Why We Do It
Since ChildFund’s founding in 1938, children have been at the center of our mission. It began with children displaced by conflict in China and quickly spread, both geographically and philosophically. Now we work in 31 countries, helping 17.8 million children and family members to break poverty’s grasp on their lives and their communities.
Childhood is the portal for that kind of change ...
... because childhood is the time when important foundational development occurs — or doesn’t. Whereas adults can recover from the deprivations that come with poverty, children who suffer developmental losses may grow up without ever recovering.
These setbacks may be physical, such as the stunted growth or diminished IQ typical of malnutrition. They may be developmental, especially during the all-important early years during which a child acquires so many of the skills they will need to become independent. Or the setbacks may be psychosocial: A child who is continually shamed for his shabbiness will internalize that message, which can keep him from developing the confidence to access the very opportunities that might improve his condition.
Most often, physical, psychological and other factors intersect, which is what ChildFund began to understand when we asked children how poverty affects them. We learned that, to them, poverty means more than not having things; it also means they are excluded from society — and vulnerable to further devastating effects of deprivation.
We help children develop the capacities they need to improve their own lives.
This more holistic view of poverty led to a more specific view of childhood — and the understanding that poverty’s effects on children vary across life stages, from infancy (ages 0-5) to childhood (6-14) and into youth (15-24).
So, ChildFund developed life stage-specific goals for each age group:
- Infants need to be not only healthy, but also secure enough to explore their surroundings and get all they can out of those early, foundational years during which neural and emotional pathways are laid down.
- Children need to be not only educated, but also confident enough to venture into new areas of learning, to speak their minds, to ask for what they need, to work with their peers.
- Youth need to be not only skilled, but also involved in the larger world so that they might contribute their unique vision and abilities toward improving their communities and making them more hospitable for all.
ChildFund helps children develop the capacities they need to improve their own lives — and empowers the people and social structures around them to create an environment where they can do so.
Accomplishing this requires another layer of support from a broad constituency of people dedicated to the well-being and rights of children: governments, partners, foundations, corporate donors — and individuals who care. Our sponsors have fueled our work since its beginnings.