Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We've Moved!

This blog has moved! Click here to access the new ChildFund International blog.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remembering Our Past

By David Hylton,
Public Relations Specialist

As we look forward to the next chapter in our history, today marks the last day that we are known as Christian Children’s Fund. At our International Office in Richmond, Va., we are celebrating CCF Day today. Employees are wearing CCF shirts, showing off CCF memorabilia and sharing their memories. Here’s a look at some of the CCF items on display:

We believe the work we have done is just the beginning of the work we have yet to do. Our mission has always been about benefiting the children, and we believe this change will allow us to positively impact more children and youth throughout the world.

Please join us as our mission to help the world’s children continues as ChildFund International.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Looking Ahead

By Nguyen Thi Hong Phuong, ChildFund Vietnam
and David Hylton, Christian Children's Fund

This is the final entry in a series of blogs detailing the day in the life of Nam, an 11-year-old boy. So far Nam has gone to school and helped his mother prepare lunch. The rest of the day is a busy one as he continues to help his parents and ends the day studying.

2 p.m.
Nam follows his parents to the field, helping to weed their rice paddy. This year, they have had much rain and the crop looks promising. Nam likes to go here with his parents since he often meets his friends who have also come to help their own parents in the fields. Despite doing hard work, they play together and have fun.

7 p.m.
Nam prepares for tomorrow’s lessons. He wants to study hard to become a doctor. He remembers what his father often says: “I only finished grade 3 and I understand the disadvantage of a limited education. I will try my best to support my sons to study as long as possible. I believe they will have a brighter future.”

Nam is one of more than 18,000 children in 16 communities in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, where ChildFund Vietnam is working to create better lives with programs in education, water and sanitation, livelihood, health and child protection. Since beginning work in Xuan Phong, CCF and ChildFund Australia have helped to improve the physical learning environments and teaching quality in kindergarten and primary schools; increase families’ income through agricultural cultivation and livestock husbandry; deliver clean water to homes; build hygienic family toilets; construct a good-quality health clinic and train local medical staff for better health care services; and lay a foundation for better child protection.

Beyond all these achievements, we also emphasize the importance on the local children and people’s capacity for their self-sufficient future development. ChildFund Vietnam is working hard to realize the dreams of people like Nam and his family for a better future.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Helping at Home

By Nguyen Thi Hong Phuong, ChildFund Vietnam
and David Hylton, Christian Children's Fund

This is the second in a series of blog entries detailing the day in the life of Nam, an 11-year-old boy in Vietnam. After a morning at school, Nam returns home to help out his family. His fathers offers an insight to how Christian Children’s Fund and ChildFund Australia have made a difference in their lives.

Nam returns home. His parents have just returned from field work. Nam helps his mother to prepare lunch. Sipping tea, Nam’s father, Duong, talks.

“Our life now is easier than five years ago. My family used to be suffering 4-6 months of food shortage per year,” he says. “ChildFund came and taught us to improve cultivation, lent us money from its savings and credit projects, and discussed with us how to generate and manage family income. Now, we have enough rice for food. The borrowed money is used for raising pigs. ChildFund also teaches us how to raise pigs for profit. In the past, we harvested pigs only every two years.”

Duong says the family sells pigs twice a year and makes between $100 and $150 each time.

“This year, I don’t have to borrow money because I use the profit from previous sales to invest,” he says.

What’s next: Nam continues to help his family and then closes the day off by studying.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Time for School

By Nguyen Thi Hong Phuong, ChildFund Vietnam
and David Hylton, Christian Children's Fund

This is the first in a series of blog entries detailing the day in the life of 11-year-old Nam. Nam is one of more than 18,000 children in 16 communities in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, where ChildFund Vietnam is working to create better lives with programs in education, water and sanitation, livelihood, health and child protection.

Christian Children’s Fund works with ChildFund Alliance partner ChildFund Australia in Vietnam. The area we work in is less than 100 miles from Hanoi, the nation's capital.

On this particular day Nam is beginning a new grade level.
6 a.m.
Nam, an 11-year-old Muong ethnic boy in Xuan Phong, wakes up early and eagerly prepares to go to school. He will have his first lessons in the sixth grade. A long session of mathematics doesn’t seem to lessen Nam’s eagerness for his new school.

“I like secondary school because I feel I am older and more independent. I have new friends, play more grown-up games, and the lessons and teachers are different,” Nam says. “I do miss my primary school, my classroom and my teachers. But if I hadn’t gone to primary school, I would not have had the chance to continue studying and would not have the opportunity for high school. Then, I would not have a job for my future.”

Primary school is free in Vietnam. However, the affordability for children’s schooling is limited in rural mountainous areas due to other shared expenditures such as school construction costs, text books, electricity, water and other fees. These contributions are a burden for poor families like Nam’s, whose monthly income is less than $30.

