Advocacy

Inspiring a school of South Sudanese refugees

August 14, 2017

As told to Mark Nonkes

Par is the head teacher of a World Vision-built school in Kakuma refugee camp. A South Sudanese citizen who left his country for a better life in Kenya. He’s guiding 4,800 primary school students through their education.

This is his story, in his own words.

“I was born in 1989, the same year my father was killed. I was in the womb. That’s why I was called Par. Par means crying after a father’s death. I had two older brothers. I grew up as a cow boy. A cow boy is somebody who herds cows, who takes care of the animals. Our family had 15 cows.

“After my father died, my mother had three other children. In 1996, my mother thought we should go to school. She took us to northern Sudan. We sold all our belongings and went for three years. I studied in Khartoum.

“However, more death in the family forced us to return to our homeland in South Sudan. My older brother was bitten by a scorpion and died. Another older brother died from sickness. I was suddenly the oldest boy at home. I returned to the struggle of life as a cow boy.

“By the time I was 14, I realized I needed to take charge and be responsible. I had to make sure my younger brother, sisters and my mother would survive.

“In 2004, our village received food aid. The organization said they were willing to take some children to study. I threw myself into their airplane when I heard that. I didn’t even tell my mother I was going. I left with 12 other boys.

“We were brought here to Kakuma Refugee Camp. We stayed at the camp as unaccompanied minors. We struggled every day – getting food, cooking, fetching water – everything we do, we do by ourselves. There was nobody to take care of us.

“That’s when I started my education. I started in Grade 3 and I continued to Grade 8. I started secondary school in 2011. In 2012, my uncle sent me money, so I was able to join a boarding school. But the money ran out after two years, and I returned to Kakuma for my final year of secondary school.

“In 2014, in my final year of secondary school, three things happened. I was enrolled late and missed the first term. I was given subjects I had no interest in. Then when the exams came, I was forced to write subjects I didn’t study. I failed – I got a D. In the same year, my mother sent me a wife from South Sudan. We were married. Now I have a baby boy.

“That same year, I started volunteering to teach math at this primary school.

“I taught Class 5, 7 and 8 math. A year later, in March of 2015, the head teacher called me. He told me to come and continue. ‘The learners love you, they say you are good’, I was told. And then they started to pay me a little.

“Each day, I would stay in the class until 9pm with students. I would read with them and practice math with them. We would remain as the last ones at the school and lock the gate when we left. At the end of the year, my top student had the highest mark in math from the entire refugee camp – among all the schools.

“I think the students like me because they see themselves. I’m a refugee and from South Sudan, like most of them. I understand what they have experienced. My younger brother was shot in the conflict earlier this year and is still injured. My family is affected by a lack of food – sometimes they go two or three days without eating. I try to help them by sending them a bit of my salary each month.

“My goal is to help these students. Many South Sudanese enroll in school here, but they’re scarred by the past. Children arrive and they’ve lost a parent or sibling. They’ve witnessed gun fighting and other horrors. It takes a long time for them to let go of that hostility and be able to focus on their education. My main fight is to unite them, to create a culture of peace among them within the school. I urge them to commit to their education because it will help them in their future.

“In 2017, I was appointed deputy head teacher. I continued to teach Class 7 and 8 mathematics. At that time, I was supposed to go and work at another school. But the students and my colleagues refused to let me go. They complained and complained and I got to stay here. Two months ago, I was appointed the head teacher.

“You know, I never dreamed of becoming a teacher but this path called me. I love teaching. You become a psychologist in part. You study people and get to understand their lives. You help them problem solve. You get them focused on their education.

“We have had a very big improvement in student’s performance. For example, most students are now able to speak in English and Kiswahili. As well, the number of students who are performing well on their exams is improving. In 2015, the best mark was 325 and in 2016, the best mark was 374. In mathematics, our learners are getting the highest marks in the whole camp. These are true indicators that learning is taking place.

“When you get to see students succeed, their minds and thoughts open up, that’s an great thing to be part of.”

Support children like Par, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

Former sponsored child builds on his own empowerment to help others

By Elizabeth Hendley | July 10, 2017

Tipu Azad, 22, leads a group of children in games at the park in his neighborhood. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

A pair of dumbbells hits the floor as Tipu Azad finishes a set of chest presses. The disciplined 22-year-old, a former sponsored child, works out most mornings at the gym, moving from one machine to the next in a circuit-training plan.

