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The impact of connection

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Posted on 1/27/2022


An adult and child hold hands in Zambia.

Foster, 4, holds hands with his grandmother in Chongwe District, Zambia.

If you talk to a child who is struggling to survive extreme poverty or other life-threatening challenges, chances are that they won't talk much about money being the problem or solution. They'll tell you, instead, how worried they are about their parents. Or how they've been excluded from opportunities available to their peers. Or how lack of opportunity has made them vulnerable to risks like child labor or early marriage or violence. At its core, childhood adversity isn't a simple lack of basic resources: It's a chronic isolator, a toxic stressor that robs children of the healthy connections and support structures they need to feel secure and develop fully.

Science is clear that social connection is the bedrock of a healthy mind, body and life. When children begin their lives with strong connections to their families, peers and communities, as well as to the basic things they need to thrive within those communities – nutritious food, clean water, education, health care, protection from violence – they are much more likely to develop in healthy ways at every stage of life. That's why ChildFund views our work with children and their families through the lens of connection and relationship-building. We work to ease the stress and strain that poverty, violence and other childhood adversity can put on critical relationships in a child's life, strengthen the social systems that support children and make sure that children's voices are heard and their experiences considered in the process.

Read on to learn how your support in three core categories of connection – community-based, child-centered and advocacy-oriented – is making a tangible impact in children's lives.

Community-based connections

Woman helps a little girl wash her hands in Guatemala.

Ninciy Gomez (right), a field technician with ChildFund's local partner organization Tierra Nueva in the Guatemalan highlands, helps Yulisa, 4, wash her hands during a home visit. Local partner staff check in on children and families routinely – and have continued to do so throughout the pandemic whenever possible as part of our global COVID-19 response. “What I like the most is to be able to see that happy face these children make when we come to their homes, and that we're bringing new materials,” says Ninciy. “We are transforming a generation so that tomorrow they can be better people, and that we can have a better country.”

At ChildFund, we believe that local people know their own communities best – so we partner with local organizations that work alongside kids and families in locally relevant ways to connect more children with what they need to achieve their potential. Your support fuels these grassroots organizations, which are made up of people who live in the area and who have a stake in creating the conditions their children need to thrive. 

Local ownership of change is critical to improving children's lives, and by acting in partnership, we can all do more for each other. Working together — sharing resources, knowledge and experience — we can cocreate greater impact in the short term and build stronger communities in the long term.

Child-centered connection

A mother in India carries a laughing toddler.

"She used to not be a happy child, but now she has such joy,” says Rashmita, 20, mother of 2-year-old Smruti in India. After Smruti was identified by ChildFund as being severely malnourished, Rashmita started attending positive parenting sessions in which she learned more about child nutrition. Thanks to the training – and the supplemental eggs, rice and vegetables Smruti receives on weekdays at the ChildFund-supported early childhood development center – she's now out of the red zone and thriving.

We believe that every child should realize their rights and their potential – so we place children, their voices and experiences at the center of our work. Your support helps us cocreate and sustain child-focused environments where children are safe, seen and cared for.

This shows up in many different ways in the communities where we work: positive parenting programs to strengthen the relationships between parents and children, education programs to improve children's learning experiences, skills development programs to empower young people to succeed, child protection programs that help communities shelter children from violence. Kids simply grow best when their families are healthy, their communities are safe and the social support structures around them are focused on them. In keeping children at the center of our development work, we not only open space for their individual dreams, but we also join hands with them to build stronger families and communities.

Connecting through advocacy

Teen girl speaks into a microphone in Sierra Leone.

“I became a child advocate in my community,” says Namina, 15, who survived sexual harassment at the hands of a teacher in Kambia District, Sierra Leone, and now uses her experiences to help others. “[ChildFund's] dialogues are helping me to be bold and fearless. Now I have the courage and confidence to speak among elders. Now, I am a no-nonsense girl when it comes to reporting issues of abuse.” 

We believe the changes we make for children won't stick unless there are laws and funding to back them – so we advocate for societies that value, protect and advance the worth and rights of children. Your support helps us connect the dots of children's well-being on a larger scale by promoting policy change in support of children at all levels. It fuels programs that encourage young people to raise their own voices on issues that affect them, actively involving them in the process of social change. 

We do this through grassroots activities with our local partner organizations, advising U.S. policymakers and advocating within global movements like the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. We are also a member of ChildFund Alliance, a global network of 12 development organizations serving children in 70 countries. At a national level, ChildFund country offices and our partners are actively advocating for policy change so that vulnerable children in all communities feel the effects of positive policies.

Learn more about the impact of connection

In 2020 alone, with your support, we reached more than 13 million children and family members with the life-changing power of stronger connections. That translates to more children who are growing up healthy, educated, safe and well on their way to making their own impact in the world. 

Want to dig deeper and understand the connective impact of your support more fully? Explore our new Impact Report, Stronger Together: A Story of Connection and Impact, to learn more.


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