The Meeting of Two Worlds

By: Memory Mwathengere

When the news broke that an international visitor was coming to her village school, it sent shock waves through Dorothy’s small community in Malawi – they had never had a visit from a child sponsor before and they were all eagerly awaiting the big day.  You see, it’s a very special event when a sponsor is able to meet their sponsored child in person, and for Dorothy, the impending visit was no exception.  “I was very happy when I was told that my friend was coming,” she explained shyly.

Dorothy outside her school

Yet, at the same time, she was nervous that the visit would not actually happen. Sponsored children rely on their imaginations as to what their sponsor is like and the reality of a face-to-face meeting is sometimes hard to fathom, she explained.

Luckily, the big day arrived and Dorothy finally met her sponsor, Sabrina, who had come all the way from Italy with her partner. The community welcomed the pair in typical Malawi fashion — with joyful dancing and ululation.

Dorothy was surprised to see a young looking woman, “I imagined her to be light in complexion and older, and I was very happy to see her.” Sabrina went to Dorothy’s classroom to observe a lesson, and later she had the opportunity to observe program activities. “She asked me the type of sport and subjects I like; she also asked me to read a passage in an English textbook,” Dorothy recalls fondly. “Sabrina is very nice.”

Dorothy receiving gifts from her sponsor Sabrina

Dorothy was also happy with the gifts Sabrina bought her, particularly the school bag, notebooks and pencils. She indicated that her school items used to go missing, but with her new gifts, now she has somewhere safe to keep her things.  And in appreciation for her visit, Dorothy’s family presented Sabrina with some locally weaved baskets.

Encouraged by Sabrina’s visit, Dorothy’s parents now ensure that she does not miss school and Dorothy is inspired to work hard to become the doctor she is aspiring to become. “I would like for her to continue sponsoring me until I complete my education,” says Dorothy.

As for Sabrina, she was so inspired by her visit she has become a Save the Children Ambassador and plans on returning to Malawi to visit Dorothy as soon as possible!

A New Friend for Sofindja

By: Kervens Fils-Aime, Community Engagement Assistant

Sofindja is a very smart and cheerful little girl who lives in a small community in Haiti. She is the eldest of two children and has participated in sponsorship programs for three years. For the first two years, she regularly exchanged correspondence with her sponsor.  However, the sponsor was no longer able to continue the sponsorship, causing the friendship to come to an end.  Although Sofindja was disappointed, she looked forward to starting up again with someone new.

While she waited to be connected to a new sponsor, she enjoyed reading the letters her friends received from their sponsors, an activity that allowed her some connection to her old routine that she missed so much.

One day, at the end of 2018, a field agent came bearing good news. Sofindja was finally getting a new sponsor!  Even her good grades from the quarter did not make her happier than this news! The long awaited exchange was finally going to start again, and Sofindja was getting a new friend.

 I was so happy to finally be able to talk to my new friend, she exclaimed. “I sent him some information about meI told him that I have a little brother, and I made him a nice drawing of a flower. I hope we will get along well, because he is a boy and I love soccer like many boys. 

Sofindja chatting with a Save the Children field agent

Every day, sponsors make a tremendous difference in children’s lives, and exchanging letters is just one part of the program.  For example, Sofindja and her schoolmates also enjoy important life-changing benefits – from the construction and restorations of schools and play areas, to the implementation of important health and hygiene programs. Thanks to our partnership with Save the Children, this school has been totally renovated and we now have a playground that all the children can use during recess,” explains Sofindja’s school principal. The children love playing outdoors and this allows them to take a break, every day! They now also have access to a handwashing station that they can use to help them stay healthy.”

Sofindja using the new hand washing station at her school

Sponsorship offers a window to life in a different country, and can be a rewarding experience for both parties. Thank you for committing to making Sofindja — and many children around the world — smile daily!

The Dignity of a Photograph

By: Zewge, Internal Communications Manager

Over 40 children lined up in their school compound in the Central Tigray impact area, Ethiopia, for the annual photo day, where children have their photos taken to send to their sponsors. Some children look nervous and are unsure of what to make of this process, while others are very excited. These photographs are the only way for these children to let sponsors know how they look, so they have dressed as nicely as they could on this important day. It is also an exciting and busy day for Gebrerufael Gebrehiwot, Save the Children’s Sponsorship Operations Officer, who has organized this event.

According to Gebrerufael, the ‘photo shoot’ is an important part of sponsorship operations. He loves the children’s excitement because “their smiles follow when they are excited,” he explains. Yet, surprisingly,nearly 90% of the children have no experience with the photo shoot before they enrolled for sponsorship. “Many [children]are nervous and shy away from the camera,” says Gebrerufael. “It takes teachers’ and sometimes parents’ explanations to make them understand how important these photos are.”