Tinh, the headmaster of Xuan Phong primary school, said: “Since we’ve had ChildFund projects, we have more children going to school. This is because of two reasons. First, the school is much better in terms of teachers’ capacity and infrastructure. We have concrete-built and well-equipped classrooms, clean water and hygienic toilets. Our teachers are trained to improve their teaching methodologies. Now, children’s families are more capable to send their children to school. ChildFund has helped increase families’ income.”

Tinh says children are provided with text books, school bags, and school uniforms, which ease the difficulties of family financial contributions for their children’s schooling.

Nam’s father Duong also recalled the time when Nam’s elder brother, Dan, went to primary school: “It was a thatched roof and bamboo walled school. The class was so poor. Children from far-off hamlets had to cross long distances to get to school. Children nowadays have better schools. Farther hamlets now have satellite schools where teachers can stay. Both children and teachers don’t have to travel daily to get the remote hamlets, which lengthens the time they are able to teach and learn.”

What’s next: Nam’s busy day continues at home as he helps his family.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Opposite Sides – A Time to Reflect

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the final entry from Jason’s recent trip to the Philippines.

I've been in a time warp for almost two weeks, delving into CCF's past, trying to understand the challenges past generations came up against. We stopped organizing orphanages when we realized that mothers were giving up their young children to them. When we were perceived as patronizing "great white fathers," we put families more directly in control of resources and decisions.

I'm reflecting on what I've learned. One morning I called home. My 4-year-old son was about to go to bed. Before I left home, I had shown him on the globe that hangs down from the ceiling, over his bed, where I was traveling to. Somehow he understood that when I'm on the other side of the world, my morning is his night. Opposite sides.

On day five of my travels, at breakfast, over fried eggs, bread and rice, Sergio and his wife shared with me that their daughter's education was most important, and that CCF is a good organization. I had stayed overnight in their house, as a way of further understanding how CCF programs are affecting the people and community that we work with. In a little while he was going to ask for my address so we could write, which I desperately want so I can watch from a distance as his daughters grow up and so my son can feel connected to a family different than him – something to learn from.

But that gorgeous human moment needed to incorporate a blunt fact – the father told me he wanted to write in case they were met with financial hardship. He needs a safety net for his family, and I was an opportunity. What's become clear is that I focus on aspirational programming and I try my best to work with colleagues so that concepts and ideas are clear, so program staff throughout CCF can use them as a guide in developing and implementing programs.

What I've fallen short of doing is sufficiently understanding what families expect of CCF and why they seek to engage with us. Their perspective seems to be on the other side of the globe. At least in the community I visited, what they prioritize is the comfort of knowing that from time to time, they can rely on CCF to provide a form of financial assistance to their family, and they appreciate generous sponsors who will be like minded.

The people I met did not seem greedy or unaware of others in the community who might also have similar needs. Their focus was just on themselves. I, on the other side, focus on programs that over time – over 12 to 15 years – will address the root causes of poverty, that require families to come together to exercise the influence they can have.

While our programs have evolved, and our ambition has certainly evolved, our evolution is also a continual confrontation with consequences, carrying two contradictory facts in your head at the same time, searching for a resolution.

If this is the relationship with families that CCF has created, how do we move it along? How do we maintain a strong connection with families, engage them in dialogue, maintain their interest and commitment, but evolve toward an appreciation that programs are the ties that bind. That programs are the basis for our relationship? And the success or failure of those programs is what we should be talking about? We have created the relationship and perception of CCF that stared me in the eye, on a porch, Coke in hand, in Taliba, a rural community filled with proud, animated, laughing, soft, concerned faces, exemplified by Sergio, his wife and his four daughters.

I'm on my way home. Tokyo airport. Changing planes. Health workers trot down corridors in full surgical gear with goggles over their eyes. Everyone's wearing a mask. Swine flu. Very futuristic.

I'm thinking about our future. I appreciate our legacy, and I hope our values and our strategy, our heart and our mind, will guide us to an answer that our history has courageously sought. I have a few ideas of my own.

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Seeking a Balance

By Mark McPeak,
Consultant to CCF

Note: Mark helped facilitate the workshop in the Philippines. After day five of the workshop, Mark sent us this blog entry.

We’ve just returned from a field immersion that was, for most of us, a real highlight of the workshop so far. Not only was it good to reflect about CCF’s program principles with community members and partners, and colleagues, but staying for a lengthy period, including overnight, really has refreshed and grounded most of us in the vivid realities of our work.

Of course, this workshop is all about connecting our hearts, heads and hands to advance CCF’s core outcomes. Together we are building our capabilities to translate principles and values into meaningful action for children and youth – a risk-taking, leadership ethic. So, essentially, this workshop is about building a foundation for our programs – through personal and organizational change and transformation.

Dola Mohapatra, Asia Regional director, asked me to introduce day three, and I think he hoped that I would reinforce that overall theme of change. I wrestled with preparing to meet Dola’s challenge, but really appreciated the opportunity to think about this for myself.

The center of my reflection can be represented by one of the slides – shown here:
I prefaced this by talking about the unstable times we are living in, and how old ways of thinking and reliance on those above us to make decisions on our behalf will no longer be of use in this new reality.

