From Counting Leaves to Solving Math Problems

Author Portrait_Jussar Simone, Quality Communications Coordinator
Jussar Simone

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Mozambique

July 7, 2017

In the rural farming community of Muendaze in Nacala-a-Velha, Mozambique, lives a family of 5 – mother, father and 3 children, one of them 6 year old Issufo. After participating in community mobilization campaigns organized by Save the Children, in 2014 Maiassa, Issufo’s mother, was motivated to improve Issufo’s educational development. Despite he was not yet old enough for primary school, she learned through the campaigns in her community that, now thanks to sponsorship, there were a lot of important learning opportunities that he could be involved in even at 6, and decided to enroll Issufo in sponsorship’s early childhood learning programs.

With sponsorship support, the Muendaze community was able to construct a location specifically to host young children, usually ages 4 – 6, in learning foundational skills that help set them up for success in primary school. Save the Children also helps to train center facilitators, who are taught how to use active learning, like songs, games and storytelling, to foster vital learning skills such as in emergent math and reading.

“During the first week’s lessons, Issufo was still a shy and introverted child. However, it was possible to start to see some positives changes in his behavior,” his mother told us.

A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.
A smiling Issufo (center) with his classmates at the early learning center.

Facilitators in these centers teach their young students language skills, improve their knowledge of letters and numbers, teach them how to draw, and develop their counting skills, using locally available materials to supplement more modern teaching tools. For example, mango trees are found throughout the villages in this part of Mozambique, so children practice their counting using mango fruits and leaves.

“[At home] the [facilitator] asks us to actively participate in our children’s development, by doing small exercises and mental calculations, such as counting leaves at home,” shares Maiassa regarding little Issufo.

An important part of sponsorship’s early learning programs in Muendaze is to teach parents how to better communicate with their children and help them develop learning skills at home too – since our experience shows that learning works best when it takes place both in school and out.

After two years in the early learning center, the little Issufo and his fellow classmates graduated from the program. A small graduation ceremony was held at the end of the school year, to help the young students celebrate and feel pride in their scholastic achievements. It was on a Friday, in the shade of the early learning center, Issufo received his graduation certificate in the presence of many guests, including parents, facilitators and the community’s leader – all came to witness this important step towards primary school and their continuing education.

Today, Issufo is able to interact with adults in the community easily and with confidence, speaking the words well and showing off his constantly improving vocabulary in Portuguese. Despite being the national language, local languages like Emakwa are more commonly spoken than Portuguese in these rural areas, so Issufo is very proud to show what he knows.

Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.
Issufo giggles for the camera while solving an exercise at the board.

Now he is enjoying first grade and is one of the best students in his class. When asked about school he shared, “I’m happy, and I like to study, to solve mathematical exercises… When I grow up I want to be a mathematics teacher!”

Thanks to the skills developed in the early learning center, he was prepared to face the first grade without problems. “The children who come from the centers are more open and motivated (…) indeed the center makes our work much easier,” said Fatima, his first grade teacher.

During 2016, the early childhood learning program graduated nearly 2,000 children in the region where Issufo lives. He is just an example of the importance of this program. His mother shared, “I’m very happy because now my son can play, sings and likes to count… I know that he will pass to second grade, so we can see now that we made a great decision for the development of our child. Thank you very much Save the Children for helping us!”

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


One of the best things I took advantage of in my life

[El Salvador_IA Ahuachapan_Blog post 2_Sponsor Joey and sponsored child Karla_Posing for their very first picture_the joy in their eyes is contagious]Joseph Mollica


Save the Children in El Salvador

December 23, 2016


Have you ever wondered what a true champion looks like? Perhaps you already know more than one and you haven’t realized it yet. We’re talking about the extraordinary people who decide to make a difference in the life of a child in need: our sponsors! They not only support Save the Children’s programs around the world, but they commit to a longtime friendship with a child and his or her family. As said by one of our sponsors, Joey, “The feeling is indescribable, one that cannot be put into words.” For 3 years Joey has been sponsoring a 6-year-old girl in El Salvador, and he recently shared in a life-changing experience when he met her for the first time.

Karla was shy at first, but finally made a connection by playing and doing fun activities together.
Karla was shy at first, but finally made a connection by playing and doing fun activities together.

When I laid eyes on Karla for the first time I had butterflies. I felt so incredibly happy to see this beautiful little girl with whom I’ve been in contact with for years. It was a moment I will forever cherish and always remember.

Participating in a Sponsorship programs visit opened my eyes to exactly how much work and effort Save the Children puts into providing a better future for children in need. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Save the Children seemed to partner with government entities and other local institutions, such as the community health clinic, in making sure the children were being well taken care of.

