Whatever the issue – climate change, gender equality, health, education – children stand to lose, or to gain, the most. These six children’s clubs are leading the change, and taking their communities with them.
Kids are often the hardest hit by the challenges that their community faces, but now more than ever, the world has seen how children can also be a driving force for change. Whatever the issue – climate change, gender equality, health, education and more – children stand to lose, or to gain, the most. Does that make them some of the best partners to create lasting solutions?
“We need to listen to children and young people and support their ideas for action. It’s our responsibility is to ensure that their voices are heard and taken into account in the public debate. The benefits are for the whole society,” says World Vision’s Dr Patricio Cuevas Parra.
In many locations around the world, World Vision child sponsorship uses kids’ clubs as a central strategy to create long-lasting change for children. They do different things in different places from boosting education rates to tackling social norms that hold children back.
These six child sponsorship clubs are keeping kids safer during the pandemic, fighting climate change, empowering children to advocate at a national level and teaching girls to stand up for their rights.
The whole world is now at a child’s fingertips, but online access also comes with risks. As online learning kept classes going through the COVID-19 pandemic, it also meant more children than ever had access to the internet. Sixteen-year-old sponsored child, Michaela, says it’s never been more important for young people to understand the risks of online sexual exploitation and how to stay safe. She’s right – recent studies have found that the pandemic has supercharged global cases of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children. She’s running cyber safety classes for young people in her Filipino village because she says they desperately need to know the information – and it’s been a learning experience for Michaela too.
“I was so shy and really afraid of talking to a large crowd,” she says. “Joining World Vision activities taught me a lot - never give up on what you want to achieve in life, believe in yourself that you can do things, and be a good leader so other children and youth will follow your good example.”
From little things, big things are growing in Baringo, Kenya! A group of environmental champions are working to tackle the long-term drought in their region by planting trees in schools. Inspired by their teacher and the land regeneration techniques that sponsorship introduced to their community at the start of their community partnership years ago, 14-year-old Stella and the environmental club planted a small forest of trees in their school compound.
“We learned to see the connection between the state of our environment and the life we were living in the community,” explains Stella. “We realised that to change our lives, we had to plant trees to protect our environment.”
And the results have been amazing. Not only are the trees providing shade and making it cooler in their classrooms – they’ve also regenerated a nearby stream that was usually dry but has now filled up with water that has kept flowing, even during dry spells.
"We have seen the wonders that the trees have done in our school. This has encouraged all the students here, even those that are not in the environment club, to become interested in planting and protecting trees. They have begun planting trees at home!" says a beaming Stella.
In Bangladesh, it’s known as ‘eve teasing’ – men and boys calling out at women and girls as they walk down the street. But hundreds of girls in Tanore, Bangladesh have had enough of eve teasing and the other sexual harassment and gender-based violence that so many teenagers have already experienced. With the support of child sponsors, 145 girls from remote villages aged between 11 and 16 have joined in a six-month self-defence training course, designed to help girls build self-confidence, learn about their rights and show their community what they were capable of. The “Shahosh” (Brave) initiative teaches girls marital arts as well as how to take a stand against gender-based violence such as child marriage, early marriage, sexual harassment and human trafficking.
Fourteen-year-old Rifa joined the training and learned many skills to boost her self-confidence. “Now my parents do not feel worried when I am out of the house. People in my village respect us when they see us going to martial arts class in our uniform. I dare to go to school and return from school alone,” she says. “Martial arts helped me to grow up strong and build my confidence.”
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for children facing long periods of lockdowns - but for some, the danger comes from those closest to them, in the form of violent family members. To combat this, World Vision Nicaragua has launched a series of Virtual Camps –online programmes to help sponsored children and other children in their communities learn self-protection skills to help keep them safe while they are away from many of their usual protective networks of teachers and other trusted adults.
“The programme contains information and exercises about self-esteem, rights, responsibilities, gender equality, sexuality, life planning, coexistence with tenderness, communication, prevention of bullying and safe use of digital technology, and more ", explains programme manager Claudia López Meneses.
The 14 sessions are designed to help kids learn vital skills to stay safe during this challenging time – but 11-year-old Luis says the best part is that they are fun, and he gets to meet new friends.
“It was the first time I had classes like this online; it was cool! I never imagined playing such a game; where I had to find the seven wonders of my house. I am very excited to learn, and to meet more kids my age, even from other countries”, Luis says.
You’re never too young to make a difference – and in Albania, one kids’ club is even helping to shape the law.
"It makes me proud that we changed the law on the Protection of Children's Rights – it was a colossal job for us, the youth, and quite tedious, but we were determined!" says Stelina.
Stelina is part of a sponsorship IMPACT club, a youth group in Albania that empowers children to be part of improving the lives of kids in their community and the nation. Children have the opportunity to take part in youth festivals and advocate for their rights and protection – and they are proud of it.
“I felt good representing my peers and to be the youth voice in different issues that concern us,” says Kristel (age 16, pictured).
“It is great and worthy to help children in my community and furthermore children in need in my country,” agrees Klaudia, age 10.