It’s a utilitarian space — more like a boxing gym than L.A. Fitness — that matches the feel of his no-frills neighborhood in southeast Delhi. Most families here live in poverty, but enough have crossed an economic threshold to where they, like Tipu, have some disposable income to pay for a gym membership.

After finishing his workout, Tipu strolls through the maze of narrow concrete streets back to his home. With a haircut modeled after soccer star David Beckham and a cell phone in his pocket that captures frequent selfies, he waves hello to neighbors and friends he passes.

He shares a four-story home with five brothers, one sister, and their parents, who brought the family to Delhi in 1995 from Bhojpur, a small city in Bihar state about 620 miles away.

An unexpected byproduct of their move: access to World Vision’s presence in Delhi, which has helped each family member flourish. Eldest brother Saddham was sponsored at age 5; now 23, he’s a graphic designer. Sixteen-yearold Amir still has a sponsor in the U.S.

World Vision’s economic empowerment programs also helped transform the family’s future. Because they had tailoring experience, Tipu’s parents, Nasima and Mohammad, received sewing machines to start a business from their home. Their workshop is now a hub of activity with two sewing machines that barely rest. “The entire neighborhood are our customers,” Nasima says with a laugh.

Tipu was sponsored at age 7. But as a younger teenager, he got involved with the wrong crowd — skipping school, loitering, and teasing girls. All that changed when he began spending more time with staff at World Vision’s center in his neighborhood. “It was a mindset shift,” he says. “It’s about taking negative things and making them positive.”

It was a mindset shift. It’s about taking negative things and making them positive —Tipu Azad

All seven siblings have embraced a variety of World Vision programs and workshops. Children’s clubs help them develop leadership skills and a passion for helping others; self-defense training for Heena, the only daughter in the family, inspires confidence; drama performances teach creative expression. Even the library at the World Vision center shaped Tipu’s future by stimulating his appetite for books. He became a regular visitor, checking out novels, biographies, fables, and language instruction books.

Because of his transformative experience as a sponsored child, Tipu started volunteering for a local nonprofit organization in 2011. Soon, he was hired as a full-time staff member in their South Delhi office, teaching children about health, how to respect their parents, social and emotional learning, sports, and the importance of education.

“There are small kids — 6 and 7 years old — smoking, drinking, stealing, not going to school,” he says — ample opportunity for him to make a difference in their lives.

Once encouraged by World Vision staff, Tipu now helps children who aren’t in school with tutoring so they can enroll. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Every day, he facilitates two two-hour sessions for local children. Today, a dozen kids form a circle in the neighborhood park, and Tipu leads them in a song about good hygiene habits before playing a few games and working on soccer skills. The sessions are a hodgepodge of educational activities and games, and through it all Tipu builds trust and reinforces that he’s available for the kids whenever they need him.

He’s proud to be a leader in his community. “A train has both cars and an engine,” he says. “A lot of people say they want to be leaders, but not many do.”

Inspired by a World Vision staff member, several years ago Tipu switched the focus of his college studies from communications to social work, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2016. He’s now working toward a master’s in social work.

Exhausted from the two kids’ sessions and his own coursework, Tipu ends the day with his siblings. They crowd into their parents’ workshop, joking and talking over one another. Bolstered by their affection and care for each other, the tight-knit family has shone their warmth outward into their community.

“We want two things for our kids,” says their father, reading glasses perched on his nose. “Character — that they be soft-spoken, behave in the proper way, and have good manners. And studying — that they will do something and stand on their own two feet.”

With World Vision’s help and encouragement, Tipu has fulfilled his father’s hopes — and he’s helping other children reach their own potential.

Support children like Tipu, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

Former sponsored child reflects on fulfilled dreams

By Xavier Sku | 23 March 2017

Rongdi Jib, now 40, saw his life transform when he was sponsored through World Vision (©2015 World Vision/photo by Xavier Sku)

As a child, Rongdi Jib, now 40, faced a life with few prospects.