The children also dance, sing songs and play fun games to get more comfortable before sitting for their photographs. “That is to help them to face the camera in a relaxed mood,” he explains.  “It’s also helpful to show the children the end result to keep them motivated.”

Sponsorship Operations Officer Gebrerufael Gebrehiwot showing a group of children some of their photographs during the photo shoot

It is also common that many children wear the same clothes for recurrent photo shoot sessions. “What mainly explains this is poverty,” Gebrerufael affirmed. Most children come from poor families with subsistence farming or daily labor as the main source of livelihood. “They are unable to afford to buy new clothes for their children every year,” he explains.

Million’s sponsorship portrait

For example, ten-year-old Million wears the same outfit she had for last year’s photo shoot. She said, “My parents don’t have money to buy me new clothes. I am shy, but I like seeing my pictures. I am happy my sponsor receives them, too.” 

Gebrerufael explains that although it is important the photo-taking process is fun for the children, it is just as critical that the activity fosters self-respect. “Not only do we want to achieve a quality photo to share with sponsors, we also want the children to preserve their dignity in the process.”

Small Words, Big Impact

By: Romy Carol Lima Nina, Sponsorship Assistant

I wish you could see Roberto’s big contagious smile and wide eyes every time he receives a letter from Manisha, his sponsor.  It brings him such joy!

Roberto, who lives in Bolivia, had sponsors previously, but unfortunately, he never received any letters.  When I informed him that he now had a new sponsor, he hoped that this time things would be different.  Luckily they were. Roberto and Manisha began exchanging letters and soon developed a very special friendship.

Most people do not recognize the huge impression a sponsor’s letter can have on a child’s life. In the case of Roberto, the friendship he has with his sponsor is very important to him.  In one letter, Manisha asked Roberto what he wanted to be when he grew up. This simple question really got him thinking and he decided then to work hard and fight for his dream of becoming an architect. Manisha’s response in her next letter encouraged him to move forward and wished him success.

Roberto sharing his dreams with his sponsor Manisha

In a recent letter, Manisha asked Roberto what he wanted to build once he became an architect.  Roberto felt so motivated, because for him this was not such a simple question. He felt that even though Manisha is thousands of miles away — and he has never seen her face-to-face– she cared about his interests, hopes and dreams. Smiling, he replied: “I would like to build a 30-story building.”

Every time I arrive in Roberto’s community, he runs to ask me if I have a letter for him and he tells me he is already learning things about building houses. He started helping his dad and brother who are construction workers. He proudly says: “One day I will build a house for my mom” and makes sure to share all of these experiences with Manisha so she can be proud of him.   

Sponsorship Assistant Romy Carol Lima Nina and Roberto reading a letter to his sponsor

I have known Roberto for the past three years and his smile brightens my day. As a Sponsorship Assistant, I have the opportunity to work with many children in the letter-writing process with their sponsors. I have witnessed many letters that range from very descriptive, to touching and funny. It is motivating to see how even a few small words and phrases like “Hello,” “How are you?” or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” have such a meaningful impact on the lives and in the hearts of these children.

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.

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.

Now Christine Can Go to School

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Madrine Amuge

School Health and Nutrition Senior Officer

Save the Children Uganda

October 21, 2016

Christine, a nine-year-old girl and second born in a family of five children, lives with her parents and is enrolled in the Save the Children Sponsorship program in Uganda.

In the past, Christine was often sent away from school, not able to attend without the basic requirements like paper and books. When she was permitted to stay in class, she was not able to take any notes because she had no notebook to write in, preventing her ability to learn.

senior-officer-madrine-helps-christine-compose-a-letter
Senior Officer Madrine helps Christine compose a letter.

“Before I joined Sponsorship, I would feel sad going to school without exercise books, pencils or anything to color with. I would often be sent home from school because I didn’t have a book for a particular subject,” remembered Christine quietly.

As a result of Sponsorship funds, the community has been provided with enough scholastic materials to ensure all children are able to go to school and learn. Today many more children, including Christine, enjoy being in school thanks to this funding.

Christine was very excited to receive a pack of books, lead pencils and colored pencils from Save the Children, which has enabled her to develop a love of learning. In addition to the scholastic items, Christine receives frequent correspondences from her sponsor that she happily replies to. We’ve found that letter writing increases children’s interest in reading and writing and their engagement in their studies. This is certainly true for Christine, whose reading and writing skills have greatly improved – she proudly boasts her handwriting is the best in her class.

Christine proudly holds the letter she’s finished for her sponsor.

Also through Sponsorship program interventions, Christine has learned how to stay clean and healthy while at school, by keeping her fingernails short and by washing her hands with soap before eating food and after visiting the latrine.

Christine is very optimistic that she will finish school and achieve her dream of becoming a nurse one day. She is very grateful for her sponsor’s support and encouragement. Her sponsor’s words help motivate her to continue being dedicated to her studies.

