Category Archives: ChildFund International

ChildFund’s Blog Has Moved!

To Our Readers:

ChildFund’s blog has migrated to a new hosting site. For those of you who have followed us on an RSS feed, you should still receive notice when there’s a new post, but our email subscribers will need to sign up at our new site, on the right side of the page. Please take a moment to do that now, as we don’t want you to miss anything!

We greatly appreciate your readership and invite your comments. Stay tuned for posts at least twice a week — including a special long-term series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, beginning in September.

P.S. Should you encounter a security certificate message when visiting the new blog site, rest assured that it’s OK to click through to the site.

Transparency and the ‘Overhead Myth’

Because we recognize that our committed supporters care about the financial responsibility of the organizations they support, we wanted to share a joint statement released this week by the leaders of the three principal organizations that monitor and rate nonprofit effectiveness.

BBBThe open letter to America’s donors signed by the CEOs of GuideStar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance marks the beginning of a campaign to correct the common misconception that overhead — the percentage of a charity’s expenses that go to administrative and fundraising costs — should be the sole measure of nonprofit performance. Studies from Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, the National Center on Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute and the Bridgespan Group back up this statement.

In response to donor expectations and funder requests, the nonprofit sector, which all three organizations provide information to and about, has often erroneously focused too heavily on overhead over the past few decades, which has prevented some nonprofits from investing in themselves as enterprises and created what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.”

guidestarAccording to the letter, “Overhead costs include important investments charities make to improve their work: investments in training, planning, evaluation, and internal systems — as well as their efforts to raise money so they can operate their programs. When we focus solely or predominantly on overhead … we starve charities of the freedom they need to best help the people and communities they are trying to serve.”

The message isn’t new, but this is the first time the three nonprofit reporting organizations are working together to make the public aware of all the important factors in charity accountability.

charity navigator“All three of our organizations — BBB Wise Giving Alliance as well as Charity Navigator and GuideStar — have been speaking publicly but separately for some time about the need to shift the conversation from overhead to impact and broad accountability standards,” said Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

“Through this campaign, we want to encourage donors to give with their heads as well as their hearts, and consider the whole picture when determining which charities to support,” added Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar. “As we wrote in our open letter to donors: ‘The people and communities served by charities don’t need low overhead, they need high performance.’”

Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, noted, “A one-dimensional focus on overhead is not the right way to assess a charity’s performance. We believe that for a donor to correctly assess a charity, the organization must be viewed on three dimensions: its financial health (not just overhead), its governance practices and the results of its work.”

50 Days Campaign Comes to a Close, But Work Continues

 By Danielle Roth, ChildFund Youth Program Officer

The 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls is coming to a close. On ChildFund’s blog, we’ve shared stories about our work with women and girls in several of the countries where ChildFund works.

Kenyan girls

These 12-year-old girls attend school in Kenya. Our aim is to help more girls and young women receive an education. Photo by Jake Lyell.

We’re reminded that women and girls, who make up more than half of the world’s population, are resilient in the face of tough challenges like forced marriages, lack of access to lifesaving health services and medicine, lack of political freedom and limited access to education, among many additional obstacles.

ChildFund is part of a larger effort to support women and girls in the United States and abroad. Networks like the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Girls Not Brides work tirelessly to assure that women’s and girls’ concerns are elevated to the attention of decision-makers like President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. In addition, many organizations are engaging with the United Nations to ensure that women and girls are recognized in the Post-2015 development agenda.

We encourage ChildFund’s supporters to continue to add their voices to advocacy efforts for girls and women.  For example, if you have a blog, share stories and important data on the well-being of women and girls around the world. On your Facebook and Twitter accounts, share relevant news stories with your friends and followers.

At ChildFund, we know that women and girls’ challenges are global issues and invite you to support us going forward. For now, we reflect on the 50 Days campaign with an apt quotation by poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

Getting Started Writing to a Sponsored Child

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

This is one in a series of posts with suggestions for writing to the child you’re sponsoring through ChildFund.

stacks of lettersThe first few letters you send to the child you sponsor are probably the most difficult to write because you aren’t sure what to write about. Don’t let that discourage you, though.

Imagine that you live in a place where schools have no books, maps, computers, or electricity. The dirt path leading to your village rarely brings visitors. You have never received a letter. In fact, most people you know cannot read or write. Some speak only a local language – never having learned an international one like Spanish, French, Portuguese or English.

Many of the children you sponsor fit this profile, so the brief notes you send to them – cards, letters and photos describing your family and expressing your interest in their lives, cultures and countries – are miraculous in their eyes.