We need to seek a balance, where we can translate programming principles into meaningful action. Too much confusion is obviously unproductive; and where there is a need for clarification, we must seek this out, as managers and leaders within the organization. And in our new reality, it will be unrealistic to expect perfect clarity. The world is changing too fast to ever expect to be perfectly clear about what is going on.

Therefore, rather than yearning for complete clarity, it’s more important to build our skills in creating adaptive, dynamic responses to the unstable, nonlinear times we live in, in the framework of the clear principles and values contained in CCF’s Global Strategy and Core Program.

I think that participants appreciated the reflections. But the poet captured the spirit of our workshop better than I ever could, when he said: “Wanderer, there is no road; the road is made by walking.” I’m honored to be walking this road, in this workshop, with such committed and passionate professionals.

Coming soon: Jason Schwartzman returns with his final blog post about his Philippines’ experience.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sleepless in Taliba

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the eighth entry from Jason’s trip to the Philippines.

My brother is a journalist, and he's sleeping on the sofa of an unemployed family living in the Midwest on an assignment to profile one family's plight in order to comprehend the economic meltdown impacting all of our American lives. In a brotherly coincidence, I'm sleeping on a wooden bed, under mosquito netting, the lone portable fan in the house sweeping over me, in my host family's home, in an effort to understand how CCF's programs are affecting a community that we are working with.

Having grown up in a city, I thought roosters crowed at the break of day, but I've learned that actually, here in a rural village in the Philippines, they crow all night long. I'm thinking about the family who is so graciously hosting me, and I realize that they see me personally as a potential source of economic support, and they appreciate CCF for already being such a support. They are not selfish, but their interest is with their own, and more specifically, with the education of the four girls that range from 5 to 14 years old. That's what they want, and if I were them, I'd want the same.

But I'm not them. I work in the Global Program Group at CCF, and we exist to develop programs that reach large groups of children, the intent of which is to address the conditions that lead to poverty. We focus on health and nutrition, early childhood development, schools and the quality of their education, on providing leadership opportunities for young people, and helping them transition into adult roles and responsibilities. I'm accustomed to thinking about groups and what happens to those groups over time.

Are children as a group becoming healthier and more prepared for school? Are children learning how to read and are they developing a curiosity about the world around them? Do they approach life with ambition and hope for the future? To accomplish these things, we strive to invest in programs that support all children in a community. It seems odd to say this, but I'm more focused on groups than the individuals, but here, on this cool evening, the individuals have invited me into their home and told me what they want.

Can newborn children in this rural village face a brighter future as a result of CCF's programs? I thought back to the afternoon when one of the village leaders, the Baranguay Captain, told me that what is needed is good leaders. I reached for my cell phone, working even here, and texted my brother to see if he was feeling optimistic.

Coming soon: Before Jason delivers his reflection on his Philippines’ trip, a workshop facilitator offers his thoughts about building a foundation for our programs.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Overnight Lessons in the Philippines

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is Jason’s seventh entry from his recent trip to the Philippines.

Having spent the day talking with different groups in this small community in the Philippines, I met the family that would be hosting me for the night. This was part of the week-long workshop to reflect on CCF’s programs. The mom and her four daughters picked me up at the local school in the late afternoon, and escorted me about a quarter mile to their home where I met the husband.

They live in a concrete, one-story home with a front room that is partitioned so that there are two bedrooms. The back room is the kitchen with room for the family to sit down and eat. The kitchen has running cold water, and the mom cooked using an electric wok. The father pointed to a corner that looked like a large closet. He let me know that's where the "comfort room" is, which he later referred to as the CR. It was a simple bathroom with a non-flushing toilet and a cold water tap.

Since the weather is warm in this part of the Philippines, there were latticed openings in the wall as windows; in the bedrooms these had curtains. A tin roof was overhead, and when there was a late afternoon downpour, it was quite noisy like we were living in a tin drum. Their home is simple and humble, but pleasant. They were extremely gracious and hospitable, and this made me feel very comfortable.

The house is on a small plot of land, well shaded by palm and mango trees. A small structure in the rear housed a few pigs and 11 one-month-old cute white piglets. This is their way of making an income. They also had a walk-in cage where they bring up Love Birds, who were tweeting away and were a bit mesmerizing. On either side are neighbors, and the back is where the dense brush and tall bamboo trees arch toward the sky and provide shelter from the heat of the day.

The father and I sat on their front porch and chatted. He grew up in the area, but in search of work left for Saudi Arabia for five years, eventually returning home when the company he worked for lost its contract to service the airport. Upon his return, his uncle set him up on a date and he took a young lady to a festival, and they eventually married. Two days after the wedding, he left for a year, again for work, in a factory in Taiwan. His wife continued to live with her family. When he returned, they built their house and, as he said, started to build a life together.

We talked about many things – the economic downturn and how it affected him and his prospects and the fact that I feel just like him – that my wife and I got married at an older age, and had a child when most families stop having children. We talked about the terrorist situation in the very southern part of the Philippines, and what happened in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, where I was living at the time.

