The children at The Way Home in Ukraine want to learn English. During one of my visits I came up with some suggestions. For example, while they are dancing, they can start using instructions in English. They can print and learn the lyrics to their favourite songs in English. Another idea was that they could perform short plays in English. The next time I came back, two girls had written a play which they performed in English. It was great! One girl played a tourist who had gotten lost and was in a hurry. The other girl played a local old woman who knew her way around the city. The lines they were using will come in handy if they ever need to help a tourist in Odessa, or if they get the chance to go abroad and become tourists themselves. The applause was thunderous as the play ended.
Forty-four applications are lying on my desk. Forty-four descriptions of new and ongoing projects to make the world a little better for children at risk of ending up in abuse and exploitation in very different parts of the world. Some are from huge, well-established organization with qualified staff, clear theories of change and strong connections with researchers that will evaluate the project. Some are from very small organizations in their very early stage of development, often with a strong commitment for the cause they want to fight for, but sometimes with less structure and capacity.
Some are planning to establish new systems to address child abuse or abandonment covering a whole city or even a country. Some are small, targeted projects supporting hard-to-reach children and youth, sometimes in a very distant area without any other services. Some of these small organizations are the only ones who manage to establish trust and provide support to a group of children that too many times have been betrayed by the adult world.
Behind those forty-four applications lies a substantial amount of work – both from Childhood but mainly of course from the organizations submitting the request for funding. All organizations have been visited by a Childhood representative and we have discussed the project idea, the capacity of the organization, the need for the project and how it fits in with other services provided by others.
What are we looking for? New, innovative approaches or methods of work that have not been tried before and that can make a change in the lives of children at risk of becoming abused or trafficked, or ending up on the street or in institutions. As an independent, flexible donor, we are able to take risks and support projects we believe in but that have not yet been able to show that their idea works. We look for projects that we feel can make a sustainable impact in the child’s life and not only help for the day. Projects that integrate the child’s right and need to play and express themselves through creativity and games. Projects that see that abused and abandoned children need more than just therapy and care. They also need to feel like normal children and teenagers having fun with their peers.
We will not be able to approve all of these applications. And we shouldn’t. Some of them are not mature enough; some are not the type of project Childhood aims to support. But with advice from our Advisory Board contributing with expertise in child protection and development work, we will be able to select quite a large number of projects that will receive the necessary resources to provide invaluable support to children most at-risk in 14 different countries.
Childhood is investing in innovation and replication of models what works well in helping children in need, so what better than coming together and sharing experiences, learning form each other and networking, all with a purpose to find new ways to help children and teens?
Last week Childhood USA gathered all the projects that are funded in the US to a day of just that – sharing the work that is done every day to help children and teens at risk for abuse and exploitation.
A strong impetus by Childhood is to challenge projects to stake out new territory in the fight against abuse and exploitation of children. A seminar like this is one way to hear what the projects are working on and get ideas for new projects that will advance services and enhance children’s ability to cope and heal.
Trauma formed a the theme for the day’s presentations, with several projects talking about how many of the children in their care experience trauma on a daily basis. We heard about teens who don’t have to drop out of high school because they have a baby. And that children who are sexually abusing other children not necessarily have been sexually abused themselves, but instead act out as a direct reaction to neglect and poverty – both emotional, social and financial. And, that teens who learn about prevention methods to pregnancy or drug abuse are more likely to use this information and make healthy choices in their lives.
We also learned about the strong influence by the United States on the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and how child protection is moving up on the world’s leading development aid agencies’ agendas.
For Childhood, the day was a success, and brought the organizations that participated a sense of community of working together for children.