In the mid-1970s, Bangladesh was a new nation. Once under the rule of British India, the country formerly known as East Pakistan emerged in 1971 after a war of independence that left 300,000 civilians dead.

Life in the wake of such upheaval was difficult for the many people in Bangladesh living in poverty — including Rongdi, who is known as Biswajit. “I was born in a low-income family, so my life was very uncertain,” he says. “My father was a day laborer. It was very hard for him to provide even daily meals for us, so it was an extra burden to pay my basic educational expenses.”

Biswajit’s family lived in Durgapur, in southwest Bangladesh. The town sits amid a tangle of rivers and tributaries, all of which empty into the Bay of Bengal 50 miles to the south. The low-lying land is prone to natural disasters like flooding and cyclones.

After his eldest sister married, Biswajit moved in with her because she and her husband could provide enough food for him. That was where he grew up. “The turning point of my life was when World Vision registered me as a sponsored child in 1981,” Biswajit says. He was in first grade.

Another milestone came in 1984, when his World Vision sponsor, a doctor, traveled to meet him at the organization’s national headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city. “As I was a young boy, I was excited to meet my sponsor and get chocolates, toys, and several drawing books from him,” Biswajit says. “He took many photos and sent them to me later when he got back to his country.”

His sponsor’s visit sparked an eagerness to learn and stand on his own two feet. “People used to ask me what I dreamed of being,” Biswajit says. “I answered that I wanted to be a teacher, although I knew it would be tough for me. But I think it was God’s plan that made my dream come true. Many people’s lives have changed through World Vision’s programs, not only mine. World Vision taught me how to dream.”

After graduation, Biswajit followed his dream of a career in education. Today, he’s a teacher in an independent high school, where he is a popular staff member, sports coach, and cultural events organizer. In a country where nearly a million children aren’t in primary school, he’s making a difference in the lives of his students — as well as his family. Biswajit and his wife, a nurse at a hospital, have two daughters, both of whom are in primary school.

In 2015, World Vision phased out its presence in Durgapur. The local community was ready to sustain the work World Vision began many years ago: agriculture and husbandry training; workshops on nutrition and cooking; women’s savings groups; midwife training; educational support; and more. Sponsorship, the bedrock of change in Durgapur and other communities, has a lasting effect in Bangladesh through the lives of sponsored children like Biswajit.

“My family will be forever grateful to World Vision. I will always cherish World Vision in my memories,” he says. “May God always use this organization for the welfare of poor and vulnerable children.

Support children like Biswajit, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

I know how to read, write and become a chef!!!

Hoang Thuy Chung, Communications Officer, World Vision Vietnam | 16 March  2017

That is the greatest joy of Mai Van Son – an orphan boy born in 1998, living with his grandmother at Lac Vien Ward, Ngo Quyen District, Hai Phong city.

Just a few years ago, Son was a thin boy with eyes always looking down and his smile was never seen blooming on the lips. He did not know how to read accented letters, did not know how to write his name, no parents since he was 8 years old, no more than two sets of clothing, whether in summer or in cold winter, and he has never known what a full stomach is like…

For Son, he had nothing except one thing – dream. He dreamed of becoming a chef and had a job to support his grandmother. But how to make dreams come true, he did not know.

Everyday, he held his grandmother’s hand to wander around the market to beg for small changes. At night, he made little money by playing games online. Son’s life and dream would have elapsed day by day in his boarding house if one day, Ms. Nhung – the chairwoman of women’s union in Lac Vien ward hadn’t come to see him.

She wore a blue shirt with lots of strange letters on her back that he could not read.

She guided Son to the children house of culture in Ngo Quyen district to participate a life skills training class held by the district women’s union and World Vision Vietnam. There, the first time he realized that he also had a strong point of honesty. The first time he cried when talking about his life. The first time he belonged to a place called Khat vong thanh cong (Desire to Success) Club.

And when he knew his dream would be supported by the Youth Livelihood project, he also realized that the ability of reading and writing would make his dream less difficult.

Since then, in the ragged hive sandals, he walked through the long distance to participate all the extracurricular exercises and became a core member, a striker for the Khat vong thanh cong football club.

