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7 special moments that brought me joy this year

POSTED December 14, 2022

7 special moments that brought me joy this year

Fred, our CEO, shares standout memories of positive change from our programs in 2022

By Fred Witteveen, CEO,

Children Believe CEO, Fred, reads to kids at a child-safety space in Burkina Faso as humanitarian crises continue to affect people we help

This year was a special year for me. I was thrilled to visit our teams and programs around the world for the first time since I joined Children Believe, just after the pandemic began in 2020.

It was fantastic to meet some of the 1.2-million children, young people and community members supporters like you help dream fearlessly every day. I’m so thankful that through a tough economy, you continue to show up for these kids and families around the world.

Actually, you do more than show up. During the past year, you supported 460,000+ students — of all ages — in receiving inclusive, quality education to improve their lives and their communities. That means a lot.

So, join me as I revisit seven moments of hope and joy from 2022 that supporters like you made possible (listed in no particular order)…

1. Visiting children receiving special care in Burkina Faso

I enjoyed getting to read to some of the 200 kids in child-friendly spaces. It was heartening to watch them play, learn and enjoy routine, even as they were slowly recovering from the extreme distress of being driven from their homes following armed attacks from militant groups.

We’ve partnered with UNICEF to provide 55 of these safe havens, which provide mental-health support so the kids can regain a sense of normalcy.

It was encouraging to hear words of appreciation from UNICEF and the Burkinabé government for this special project, which supported 25,000+ displaced children and families last year.

2. Celebrating success with a women’s savings-and-loan group

I joined my first “sharing out” celebration with 2,000 female members of a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) micro-finance program in Burkina Faso in May.

The energy and joy were electric as the women danced and sang. They had good reason to be happy — they saved C$278,000+ during the past year! They’re already using the capital to start small businesses, from farming to selling solar panels.

The pride of the VSLA groups in sharing their saving results, and the collective impact of their efforts, inspired me.

As Fred visits his sponsored child he sits with the family and sees first-hand how Communities spur change

3. Meeting the child I sponsor in Nicaragua

When I met Arlen (above), I was moved by the strong network that supports this young teen. It was emotional as I talked with her and her parents about her hopes and dreams of becoming a plastic surgeon.

Her parents beamed with pride as they shared how Arlen excels in school. I could see the joy on their faces as they described working toward the goal of medical school for Arlen together as a family. It was very clear sponsorship means a lot to them.

4. Virtual panel to highlight need for collaboration to end irregular migration

I was re-invigorated after taking part in our webinar about irregular migration held during International Development Week in February. We were honoured Susan Ormiston, a CBC News senior correspondent, moderated a discussion between civil society, government and youth from our programs.

María Isabel López, our country director in Nicaragua, noted what she’d learned through our work which has helped 800,000 children and youth find a brighter futures. She cited the need to tap into multiple stakeholders, community leadership, youth leadership and affirmative action to continue making an impact.

It was promising to see and hear a strong desire from so many stakeholders to fight for change.

Connecting youth, like Flor dressed in her chefs whites, with rewarding jobs

5. Hearing from youth in Nicaragua about better job opportunities

When I was in Nicaragua, I met three aspiring chefs who participated in a culinary arts program through Children Believe’s partnership with Nestlé (above). They shared their dreams about starting their own businesses and their hopes of one day providing jobs for their peers.

I met many others who are networking with potential employers and learning skills to find and keep valuable careers. And, we celebrated the launch of a new job app in Nicaragua to connect committed youth with employers. What a win for a generation struggling to find opportunities amidst gender and age discrimination.

6. Meeting staff from our offices in Burkina Faso and Nicaragua for the first time

It was so gratifying to finally spend time in person with the teams in two of our country offices. I was encouraged and motivated by their dedicated service to the vulnerable children and families we help. This isn’t a job but a way of life for so many of them; they’ve become part of the communities we support. I’m so thankful to them.

7. Connecting with partners who implement our programs in Burkina Faso and Nicaragua

We don’t get to talk about the staff and leaders from our local partner organizations enough. These amazingly dedicated teams are hardworking and agile. They’re constantly soaking up knowledge about our communities, playing a crucial role in making change and challenging us to keep providing better support. Thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who contributes to fulfilling our mission of breaking barriers to education — from the kids we support, to our staff abroad and at home, local partners and our steadfast supporters around the globe.

Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and holiday season with your loved ones. Join us next year as we work together to spark more stories of hope and changed lives.

Learn more about how you can help today.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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