I feel that Sponsorship really does so much more for children compared to many other organizations out there. Save the Children uses its resources in a variety of ways to help children receive the necessities of life, such as healthcare and education. They are also big on taking into account children’s rights and safety – which I am a firm believer in. It is thanks to this organization that countless children’s lives are being saved.

joey and Karla with her mom, dad and sister posing to have a memory of a great day.
Joey and Karla with her mom, dad and sister posing to have a memory of a great day.

To all the sponsors out there, if you can make the time to travel to El Salvador, or where ever it is you sponsor, to meet your sponsored child, I encourage you to do so. Please do so. You and your sponsored child will never forget the experience. These children hardly ever get to put a face to the letters we send them, so actually coming out to see him or her will be a life changing event for both of you. My visit with Karla is one of the best things I took advantage of in my life. I definitely plan on seeing my sponsored child again and reliving this incredible experience.

Have you ever thought about visiting your sponsored child? Contact our Sponsor Visits team via today to get started on having a life-changing experience of your own!

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

Letter Delivery Brightens Everyone’s Day

Thuy - portrait

Thuy, Tran Thu


December 15, 2014


After traveling winding roads through the mountains of northwestern Vietnam, I finally arrive at the school. Being given the chance to deliver sponsor letters is always the most enjoyable task. Seeing me, children wave their hands and give big smiles, with visible curiosity in their eyes.

“It’s so great. This is the first time I got a letter from a person living in another country. It’s also amazing that my sponsor is Vietnamese. You see, he knows Vietnamese and he writes me in Vietnamese. I’m so happy.” says Duc, a third grader. Hoang Thi Huyen (11400281) shows the letter she writes for her sponsor

Ngan, 7 years old, jumps up and down when receiving a letter from his Italian sponsor. “Let’s see the photo and letter my friend gave me. That’s an adorable girl. She is 7 years old, just like me. She is really pretty, right?” Ngan asks me while reading the letter from her sponsor.

Like Duc and Ngan, the other sponsored children show bright smiles whenever I deliver their sponsor letters. “I’m really excited. I have never heard about America before and I know nothing about it. Now, through my sponsor’s letters and photos, I know what it looks like…. Well, there is a very beautiful sea there.” Tu, a first grade student, shares. “I will tell him about my friends and school. I like drawing very much. I will draw pictures for him.”

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (11400279) show the letter she gets from her sponsorAfter saying goodbye to the children, I leave the school with my bag full of letters and drawings and feel so happy. Connecting children from this mountainous area to their sponsors living on the other side of the earth is such meaningful work.

What do you write to your sponsored child about? Consider not how different their lives must be, but that they are just children who are very excited to receive something from a friend so far away. Tell them about how you spend your time, your pets, your family, or your hobbies. Ask them what they learned in school, about their teachers and friends. Pictures are a wonderful way to brighten a child’s day and to share a little piece of your life, and gives them something to treasure.

The Hope and Power of Education

Nomsa Mkandawire, Communications OfficerNomsa Mkandawire, Communications Officer

Zomba, Malawi

July 20, 2012

It’s slightly after 12 noon and a bit hot in Zomba, the eastern district of Malawi. My colleagues and I are visiting a primary school where Save the Children is constructing a school block. The maize has not yet been harvested and we have to pass through fields. As we walk on a winding path, an old drunkard shuffles by. I swiftly dodge him and he stands in front of my colleagues, just for a hand shake. Suddenly it starts showering. 

We quickly reach a nearby compound. Two boys are playing and goats are grazing. We are in Lone Maluku’s compound, she smilingly comes out to welcome us. Lone Maluku is a mother of seven and has two children in the Save the Children sponsorship program. She says she is the proudest mother in her village and is reassured knowing that her children, 9 year-old Catherine and 7 year-old Kingsley, are sponsored and in school. “It is clear that education is the key to any development of every
human being. Look at me, I did not go to school and that is why I look like this,” she sadly points to her clothes and regretfully smiles.

Lone Maluku at her home2She continues, “You know, if I had gone to school I would never have had seven children at my age, and besides I would have found a job like other educated women. Life is tough without education. I am very hopeful that my children will finish their education, it is of paramount importance to me.” Lone says she is grateful to Save the Children for delivering these programs and is confident her children will have a bright future.

“I know my children will make it in life, every day I tell them to work extra hard if they don’t want to be like me,” explains Lone, now with a child on her back as she prepares lunch for her family. 

It suddenly occurs to ask her age. She replies, “I think I should be thirty-something because I was born in 1972. You see I dropped out of school early and I don’t know many things.’’

“I have to trek long distances early every morning to look for firewood and water, sometimes it is so cold but I have to go on. You have to understand me when I say that I wish I had gone to school and my children must be educated,” says Lone stressfully.

