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Agile community engagement, coupled with donor support, spurs hope

POSTED August 10, 2020

Agile community engagement, coupled with donor support, spurs hope

Donors, community leaders, partners and Children Believe staff are building resilience amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

By Fred Witteveen, CEO, ceo@childrenbelieve.ca

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My life’s work has been about turning strangers into neighbours. You may remember that from my first Children Believe blog. I’ve been thinking about that statement as I learn about the resilience with which children, families and communities we help in Africa, The Americas and Asia are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders in one rural community in India launched a feeding program after hearing a child cry out in hunger in a tribal habitation. Others reached out to local authorities for help. We’re thrilled to see how Children Believe-facilitated training is growing confident new leaders who are even garnering respect from local government representatives.

In Burkina Faso, youth from Children Believe-formed children’s groups volunteered to spread the word about how to protect against COVID-19. This was happening in communities where fear and uncertainty about a largely unknown virus was spreading.

Years of community work is paying off, but although we have 60+ years of experience in international development, we’re striving to keep agile, reassessing our approach as needed.

In fact, we reallocated a significant amount of funds to COVID response. What has this meant for those we help? Most recently, aside from emergency response, we’ve stepped up awareness-raising campaigns about the spread of the virus as fear has led to discrimination and stigmatization. As children’s routines and safe spaces have changed, we’ve intensified our ongoing focus on making sure children are safe from abuse, child labour and worse as our teams have been reporting crimes to local law enforcement and providing counselling and support where needed.

Many schools, which are also safe spaces for children, remain closed. So we’re working with communities to ensure these important facilities are equipped with resources, such as clean water, wash basins and hand sanitizer, so children can safely return to class as soon as their governments allow.

We’re also working hard to help families overcome challenges, so children are physically able and motivated to return to class.

A report last month from Save the Children confirms what we’re already seeing. It states almost 10-million children may not return to school after the lockdown as rising poverty forces some to work and others into early marriages.

More help is necessary, but we’re prioritizing relief where it’s needed most. Here’s what we’ve delivered between April and June, thanks to our generous donors and partners through support from local government:

  • lifesaving education to protect 572,000 people from transmission of the virus
  • personal-protective equipment for 51,000 health workers, children and community members
  • food rations and cash vouchers to support 49,000 people who lost income, equipping them with the means to address child hunger at home
  • child protection through psycho-social support of 47,000 people
  • education supplies for 90,000 children

As the pandemic continues to change our approach, we’re thankful children we help largely remain safe and healthy — we’re thankful the impact of the virus itself has been minimal.

Although there are still challenges to overcome, we’re encouraged to see how years of community investment is sprouting positive response and growth. Aside from the stories I’ve already shared, I’m also encouraged by young people from local Children Believe children’s groups raising money for their communities and young mothers standing strong for their children.

The Children Believe team, our partners and the families we help continue to turn strangers into neighbours, providing comfort and support to the most marginalized. Together, I know we’ll continue to break barriers so children can dream fearlessly of a better future.

Consider helping today. Support ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts: https://childrenbelieve.ca/covid

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

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.