The First Letter
Start by reviewing the narrative of your child and the description of his or her community and local activities that ChildFund provided. The better you understand your child’s background, the easier it will be to correspond.

Culture and religion provide insight into children and family life. Download a PDF file of country information on ChildFund’s website to learn about your child’s regional feasts, holidays and celebrations. You can listen to recordings of traditional music, watch videos of cultural events and even learn a few words in your child’s language.

In your first letter to the child, introduce yourself, explain what led you to sponsor a child and tell why you chose him or her.

If you’ve visited your child’s country, write about when and where you traveled there. If you’re familiar with the culture or religious traditions, reference a recent or upcoming holiday or celebration. Don’t hesitate to include words or phrases in the child’s language if you happen to know any. In my experience, both your child and their family will truly appreciate these signs of your solidarity with them.

Begin by telling your child a little bit about your family, your town and occupation. Ask two or three open-ended questions and let your child know how eager you are to hear from her.

Enclose a photo of yourself, a postcard from your town, or small, flat items that fit easily inside the envelope, like a bookmark, origami paper or stickers. International postage rates change once the weight exceeds one ounce, so limit yourself to a few items each time you write.

Then be patient: ChildFund’s automated system for keeping track of correspondence guarantees your child will respond. If a child is too young to write, you’ll receive letters from a member of the family.

Special Gifts
We ask sponsors not to send packages to their sponsored children because they’re frequently stolen. Even if they do arrive, customs often charges a prohibitive duty tax.

If you would like to give a gift to honor the child’s birthday, Christmas or other occasions, we recommend sending a monetary gift through ChildFund. Amounts between $20 and $50 can purchase locally made products, which benefits not only your child, but also the entrepreneurs in their community.

ChildFund requests a voluntary $3.50 donation when sending monetary gifts to help offset the costs associated with processing, distributing and safely delivering the funds. If you would like our assistance with giving your sponsored child a monetary gift, please call us at 800-776-6767. Our Sponsor Care team will be happy to assist you.

Next: Sample letters for children ages 5 and younger.

Celebrating 50 Years of African Unity and Remembering Children

By Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager

logo commemorating 50th anniversary of African UnionThe 50th anniversary of the Organization of Africa Unity is being celebrated this week in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

The official anniversary on May 25 marks a significant milestone in the journey of Africans since the OAU charter was signed in 1963 by representatives of 32 governments. The aim was to promote the unity and solidarity of the African states and achieve a better life for Africa’s people. South Africa became the 53rd member in 1994, and in 2002, the OAU’s successor, the African Union, was formed.

Anniversary celebrations will draw on African narratives of the past and present, while looking to the future. The anniversary is expected to motivate and energize denizens across the African continent to accelerate a forward-looking Pan-African agenda and a 21st-century renaissance.

Against this historical backdrop, ChildFund International’s Africa regional office, Save the Children, Plan International and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Children are staging a one-day conference to shine the spotlight on Africa’s children.

Today’s event, “Children’s Rights in Africa 50 Years of the OAU/AU” reflects on challenges and progress during the past five decades, while seeking even greater protection and promotion of children’s rights by leaders across Africa in the future.

Let’s Keep Women and Girls at Forefront of Global Development Agenda

By Danielle Roth, ChildFund Program Officer

What is it like to be a woman or a girl in today’s world? You might be surprised to know that in in Rwanda, women hold more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2013). Women live and work on agricultural land across the globe, yet in developing countries women possess less than one quarter of agricultural land holdings (FAO, 2013). In Africa, enrollment in lower secondary school (equivalent to our middle school) has increased from 28 to 43 percent, yet the enrollment of girls is only 39 percent compared to 48 percent for boys (UNESCO, 2011).

Globally, the statistics on women’s health, access to secondary education and realization of justice (among other subjects) are alarming. However, they also hold promise for what the world could be when girls and women are empowered to realize their rights and make the best decisions for themselves, their children, their partners and the community.

There is no shortage of data on the well-being of women and girls globally. The Women’s Stats Project is a comprehensive database on the status of the world’s women. The project’s maps provide a visual depiction of topics as diverse as women’s physical security and discrepancy in secondary education.

map showing countries where education access is difficult for girls

Credit: Women’s Stats Project

Additionally, the United Nations publishes a report every five years on the status of the world’s women and girls, along with biennial publication on the progress of women and girls on a particular theme. The most recent edition of the Progress of the World’s Women looks at access to justice.

Information about the obstacles facing adolescent girls, and their potential, can be found on Girl Effect. Ultimately, the information available about the state of the world’s women and girls is vast and deep, thanks to the efforts of researchers and non-governmental organizations like ChildFund who recognize the value of this investment.