Life may be hard now and regrets may echo in her ears, but one thing is clear for Lone Maluku, education is the surest way to achieve a better life.


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

Connecting people across cultures and space

Mali spon headshotDougoutigui Coulibaly, Save the Children Sponsorship field worker

Sikasso District, Mali 

May 31, 2012

Countless sponsors have told us over the years that one of the most rewarding aspects of being a sponsor is developing a personal connection with a child whose life is being changed by their generous support.

This is a shared sentiment, as children in Mali feel the same way. Ask them what they like most about sponsorship and many will mention the relationship that develops with their sponsors over the years.

They really love to learn about their sponsors. Letters provide them with a unique source of joy, pride and a feeling that somebody cares and values them. They particularly appreciate words of encouragement and praise for their school efforts. A couple of weeks ago, an eleven year-old girl told me, “encouragement from my sponsor always pushes me to do more in school”.

Mali spon and kid Many children do not believe their eyes when I visit their schools and homes with letters. Often I read to the younger ones; hearing me read their letters is a fun and rewarding moment for them. Our sponsors come from all walks of life and their messages reflect this. They write about their education, work, hobbies, families, pets and general advice on being a good citizen. As I read the letters I can see the children’s feelings on their face, from broad smiles to laughter, to surprise and more.

In Mali, gratitude and reciprocity are an integral part of the social mores. Sponsored children want to be true to these values and return the kindness by replying to their sponsors. Often they are unsure what to write, but a few words of encouragement from parents or teachers are usually enough to egg them on to open up and enthusiastically share their own stories.

Like sponsors, children love talking about their families, friends, school and sports. More importantly, they like asking questions and are curious to know everything from food eaten in a sponsor’s country to the type of bed they sleep in.

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

Bridging love and hope from one country to another

Pailyn TanPailyn Tan, Sponsorship Assistant

South Central Mindanao, Philippine

May 18, 2012

You know that warm feeling when you give or receive a gift from an important person in your life? That is how wonderful I feel every time I open a package, process it and deliver it to a sponsored child.

I’m quite new to the sponsorship team and my job is to receive letters, gifts and packages from sponsors and deliver them to sponsored children. This means I not only get to read sponsor’s letters and children’s responses, but also get to be part of the exchange of love and smiles.

I never received things like this before. Thank you not just for these things but also for the friendship,  Gerald to sponsorGerald really values his personal relationship with Uncle John, his sponsor. Every time we deliver letters to his school, he always waits in a corner, hoping. If he is lucky enough to receive a package or letter he is so joyous that he almost never believes it’s actually for him and that he is actually being loved and revered by a person from a place far, far away

When Gerald receives something from Uncle John he immediately sits in a corner, pulls out his pen and carefully writes his reply. He answers all of Uncle John’s questions and shares his own perspective. Then Gerald reviews his reply many times and flattensout the paper to make sure Uncle John receives it clean and without creases.

Through his drawings, Gerald hopes to take his sponsor not just in their home but also in their life

Gerald’s dream is to become a marine engineer and he is inspired by his Uncle John’s words.

Witnessing this bond that transcends distance and culture, and being part of the bridge that does so, is elating. I feel the sharing of love and joy. It is empowering to be a part of something so inspiring and to actually witness change in someone’s life – in the lives of the faces of our future.

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

All my dress, books and notebooks were burnt in the fire

Junima ShakyaJunima Shakya, Nepal Sponsorship Manager

Kimichaur, Nepal

May 1, 2012

Blog_02.28.12.After the fire incidentOn the evening of January 27 a fire started in an animal shed in the village of Kimichaur, in the Pyuthan district in Western Nepal. The fire swept through the village, damaging 14 houses and leaving the villagers desperate for help. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, but the fire destroyed homes, prized cattle and stored grains.

“My hard-earned money, 30,000 Nepali Rupees (about $380), inside my saving box was burnt to ashes,” shared Chetman, a local villager.

The day after the fire, Save the Children, in coordination with its partner organization in Pyuthan, began providing relief for the affected families with rice and a blanket for each family.

Blog_02.28.12_Children receiving student supportTwenty-seven children, including 15 sponsored children, were affected by the fire. “The children lost their books, bags and all their school supplies”, reported Umesh, a Program Coordinator. We immediately dispatched new supplies. Each student received a new school uniform, school bag, notebooks and other stationery. We focused our relief efforts on the children as it is so important for them to feel safe and secure after such a traumatic experience.

“Support for the community was provided by several relief organizations. But the community was very happy that their children were prioritized with special support and materials,” said Suraj Pakhin, a member of Save the Children staff in Nepal.

“My dress (school uniform), books and note books were all burnt in the fire. I thought ‘I won’t be able to go to school again.’ But I got a new school dress, books and supplies and I can join the school once again”, says a sixth grader .

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