Breaking Barriers and Stirring Dreams

Fred, a 13-year-old pupil in Uganda, was born with a cleft lip and defective voice box that affected his speech development. He underwent corrective surgery while he was still a toddler, but his speech did not fully recover.  Because of these speech challenges, Fred found it hard to attend school and associate with other children. He recalls how they used to laugh at him, ridiculing him with different names because he was not able to clearly express himself.

“My classmates avoided playing with me because I wasn’t able to talk to them,” he explains. “They only wanted me to be part of the games in which they would make fun of me and laugh, and I disliked coming to school because of that.”

Fred reading with classmates

To reach children that carry such burdens and keep them from leaving school, Save the Children has implemented an “inclusive education” program that provides real learning opportunities for children with disabilities. The program strengthens teacher capacity to support children with different learning challenges – whether they be physical, behavioural, speech, hearing or attention retention. Teachers are provided with specific training on how to deal with cases like Fred’s, including how to incorporate positive discipline in the classroom and provide a safer learning environment.

Fred outside his school

Additionally, the program has also increased community awareness about inclusive education, which has led parents to understand the importance of sending their children to school — even those who face such challenges — and Enrollment  at school as increased.

“Fred’s parents are supportive and willing to help when issues arise,” explains Rebecca, Fred’s English teacher. “Communication is much better now with his parents and we’re able to work together to support his learning.” Fred is now thriving at school and has dreams to become a lawyer one day so that he can help children who suffer stigmas that prevent them for reaching their full potential.  “I now love going to school and I have friends to play with,” he says. “Mybest game is football where I am a midfielder.”


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.

A Letter to Show Her Friends

Child Portrait_Hajara

Save the Children in Uganda

May 30, 2016

In this age of technology, one would think that paper letters are irrelevant and therefore have no effect on anyone’s life. However, watching the smile spread across the face of young Hajara, a sponsored child in Uganda, tells a different story.

When Hajara received her first letter from her sponsor, she was overjoyed at the thought of receiving something from someone a great distance away and whom she had not seen face-to-face before. The letter was delivered to her by Eva, a Community Sponsorship Officer with Save the Children in Uganda, who also supported Hajara in reading and understanding the contents of the letter. We’re not sure if our sponsors can imagine the immense satisfaction that letters provide to children. Perhaps equally important, sponsors’ letters help children develop a love of reading and writing, while also learning about new words and places.

Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter
Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter

When asked how she felt about receiving a letter from her sponsor, Hajara said, “I feel very happy.” That statement may sound simple to many people, but because these children have a limited vocabulary, the word “happy” for Hajara encompasses feeling loved and special, too. Her sponsor referred to her as “another pretty niece,” which Hajara tells us made her feel really special. Attached to the letter was also a drawing of a homestead, showing three family members doing house chores. Hajara noted aloud that chores at home are a part of life not only in Uganda, but are responsibilities elsewhere, too.

After they finished reading her sponsor’s letter together, Eva helped Hajara to write a reply. Most of the children in our sponsorship communities know what they want to tell their sponsors, but may need help in getting the exact words right for expressing their ideas. Thus through letter writing, children have an opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills, which results in better school performance.

Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor
Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor

Hajara proudly mentioned that she plans to show and tell all her friends about her letter. She will then give the letter to her mother to keep safe for her, and will occasionally ask to reread it. She shares that she feels more encouraged and motivated to study hard in school knowing that someone out there cares about her future.

“When a child receives a letter from their sponsor, I am excited for them. They are always eager to receive letters and always ask if they’ve received any whenever they see me. When sponsors send drawings like the one Hajara received, the children can learn,” says Eva happily.

In a community faced with numerous issues and challenges, a letter gives hope, builds children’s self-esteem and encourages them to stay in school. Just this special piece of paper, which travelled from a faraway land from the hands of someone thinking of them, gives children something to keep as their very own, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

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

Family Planning Saves Lives, But Millions Can’t Access It

The following first appeared on Care2.com

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Around the world, an estimated 222 million women who don’t want to get pregnant cannot access contraception. I was surpised to learn Namutebi was one of them.

 

On the way to the Ugandan hospital where I met Namutebi, I saw several clinics advertising family planning services. The services were free and there for the asking. But despite her

It’s all about where you were born…..and to whom!

