The Community Volunteer Experience

Author Portrait_Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín, Community Volunteers in Cuyagualo, Sonsonate
Rosa Marroquín & Carolina Marroquín

Community Volunteers

Save the Children in El Salvador

March 2, 2018


A dedicated nurse helping to improve the health of people in need, and a devoted teacher shaping the minds of future leaders. Those were the dreams of Rosa and Carolina, two sisters who have been community volunteers with Save the Children’s programs for nearly 8 years now. Unfortunately, when they were just teenagers a tragedy struck their family – their father passed away and their mother found herself overwhelmed with 6 children. Rosa and Carolina’s mother took the difficult decision of taking them out of school so they could work and help with the family income. Rosa and Carolina desire for their own children, and for all children in their community, the educational and development opportunities they couldn’t have for themselves. With their work, they are making Save the Children’s vision come to life: a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Before Save the Children came to our community, our leaders used to think only about projects to improve the infrastructure, mainly paving dirt roads. So when Victor, Save the Children in El Salvador’s Community Mobilization Coordinator, presented sponsorship programs to us, people were at first not very interested because it was about education, health and protection for children and adolescents, more than direct and more tangible improvements like new roads. Some people even told us that Save the Children was evil and they would steal the children in our community. Ignorance and indifference dominated people’s minds. It wasn’t easy, but after attending the community mobilization sessions, the leaders came to understand that Save the Children had to involve the entire community in these programs in order to implement them, and that no decisions would be made without their input. In these sessions we also discussed the importance that having a strong educational foundation, and skills in personal hygiene and health, would have for our children. Little by little, the minds of community members began to change.

Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!
Little Idania, who at 18 months already can say 55 words!

We’ve been community volunteers for almost 8 years now. Back when we started, we had just one group of 5 – 10 children in our Early Learners programs. Today, we have seven active groups with nearly 30 children each. We’ve reached the hearts of so many mothers over those years, and now they know the importance of starting learning very early, before children enter primary school. Even the teachers are happier and satisfied, because children already know things such as how to hold a pencil, colors and vowels when they start kindergarten.

Another success has been changing people’s minds about the future of adolescents. In the past, adolescents would only study until 9th grade, then opt for the traditional, and considered easier, path of becoming a farmer, security guard, getting married or even joining a gang. Now, adolescents don’t want that anymore. They want to finish high school and go to college. With sponsorship support, our community management group has learned how to create projects and opportunities for adolescents. So far, we’ve managed to get 18 scholarships for students to continue higher education in high school or college this year. Our community now has adolescents with technical studies in computer engineering, who have become role models for the younger ones. Adolescents are also part of the community management committees.

Rosa with her niece, Idania.
Rosa with her niece, Idania.

The only regrets we have? All the wasted years without the knowledge we have now, the early childhood education we couldn’t give to our own children because we didn’t know anything about it. Our own children are grown-up now, but with our younger nieces and nephews we have put into practice all the strategies we teach to the other women in the community. We know for sure the Early Learning programs work, because we’ve seen the success in our niece Idania. She is just 18 months and can already say 55 words! Even the doctor is surprised with that!

We could share so many stories about the work we are able to accomplish in our community thanks to Save the Children, but in the end all of these success stories make us proud because we consider them our little triumphs!

Without dedicated community volunteers like Rosa and Carolina, Save the Children’s programs would not be possible. Children and families in their community are sure proud and thankful for having them, and being a part of their community’s growth themselves!

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


Mangane, an Example of Community Leadership


Mr. Mengos

Basic Education Coordinator

Mangane, Mozambique

August 3, 2015


Mangane is one of the impoverished communities in Mozambique where the majority of people have no job opportunities, and resort to farming as their daily activity for survival and to sustain their families. Luckily, it is a community where sponsorship programs such as Basic Education, School Health and Nutrition, Early Childhood Care and Development, and Adolescent Development are all being implemented.


Mangane Primary School before Save the Children intervention

Prior to Save the Children sponsorship, the school dropout rate had been increasing because parents and caregivers did not value education. A total of 283 children were enrolled in school in 2013, and in 2014 that number has increased to 392, demonstrating an increase of nearly 40%. The sponsorship program helped community mobilization and bringing community leaders to play a role in children’s education. Mangane had only three poor classrooms, both uncomfortable and with unsafe conditions for both children and teachers. However now with the help of sponsorship funds, the community has four new conventional and furnished classrooms and an administrative block, as well as improved and separate latrines built for girls, boys, and teachers. Save the Children is also providing sports equipment to ensure that the school environment is fun and friendly!

