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Easter, a time for change

POSTED March 26, 2024

Easter, a time for change

Fred, our CEO, shares from his recent trip to Ghana, emphasizing the potential for positive change and hope even in the face of hardship. 

By Fred Witteveen, CEO, ceo@childrenbelieve.ca

Fred in Ghana 2024

Here in Canada, winter has lingered, some would say for too long. We’re all eagerly waiting for the return of spring, when the barren branches of trees sprout buds and green shoots up again from the lifeless ground. Creating a perfect metaphor for rebirth.

It’s a fitting time for Easter. For me, the resurrection story has an even deeper meaning. That renewal is always possible and that while there is still terrible suffering in the world, we can and should always have hope for better days ahead.

What I’m about to share is hard to hear, but read on and you’ll know why both personally and professionally, I believe that anyone’s story can be transformed from surviving to thriving.

Earlier this month I drove across northern Ghana while visiting some important Children Believe projects. They’re eagerly waiting for the change of seasons there too, because right now the hot sun is beating down with 40 degree plus heat, scorching the hot, dry landscape. In these places, the return of the rainy season really is a matter of life and death, when farmers attempt to grow enough food to get them through the year.

For many communities across the region, these challenges have been further compounded by extreme water shortages, climate change and deforestation which perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Food yields have been steadily declining, even with the rising cost of more and more fertilizer. Families without enough resources to last through the lean season have to reduce their meals from three to two to sometimes one, with only straight porridge or maize to sustain them.

Untitled design (31) A woman skims for drinking water during dry season in northern Ghana. Water shortages negatively affect nutrition and health in the region.

During this trip, our team heard from the women in these communities about how these circumstances steal their choices, their chance to create a better life for themselves. The problems to be solved are substantial and heart breaking.
 
Munira, a mother of 5 children, gave us a heartbreaking glimpse. During the dry season, malnutrition runs rampant, children go to school too hungry to learn and pregnant women in particular suffer from many different health complications that put them and their babies at risk.
 
“Because of our money issues we use most of our resources to buy food and don’t have enough to send all our children to school,” Munira told us. “One had to drop out and one never went to school at all. Teachers tell us that our children who do attend are always falling asleep in class because they don’t have enough energy.”

She went on to tell us more about the ripple effects of malnutrition on health.

“I was told I was anemic during all my pregnancies,” she said. “We couldn’t afford the medicine prescribed to help me. When you’re hungry it can also be hard to express milk for our babies and often they cry all day because they are hungry.”

Munira represents the “why” for Children Believe, living in a community where Children Believe is about to start a brand new project set to address these extreme needs. The Championing Nutrition and Gender Equality (CHANGE) project funded by Global Affairs Canada, will focus on reaching the poorest and most marginalized, especially women, adolescent girls and their children so they can grow enough healthy food sustainably and access necessary health services. Through this work, we will help bring positive impact for 385,000 people in Ethiopia and Ghana.

Untitled design (32)
Isaah Munira, a participant in Children Believe’s new CHANGE project.

While these difficulties faced by Munira and other families just like her are great, if the barriers in their way are removed, they really can seize new opportunities for a better tomorrow. We saw this first hand when we saw the impact of a water project in the village of Sukaya, Ghana.
 
In northern Ghana 76% of people risk drinking contaminated water. And it is also a barrier to education. In this community, girls had to walk 6km, several times per day to get water, threatened by sexual assault. They showed up to school late and very tired. There were no school toilets or hygiene, especially for girls who had their periods. Absenteeism averaged 40%. But Children Believe built a whole water system so that clean water was easily accessible. During our trip we heard how school attendance is now nearly 100%.
 
This is how stories of sadness turn into stories of joy. Where children who felt they had no choice, now have the freedom to make different choices.
 
This is why hope really can spring eternal.
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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE:

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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