Tag Archives: Americas

Creating a Maternal Bond Before Birth

 By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia

“My dear baby, I’m awaiting you with hope,” is how Rilma, 32, starts a letter to her son. However, he is not traveling around the world or even far from her. He is pretty close by, in fact, residing in Rilma’s womb.

Rilma

Rilma writes a letter to her unborn son.

“I’m a little afraid for the moment when you will be born, but don’t you worry, I’ll give the best of me, so things can go well, and I will welcome you with the same joy and emotion as I did with your older brothers,” Rilma continues in a letter to her unborn child. This is one of many activities Rilma and other expectant mothers perform at Un Nuevo Caminar, ChildFund’s local partner organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

There, women receive free prenatal examinations, pregnancy exercises and infant-care training, including how to identify danger signs and more.

Dr. Pamela Lopez, who works at Un Nuevo Caminar, tells us, “Every day I can see and understand how big a mother’s love is. Working with them is touching; when they smile at the moment they feel their baby or listen to their baby’s heartbeat, it’s a very special moment for them.”

Bolivian mother with doll

A mother practices parenting skills with a doll.

The mothers also practice with a doll, to whom they show their feelings, Lopez says. “I usually tell them, ‘Madam, this is your baby. What’s the first thing you would tell him?’ And they answer, ‘I’d give him a little kiss, I’d hold him, I’d tell him how much I love him.’ ”

Babies are born with the potential to succeed, which parents and other caretakers must nurture. “Our work is to strengthen that link, so it could be stronger and unbreakable,” Lopez says. “It’s a great experience,  sharing that unique and particular moment in their lives.”

Ten expectant mothers and 112 children under the age of 5 (along with their mothers) are now enrolled in Un Nuevo Caminar. They participate in stimulation exercises, so the children can gain skills naturally and can also understand and discover the world around them.

Survey Shows Americans Severely Underestimate Number of Child Laborers

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

The number of children and youths who work — whether they’re paid or unpaid — is notoriously hard to pin down. Many countries have laws against employing children, but industries still continue to use child laborers despite legal and social consequences.

What number would you guess is accurate? A million? Six million? Ten?

Not even close.

Bolivian shoeshiner

A Bolivian boy shines shoes in Tarija. This photo was entered in a 2012 youth photography contest held by ChildFund Bolivia.

The estimated number of child laborers ages 5 to 14 is 150 million, according to UNICEF. But only 1 percent of 1,022 Americans in a recent survey conducted for ChildFund answered correctly; 73 percent said less than 1 million children are engaged in labor in developing countries. 

Other statistics reported in the survey, which was conducted in late June by Ipsos Public Affairs, are more encouraging; a majority of respondents say they’re willing to pay more for clothing produced without the use of child laborers, and 77 percent say they would stop purchasing clothing from labels that are found to use child labor. That’s good.

But it’s important for children all over the world — including those risking their lives in African gold mines, spending hours in the sun harvesting sugarcane in the Philippines, burning their fingers while making glass bangles at home in India or working for no money at all, as hundreds of thousands of Brazilian children do — for Americans to be more aware of the scope of the problem.

girl making bangles

An Indian girl, Sarita, makes bangles.

Almost one in six children ages 5 to 14 in developing countries are engaged in labor; aside from the potential physical hazards, these children are unlikely to complete their education. And thus the generational cycle of poverty continues. ChildFund supports many programs that assist families caught in this vicious circle by providing training for safer, more stable ways to earn income, giving assistance to children and youth to keep them in school longer and working with entire communities to discourage the employment of children.

The missing piece here is broader awareness in the United States and other prosperous countries. Child labor is a worldwide problem that touches everyone in some way, and we need to use this knowledge to engage and educate industries on how to change their practices and stop exploiting children.

After Exchange Week, Sponsor Relations Managers Ready to Take Action

By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This post concludes our four-part series about the exchange program designed to improve the sponsorship experience. Read the series.

Our weeklong exchange program for sponsor relations managers in the Americas opened the door to in-depth conversations on policies, practices, processes, operations and cultures. Each sponsor relations manager now has an action plan to implement a promising practice gleaned during the exchange.

Here are some of their final reflections on the experience:

Mexico visit

Ana enjoyed her visit to Mexico, where she, like the other sponsor relations managers in the exchange, visited the field.