Abacar Fadil, is a community leader from Mangane, testified in his own words, “… My name is Abdul Fadil, I am a community leader and also a school council member. I know for sure and see how fast Mangane Primary School changed. A high number of children at school is now visibe from the time [Save the Children sponsorship] came to implement programs in our community. Awareness on parents and caregivers was raised in order to make them understand the importance of school.


Mangane Primary School after Save the Children intervention

I remember the time when parents were suffering a lot, every year rearranging the classrooms with local materials, children used to be with no lessons, during the rainy and windy days. Now everyone in the community is happy with what is happening, thanks to SCI programs and I would like to see this happening in other communities to help more children in need.”

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

Sharing Her Dream

Agnes Zalila, Sponsorship Manager

Agnes Zalila

Lufwanyama, Zambia

February 2014


Her name is Clara and she is 29 years old. We met her at an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) center at Chibanga in St Joseph. She is small-bodied and articulate.

Clara’s schooling came to an abrupt end in 2002 when her parents died suddenly. Poor and alone, she was desperate. Then, in 2003, she married an ambitious young man who had a big heart and big dreams.

His first step after their wedding was to enroll her in school. Today, she is about to write her Grade Nine examinations.

Clara’s story might have ended there. However, she felt she needed to find a way to inspire children who may be in the same situation as herself. That’s why she is an ECCD volunteer teacher who, though penniless, says she intends to become a qualified teacher and, one day, to be on the government payroll. 

ClaraClara is among the 48 volunteer ECCD caregivers/ teachers who have partnered with Save the Children and the Ministry of Education in Lufwanyama to promote quality education and development through the sponsorship-funded ECCD centers. She was given ECCD caregiver training and continues to receive refreshers to update her on new methodologies.

Meanwhile, Save the Children is supporting her in completing her own education. Her husband continues to help too. Early in the year, when their baby was a few months old and Clara had to help at the center, her loving husband escorted her and would babysit while she worked.

Clara is a role model of what determination can help you achieve. She intends to teach in rural Chibanga where she is already becoming a legend – and an inspiration to the children.


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

Not Your Average Teddy Bear

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Monday, December 6, 2010


My favorite stuffed animal from my childhood was a light-blue bear that I dubbed, Bear. Not the most creative name but I was nine-months-old so cut me some slack.

Bear was my best friend for two reasons. One, he always took my side in an argument with my mother. And two, he was always open for a hug. 

The ever-innovative geniuses at IKEA are behind a new initiative to make stuffed animals not just cute, cuddly and good listeners, but advocates of universal education. 


In real life they don’t actually make signs, give speeches or march on Washington but the impact is just as powerful. (Disclaimer: No, they are not alive either.)

For every soft toy sold IKEA donates 1 euro to Save the Children and UNICEF to support our education programs. 

In October, four IKEA employees and two IKEA customers traveled to Vietnam and Bangladesh, respectively, to see first hand the problems facing children, their families and communities and the difference that the money raised by the IKEA soft toy campaign is making.

To say the least, they were all wowed: 




Here are some quotes from the video that capture the impact that education can make in children’s lives.

“Investing in education sounds fantastic, but it’s not until you’re here and you see on the ground the difference its making and the positive ripple effect that it has on communities that you understand the difference that’s being made.”

                                             -Keith McLeish, IKEA Edinburgh  

Our children are studying, so their prospects are so much better.They are mixing with good people and are confident and safer.”

                                             -Mother of Bangladeshi student 

“Even to get to school some kids have to travel 10-15 kilometers, and it’s not by car. They have to walk. So even getting to school is a challenge…If that challenge is met by the children then it should be met by us.

                                              -Nigel McGarry, IKEA Belfast

So in honor of my old chum Bear, who now resides in the attic, join the soft toy movement and help every child realize their right to education.

