Growing Through Letters

Author Portrait_Gehad Radwan, Sponsorship Operations Assistant
Gehad Radwan

Sponsorship Operations Assistant

Save the Children in Egypt

February 2, 2018

Greetings! My name is Gehad, I am 23 years old and I work as a Sponsorship Operations Assistant in Abnoub, Egypt.

In every trip to the field, I live the best and greatest moments when children hear from and write to their sponsors. I know by watching them write about their feelings, adventures and new experiences that children write to their sponsors with lots of passion – each line seems to never be enough, as they want to narrate more and more.

Children from Abnoub seem to be so excited and astonished when they read a letter from a sponsor which describes what it is like in a foreign country. Hearing stories about the different places have made them realize that the world is bigger than they ever imagined it to be. Sponsor letters help children smile, which makes me smile. They share the name of their sponsors proudly with their family and friends, and always look very happy when they speak about them. The children are always eager to give more and more information about their hobbies, family and their daily activities.

Lately, I can see that the children who receive correspondences from their sponsors became more creative and interested in different activities and hobbies. Especially for girls, their minds have been opened to new ideas and what would be considered untraditional thoughts in the Egypt context. According to these traditions, many girls have not been allowed to participate in outdoor activities, or even complete their education as their parents did not see educating girls as important.

Gehad drawing with Hager, a girl in a sponsorship-supported school.
Gehad drawing with Hager, a girl in a sponsorship-supported school.

Girls now are encouraged to go to school, play sports, draw and read, all activities that were restricted to boys in the past. They have a chance to share their interests and dreams with their sponsors too, and ask for their guidance and ideas in thinking about what they actually want in the future. Sponsors help children in Abnoub realize the sky is the limit, and their dreams, no matter how big, are possible. Likewise, sponsorship programs like campaigns in communities are helping parents understand that educating their daughters can be a source of pride.

When I was helping one of the sponsored children here, 10-year-old Hassan, respond to his sponsor’s letter, I was amazed when he updated his sponsor with “I attended Summer Camps, I learned the name of the most common diseases, how to prevent them and I received toothpaste and a toothbrush, and I felt proud when I shared this useful information with my friends and family. After attending the health campaign I became determined to be a doctor to help people to live better and protect themselves from dangerous diseases.” Hasan was talking about an event organized by our school health and nutrition team, which involves children in games and fun while also spreading messages about topics like personal hygiene and nutrition.

Gehad delivering letters to Osama, Nourhan and Shahd.</em
Gehad delivering letters to Osama, Nourhan and Shahd.

Generally, children surprise me all the time. Writing letters is an amazing skill that they gained from Save the Children and its sponsors. It gives children the chance to express themselves, think of their future, determine what they love, and exchange their opinions and thoughts freely.

In my first year working with Save the Children, I would like to thank all the children for what I learned from them during these amazing moments. If I were able to meet all their sponsors, I would tell them that they have all the reasons to be proud of their sponsored children.

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

Gloria’s Restored Confidence

Author Portrait_Agnes Nantamu, Senior Officer Adolescent Development
Agnes Nantamu

Senior Officer of Adolescent Development

Save the Children in Uganda

October 6, 2017

Gloria is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Namayumba, Uganda, with her mother and four siblings. She recalls the days before the sponsorship program started in her school as hard, especially the time when she first began her menstrual cycle.

As with many of the girls in her community, she did not have sanitary towels to use most of the time simply because her mother couldn’t afford them, so she dreaded her period’s monthly arrival. Most families in Namayumba have too little to provide even the most basic provisions for their children, like daily meals, so unfortunately – though they would have loved to provide these materials for their daughters – parents were unable to purchase them.

“I had to miss school because I was afraid that I would get embarrassed if my uniform got stained.” Gloria says. This greatly affected her confidence as she was always worried about when her period would be approaching. It also affected her grades since she had to miss school for a couple of days each month. Like other girls in her community, without the proper materials to be able to sit comfortably through the whole school day, she had no choice but to be absent, despite her eagerness to learn.

 Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

When sponsorship started the implementation of its adolescent development programs in Gloria’s school, it provided disposable sanitary towels to all the girls that had started their menstrual cycle. Our adolescent development activities in Uganda aim to improve sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, as well as promote gender equity and overall improve the quality of life for children ages 10 to 19 years old.

“I was very excited to get the sanitary towels because I then did not have to be scared or miss school during my periods, but I was also a bit worried about what I would do when I had used them all up.” Gloria recalls.

Since the disposable sanitary towels would eventually get used up and the girls would still not be able to afford to buy new ones, a more sustainable solution was introduced by Save the Children. Senior female teachers in each of the schools were taught how to make reusable menstrual pads, and also trained on how to teach menstrual hygiene management to their students. These teachers then trained the girls in their schools how to make the reusable pads themselves, and taught them how to manage their hygiene.