He was in the habit of life skills classes, volunteering in the kitchen of a restaurant to become familiar with the work of a chef. He no longer came to the internet shop but concentrating on the evening classes supported by Ms. Thuong and Ms. Ngoc. He began to be able to read cooking textbooks.

Son studied with the help of Ms. Thuong

These efforts have been recorded and approved to support training by People’s Committee of Ngo Quyen district and World Vision Vietnam.

Sparkling eyes and bright smile when looking forward, he excitedly said: “Since I came to school, I did not quit even one day. The dish I cook best is butter fried squid, I will make this delicious dish in the final exam”.

One more month of intense training, Son graduated with that butter fried squid and became a chef. Starting with low positions in the kitchens, Son has advanced through 3 or 4 places, higher salary one after the other. Now Son is working as a chef in a duck restaurant.

All monthly salary is handed to his grandmother to keep. She doesn’t have to go out on the street anymore. They still stay in his uncle’s small house but with new beds. Son also purchased an electric bike to get to work. His next goal is a new house for him and grandmother.

Son’s kitchen job is super busy, not a free lunch or dinner time, especially in weekends. But he takes any available time to attend contests, social events and major activities of the club and the project. He remains reading and writing well.

“Now I know what the words on her back were, dare to think – dare to do – dare to succeed”, said Son with a big smile on his lips.

Support people like Son, where World Vision focuses in long term sustainability of the community which elevates them from poverty. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

How bikes are improving children’s education in South Africa

By Andrew Newmarch, Senior Portfolio Advisor – Southern Africa Team

How long did it take you to get to school when you were a child? In the old days kids usually walked to school, but today, it seems that many students get dropped off by their parents in SUVs. In Malaysia, life has definitely changed. The thought of letting your child walk 4-5 kms to school on their own would be unheard of.

In places like South Africa, this is the only way children can get to school to receive an education. But because of your child sponsorship, World Vision is changing this for thousands of children across the country.

Take this High School in the Giyani project of north-east South Africa for instance.

While in South Africa, I met Alive (yes, his real name!) He and his mates walk about four km’s each way to school every day. Not only is this unsafe, it means that students are spending most of their time travelling when they could be doing their homework or playing with friends. However, for Alive, this is not a long way compared to other students at his school.

“In fact, in South Africa as a whole, 11 million of the 17 million school children walk to school, with 500,000 of them spending more than four hours a day getting to and from school.”

An even bigger picture reveals that South Africa was placed 115th out of 144 countries with regard to children’s access to primary schools. It’s no wonder that only 40% of children who enrol in Grade one achieve a qualification higher than Grade nine.

So what is World Vision doing?

We have partnered with Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s program, to provide bikes to students across our child sponsorship projects.

In the Giyani project where I visited last year, I participated in the unloading and registration of 490 bikes going to students, including sponsored children.

“When it all started, bikes only went to girls to be able to get to school. It was about access and opportunity. But because of the success, a shift has occurred to provide bikes to boys as well based on distance from school.”

Students undertake a contract to not only maintain the bike but to go to school – part of the incentive is that after two years they can keep the bike if they attend a sufficient amount of school in that time. They are also given basic maintenance training as well as a, helmet, padlock and pump.

How do I know it will make a difference?

Based on two other projects, their results show that attendance has increased from 35% to 82%, homework completed each day has increased from 24% to 88% and travel time has decreased for 72% of the students with bicycles to less than an hour.

Not only are fewer children missing important classes, the number of children who feel safe travelling to school has more than doubled.

But that’s not all. The bicycles are helping out our staff too.

Singita is one of the Community Care Agents who recently received a bicycle from World Vision. Singita, along with other volunteers like herself work with World Vision to monitor the needs of community members and sponsored children.

“Before I had a bike, I used to visit only five families a day, but now I can cover up to 12 families in a day,” she told me.

It’s great to see that the provision of a bike can transform the way the community operates and have such a significant impact on a child’s safety and education.

“For those 490 students now on bicycles in the Giyani project, I have no doubt they are on their way to a better education.”

Since I visited the Giyani project last year, the program has worked so well in that another 1,200 bikes will be delivered there this year. In addition, another 900 have been promised to the two other World Vision Sponsorship projects, Umzimkhulu and Ixopo, in 2016.