Behind the Sponsorship Scene: Malawi- Part Two

Kathryn koonce Kathryn Koonce

Global Sponsorship Operations Manager, Save the Children

Thursday, September 30, 2010

 At the end of Kathryn's first post she was leaving a child-care center in Malawi supported by sponsors like you and administered by Save the Children.
We rush off to a nearby primary school that holds more than 2,000 children to catch the 1st-3rd-graders in the St. Martin district before their day ends. There are half a dozen one-story brick buildings on a barren piece of flat sandy property. The teachers are inspiring and the children are engaged and enjoying their studies. After visiting a sixth grade class, I sit outside the head master’s office. More than 20 kids crowd around me, wondering where I come from, staring at me, and waiting for me to take their picture. They scream as soon as they hear “click,” and retreat. Moments later they inch closer and closer until they get another “click” out of me.

Reading camp tree

Students gather under a tree for "Reading Camp"

Our last stop is the Literacy Boost “Reading Camp,” a voluntary after-school program where children in grades 1-5 practice reading and play word and alphabet games. When we arrive they are reading together, playing and having fun with locally-made materials. The volunteer facilitators are great at keeping the children (who have already attended a full day of school) engaged and interested. They read a book with lots of “L” words, then discuss names with the letter L and draw names and words with L in the sand with their fingers. The Malawian music blasting from a nearby house and what looks like a 200-pound, gray pig wandering about makes the atmosphere cheery and comfortable.

Teacher and class

A teacher poses with his students

I am inspired by the passion of the volunteers, teachers, and caregivers, and encouraged by the smiles on the faces of the children. In this region, where many parents cannot read, they are compelled to send their children to get the best education they possibly can through the early learning centers, schools, and reading camps that Save the Children supports.

I will leave Malawi comforted by the smoky scent and vibrant cloths, and most of all, the sparkle in the smiles of the children.


All Photos Courtesy of Kathryn Koonce


Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more

Behind the Sponsorship Scene: Malawi

Kathryn koonce Kathryn Koonce

Global Sponsorship Operations Manager, Save the Children

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This post is the first in a two-part series written by Kathryn while on a trip to our sponsor-funded schools and community centers in Malawi.

Driving down a reddish dusty road in a four-wheel drive vehicle—the only car on the road—there is a pleasant smoky smell in the air and we are covered in a layer of grainy auburn dirt. We pass women in colorful cloths, some of them with children tied to their backs with another piece of cloth, gracefully carrying unthinkably heavy weights on their heads with ease. Brick houses and small shops dot the flat, dry landscape and neatly organized mounds of dried manure border the road. The manure will fertilize maize and vegetable crops during the rainy season which starts in November.

We are in southern Malawi, driving from Blantyre to the Zomba region where loyal Save the Children sponsors like you help support child care centers, schools, and “reading camps”. We are a team of Save the Children staff from our home offices in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. working with our colleagues in Malawi to makes sure that the sponsorship programs you support are delivering the maximum benefits possible to girls and boys. We’re accompanied by our Malawian colleagues – two education experts, a writer, and a driver.

Three-year-old Elufe playing with colored blocks at a Save the Children supported ECD center in Malawi.
Photo Courtesy: Michael Bisceglie

When we arrive at the child care center staffed with volunteers and packed with children under age 5, we are greeted by curious mothers with babies in tow, tied to their backs, some of them holding another child by the hand. A group of giggling children from the primary school run up to us to see the car and the visitors inside. They share bright smiles and wave cautiously at the unfamiliar site. A large group of young children enthusiastically repeat after their teacher in Chichewa, the local language, under a thatched roof in a red brick structure with waist-high walls that let parents see in and children see out. Hundreds of bricks are rested in piles nearby to eventually expand the center. Two mothers stir a large pot of porridge and fill a bucket with water from the nearby well for hand-washing.

Four-year-old Peter playing with a toy truck. He attends a sponsorship supported Early Childhood Development program in Malawi. Photo Courtesy: Michael Bisceglie

We meet with the school leaders as well as the caregivers who staff the center – many of whom are parents of the children attending the program. They sit on straw mats and bricks; many of the women nurse and calmly tend to fussy babies as they speak with us. They explain that they are happy with the positive changes they see in their kids. Before – the children would hang around the villages with little to do. Now, they interact with each other and with their caregivers; they talk, they sing, they jump and clap. The parents also talk about the benefit of having time to do other things like prepare goods to sell at the market or tend to their crops while their young children are safely cared for by trained volunteers at the center.


Click here to find out about the rest of Kathryn's journey and learn how other Save the Children supported schools are doing in Malawi!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more