Ana Handrez, of Honduras, who visited Mexico: In the 19 years I have worked with ChildFund, this was my first time visiting another country specifically to discuss sponsorship issues and experiences. I was very surprised to see the engagement and initiatives from ChildFund Mexico’s local partner organizations. They knew their policies very well, and they were very proud to share their ideas of engaging children in sponsorship activities. It was amazing! The visit was worth every single day.

Valeria Suarez (Mexico): Ana’s visit was an enriching experience for Mexico’s office and especially for the sponsorship team. The national office and field sponsorship staff realized that even though each country has “particularities,” both share similar conditions, processes, histories and results. We enjoyed showing Ana how things are done here in Mexico, how sponsorship processes and visions have changed in the past few years, and how results have started to be achieved. We learned from her how processing times should be improved to continue enhancing the sponsorship experience, and Ana learned from us how creativity and working closely with children can provide better information for sponsors.

Cynthie Tavernier-Jervier, of the Caribbean, who visited Guatemala: This week makes me want to continue to make the sponsorship position more and more effective. I realized again how important the part that we play in programs actually coming to fruition to meet the needs (educational, social, health) of the less fortunate of our countries. So, a wonderful thing about my job is helping to bring benefits to less fortunate children and families and making a difference.

Diana Benitez (Guatemala): The exchange is an opportunity to know in situ the sponsorship processes. I see this experience as very exciting and enriching. Although Dominica and Guatemala have very different contexts, the sponsorship processes are similar. This exchange will impact our work going forward.

Bolivia group picture

Dov (in blue shirt) was impressed with the youth involvement during his visit to Bolivia.

Dov Rosenmann, of Brazil, who visited Bolivia: This was an opportunity to reflect on our current practices and identify key areas of improvement for immediate implementation. I consider myself a beginner in sponsorship management in ChildFund, and being in Bolivia with an experienced team is, for me, a unique chance to directly ask questions and take in knowledge. On the other hand, I hope I was able to share with my Bolivian peers more about Brazil’s experience in managing sponsorship. As for what has been the best part of the exchange, for me it was seeing the youth participation at the local level and learning about Bolivia’s communication corners. Both were very inspiring and definitely an initiative to be multiplied in other countries.

Rosario Miranda (Bolivia): My expectation was to learn by comparing processes and seeing opportunities of improvement. Both national offices have similar interests and efforts toward integrated sponsorship and program activities to contribute to children’s development. Having Dov visit our national office and four local partner organizations was a wonderful educational exchange experience. We were able to compare operations and provide valuable information to improve each other’s sponsorship processes and developmental activities with children.

Santiago Baldazo, of the United States, who hosted Ecuador: This was a great experience. Although in planning for the week, we assumed that discussing sponsorship processes when both countries were already very familiar with the procedures would be somewhat tedious.  But, while we shared the “how” of the sponsorship processes, it was very valuable for us to have the opportunity to discuss the “why” as well.

Zoraya Albornoz (Ecuador): Staff in both offices work hard to give children the chance of better opportunities for their lives. Through this experience, I was able to better understand the way other offices work and realize the good things we have in our own operations as well as the importance of working closer to the local partners. In the daily work we lose the real perspective of our strengths and weakness. I saw that we have some things that can be improved in order to reach our goals.

Learn more about all of the countries where ChildFund works around the globe.

Sponsor Relations Exchange: From Ecuador to South Dakota

By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This is the third of four posts about the exchange program and our work to improve the sponsorship experience. Read the series.

It’s not exactly easy to have someone come to your office and watch your every move. You could feel like an exotic specimen under a microscope. But when it’s one of your own colleagues from another country who is coming to learn and share equally, it’s a little less intimidating and turns into an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

For this exchange, Santiago Baldazo, sponsor relations manager for ChildFund’s U.S. programs, hosted Zoraya Albornoz of Ecuador. They traveled together to our South Dakota office; Santiago is based in Texas.

Through discussions with Zoraya, Santiago says he learned a great deal about how Ecuador’s team partners with local communities and partner organizations to build common understanding about goals and expectations of sponsorship and other ChildFund-supported programs. “ChildFund Ecuador has a lot of faith in its very intricate network, which helps the communities become more empowered,” Santiago says.

ChildFund United States staff

ChildFund’s U.S. staff — (from left) Santiago,
Lori Arrow, Billie Jo Besco and Devin Oliver — prepare for Zoraya’s visit.

He is now eager to replicate some of the child-friendly forms and materials that Ecuador uses in community orientations, child enrollment and child letters to sponsors. And Zoraya learned about how the U.S. team is maximizing technology to improve response time with their area offices and local partners. She plans to discuss with her team how to use technology to be in closer contact.