Support children like Alive, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

From child labourer to child rights advocate

By Klevisa Breshani, Communications Officer, World Vision Kosovo

Rafet, 14, a Roma child from Kosovo, used to think that working jobs for himself and his family, even physically demanding ones, was his duty as a child. He also thought that working was more important than going to school and earning money more important than an education. Rafet used to spend his days collecting plastics and transporting heavy loads to help his family.

His work not only robbed Rafet of his energy, it also prevented him from attending school. Participating in the awareness activities organised by the Local Initiatives for National Change (LINC), an 18-month project funded by World Vision Australia and implemented by World Vision and Health for All (a local partner) in Kosovo, helped Rafet understand his rights and change his mind. “I now help my parents around the house and go to school,” he says.

Today, not only is Rafet aware of his rights, he is also coaching many children in his community, helping them to understand their rights as well. Now, Rafet attends school regularly. His grades have improved and he is one of the most active children in the project’s initiatives. “I knew little about my rights before joining in the activities,” he recalls. “Here, I have learned that nobody should treat us violently, force us to beg on the street or work,” he says. “They [adults] have taught us so much about what we should do, and nothing about what to not to do,” he adds.

Before Refat started to attend school regularly, World Vision and the partner organisation held many awareness meetings with his parents, informing them that compulsory education is a right for every child.

Rafet walking in his neighbourhood

In the area where Rafet lives, a child was bitten by a street dog and lost his life while working to collect plastics and cans. “That made Rafet’s parents reflect,” says Orjana Demaliaj, World Vision’s LINC Project Officer. She adds: “Rafet’s father, an erector by occupation, is trying harder now to find a job  to help his family and save time for his children to attend school. Two of his oldest sons have emigrated to Germany and they are helping the family too,” she says.

Rafet is a member of one of six advocacy groups established over the past ten months in communes with the highest number of marginalised Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. These groups typically lack information in regards to child rights and social protection services. Each group is comprised of 15 participants: children, youths as well as social protection workers and people with disabilities.

The project is focused on training groups in local advocacy techniques and strengthening them to raise their voices in order to influence child protection at the local level (with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, among others). The project is also helping members to influence implementation of social protection service policies so that they can push for enhanced social assistance schemes and reduce cases of child labour. The LINC project is working to reach 102 direct and 350 indirect beneficiaries, including children, community groups and centres for social protection workers.

After learning a lot in the training sections, Rafet is sharing his knowledge with his siblings and schoolmates in order to show them what their rights are. Rafet shares his personal experience with other children working improper jobs for their ages and motivates them to spread the knowledge gained during the training as much as possible.

“In my neighbourhood, I know many children who work. They go early in the morning and come home at night. There are many girls whose parents don’t allow them to go to school or play. Instead, they force them to work, collecting [plastics] or washing cars on the streets. I often see their parents shout at them. I think what is happening to those children is not right and I have to help them!” Rafet says.

He uses his time at school and with his acquaintances in his neighbourhood to share about child rights. “During the school break or even in the neighbourhood, my friends and I tell other children about what we have learned at the group and that we should not work, nobody should [treat] us violently or force us to beg on the streets,” Rafet says smiling.

Thanks to Rafet, his family have changed their mindsets. “My brothers and my sister rarely go to work since I told them that children under 18 should not work. Instead, they should go to school,” he says.

Recently, Rafet and his group have written a clause regarding child rights law which has been sent to the Kosovo parliament to approve. The clause says that no child should work! Instead, children should pursue compulsory education.

“I know how they feel and I don’t wish to see any child working in poor conditions. Even though children are little, they should be respected and protected from adults!” he states.

Rafet wants to become a doctor when he grows up and heal the ill, especially children.

This story was adapted from an article at wvi.org

Mamita says no to child marriage

By Barun Bajracharya, Content Manager, World Vision International Nepal

18-year-old Mamita is from Lamjung in the western region of Nepal. Her mother fixed her marriage when she was 15.

 

18-year-old Mamita dreams of becoming a nurse and helping the marginalised. Mamita lived with her family of six in Lamjung. Her father was working as a labourer in Saudi Arabia. Due to a lack of good employment opportunities in Nepal, it is common for people with limited or no educational qualifications to go to the Middle East and other countries to work as labourers.