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

Sponsorship Comes Full Circle

Formerly sponsored child, Gloria
Formerly sponsored child, Gloria.

Save the Children U.S. Programs

October 12, 2016

Gloria has accomplished much in her 57 years on this earth. Born in 1959, she continues to live in the land of her birth. She has raised 2 children, and now has 4 grandchildren, 2 of whom she also raised herself, Anthony and Anfernee. The twin boys, now 19, and their successes are her greatest testament to a life well lived.

Gloria is the perfect example of Save the Children’s work coming full-circle. She was a sponsored child herself growing-up, and has many fond memories of corresponding back and forth with her sponsors. That relationship left a life-long impact on Gloria. Her sponsors’ encouragement to pursue her education led her to be one of the few in her community to go on to college.

Gloria reads a story to children during our literacy programs.
Gloria reads a story to children during our literacy programs.

Growing up in Arizona, the east coast of America might as well have been another country, but Gloria’s sponsors – a couple who sponsored her jointly – painted vivid pictures through their words in letters to her, so that she could imagine such a place. They talked about pets, school and what Gloria’s life was like with her family on the reservation.

Today, Gloria is proud to be the Save the Children Program Coordinator for one of the schools we partner with. She has over 9 years of experience in that role, and truly grasps the fundamental importance of Sponsorship programs, and their ability to enhance children’s lives.  She has also been working as the Sponsorship Liaison for 2 years, and enjoys facilitating the relationship between sponsors and children through letter correspondence, as this was the very relationship that she enjoyed so much as a child herself.

Gloria works with Sponsorship programs to help children develop a love of reading.
Gloria works with Sponsorship programs to help children develop a love of reading.

Gloria’s daughter was sponsored, as were her twin grandsons. Anthony and Anfernee participated in Save the Children literacy programs and went on to graduate high school this past year. Their success is Gloria’s success, and our success! Gloria’s personal relationship with sponsorship is so special to the rest of the U.S. Programs team, and the children we work with too – a living story of sponsorship success!

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

The Joys of a Letter Shared with Friends and Neighbors

Author Portrait_Nazma Akter, Sponsorship Program OfficerNazma Akter

Sponsorship Program Officer

Save the Children in Bangladesh

August 23, 2016

“It’s for the first time. A letter to such a little child is not only a new experience for us, but also a great joy for us.” said Sufia, age 27. Her two-year-old son Sabbir has just received a letter from abroad, sent to him by his sponsor.

Sufia is a home-maker and her husband, Delowar, age 32, works as a day laborer. Sabbir is their only child. Together they live in a slum settlement in the Rayerbazar community of Dhaka North city.

Later, Sufia and Sabbir show the letter to Sabbir’s father
Later, Sufia and Sabbir show the letter to Sabbir’s father

Enrolling children between the ages of 1 and 3 in Sponsorship has been recently introduced in Rayerbazar, in 2015 through our new Maternal and Child Health programming. Despite that this is a new initiative for Save the Children, the team in Bangladesh has already seen Maternal and Child Health has made sponsors excited. Sabbir received his first sponsor right after being enrolled in Sponsorship in August, and received his first sponsor letter immediately after that, in September.

Sabbir is still too young to understand what makes this letter so thrilling, but the happiness and excitement is greatly shared by his parents, despite that neither of them are literate. His mother explains, “We don’t know reading and writing. But we have loved reading the letter and replying to the sponsor with the help of [Sponsorship] staff. This letter has made us feel proud, as only Sabbir in our [entire] slum got a letter. We have shared the letter with our neighbors also. We are very thankful to the sponsor.”

In addition to making this connection with Sabbir’s sponsor, Sufia benefits from sponsorship support by attending early stimulation parenting sessions regularly. Our early stimulation parenting program is implemented through regular home visits or monthly group sessions with parents of newborns and toddlers. During these sessions, parents are taught how to aid in their young children’s development with playtime, language and communication, gentle discipline, healthy hygiene practices, feeding and nutritious foods. Parents and children alike learn with helpful learning materials, like illustrative cards and colorful picture books.

Sufia shares the letter with neighbors while little Sabbir is curious to join in the excitement
Sufia shares the letter with neighbors while little Sabbir is curious to join in the excitement

Sufia tells me, “Previously I didn’t know how to take care of a young child. But now, I have learned about the needs and care, including hygiene, food and nutrition required for Sabbir’s growth. Now, I can take proper care of him. We are happy to get Save the Children’s support.” Sabbir’s mother understands the importance of the Sponsorship program in helping her community, and how sponsors’ contributions directly benefit her child and family’s wellbeing.

Sufia wants Sabbir to have a good quality education. She wants his sponsor to keep writing to Sabbir, so that he too can learn from these letters and one day respond to them on his own. She is happy to know that her son has the opportunity to grow up with Sponsorship in his life.

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