He talked about the struggle to support the education of his four daughters, and I spoke of what I expected to be a similar struggle as my 4-year-old gets older. This is our commonality. In my next blog entry, I'll share what I think separates us.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A 'Power Walk' to Understand Poverty

By Martin Hayes,
Child Protection Specialist for CCF

Note: Martin traveled with Jason Schwartzman to the Philippines recently for a workshop to discuss CCF’s programming. Martin is one of the workshop facilitators.

Christian Children’s Fund’s new core programs are tried and tested methods to assist with children’s successful transition through the life cycle. Through the support of the core program interventions, communities and families will be better equipped to ensure most children will achieve their life-stage milestones that will help their transition to healthy and productive adulthood.

However, many children have significant obstacles for this successful transition. Children who live in environments that do not protect them from abuse, exploitation or neglect are often prevented from healthy development. For effective and meaningful change that would promote children’s healthy development, our core programs will be adapted to address the root causes of child development obstacles.

Often there is an assumption that collective poverty is the primary root cause of the obstacles. We often treat communities as if they are homogeneous units with common interests – poverty reduction. While poverty is a significant problem for many in the community, unequal access to resources is often overlooked. A deeper understanding and informed and nuanced approach to power dynamics and asymmetrical relationships in communities is necessary to address the root causes of these obstacles.

To drive home this point, we've developed an exercise for the workshop called the "Power Walk," which helps participants to understand the power dynamics within communities. Participants were lined up in an equal row facing forward. Privately each participant was given a different community character description (e.g. a businessman with a wife and two children, a young orphaned boy living with an aunt and uncle and cousins, a domestic servant girl, a single female school teacher, etc.). Participants were then asked to take one step forward if their character could answer “yes” to any of the following statements or to stand still if they could not answer affirmatively:

* You’ve eaten breakfast this morning.
* You can receive medical treatment when needed.
* You can walk through the community free from harassment or violence.
* Your ideas are listened to by others in the community related to decision-making.

After the questions were all posed, participants who were once side-by-side were spread out across the room. Participants then revealed their characters’ identities and discussed what happened during the exercise and how this mirrored life in a community. Participants discussed power differentials and children’s vs. adults’ experiences related to poverty.

The exercise was well received by participants. Many commented that the “Power Walk” was a practical method of provoking thought and discussion around power dynamics in communities and children’s experiences related to deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability.

Our point? Poverty does not treat all people equally; by further understanding the differences between families within otherwise poor communities we can truly identify families that are more vulnerable than others. It is these families that CCF especially seeks to work with.

Coming soon: Jason Schwartzman’s blogging continues as his seventh post details a night with a family in the Philippines.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Immersing Ourselves in the Community

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the sixth entry from Jason’s trip to the Philippines.

At 7:30 a.m., our group set out for the Taliba community where we would spend the day; each of us would then spend overnight with a host family. Our group represents Sri Lanka, India, Timor L'Este, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States. Joining us were a number of young people from the area, who gently but firmly led us through the day.

Our group was breaking out of our hotel meeting room where we had been discussing our common challenges in living up to a set of programming principles, such as reaching vulnerable families through programs that support the positive development of children, by marrying a community's felt "ownership" over "their" programs for "their" children with the best program designs that the technical research and literature has to offer.

I was anxious to meet the family who would be taking me into their home, and I was wondering what their home looked like – where would I sleep; what food would they serve; would they like me; would I like them? But first, we had the day to talk to many different people and learn about what is important to them. Here are some of those people.

This is a parent volunteer. She hosted one of my colleagues at her home that night. She said that her 9-year-old boy spends too much time with friends and not enough time on school studies – that's the biggest challenge he faces. She had a great laugh.

Here's a member of the Baganguay Council – a village level leadership committee. He served in the Gulf War. There was an incident with an explosion and as a result, he's now hard of hearing. He felt that the biggest challenge facing a teenager these days is the declining economy.

This is a grandmother with her daughter's 2-year-old son. The daughter was working on this morning. She was very concerned that her grandson to become educated and not face the hardships that she faced growing up.

This mother's son is almost 2 years old. Her biggest concern is that he suffers from fevers regularly, and she's not sure why. Just talking about it was very emotional and visible as she teared up during our conversation.

This mother was very concerned for her daughter because she's 4 years old and is not yet talking. She has a hearing problem.

This dad is with his mother and his 1-year-old son. They all looked very much alike! He wants his baby to get a good education and have good health.

This is the local village leader, known as the Baranguay Captain, and he heads up the Baranguay Council. He's 79 years old, and liked to crack jokes. When I asked him what the biggest challenge a baby boy being born these days would face in his life, he told me it was "good leadership." The boy will need to have good leaders.

I nodded. Very true.

Coming soon: Spending the night with a family in the Philippines, plus a post from another CCF staff member attending the workshop.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Asking the Tough Questions

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the fifth entry from Jason’s trip to the Philippines.