Of course, along with the professional observations, there were cultural ones as well. “It was interesting to see how both countries have indigenous populations that have historically been suppressed, repressed and oppressed by others and how the populations have responded to that,” Santiago notes. “In Ecuador, it seems it has given them the opportunity to raise their concerns, their voices and their solidarity as a people.”

Zoraya

Zoraya, of our Ecuador office.

The exchange was a great experience, Santiago reports, filled with opportunities to learn, grow and improve practices. In fact, he notes, “Having a shadow this week felt more like having a mentor, and that is primarily due to our visitor – her experience and knowledge and her personality and support.”

Zoraya was equally appreciative: “In the daily work, we lose the real perspective of our strengths and weaknesses. I saw that we have some things that can be improved in order to reach our goals.”

Tomorrow: In their own words.

Sponsor Relations Exchange: Stories From Guatemala

 By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

 In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This is the second of four posts about the exchange program. Read the series.

We asked Cynthie Tavernier-Jervier, sponsor relations manager for ChildFund Caribbean, to share some stories about her exchange experience in Guatemala: what she hoped to learn beforehand, what she encountered during the exchange, and which practices she wants to implement in her own office.

Guatemalan baby

Cynthie spent time in the field, meeting children we serve in Guatemala.

Before the exchange, Cynthie was excited about the opportunity but also concerned that she might not be able to apply many lessons at her home office, which works with children in Dominica and St. Vincent. ChildFund Caribbean has about 6,500 enrolled children spread across the two islands, whereas ChildFund Guatemala is almost three times the size, with 18,500 enrolled children.

“I expect to be dazzled and overwhelmed because of the size of the office that is hosting my visit,” Cynthie said before the trip. “I am most concerned that due to the size of my office, I will not have anything to contribute to that large office.”

But on arrival, she learned that every ChildFund office, regardless of size, language or culture, has something to share and also something to learn. Cynthie noted later that it was important “not to be intimidated since difficulties and sometimes even frustrations can be encountered by all, and solutions suiting those situations can be found and successfully applied — sometimes even done as a team.”

Cynthie spent a few days in the national office in Guatemala City, as well as two days in the field, visiting local partner organizations that work with ChildFund and, of course, interacting with the children we serve.

Along the way, Cynthie and her hosts discussed processes like sponsorship department structure and roles, orienting families to ChildFund’s programs, child enrollment, children’s letters to sponsors, communication methods, handling of monetary gifts from sponsor to child, youth communication teams and the integration of sponsorship and program activities.

In return, Cynthie gave a presentation to the entire Guatemala senior management team (including the national director and the leaders of programs, sponsorship, finance and human resources) about operations, processes and programs in ChildFund’s Caribbean office in Roseau, Dominica.

What was the most important thing Cynthie learned? Providing more child-friendly resources to the local partners to share with children as they write to their sponsors, she says, after observing how these tools make letter writing more engaging.

So, the first thing Cynthie wants to do upon her return to the Caribbean is “make the correspondence fun and colorful, friendly and easier for children, so as not to make it a chore.”

As for the unexpected, Cynthie says she was surprised to learn that in Guatemala many of the programs and daily activities in the communities are carried out in indigenous languages, not Spanish.

group of Guatemalan children

During the exchange, Cynthie learned that many programs are conducted in indigenous languages.

In the field, there are many different languages spoken by the indigenous people, and some don’t speak Spanish, she says. “Some of the people wear specific cultural dress and no other, unlike in my country, where the cultural dress is worn only during certain months (or during traditional activities).

I was also surprised that children of about four or five years were working in the fields on a weekday, especially since school was in session.” So she spent time discussing how Guatemala is seeking to address child labor issues.

The exchange visit to Guatemala resulted in several professional and personal gains, Cynthie says. “Basically, this week makes me want to continue to make the sponsor relations position more and more effective.”

Tomorrow: From Ecuador to South Dakota.

Exchange Program in Americas Focuses on Sponsorship Experience

By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

In the Americas region, four of ChildFund’s sponsor relations managers visited other countries for a week to observe firsthand what their counterparts do. This is the first of four posts about the exchange program.

