Tag Archives: United States

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, 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.

Talking Circles Help With Cultural Restoration in ChildFund’s U.S. Programs

Dr. Paul Dauphinais is a psychologist for Turtle Mountain Community Schools in Belcourt, N.D. He wrote this letter earlier this year after attending a tribal outreach gathering for American Indian youth, part of the work ChildFund supports in the United States. Here’s an excerpt.

children in gym

Children and youth enjoy themselves at Club Night in Belcourt, N.D., which is within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.

I had an experience last week that was very moving and gave me great hope for the future of our youth and community. It was a Wednesday in the early evening. I was invited to go to the gym at Dunseith High School. When I arrived, there were children, youth and some of the outreach staff gathered near picnic tables. One of the tables had food that the staff had prepared. I was observing and enjoying the true friendships that the staff and youth showed. A couple of the girls then spontaneously began to serve the youth and staff. They assumed that responsibility without any adult coaxing. It was a pleasant experience.

The gathering really demonstrated to me that each person there genuinely cared for one another, making sure that everyone was served food and satisfied. The children and youth were respectful of each other and it was clearly evident that each one was welcome.

children on floor

The centerpiece of Club Night is the Talking Circle.

After the meal, several of the team leaders gathered youth in a large circle for the main part of the gathering, the Talking Circle. [Talking Circles are an important component of ChildFund’s cultural restoration initiatives.] The adult leader then began with an introduction of himself and his family in the language of the Anishnabe; he gave an explanation of respect in our cultural world. After this, Paco, a stuffed animal, was handed from person to person to say what respect meant to them and who and what they were respectful of in their lives.

When each youth had finished with their explanations, the rest of the circle applauded, showing respect and acknowledgement of the other person’s perspective. Each person in the circle was offered a turn. The insight that youth demonstrated in their speaking was a pleasure to hear, no matter their age. We have such great leaders-to-be who will be able to have insights into their daily lives and what it means to be Anishnabe/Mitchif. I was very proud to be a part of that group that night. [ChildFund believes that engaging children and youth in initiatives that connect them to positive Lakota values, practices and beliefs strengthens their cultural identity and their resiliency against inherent risks in their environment.]

All week, this past week, I wondered how these youth developed into such respectful and insightful beings; what is this process of growth? Who were they before they became involved with what is called Club Night? How do children mature in this manner – to become so respectful of each other and confident to speak about how one of the gifts of the grandfathers is part of their lives in the presence of others?

Club Night has been happening for many years through the leadership of Claudette McLeod and Turtle Mountain Outreach, and the staff of the Tribal JTPA, Turtle Mountain Youth & Family Center and tribal youth programs.

After the Talking Circle, the youth and staff played a group activity where there was not any bickering about rules or other negative behaviors. Everyone seemed to truly enjoy each other’s companionship, regardless of gender or age. At the end of the evening, the staff remains to assure that each youth has a ride home and that, if someone wants to talk about a concern or share a recent event, they are there.

I just wanted to jump in and be a part!

I thank the group for allowing me to be a part of the group that night.

Club Night will continue to be a part of program services and the dedicated staff will continue to be supportive to the youth. And I thank them for providing this opportunity for our youth.

With help comes hope.

‘If I Were President’…Children Have a Few Ideas

By Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

For the past few years, the ChildFund Alliance (a 12-member organization that includes ChildFund International) has been asking children to tell us what they would do if they were president or the leader of their country. As you can imagine, 11- to 12-year-olds have some definite ideas.

As U.S. voters go to the polls today to elect the next president of the United States, we wanted to share with you some very good ideas for changing the world offered up by children who have a lot of important things to say when asked.

If I Were President…

child with siblings

“I would provide more libraries and more learning opportunities.” – Antonio, 11, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean)

boy talking to an adult

“I would encourage education for every child and I would multiply school infrastructures in every village where there are maximum numbers of children of school age. This is good because when you are educated you can help yourself and your family. You can get a better job and can go to any part of the world.” – Ibrahima, 12, Guinea

boy eating lunch

“I would provide school supplies for children free of charge.” – Dhanushka, 11, Sri Lanka

boy sitting on planter

“I would build roads in far-away places as well as organize summer camps.” – Erick, 12, Ecuador

girl with goats

“I would create school canteens in order to give the opportunity to many pupils who live very far away from school to eat lunch. And I would provide pupils with school supplies, uniforms and [pay] fees.” – Jeannette, 12, Togo

girl at school

“I would take away all of the weapons so kids don’t get hurt.” – Shalma, 11, United States

girl tending plants

“I would provide  free education for all children between 6 to 18 years.” – Anushree, 11, India

To help these children and others like them achieve their dreams, and maybe one day grow up to be president, consider sponsoring a child.

U.S. Children Need Sponsors, Too

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

child sponsorship in U.S.Although ChildFund is a global organization working in 31 countries, many people don’t realize that one of those countries is the United States.

Since 1952, ChildFund, partnering with local affiliate organizations, has provided sponsorships and programs for some of the poorest communities in the South, Southwest and Northern Plains.

Winter is an especially challenging time for children and families in western communities. When an ice storm hits in Oklahoma, it can debilitate a community for a week or more due to downed power lines. Rural roads become unsafe for travel. Adults can’t get to work, thus losing valuable income for food and necessities. Children can’t get to school, missing valuable learning time and peer interaction. In South and North Dakota the winters can last from September to May, with a small window of spring and summer.