The 50 Days Campaign for Women and Girls reminds us that the time is now to encourage the U.S. government to continue to direct financial and human resources to women and girls issues globally. Former Secretary of State Clinton made huge investments to these ends, creating national actions plans around women, peace and security, mobilizing to prevent and respond to violence against women, and developing a Vision for Action to end child marriage.

Now we want to assure that Secretary of State Kerry continues down this same path. Please continue to follow us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter to learn how ChildFund is supporting this global campaign and more about our work with women and girls.

National Peace Corps Week: ChildFund Employees Reflect on Experiences

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

This week, we recognize Peace Corps volunteers, many of whom leave the United States to live thousands of miles away from family, friends and familiar cultural landmarks. In exchange, volunteers gain global perspective and unforgettable experiences.

To celebrate Peace Corps Week (Feb. 24-March 2), we spoke with a few of ChildFund’s Peace Corps alumni, who shared their stories of living in the field.

Bethany Tebbe, who joined ChildFund in January as a grants management officer, was posted in Togo, a western Africa country, from 2003 to 2007, where she worked in girls’ education and empowerment. “I was 22,” she recalls. “I didn’t have any preconceived expectations.”

dirt road in African village

Bethany Tebbe, who now works for ChildFund, was posted in Badou, Togo, as a Peace Corps volunteer.

At first, she lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof, no electricity and no running water — a home she recalls fondly. It was Bethany’s first time outside of the U.S., but she says that she adjusted fairly well to village life and especially street food. She bicycled constantly.

After a mishap on a mountain hike that caused a serious knee injury, Bethany was posted in a Togolese city with greater ease of mobility. During her time in Togo, she traveled to many African countries, including Niger and Morocco.

When Craig Stein, senior grants and contracts manager at ChildFund, landed in North Yemen in 1982, it also was his first experience overseas. Craig had decided to apply to the Peace Corps after taking a college history class taught by a former diplomat who had piqued his interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. “I wanted to do something different,” he says, and he hoped to work in a Middle Eastern, Islamic society. A posting for an English as a Second Language teacher opened in Hodeidah, Yemen, and Craig was accepted. He lived in a three-bedroom home with three other volunteers, and he later moved to a mountain village as an office administrator of a water project.

group of men and boys in Yemen

Then a Peace Corps volunteer, Craig Stein (wearing buttoned shirt and jeans) was visited by his father (wearing fez and buttoned shirt) in Yemen in 1983.

Upon his arrival, Craig experienced a great sense of welcome. He and a friend were traveling in the mountains north of the capital city of Sanaa, and they stumbled into a wedding ceremony. They were immediately invited to be guests — for three days, the typical length of a Yemeni wedding. “The Yemenis were a lot more open to Americans or Westerners than I anticipated,” he says. “I’d expected some hostility or at least suspicion, but that wasn’t the case at all.”

Although volunteers cannot choose the country where they are stationed, they do have some control over the type of work they do and sometimes can pick the environment where they’ll live — such as city versus village.

Elizabeth Frank, a program assistant for global programs in ChildFund’s Washington, D.C., office, was posted in Ukraine from 2006 to 2008. Surprisingly, Ukraine has the most Peace Corps volunteers in the world. Elizabeth lived in the western half of the country, which identifies strongly with its Ukrainian heritage; the eastern half has a stronger Russian identity.

“It’s a very divided country,” Elizabeth says. She lived in a small village with a population of 3,000 or so and taught English and HIV prevention. She came away feeling strong respect for Ukraine’s “resilient people.”

woman holding sunflower

Elizabeth Frank and one of her Ukrainian village’s main crops, the sunflower.

“Overall, it was fabulous,” she says, and she remains very close to some of her former students. Two of them came to the United States for high school because educational standards remain very poor in Ukraine; now, they’re attending university in Western Europe.

Elizabeth, Craig and Bethany remain attached to the places where they lived and served, and concur that their perspectives on global issues are strongly influenced by their time in the field.

Since finishing their stints as volunteers a few years ago, both Bethany and Elizabeth have maintained ties to the Peace Corps and the people they met on their tours. Bethany also spent a year in Malawi working for the Peace Corps Response, a short-term assignment that is focused on a particular area of expertise; Bethany’s focus was on HIV and AIDS.

Craig eventually married an English nurse he met while working in that mountain village in Yemen. The couple went on to work in international development in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Senegal and the United Kingdom before settling in the United States.

“My Peace Corps experience had a profound effect on my life,” Craig notes.