In my last blog entry, I shared a few quotes from a retired colleague who was reflecting on how Christian Children's Fund learned over time the importance of working with families as a group, to organize them so they could do for themselves. That colleague's name is Jim Hostetler, and there he is in the photo (middle of the bottom row). This is from the 1970s in Guatemala with National Office staff.

One of the boldest efforts to learn and reflect on CCF's work came from the third president of CCF – Verent Mills. In a prior blog I shared a photo of him in his younger days with a group of young children in China who were orphans. Here he is a number of years later:

That same young man ended up being president of CCF from 1970 to 1981. You'd think that a guy who had been working in the same organization for all those years would know pretty much everything there was to know, but what was one of the first initiatives he undertook in his new job?

"We were saying we were helping these children, and I wanted to know exactly how we were helping them," he said at the time. "Was it true we were preparing the children to be better citizens in their communities, as we claimed in our literature? If it wasn't true, then we were wasting the sponsors' money." To answer this question, Mills in 1972 hired Dr. Charles G. Chakerian, a social scientist from the University of Chicago.

"[Chakerian] prompted a lot of consciousness-raising at CCF about its purpose. Their message was that you can’t effectively help a child apart from the context of his or her family, community and nation. That context includes the whole pattern of economic and social development. It isn’t just a simplistic thing: help the child."

For example, one of the Chakerian’s recommendations stated that it would be more effective if CCF focused on carefully selected countries or areas of countries, rather than trying to do a little all over the map. The choice of a location came to depend on whether by being there we could influence social and economic development as well as the immediate well-being of the sponsored children.

"Dr. Chakerian helped CCF realize how important it was to critically assess the types of programs being supported. In the past, such analysis was lacking: to some degree, good intentions on the part of those running specific programs were thought to be enough to ensure that good results would follow."

Asking tough questions and challenging ourselves is the struggle we tackle in the middle of this workshop. Are we reaching deprived, excluded and vulnerable children through our programs? Are the programs the right ones, and what evidence do we have that they are? Are our partnerships with communities maturing over time?

Today we break out of the meeting room and spend the day in a nearby community where each of us will have a host family who we will stay the night with. We hope that this immersion in a community will give us some new insights. I better go pack – I don't want to be late once again. Actually, there's little danger of that. I fall asleep early, and am wide awake by 3 a.m. One of the "pleasures" of being in a different time zone!

Coming soon: Meet the community.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

History Lessons

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the fourth entry from Jason’s trip to the Philippines.

It’s amazing what you can learn from history, and how relevant those lessons can be for today. The challenges are constant, but the people trying to break through those challenges changes over the years. Separated by generations, it’s only through historical records that we can create that sense of connection and feel the commonality of our struggles. Christian Children's Fund staff moved from orphanages as the program model to a community-based approach named "The Family Helper Project." Lessons were learned along the way.

One of my favorites is this quote from a colleague I worked with when I first came to CCF, who retired a number of years ago: "The assumption is that the beneficiary – a young mother, for example – can’t make decisions for herself; she needs a caseworker to get approval from if she wants to spend money for this or for that. The caseworker approach assumes that the individuals and families being aided are dysfunctional. In those days, we did not realize that what people need most is control over their own lives. In most cases, it is the absence of such control that causes dysfunction.”

"The emphasis was on what we could do for them. There was little thought of encouraging people to do something for themselves. We did not understand that in order to maximize our resources, the best thing would have been to get these people working together from the start. They were capable of doing that, but somehow we saw them as 'cases'. We had caseworkers. They would go out and deliver the money to the families. There was very little interaction between the families."

Our generation of CCF carries forward this intention, and we have voiced it as one of the results we seek as a global organization. If infants are to be healthy and secure, children to be educated and confident, and youth to be skilled and involved, families and local organizations must be networked in their communities and promote the development and protection of children.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The First Program (R)Evolution

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development
(Note: This is the third entry from Jason's trip to the Philippines.)

"Verent Mills (pictured above) had been the American Advisory Committee’s field supervisor of famine relief in the unoccupied region of Sz Yup since 1941. In his work, he came across hundreds of children – sometimes alone, more often in small groups – wandering the countryside or haunting the villages of the delta. The children he encountered reminded him of ‘packs of little wolves,’ searching, scavenging, begging for something to eat. When he took them in, setting up five impoverished orphanages … all the children were malnourished, many with bloated stomachs and skeletal frames characteristic of progressive starvation." (From "A Book About Children," by Larry Tise, that reports CCF's history from 1938 to 1991.)

From this humble start evolved CCF's program model of orphanages that housed, fed and educated children, and helped to establish CCF's global reputation. Why would a successful organization that had acquired such rich experience and expertise move away from a successful model? That's pretty bold!

The following from "A Book About Children" explains how CCF approached things nearly 50 years ago: "The Korean Association of Voluntary Agencies, conducted a study in 1960 to determine where the children in CCF-assisted institutions had come from, how long they had been in the homes, and how many of them actually returned to their families when they left. The findings were unequivocal. A large proportion of these children had been transformed into ‘orphans’ by their families. We began to understand that by working exclusively in institutional settings, we were actually bringing children into the institutions. Parents would go through all kinds of shenanigans to get their child into an orphanage so that he could get an education."