In every ChildFund national office, there is one person who is responsible for enhancing the sponsor-child relationship. This person relies heavily on a team of staff and volunteers throughout the country to ensure every process and procedure is followed to identify children for enrollment, gather photos and biographical information to send to potential sponsors, oversee the exchange and translation of hundreds of thousands of letters, deliver monetary gifts, and respond to sponsor inquiries about children, programs and ChildFund in general. These people are the unsung heroes of the sponsorship process: They are sponsor relations managers.

girls writing letters

Girls in the Americas write letters to their sponsors.

The Americas region, which serves children in nine countries, is committed to improving sponsor relations, helping children and sponsors connect, and building the expertise of our staff. Our sponsor relations managers do a great job, but there is always room for improvement and learning. By investing in our sponsorship staff both professionally and personally, we hope to improve the sponsorship experience for children, families, communities and sponsors.

This year we decided to take the learning experience out of a meeting/conference setting and move it into the field, where sponsorship processes and experiences are more relevant and exciting. So, we created an exchange program. Over the course of one week, four of our regional sponsor relations managers visited a regional counterpart to share and learn from each other. Brazil’s manager went to Bolivia; the Caribbean manager went to Guatemala. Ecuador’s manager went to the United States, and Honduras’ manager went to Mexico.

With these visits, the managers aimed to learn firsthand how other sponsorship departments are organized and how operations are managed. Each exchange was to cover several topics: structure, staffing, volunteer motivation, orienting families to ChildFund programs, children’s self-expression, translations/communications, letter timeliness and so on.

We also hoped to open new channels of communication between the offices, encouraging peer-to-peer mentoring and exchanging best practices and other lessons. Also, each participant would gain a more global perspective — similarities and differences in culture, children and communities. In the end, we hope the exchange will help us unify who we are as ChildFund and as a dynamic and multicultural region.

This week we will be sharing reflections from sponsorship managers who participated in the exchange.

Extending a Hand to Six Mexican Communities

 Reporting by ChildFund Mexico

ChildFund Mexico is teaming up with ArcelorMittal Mexico, a multinational steel manufacturer, to improve conditions for children in six communities in Michoacán, Mexico.

ChildFund Mexico

ChildFund staff members with a group of youth in the community of La Mira, Mexico.

The new community-development project, launched in late June, will directly benefit 1,300 Mexican children and reach more than 7,000 people in the town of Lázaro Cárdenas over the next nine years. The project’s main purpose is to develop sustainable improvements in education, health, nutrition and livelihoods.

ChildFund has worked in Mexico for 40 years, and this project continues our tradition of empowering communities to become self-sufficient. Residents of the six affected neighborhoods participated in a study last year to help ChildFund identify urgent needs and challenges.

children in Mexico

ChildFund Mexico staffers talk to children about what they think their community, Lázaro Cárdenas, needs.

With funding from ArcelorMittal, a new community center has been established, as well as four smaller meeting points in other areas, giving children and adults places to discuss their communities’ needs. The goal is for residents to take the lead in evolving their groups into independent community organizations over the next several years.

national director

Virginia Vargas, ChildFund Mexico national director.

“Through the Integral Community Development Project of Lázaro Cárdenas, we look to promote the well-being and socio-economic growth of the communities where one of our main operations is located,” said Felicidad Cristóbal, global director of the ArcelorMittal Foundation, the company’s social investment arm. “ArcelorMittal is one of the main companies in Mexico with a long-term strategy for corporate social responsibility supporting self-sustainable development processes. That’s why we value the partnership we have established,” says Virginia Vargas, ChildFund’s national director in Mexico.

Girls of Grace Team Visits ChildFund Projects in Brazil

 By Tassia Duarte, ChildFund Brazil

Fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter Gracie Schram, along with the team from ChildFund LIVE! partner Girls of Grace, made a visit this month to visit ChildFund’s programs in Brazil, where Gracie sponsors a 1-year-old girl.

girls making crafts

Gracie makes crafts with girls at ASCOMED, ChildFund’s partner in Medina, while a film crew captures footage.

Gracie and representatives from Girls of Grace, which holds conferences across the United States aimed at teen girls, went to our programs in Vale do Jequitinhonha and Belo Horizonte in mid-June. They captured footage for a video to use at their conferences to promote sponsorship through ChildFund, which supports the events.

In Medina, children welcomed their visitors with posters and songs, and everyone participated in a traditional round dance. Gracie played with the children and then met Jovelina, her sponsored child.

two girls

Gracie and Jovelina.

“I was actually happy, even though it’s such a hard thing to see,” says Gracie. “But it’s really cool that I’m going to be able to be a part of her future and allow her to have a better life that she wouldn’t have without sponsorship.”