This past week and a half was a busy one—I found myself in Washington, DC; Delhi, India; and Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to spending lots of hours on planes and

sleeping in airports, these vastly different places drove home for me the immense divide between kids’ lives in countries around the world. These differences are rooted in the rate of child survival and the striking disparity in their opportunity for a productive and happy life.

 

In 2010, nearly two million Indian children never had a chance. They died from easily preventable causes before they were five years old—things like pneumonia, prematurity and complications at birth that could have been prevented, and even diarrhea, which claims the lives of tens of thousands of Indian kids every year. This represents the death of 63 kids for every 1,000 born in India in 2010. In contrast, fewer than a thousand children under five died that same year in Denmark, where there are 64,000 annual births—making it one of the highest-ranking countries for child survival. Surprisingly, far more kids died in the US before they made it to 5—32,000 in 2010 or 8 children for every 1,000 born. And we lose most children in the US as babies: 57% of child deaths occur before they are even a month old.

 

While these statistics are shocking, they realities are even more alarming. A country’s average rates don’t really tell the story of the very poorest children. In poor urban slums, like the one I just visited in India, the rate of child survival is far below the national average. According to WHO data and UNICEF’s recent report, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, slum dwellers in India have almost no access to government health services and the rate of child deaths among the poorest urban families is three times higher than the wealthiest urban families—or 85 deaths per every 1,000 births. And here in the United States, it is poor families (and usually black, Hispanic, and Native American ones) who overwhelmingly experience the heartbreak of the death of a child. The lottery of birth is truly that—and for those with bad numbers, it can be a virtual death sentence.

 

Of course, the statistics only tell part of the story. The real stories are with the moms, dads and children who live in deep poverty around the world. Like the mom I met recently in Mozambique who told me she had lost her first baby because he got an infection that turned into pneumonia and she didn’t have the money to get him to the clinic more than 20 miles away. Or the families I met in Uganda in February that had only one district hospital to serve more than 50,000 people, and where mothers lost babies when they went into labor on the long walk to get there. The 7.6 million children who die every year are mourned by many more millions of mothers and fathers in the poorest communities in all corners of the globe.

 

 

But there are stories of real hope, too. For example, the story of that Mozambican mother, now a Save the Children-trained community health worker, who

PHOTOS: Hometown Heroes

How do you save the lives of children who would otherwise die of diseases like pneumonia, the number one killer of kids in the developing world? Get a hometown hero on your side.

 

Frontline Health Workers are saving lives every single day in places like Uganda and Kenya, where I traveled just a week or so ago, and in Nepal, Bangladesh and countries all over the world. These workers—predominantly women—are active in their own communities and often have just a basic primary school education. But they are there every day, in the places where kids and moms are dying and can be saved, using common sense and simple tools to save lives. They are given training on how to recognize and treat basic childhood illness like pneumonia and diarrhea that can kill kids if not treated quickly. They need only simple

Hunger Stalks the Children of Africa

I’m back now from my trip to Uganda and Kenya, but the images of the children there keep stealing into my thoughts. Pictures of a tiny boy, 14 months old but looking like 4 months, a fragile little girl with stick arms crying on a small cot, a mother cradling her sick 8-month-old son whose wide eyes follow us as we move from bed to bed in the stabilization center. Most have intravenous ports taped to a foot or a hand. We visited all these children in the center in Habaswein, a dusty town in the northeast part of Kenya some 200km from the Somali border. The sun bakes everything brown, but the stabilization center is mercifully cooler. Ten mothers and their children are there today, on clean but sparse beds arranged in rows, some recovering, most in dire need of help for severe malnutrition and medical complications like pneumonia or diarrhea.

 

I’ll be candid: this is a very tough trip.

 

Our delegation, which includes our Board Chair Anne Mulcahy, Board members Henry McGee and Bill Haber, as well as Henry’s wife and daughter, visit each bed as the head of Save the Children’s health programs here explains the condition of the children. It is hard to concentrate on anything but the kids, so small and thin, some crying, others lying listlessly in the heat. We meet a boy, 13-months-old who has just been brought to the center. He weighs under 7 kilos, or a little over 14lbs. His eyes are half closed and he only responds when his mother picks him up to move him on his tiny blanket. I try to remember when my own sons