As a result, after painful discussion and soul searching, CCF decided to create a community-based model that became known as the "Family Helper Project." This was the first time that an external organization had scrutinized CCF's established program model, and CCF staff, after taking it in, responded in a progressive way to create a new program approach. But it wasn't the last time!

CCF's history contains several examples of years of relative program stability being "upset" in a positive manner by self-assessment and reflection. As one workshop participant said, "I didn't realize CCF was such a courageous organization."

Coming soon: History lessons.

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Stepping Back into CCF's Past

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development
(Note: This is the second entry from Jason's trip to the Philippines.)

So I'm in the airport pickup van, racing to this workshop where each National Office in Asia has sent four or so staff to participate in what we've called "Integrating the Bright Futures Approach with CCF's Core Programs - A Pilot Course in Asia." Bright Futures is the name CCF has given to the participatory way we work with communities – how we engage them in identifying priorities to address through programs, and their role in creating a better future for their children. Core Programs is the name CCF has given to the types of programs we focus on – programs that build on the natural stages of child development, from infancy (for example, health, nutrition and early childhood development programs) through young adulthood (where we want to focus on youth leadership, livelihood preparation and making healthy decisions about one's life).

There's a lot of traffic. That's good. More time to finish my presentation, which is scheduled in a few hours. If it doesn't go well, I have an excuse – I've been en route from Richmond for the past 30 hours. Unfortunately, I've been able to sleep a lot along the way, so I actually won't have much of an excuse.

My presentation is about CCF's history from a program point of view. How has CCF's approach to programming evolved over the years? What triggered a (r)evolution from one phase to the next? What has that felt like to our colleagues who preceded us? What can we learn from that history? The Philippines is a great place to be thinking about that, since CCF (then called China's Children Fund) launched programming here in February 1946 – along with Burma, these were the next two countries that CCF worked in after China.

What's struck me in reviewing CCF's history is that CCF has had three major programming "epochs" in its 70 year history – starting with orphanages, then shifting to a community-based design often referred to as "Family Helper Projects," and then most recently, evolving into Bright Futures that we will now integrate with our core intent, core outcomes and core programming. But the history of CCF is much more dynamic than the relative stability of "only" three program shifts in 70 years would suggest. CCF has a deep tradition of challenging itself with tough questions, and the real story of CCF is in the transitions between points of stability.

Anyway, that's the story I'm going to tell, and I'm sticking to it. I've been searching through the photo archives with the help of our communications staff, and I've create an enormously large file of 70-plus PowerPoint slides with the same number of photographs. With my luck it will all crash in the middle of the presentation, if this airport pickup van doesn't crash first. These guys head into oncoming traffic in order to turn or pass a car. LOOOOOKKKKKKKKOOOOUUUUUTTTTT!!!!!

Coming soon: CCF's first program evolution ... or was it a revolution?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Scrambling for the Philippines

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: Jason Schwartzman, CCF’s director of Program Development, traveled to the Philippines recently for a workshop to discuss CCF’s programming. This is the first of several blog entries from Jason’s experience.

For the past five months, I've been part of a team headed by the Christian Children’s Fund Asia Regional Office that includes colleagues from Africa and the Americas designing a workshop with two broad objectives – to gain a deeper understanding of the principles underlying CCF's programming, and equally important – and sometimes I feel even more important – to build a questioning, exploring and adaptive approach to program development and implementation that is aligned with our organizational value of fostering and learning from our own innovation.

I've self-critically felt that we have not created these opportunities for National Office colleagues in recent years – a space to come together, to re-engage in how we approach programming to better help children, with experience under our belt, colleague to colleague.

So you'd think with five months to prepare, I would have delivered the workshop module I was personally responsible for a long time ago. But I'm madly trying to polish it off, closing the door to my office the last few days, preserving battery power while I'm in the airport, scrunched up over my tray table frantically making changes to the PowerPoint before my battery dies two hours into my flight to Manila in the Philippines.

Even in the airport pick up van, on my way to the hotel where we'll be holding the meeting, I'm still making last second changes. I'm late. Once again. I've successfully lived up to my reputation.

Coming soon: Jason steps back into CCF's past.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

It's All About the Children

Children in today’s world need help more than ever. The World Bank estimates that 53 million people around the world will fall into poverty this year – that’s the total population of California and Florida combined. And that’s on top of the 1.5 billion people already living in poverty.

To address the problems, this is a critical time for Christian Children’s Fund to meet the growing needs of children. To help meet these needs, we are making a few changes. To learn about these changes, visit our Web site at

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Take the CCF World Water Day Challenge!

Do you think you can live off 5 gallons of water or less for a day? Then take CCF's World Water Day challenge. Click here for all the details.