But at the age of 15, Mamita confronted the biggest obstacle of her life, a decision that would alter her future.

A marriage proposal came knocking on Mamita’s family door. Thinking they had found a good match, her relatives brought a marriage proposal intended for her sister. The climate of festivities quickly turned to one of panic when her sister eloped, leaving the family in a compromising position. The news of the elopement had started marring the image of the family within their community. Something needed to be done to save the family from losing respect.

Societal ridicule and an inability to provide for her children drove her mother, Nirmala, to arrive at a precarious decision. Fearing the possibility of her other daughter following in the footsteps of her sister, Nirmala offered 15-year-old Mamita as a substitute bride. Oblivious to the adverse consequences of child marriage, uneducated Nirmala followed the traditional custom, thinking it was perfectly normal to offer Mamita as a fair alternate option.

According to the 2014 UNICEF report, Ending Child Marriage, almost half of all child brides worldwide live in South Asia. Nepal is one of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage. 52% of women aged 20 to 49 years were married or in union before ages 15 and 18.

Nirmala left no room for discussion on the matter and expected Mamita to graciously accept the marriage proposal. Crippled with fear, Mamita could not say anything to her mother but within her heart she knew that she did not want to marry early. Knowing that the situation was beyond her, she sought help from the members of her school’s child club, which was supported by World Vision.

“When I first heard about the news of my marriage I could not comprehend what was happening. I knew that I was too young for marriage and I wanted to study further and become a nurse. I was just 15. It made me sad and depressed and out of fear I could not say anything to my mother.”

“I knew there was a child club in my school and they worked on child protection issues. I thought they might be able to help me, counsel me and find a way out. That was my only hope. I was desperate to get any help,” says Mamita.

Despite the fear brewing within her, Mamita took the bold step of reaching out for that help. She approached the children’s club and talked to them about her predicament. After getting the assurance that all measures would be taken to protect her rights as a child, Mamita sighed a sigh of relief. The children’s club sought the support of local authorities and attempted to counsel Mamita’s mother on the issue of child marriage. Mamita had finally found her ray of hope.

As part of an awareness programme, school child clubs receive an orientation from World Vision on child protection issues, such as child marriage, child labour, and child abuse.

School child clubs also work for school issues such as cleanliness, attendance, studies, extracurricular activities, awareness programmes, street dramas and more. They learn that child marriage is illegal and that boys and girls are not mature enough to get married before the age of 20. The child club members are also trained by World Vision on who to contact when child protection issues are raised.

They first contact concerned authorities such as the District Child Welfare Board and the Village Child Protection and Promotion Committee to report a proposed child marriage. The child club members also directly talk with the authorities, coordinating a fixed time and date to meet the family of the proposed bride or groom and advise them.

This story was first featured on wvi.org

 

Educating parents helps fight malaria

By Thet Kaung Myat Oo, Communication Associate, World Vision Myanmar

Aung, 8, is in grade 3, and lives with his parents and siblings in a village situated along the bank of a river in Myeik Township, Tanintharyi Division, Myanmar.

Most of the families in Aung’s village rely on odd jobs and struggle for their daily living, and Aung’s parents are no different, working to feed their five children in paddy fields and rubber plantations, or sometimes doing traditional river fishing.

“I would rather go find work to earn money for my family or stay at home, rather than attend those kind of discussions,” replied Daw Yu Htay, Aung’s mother, when asked by volunteers and her neighbours to attend health awareness sessions.

Daw Yu Htay works odd jobs in her village, earning about 3000 kyats (around $3 US) each day.

“Although I was invited to attend malaria behaviour change discussions often, I never attended because I thought they were not important,” she said. “Sometimes we slept with an insecticide net, but sometimes we did not. I did not believe the transmission was from mosquito bites.”

One day, Aung got a fever.

“I gave him some medicines which I bought from the local shop that I use to treat my children when they are sick,” Daw Yu Htay said.

“My neighbours asked me to take my son for a malaria blood test, but I just ignored them,” Daw Yu Htay recalls.

Three days later, her son’s fever became even worse. “I could not swallow food and felt pain in my head and stomach,” recalls Aung.