Many of the children did not have any hope of ever having a constant supply of sanitary towels and having a comfortable time during their menstrual cycle, but with the knowledge of making these reusable pads, this hope has been restored. “Having sanitary towels I can use more than once had never crossed my mind. After the lesson from Ms. Allen, our teacher, I went home and made myself some.” says Gloria proudly.

Gloria, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.
Gloria, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.

“Gloria is a much happier and more confident girl now. Her school attendance and grades have greatly improved.” says Ms. Allen.

Gloria is exited and hopeful about the future and believes that now that she goes to school regularly, she will be able to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. She is very grateful to the Save the Children sponsorship program for revitalizing that dream.

All the way from Namayumba, Uganda, please accept our dearest thanks from Gloria and her friends! Thanks to our sponsors, today they are happy to be back in school and learning comfortably.

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

To Reach the World’s Most Excluded Children, Data is Fundamental

nora-oconnellNora O’Connell

Associate Vice President of Public Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children U.S.

December 12, 2016

As it’s sometimes presented, the concept of foreign assistance data transparency provokes drowsiness, but accurate and timely data can be of grave importance, particularly in humanitarian emergencies and with marginalized groups.

The importance of data was demonstrated during the 2014-2015 West Africa Ebola outbreak, where data provided at the right place and the right time helped save lives.  When doctors first started treating patients, the lack of electronic medical records hindered patient care.

To address the lack of data, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders adapted an open-source platform to confront the outbreak by providing timely information on everything from the direction the outbreak was moving to which doctors were due for payment.

Recently, as part of the speakers’ panel for the release of a Friends of Publish What You Fund (PWYF) report, I emphasized that, like the example above, data can have real – and sometimes life and death – consequences. I know this through my own work with Save the Children and the communities that we engage around the world. At Save the Children we see the role of data in development as central for two primary goals:

  • To better inform development and humanitarian decision making, and
  • To strengthen accountability, particularly for marginalized groups including girls and refugees

Better and timelier development data has acquired an increased impetus globally as a crucial tool to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and actionable data is foundational for Save the Children’s Every Last Child campaign aimed at the world’s most excluded children, including migrants and refugees, ethnic and religious minorities, and girls. To make the case for these children and to create a strategy to realize this goal, we need disaggregated data.

As the PWYF “How Can Data Revolutionize Development” report states, U.S. foreign assistance broadly has made important gains in aid transparency, but continued progress – from both U.S. foreign assistance agencies and development implementers – is required to make timely, accurate, and user-friendly data central pillars of U.S. government development policy and practice.

As the world’s largest bilateral donor, the U.S.’ commitment to generating and disseminating development data would help set an international benchmark for the global development community. On that count, while the U.S. has made progress, we still have a way to go to become a global leader. To achieve enhanced U.S. data transparency, the report cites three areas of focus:

  • Implement the U.S. commitment to publish humanitarian aid data
  • Invest in gender equality through publication of robust gender data
  • Improve U.S. aid transparency for stronger U.S. global development

The focus on gender disaggregated data is particularly important for Save the Children’s Every Last Child campaign, which includes girls as one of the largest excluded groups of children globally.

As the PWYF report states, “Whether seeking to increase equality, economic growth, peace and security or improve outcomes for children and families, supporting women and girls are considered one of the best investments for a country’s future.” But data relevant to gender equity is often nonexistent. The report continues, “Although gender-specific and disaggregated data are critical tools…the state of this data is woefully underdeveloped and difficult to use.”

The story of data to help identify and target vulnerable groups is mixed. As Brookings Institution Senior Fellow George Ingram stated at the event, “Transparency moved from a little discussed concept to being the norm in what we want to achieve.” But to sustain progress, U.S. development agencies and implementers should continue to make data transparency a priority – particularly in the world’s most fragile nations and among the most vulnerable and excluded groups.

Running for an Hour and a Half Every Weekday to Pursue Education – Part 2

Zerihun Gultie

Zerihun Gultie

Sponsorship Manager, Ethiopia

October 29, 2013

Click here if you missed Part 1

left Honchie Bite excited about the progress there. On the way back to Ginchi town,
we saw a young girl running from the school. My colleague told me that she was
heading to Boda town where the nearest second-cycle primary school is located. We
invited her to go with us to the town. She refused the ride, but was willing to
discuss her situation.  

Ethiopia West Showa Feyise 

name is Feyise. She is 16 and in grade 8. Feyise completed her first cycle of
primary school at the Honchie Bite School and continues her second cycle at
Boda. She runs to school and back every weekday to minimize the risk of harassment.
Sometimes, she says, she joins a group of students to walk to school. Otherwise
she prefers to run. 


parents are aware of the benefit of her continuing her education. However, she
notes that girls face enormous challenges in staying in school. Fear of sexual
assault on the journey to school and back is one of the major challenges she
mentions. Traveling in a group and running whenever she is alone are the two
best alternatives she has discovered to minimize the risk. Even with all the
efforts the local government and community leaders exert, Feyise is uncertain about
existing protective measures. Nonetheless, she is determined to pursue her
studies at any cost. No one can stop her from running! 