- David Hylton, Public Relations Specialist

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Farewell Dominica

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Today, we're up early and packing. We thought we'd have plenty of room with so much of the equipment being left behind, but Barb seems to have bought so many woven baskets. A total of 7!

Gelina picked us up and delivered us to a taxi stand in Roseau. It was a long 1 ½ mile winding ride to the airport where we boarded the American Eagle flight to San Juan and connecting service to Baltimore. As great as it is be home, it’s cold and we miss the kids.

Upon our return, we’re pleased to learn that Irvin Durand of Visual Arts Society of Dominica and CCF are working together to continue the photography course that we presented in Grand Bay!

They are planning to use the cameras and other equipment that we left behind, as well as our curriculum. We blushed and feel honored to hear that they want to call the program the Clarke Photography Challenge.

We’ve also received an e-mail from Gelina telling us about television coverage of the exhibition which included the speech by Jack! We also hear that a CCF office in Angola, Africa has also asked for information about our course.

To see some of the student pictures, our class and the exhibition, click here.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Exhibition Day!

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

We arrived at the school early and set up the posters in the auditorium so that the kids' classmates could view their work. Everything was on display from 9 a.m. to noon and many of the school's students and teachers came to see the posters.

Afterwards, we took all of the posters to the Old Fort in Grand Bay and put them on walls for the afternoon exhibition. Many people passing by on the street came in and took a look at all the wonderful work out students did.

At about 3:30 p.m., the president of the country, President Liverpool, arrived with his security detail and several members of the local press. He and his wife were escorted in and a short program was presented by CCF director Francis Joseph. I also gave a quick speech and Barb and Gelina presented each student with their portfolio and participation certificate.

Lunch was served to the president and guests. The slideshow showcased more of the students’ work and the president strolled around to look at the posters. All in all, it was a great ending to a long and roller coaster of three weeks!

A little about the president: The Commonwealth of Dominica is an independent country with a democratically elected legislature and head of state. Like in Great Britain, the head of state is the prime minister. The president is elected by the legislature, and serves in a figure head role attending government and special social functions around the country. President Liverpool is much loved by his citizens.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Print, Cut, Decorate, Repeat - Preparing for the Exhibition

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Wednesday we worked all morning on the computer, reviewing the work they did during the field trip, cataloging pictures and choosing the best work to be showcased on each child’s poster. In class, Jack reviewed the most recent work they have done.

Today we finished the poster prints and each student designed a poster with 7 to 9, 5x7, prints of their best work. For some, this was a challenge because they had plenty of great shots!

We want each child to have roughly the same number of prints so we had to hunt a little for some.

The kids were excited to make their posters and enjoyed seeing their work in print as opposed to on the screen of the computer or projected on the wall. They decorated their posters with colored pencils and were quite creative.

Tonight we finished printing the 4X6 prints for their “portfolio,” which will be our gift to them, placed in photo scrapbooks. We also finished burning them a CD of all their work. Gelina is printing certificates for them as well.

Tomorrow is the big day; exhibition day!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A "Merry" Day at Coal Pot Soaps

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

We head back to Grand Bay today and thankfully the fire is gone. We worked on the computer all morning and then went down to the school with some trepidation.

Upon arriving, we are told there had been a shooting in the village and that one person is dead and three others wounded. The shooting was due to a drug deal gone bad! We were hoping to go on a field trip today but worry that we shouldn’t go.

The kids filed in quietly and many came up to us, personally apologized for their behavior and thanked us for coming to teach them. We consulted with the principal and Gelina, and decided that we should not go into Grand Bay, but I had requested that Georgette (the affiliate staff member working with us) call and arrange for the class to go to Coal Pot Soaps.

Coal Pot Soaps is a local business that is just down the street from the school where soap and other scrubs and lotions are made. Everyone agreed it was safe to go there as it is just down the street from the school.

When we arrived, there seems to have been some misunderstanding, and the owner told us that we were not allowed to take any pictures. Georgette and I talk and talk and try to persuade the owner to let us in and finally it worked!

Although it was cramped and they weren’t actually making anything that day, the staff was kind and staged some activity for us. Best of all, the kids were happy. We also went to a car repair shop and the kids were able to shoot there as well. Class ended on a pretty good note.

Gelina picked us up from the school and we went to her house to watch some of the inauguration of President Obama on BBC, CNN and FOX news. Her brother fried some plantain (yum, yum) and her aunt made “Merry.” “Merry” is porridge made of grated coconut, coconut milk, "provisions" (yams, dasheen, sweet potatoes, etc), bay leaves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

It was so good, we each had two bowls and took some home with us. We also went to meet Gelina’s grandfather, Rubin Robin, down at the bay rum distillery. It was very nice to see the whole set up and to meet him. They cook/dry bay leaves and distill the results into oil that is used in medicinal products. This is very hard work and he and the guy helping him are pure muscle and sweat.

Tomorrow, we begin to pull the best from the best of the kid’s photos. We can’t wait to see their efforts!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Field Trips and Fire

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

We picked up the cameras at the school following the weekend shooting but didn’t find many pictures to download; we'll have to see about that in class. We have a field trip planned to Grand Bay and are hoping that the second field trip will result in more interesting pictures than the first since they've now had two weeks of class.