Daw Yu Htay finally accepted the help of a World Vision volunteer. Aung’s blood test came back positive; he was seriously ill with Plasmodium Vivax (PV) malaria. PV is one of the five species of malaria parasites that commonly infect humans.

Despite the health volunteer’s urging, Daw Yu Htay didn’t want to take Aung to the rural health centre, because she had no money. However, the volunteers encouraged her to take him, and accompanied them.

From there, Aung was promptly sent to the hospital, where he received the necessary treatment. He recovered quickly, and is back at school enjoying his lessons.

World Vision paid for Aung’s medical fees and transportation charges.

“My son survived because World Vision helped us. I would regret it my whole life if my son had died from malaria. I neglected my children due to lack of knowledge, but now I have changed,” says Daw Yu Htay.

“We sleep with long lasting insecticide net every night. I keep my children from being bitten by mosquitoes,” she declared.

Now, Daw Yu Htay not only actively participates in awareness raising sessions but also encourages her neighbours to sleep with insecticide treated bed nets.

This story was adapted from an article at wvi.org

When health services are in the hands of communities

By Achel Bayisenge, Communications, World Vision Burundi

43-year-old Josephine is happy to be equipped with tools and drugs that help her fight against malaria

In the courtyard of a modest house in the rural areas of Burundi, Josephine, a Community Health Worker (CHW) is sitting next to a table with a metal box on it. The box contains a complete toolkit donated by World Vision to help fight against malaria. Josephine sometimes takes her box outside to make sure everything is in its place to avoid unpleasant surprises. Her box may run short of drugs and she would be unable to attend to the patients of her community. The living room of her modest house is a little dark and does not allow her to see everything clearly, especially when it comes to writing; she explains. She has to give a report to her nearby health facility so that needed drugs can be made available on time.

Josephine is a 43-year-old lady who lives on Ntunda hill in Ntunda ADP, northeast of Burundi. She is committed to fighting against malaria in her community.

‘’No child has died so far because of malaria on my hill, since we started treating children from home,’’ Josephine explains joyfully.

According to the WHO, more than 6 million people, including 2 million children, in Burundi suffered malaria from January to August 2016 alone.

More than 2500 of the affected people have already died.

Since World Vision became aware of the outbreak, the organisation scaled up its integrated community case management approach, focusing mainly on malaria management. This approach consists of treating the 3 main killers of under-five children in Burundi, namely malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Josephine is proud of being able to diagnosis and treat malaria that affects children in her community.

“We had a similar outbreak of the disease 15 years ago and many people perished, especially children,” she still remembers.

Asked if she had taken courses in medication before the World Vision project, her answer is no; World Vision trained and equipped 108 community health workers, including herself, throughout the whole commune of Gitaramuka to help them stop the Burundi malaria trend.

Josephine is always ready to help out whenever a malaria case arises on her hill, she explains. The donated metal box holds a complete toolkit including drugs, gloves, needles, solar torch, para checks, report forms, and many items enabling her to serve better, she continues.

Josephine and her bicycle.

On top of the toolkit, World Vision supported her with a bicycle. A bicycle helps her move around in the community to follow up on the health status of children she has treated. If their status does not improve, she refers them to a health facility, she says. A bicycle is also used to transport children if she finds that there is a need for the sick child to reach health facilities quickly. She appreciates World Vision’s support with all this. What caused many deaths in the past was the long time mothers had to travel to reach nearby health facilities. For many of them, this involved walking for hours and hours while the child’s health status worsened.

During the current malaria outbreak, community health workers are receiving more children than ever before. Sometimes their metal boxes run short of drugs because of the many children in need.

Josephine is asking for more support from the Government and Donors to help ensure that other communities do not experience what happened in the past when community health workers had not started working.

This story was featured on wvi.org

Syria’s children – how conflict can harm brain development

By Alison Schafer
Senior Programme Advisor
Mental Health & Psychosocial Support
World Vision International

The Syria conflict has been raging for over six years. In times of war, children are among the most vulnerable groups. Even though most will survive the conflict physically, the immediate and long-term well-being of children remains a serious concern for humanitarian organisations, like World Vision.

Conflict situations commonly expose children to extremely stressful and terrifying events. World Vision has heard from children who have escaped Syria, speak about both witnessing and being victims of violence; losing parents and loved ones; and being displaced.