In Medina, while visiting ASCOMED, ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Gracie and a few Brazilian teenage girls made crafts, and she also sang for the children. The visiting team learned more about the activities children participate in that help them develop socially, and they saw a room specially designed for the children to write letters to sponsors.

In the rural outskirts of Medina, the team learned about conditions that were disturbing: families struggling to survive in houses with no bathroom or running water, living far from the closest bus station and with poor access to education and health care. “Being so close to the poverty makes it really real, and it forces you to really think about where and who you are,” Gracie says. “And to think that people need so many things like clean water and health care, it’s really hard to see that.”

Gracie playing guitar

Gracie sings for an audience of children in Medina.

In the region of Comercinho, the team met families that have benefited from ChildFund’s assistance. Water is scarce there because of drought conditions, and the little water available has not been healthy to drink.

ChildFund has worked to protect the nearby river, so animals don’t have access to the springs, which leads to pollution. Families are now able to channel clean water to their homes. Trained “water watchers” monitor the water quality and act to preserve it, a sustainable practice that will help their children’s futures, as will sponsors like Gracie.

Kicking a Ball Produces Light

 By Gabriela Ramirez Hernandez, ChildFund Mexico

Imagine having a soccer ball that produces light, just by playing with it. If you are a child with no electricity in your house, this seemingly magical ball will help you do your homework or light up the dinner table. Your family won’t have to spend money on candles.

soccer ball light

The Soccket produces light for three hours after 30 minutes of play.

The Soccket ball, produced by Uncharted Play, a U.S.-based social-enterprise company, generates light after a couple of hours’ play; kicking it for half an hour supplies enough kinetic energy to power a small lamp for three hours. The founders of Uncharted Play, which has been honored by the Clinton Foundation for its innovation, invented the Soccket for a class at Harvard University.

In this video, you’ll see the Soccket in action in ChildFund-supported communities in Mexico.

children with Soccket

Children in Mexican villages that ChildFund serves often have unreliable or no electricity at all.

ChildFund, Uncharted Play and Fundación Televisa are working together to supply Socckets to families who live without electrical power in the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca. Today, about 180 children in these indigenous communities have a Soccket in their homes. Not only do these children have a new toy (a luxury), but their families also have a light source for reading and sewing at night.

ChildFund Mexico is evaluating the project and considering providing Socckets to additional communities.

Brazilian Coalition Targets Child Labor

By ChildFund Brasil Staff

ChildFund Brasil, with the financial support of telecommunications company Fundação Telefônica Vivo, has launched a project to fight against exploitative child labor in Brazil.

The project, Melhor de Mim (“The Best of Me”), is set to last two years and will target 500 children ages 6 to 14 in the Jequitinhonha Valley in the state of Minas Gerais. Working with its local partner organizations, ChildFund Brasil seeks to raise awareness of the risks of child labor through dialogue with children, teens, parents and other community members. Expert facilitators will lead the discussions. One notable part of the project is that it will also engage businesses who employ children. ChildFund’s goal is to educate employers about the serious risks that young laborers face, including physical dangers and missed educational opportunities.

Brazilian teenage girls

Brazilian children and teens in poverty-stricken regions are sometimes forced to work to support their families.

In Brazil, hiring children under 13 is illegal. Yet, according to national data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 704,000 Brazilian children aged 5 to 13 were working in 2011. The majority of child workers are 10 to 13 years old, and 63 percent live in Brazil’s countryside. These numbers mark a 23.5 percent decrease of child laborers from 2009, but clearly the problem remains significant.

The majority of Brazilian child laborers, almost 55 percent, receive no income for their work, and those who are paid earn an average monthly income of only US$68. Child labor practices are receiving a spotlight today with the International Labour Organization’s World Day Against Child Labour.

The Best of Me’s activities began this spring with the enrollment of children involved in labor. The next step is to mobilize parents to make them aware of the project and sensitize them to the risks of child labor. After that, children will attend workshops using the Aflatoun method, which empowers children to play a key role in building a better society. By affirming children’s right to speak out on the issue and fostering dialogue among all parties involved, ChildFund seeks to facilitate sustainable change around child labor.

“The name of the project, The Best of Me, means that everyone becomes involved to the best of their abilities,” says Dov Rosenmann, ChildFund Brasil’s program manager. “Everybody is contributing their best to prevent child labor.”