Whoever sponsors a child does not only help him. Entire communities can develop through child care. “We see families dare to dream again.”
Prior to 2006, bail money from Help a Child used to go directly to sponsors. It was used, among other things, to pay for clothing and school costs. “But at some point we realized that the impact was less than if the sponsor’s money went to the whole community,” says Claire Mukosh, 40, from Kenya. Nor did we do much about other factors that contributed to a child’s well-being. Mokosh works for Help a Child Africa, Help a Child’s country office in Kenya.
Therefore, Help a Child has been working with ambassador children since 2006. This means that sponsorship money no longer goes just to sponsored children, but also to their families and community. Kenya alone has 3,000 child ambassadors. We develop initiatives to make the entire community thrive, and the child is the ambassador and representative of that community. In the past, if a mother had ten children, only one of those children could benefit from sponsorship. Now the whole family benefits.
Social and economic initiatives in particular are having an impact. For example, self-help groups are created, where participants put aside money together. Then small loans are made to each other from the common piggy bank with a flexible repayment plan. This creates all kinds of opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise, because banks usually don’t make loans to these people.
Mokosh: “These self-help groups have a direct impact on children. It reduces child abuse, because one of the roots of child abuse and child labor is economic. Parents in self-help groups can now pay school fees themselves and thus send their children to school. They can provide security Diet – three meals a day – so that their children don’t sleep hungry anymore.
Child abuse is also dealt with promptly. Children are taught what their rights are and where to go if they are violated. “And we teach parents the effects of child labor and abuse and how to raise them positively,” Mokosh says. “We can’t say we’re bringing these kinds of issues to zero, but we’re starting to change.”
In front of the webcam
Child abuse is also an issue in the Philippines. For example, there are parents who put their children in front of a webcam to sexually exploit them, says Janis Flodelin Dagadoga, 32. This can be explained: partly because they do not have a stable income. But it just breaks your heart that it is parents or relatives who abuse children in this way.
Dagaduga has been working at the Children’s Center of the International Comprehensive Association of Ministries of Love and Sharing on the Philippine island of Cebu, since 2001 and is a partner organization of Compassion. The church has three hundred members, some of whom are children’s center families. The center supports 543 children between the ages of 1 and 20.
“I have a tough job because our goal is to really change lives,” Dagaduga says. And at the same time, it’s also a very fulfilling job, because I see it happening, I really see life changing. For example, since we started referring to children’s rights, there are parents who have reported a child being abused in the community, even if that child has not come to our center. We see families dare to dream again and set goals for themselves again, not only for their families, but also for society.
In the beginning the focus was on children and only children. “But now we see that we also have to educate parents,” Dagaduja says. Our goal is for all the children in our center to go to school, but some children have to work, because they have to help support their families. We encourage parents to send their children to school, and provide equipment if necessary. We help with homework, make school visits and check children’s reports. Among other things, we reimburse part of the medical care and provide training in hygiene. The goal is always comprehensive development. That’s why we teach children about Jesus and the Bible.
In addition to the Corona pandemic, people in the Philippines are suffering from natural disasters. The archipelago hits an average of twenty tropical storms a year. In mid-April, the Meiji storm caused severe damage, resulting in several hundred deaths. In December, Typhoon hit Cebu. For me personally, it was the first time I had felt such a hurricane. It was very painful for everyone. Before the internet went completely off, I got a lot of messages from kids telling me their roof had gone, or a wall had collapsed. The families in our program lost their homes to the hurricane. Some families are now staying with relatives or in emergency shelters. Many parents have lost their jobs.
In addition to money, there is another important thing in child care: communication. “We try to encourage pastors to go the extra mile and write to their caring child,” says Missy Cristi de Acosta (51) of Conviventia in Colombia, a Christian organization partner of Woord en Daad. 3,600 children participate in the Conviventia Care Program each year. When forming the bond, the sponsored children notice that there is a real person who is thinking of them, investing in them, and praying for them. It can make a huge difference to them. Often children do not have a loving character in their lives. Their parents leave work early, and after school they come home to an empty house. A letter from a sponsor can be a ray of sunshine on a dark day.
Child abuse is also a major topic in Colombia. De Acosta: “We hear stories of girls between the ages of 7 and 8 who have been abused by their mother’s friend and eventually driven out of the house because such a man gives the mother a choice – me or your children – and the mother then prefers her boyfriend.’
In Conviventia there is a school, through which parents are supported to fulfill their role in a loving manner. Training is offered and there are also individual sessions. We do this to make both the children and the family around them more resilient. God established the family as an institution. We learn in the family the skills that we will later need to function in society. The impact of childcare extends to families, and through foster families, you exert an influence on society. But we work in complex societies, so we’re also clear; We make parents aware of the legal consequences if they neglect or abuse their children.
“If 40 children are cared for in a community, maybe 500 children will benefit,” says Charles Kabuguza, 52, of World Vision from Uganda. The main objectives are pursued in three areas: health, education and self-help groups. Society itself determines how the money is spent.
For example, the priority may be to build homes for teachers, so that they no longer have to walk long distances every day to get to school. “We built houses for nine schools,” Kabuguza says. There are four teachers in every home. This means that more than two thousand children have access to education. Thus, the sponsor’s contribution creates the opportunity for children to pursue education. Then the whole society changes because of education.
Education in Uganda has also suffered greatly from the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools reopened in January after a two-year closure. Homeschooling has been provided during the lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped children from being left behind.
Another consequence of the closure is the dramatic increase in the number of teenage pregnancies. Kabuguza: “In our area there were 287 people, while there are usually twenty to thirty years.” The rules did not allow young mothers to return to school after the closure. The government had to put in place guidelines so that these young mothers could return to education. The facilities had to be set up, and the schools had to be supported to do so. For example, childcare must now be arranged at school and there must be places where mothers can feed their children. Some teen moms are now back in school, but not all yet. We’re looking at how to support dropouts, so they have hope. They have to learn the skills with which they can provide for themselves and their children.
Helga van Kooten text +++ image Serrah Galos