This week, in the wake of a blizzard that is tracking across the U.S., parts of North Dakota and South Dakota experienced bitterly cold temperatures with wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below zero.

As the winter season drags out in the Dakotas, it becomes increasingly difficult for many families to afford the rising cost of propane to heat their homes. Water systems freeze. Pipes burst. Children sometimes lack winter clothing, or require support in obtaining warm coats and boots required for survival in the extreme weather conditions.

Although most ChildFund programs in the U.S. focus on after-school activities for children and youth, we have held emergency drives in the Northern Plains to provide water, food and other emergency aid when a bad winter storm hits. ChildFund area offices also act as advocates, linking communities with resources. As ChildFund services in the U.S. continue to expand, we are working with communities to strategically prepare for weather emergencies.

Sponsoring a child in the U.S. is a wonderful way to help. It costs $35 per month, which is a bit higher than for other countries in which ChildFund works due to higher costs of providing services here at home.

For more information about U.S. child sponsorship, call 800-776-6767, or visit the child sponsorship section of our website.  (FYI: We don’t show online photographs of U.S. children to protect their privacy and ensure their safety.)

How a Red Sweater Changed a Life

By David Hylton
Public Relations Specialist

31 in 31To kick off this blog series, which will crisscross the globe during the month of October, we start in our own backyard. One of the biggest myths about ChildFund International is that we only help children overseas. That couldn’t be more wrong. We’ve been providing aid to U.S. children for more than 50 years. In fact, our programs in the United States reach some of the poorest counties in Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

In the U.S., we collaborate with grassroots organizations that have an intimate understanding of the local community and the needs of the children and families. ChildFund and its partners focus on programs such as physical fitness, diabetes prevention, after-school care, computer skills training, youth councils and neighborhood revitalization.

Joe Brings Plenty is a leading advocate for ChildFund's programs at the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

Joe Brings Plenty is a leading advocate for ChildFund's programs at the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

One of our U.S. success stories comes from former sponsored child Joe Brings Plenty in South Dakota. He is now a tribal chairman and a leading advocate for ChildFund’s programs that began in 2008 at the Cheyenne River Reservation.

“I want the youth today to have the experiences that I had,” he says. As evidence, he shows visitors a photo of himself as a boy wearing a red sweater. The photo was taken during his community choir’s visit to a local prison. As a choir performer, he was instructed to wear “something nice.” The red sweater, a gift from his ChildFund sponsor, was the only nice thing he owned. It was also the only Christmas gift he received that year.

Years later, Joe continues to be touched by what the sweater represented to him as a child growing up on a reservation. For him, the sweater is a symbol that people care about Indian issues and that they share the same values of compassion and generosity.

You can read more about Joe here. And for more information on our work in the United States, go here.

More on the U.S.
Population: 304 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 58,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The first “American Indian Day” was declared by the State of New York in 1916, but a month-long recognition of American Indians was not achieved until 1990. Native American Indian Heritage Month is celebrated in November.

Next in our “31 in 31” series: Meet a kite maker in Indonesia

From Mississippi to L.A.: Former Miss USA Tells Her ChildFund Story

Shauntay Hinton, who was crowned Miss USA in 2002 and has appeared on TV shows such as “Heroes” and “Criminal Minds,” is a formerly sponsored child through ChildFund International. She was enrolled in the Brickfire Project in Mississippi and attended Brickfire’s after-school program until she completed high school.

This Sunday, Sept. 13, Shauntay will speak at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles as part of the celebration of our traveling toy exhibit, “The Power to Play – from Trash to Treasure.”

Today Shauntay shares her childhood memories with us:

Shauntay Hinton This week I attended a Labor Day barbecue hosted by my management company at a really elegant residence in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a community on the west side of Los Angeles. I looked around at the setting and the other “celebrities” there and felt like I was a really long way from Starkville, Miss.

In fact, when one of the other guests happened to ask me where I grew up, and I told her Mississippi, she responded “Wow! Really? How awful was that?” To which I replied “Not at all. I must have gotten lucky!”

I explained that growing up in Starkville, we had a strong sense of community. For example, when I was very little, I attended a day care center called Project Brickfire. Project Brickfire was a conduit organization for ChildFund International and operated as part day care center/part community center with programs to promote the educational and social development of children.

I went on to give her an earful about how before I even knew who Oprah Winfrey was, when I was about 5 years old, I was cast in a play at Project Brickfire as the host of a talk show who interviewed historical figures including Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. George Washington Carver regarding their contributions to American History. And boy oh boy, did they create a monster!

Shauntay Hinton as a childI made my mind up to never know a life without being on stage in some capacity. So to make a long story short, I think I got my point across to that other guest – if I hadn’t grown up in small-town Mississippi as a ChildFund sponsored child, I might not have been standing there talking to her at some fancy shindig in lovely Pacific Palisades that afternoon.

With programs emphasizing the arts and creative expression like plays, field trips and guest speakers, even providing a pen pal from across the world, ChildFund International helped me develop self confidence in front of an audience early on. Without question, my start as a sponsored child was essential to shaping my path toward a career in broadcasting because of the encouragement, instruction and support I received from the staff of Project Brickfire.

To read more about Shauntay’s experience with ChildFund International, click here. For more on “The Power to Play,” visit www.ChildFund.org/toys. Are you a formerly sponsored children through ChildFund? If so, and you would like to tell your story, please send an e-mail to content@childfund.org with your information.