Children also tell us about the daily challenges they face living with those who love them, who are themselves dealing with personal experiences of war and displacement and unable to be as supportive or loving as they once were. These ongoing stresses can have strong and lasting effects on children’s socio-emotional well-being and their growing brains.

And a vast number of children have been impacted by this crisis: more than four million children in need in Syria, and more than one million child refugees now living in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.

Research suggests that the physical consequences of conflict on a child’s brain development can have adverse and marked consequences – with the potential for permanent changes to the brain’s architecture. Without adequate intervention and the presence of protective and caring relationships, Syria’s war could have a lasting impact on children’s learning abilities, memory, social interactions, stress and fear responses, and the ability to control emotions. The experiences of Syria’s war-affected children could lead to a generation of children experiencing long-term mental health, social and economic problems.


“My grandchildren have never had a beautiful day in their lives,” says the grandmother of Fatima, 4. “The older girls barely talk, and when other children cry, they curl up with their hands to their ears and rock.” Photo by Jon Warren

Click here for more information on how to help these children cope with stress.

It is a common misconception that young children do not understand stressful or violent events and so are not as affected as adults. But their young minds process much more than is often credited.  World Vision has often observed this in children affected by crises: their developmental milestones can be delayed, their capacity for higher education attainment is jeopordised and their behaviour, emotional attachments and social environments are also impacted. Most often, crises induce severe and chronic stress among children.

Research shows that “toxic stress” – when the stress response system is activated over a prolonged period without the buffering presence of protective and caring relationships – leads to elevated levels of the cortisol stress hormones in the brain. This impacts the brain’s hippocampus and leads to children having learning difficulties, problems with short-term memory and difficulty controlling emotions.

Humanitarian organisations often see children exhibiting limited concentration, behavioural and emotional self-control in the remedial, recreation or education programmes they provide for children and adolescents.

During early childhood, the neural circuits of a child’s brain for responding to stress are particularly vulnerable to prolonged and elevated cortisol levels.  This can have permanent effects on a person’s ability to regulate stress and fear responses later in life and means they are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and a range of other mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. The long-term impacts aren’t limited to the brain. Research also shows a strong correlation between exposure to adverse childhood experiences and higher rates of heart, liver and lung disease in adulthood.

This evidence highlights the need for humanitarian agencies to go beyond delivering food, water and shelter and ensuring a child’s physical safety. Displaced children living in refugee camps, or in isolation from host communities, commonly face boredom, social exclusion and lack of stimulating activities or opportunities for play. On the surface, this may seem a minor concern. However, a lack of adequate stimulation can also be linked to significant neurological shifts in the developing brain.

In childhood, only the neurons and neural pathways that get used are strengthened in the brain, whereas those that are not used die out. The brain is like a muscle. It requires frequent repetitive use and stimulation – through environmental cues, relationships with family, social engagement and education. Neglect and under-stimulation of children affected by conflict can lead to severe impairments in the cognitive, physical and psychosocial development of the child, creating a lasting legacy of war.

This can lead to emotional, cognitive, and behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression, emotional and interpersonal difficulties, and significant learning difficulties.

World Vision prioritises setting up Child Friendly Spaces – safe places where children can play, learn, make friends, develop routines and be monitored for behavioural and emotional issues. The spaces are up and running in Lebanon and are hosting Syrian children.

Our research on Child Friendly Spaces for refugee children living in Ethiopia and Uganda found children participating in such programmes showed more sustained and consistent mental, social and emotional well-being than those refugee children who did not have such opportunities. The research highlights the importance of these spaces in minimizing long-term damage for children.

Children will then only have to deal with tolerable levels of stress – levels that don’t lead to lasting effects on the developing brain.

World Vision is responding to the Syria crisis. In addition to water, health and cash programmes, World Vision aims to scale up its children’s programming. In Lebanon and Jordan we are working to establish or delivering: child and adolescent friendly spaces for recreation and psychosocial support, remedial education initiatives, and maternal and child health programmes that can promote children’s support with their caregivers.

It takes a world to end violence against children! Click here to learn more about the fears and dreams of the Syrian children.