Ethiopia West Showa Kumeshie with Students 

the Children has been working closely with the local government to make sure
all girls like Feyise are transitioning from grade 4 to 5. Supporting PTAs and
local governments in upgrading schools so that all the children continue their education
up to grade 8 without having to travel long and dangerous distances has been
one of major strategies used. Save the Children sponsorship resources are
helping to upgrade remote schools like Honchie Bite, one of the three schools
benefiting from the initiative in 2013. With your help, we will be able to
respond to the needs of girls in many more villages in the coming years. 


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

One Day in the Life: Egypt

Portrait (2)

Mona Moneer, Adolescence and Livelihoods Manager


August 20, 2013

I was born and raised in Minya in
Upper Egypt where I still live. Every day, I travel for about 2 hours by car or
train to Abnoub district in Assiut Governorate where I work. Rural villages in
both Minya and Assiut Governorates are among the most disadvantaged in the
country, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to work at Save the
Children to improve the lives of marginalized and disadvantaged children in my

In the filedThe best thing about my long drive is
that, while I am getting pleasure from the charming view of the agricultural
road, I think about the children who are benefiting from our programs. The
moment I reach Abnoub, I feel I have entered a new world. I like the simplicity
of life in Abnoub and the taste of its sweet air. People here are very sincere.
Children are so vulnerable, but smart and very cute, and everything is
different than in the city.

One day when I was monitoring some
activities related to our program “New Beginning,” a project that aims to
develop the financial and saving skills of adolescents, I was asked by a few girls
in the program to spend time with them. They wanted to raise some issues
related to the program design, and asked me to schedule a meeting with the head
of the Board of Directors of our partner, the local Community Development
Association. When they met, the girls asked for the inclusion of girls in
capacity building interventions related to mobile phones and electricity
maintenance, traditionally restricted to boys.

A girl answering a question asked at one of STC’s sessions

A girl answering a question asked at one of Save the Children’s sessions

This group of girls was very
organized and well prepared during the discussions. I was very happy and proud
as I watched them express their opinion clearly and confidently. I felt that
Save the Children had a very significant impact on these young girls’
personalities that will enable them to have a better future. 

PHOTOS: Revolution & Evolution: My Trip to Egypt – Part 2

Don’t forget to check out the first part of my trip, a visit to one of our Early Childhood Development centers.

After a fun morning with the kids, I headed over to visit our maternal and newborn health program in Assiut, which was a great opportunity to see how much our programs depend on partnerships with the local community and government. Local community groups helped provide a simple space, volunteers, and matching funds to ensure that pregnant moms and newborns receive critical pre-natal services from health staff trained by Save the Children. And the local government helps by ensuring that these health workers are part of the broader health system training as well.


I sat in on a class with moms and their new babies in a spare concrete room, where they learned valuable lessons like the importance of breastfeeding for at least the first six months of the baby’s life and how to recognize the danger signs for basic diseases that can kill children in poor communities, like pneumonia and dehydration from diarrhea. Most of the women were first-time moms and the “instructor” was another mother from the community, trained by Save the Children.

One of the most entertaining things I saw at the center was a role-play exercise demonstrating the dangers of smoking in the home of a pregnant woman. The “mother” asked the “father” not to smoke his hookah in the house, but the father refused. There was then a fast-forward to the birth of the baby (who was small and premature) and the doctor scolding the husband for smoking in the house while the mother was pregnant. During the discussion that followed, I asked the women if they would have been able to ask their husbands not to smoke in the house as the woman in the play did. They laughed shyly and many admitted that no, probably not. There is still a long way to go to bring greater equality for women in Egypt, but programs like these are going part of the way to give women the confidence to stand up for their own rights and the rights of their children.

We left the small crowded village and, after a very quick change of clothes, ended the afternoon with a visit to the governor—the highest government official in this area of Upper Egypt—to discuss our programs in the region. It would be hard to imagine a bigger contrast between the classrooms in Assuit and his large, spacious office of tufted chairs and plush carpets where we were served strong, thick, Turkish coffee. The governor listened carefully as we spoke about our work and asked about results. His own ministers were able to point to the reductions in newborn and child mortality in the areas where we work and the increased success in primary school by graduates of our Early Childhood Development programs. We ended the visit with a request for the governor to come visit our work soon. With the imminent changes in the national and local governments, this may or may not come to pass.

After a “snack” of pizza (which I later discovered was actually lunch, although at 5 pm!) with the team at our local office, we left to check into our lodgings—an old ferry boat docked on the Nile that had been turned into a hotel. As darkness started to fall, I was looking forward to watching the river come alive in the morning. But my day wasn’t quite over yet, and that night I would visit one of the most unusual programs I’ve ever seen….