy in green, the uniform color of police officers, for his dream was to become one when he grew up

Ali’s Teaching Journey with Save the Children

By: Ali Armin, A teacher at Save the Children sponsorship-supported school

Everything new in life is uncertain, just like when Save the Children arrived at this school. We didn’t even know how to pronounce it; it was completely unknown to us.

We thought that it was just another program, one more NGO. Nevertheless, when I visited other schools around I saw new water filters, books and libraries refurbished, all that by Save the Children, after seeing that I was definitely excited to hear more about this organization.

Teacher Ali at his desk

The enthusiasm in which the project was presented to us made me get more interested in searching for more information about SC Sponsorship. Through social media, I found that this project was huge and it has a high social impact.

As time went through, I got familiar with Save the Children. I will never forget one day when SC staff arrived at my classroom, and they were looking for a student because a sponsor has sent her a letter and a big gift.

I was so moved when I saw the girl face because I know how these actions impact a child with limited possibilities to access to clothes and play toys. I couldn’t believe that a person could support and send an encouraging message to keep studying for a child who did not know. Being part of this moment was touching, so I decided to write a thank-you letter to her sponsor because I’ve learned that in life people have to be grateful.

Teacher Ali grading Olivia’s homework

Gradually, I became more interested in this project, when SC Staff started to work with us, the teachers. They have trained us and provided literacy boost materials in order to enhance our teaching practices for our students. These strategies are innovative for us, and we are very happy with everything that SC has provided to the school.

It’s great to know that Save the Children also has political incidence, children’s voices must be heard. I saw a few months ago, that SC staff came to interview children in relation to the past political elections, and I was glad to hear how a 4th-grade student gave his opinion about political candidates and the problems in our country.

As part of my role as a teacher, I witnessed the “Early childhood agreement” in my state, with political candidates of the community. Many guests to this event didn’t know what Save the Children does, and through my experience, I explain them with excitement about the actions that SC have done at my school and the community,

Teacher Ali in his classroom

I believe and I defend this program, I helped that more and more people know about what SC does because I have seen the great impact you have on children. I am grateful to every person who makes possible Save the Children exists, and overall is privileged to be part of this program, we are going we are doing great changes together for the children.

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.