Later that morning we met with Gelina and the principal to discuss Friday's exhibition plans. The principal informed us she has a scheduling conflict with a church group Friday afternoon. She first told us that she might have to miss the exhibition, but when Gelina told her that the President of the country was scheduled to attend, she said she would work to change her schedule.

Only two boys showed up for class and they didn’t want to go on the field trip alone, so class was cancelled.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day didn’t get any better. We arrived home to a house filled with smoke. Seems a neighbor was illegally burning trash and the prevailing winds blew the smoke in our front door and windows.

We ended up taking the bus to Roseau and checking ourselves in to the Garraway Hotel for the night. We were thankful that they had rooms available!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mini-Adventure to "Paradise"

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

On Saturday we set off on our own adventure, within the scope of our otherwise “Big Adventure.”

Gelina took us up into the mountains to an "eco-resort" (in quotes for more than one reason as it turns out). It was a very steep and winding drive up into the mountains; the roads are not well maintained. We could see steam rising from vents on the hillsides as the hot water from the semi-active volcano poured into the rivers.

Soon, we arrived at Paradise Island, Shangri-LA.

OK, so it wasn’t exactly paradise. On the phone, the proprietor said this was a true eco-resort, but much of the supplies were shipped in from Tennessee and Home Depot! Talk about burning fossil fuel!

The rooms were very basic; no screens, only shades. Regardless however, the best part of this place was the hot spring! And I do mean HOT springs. Some are so hot the locals cook eggs in them for breakfast (which we tried on Sunday and found to be quite good).

There were also a series of varied temperature pools along the river; most fairly warm and others warmer than a hot tub at home. The water is very high in sulfur and is quite pungent, but it does make your skin feel great.

Sitting in these pools alongside the rushing river is very cool! Barbara and I both get massages river side. We found out that we were the only guests in the place and dinner was quiet.

It was a little intimidating sleeping in these open air bungalows and it rained off, but mostly on, most of the night. It was so damp that the pillows, mattress…basically anything made of fabric stink of mustiness and mildew. We felt quite clammy in the morning.

On Sunday, breakfast was a delicious blend of local fruit and eggs boiled in the sulfur pool. Because it was still pouring down rain without much let up in site, we decided to bail out on the rest of our day there.

We called Gelina but she had gone all the way back at home, although we thought she was staying in Roseau. We were anxious enough to leave though, that we called a taxi.

Gelina ended up meeting us in Roseau, and we went on more of a driving tour of the island. We traveled down the west coast all the way to the southernmost point at Scott's Head. There is a narrow strip of land, maybe a quarter-mile long that divides the Atlantic and Caribbean. It was so neat seeing waves crashing on one side and resting calm like bay water on the other.

We also took the opportunity of being by the water to do a little swimming, but only on the Caribbean side. Back up the coast we stopped at another bay side inlet where hot water bubbled up at the shore line like Champagne Beach. We also visited a small local hot spring that had bathing tubs before we made our way back to our “home” in Grand Bay.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Hope for the Future of "My Community"

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

With no cameras to download, we are picked up early by Gelina and head to CCF's office for real Internet service. We are told our meeting with the local photographer has been cancelled, but shortly we hear it's back on for later in the morning.

The Internet works well and we get some work accomplished. We are using a special software service that lets us literally hook-up to and use Jack's computer at home. It's helpful with all the mail and information is stored on that computer. So long as the Internet is working at the house, it works really well.

Our neighbor JoAnn who is looking after the house and mail was quite amused to see all of this computer activity going on when she happened to be there the other day!

We have a great meeting with the photographer. His name is Irvin Durand and he is the director of a local organization called Visual Arts Society of Dominica. He has been doing short workshops at various schools to get kids interested in photography and also setting up photography clubs in schools to try and keep the interest alive.

We hope he and CCF will collaborate in the future on our concept as well. Class today was short again as we go over their photo shoot ideas. We ask them to take notes on the ideas of others, but they seem more interested in their own ideas. We remind them that we are hoping to do a field trip Monday, but it may be more local than planned.

Gelina stopped by this evening and we went to look at the Old Fort, the spot they are suggesting for the exhibition in Grand Bay. We liked it and were glad to have a decision made. It is right on the main street and will be easy for a lot of folks to get to.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Learn About Dominica Through Our Eyes

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

The weather finally cooperated with us today and we got a good walk in. After a brief check of the Internet, we start downloading pictures. They are better and there has been more participation; several are actually quite good and creative!

We did loosen the rules a little and allowed someone else to take their portrait, but they still had to set up the shoot. Some of the best ones through were done as we asked, using the self timer. A few of them never seemed to have enough time to get in front of the camera without their picture being blurred.

Class was short today because we are sending them home to complete a writing assignment without the cameras. The weekend photo shoot will be “My Community,” as we asked them to come back with a list of ideas for picture taking.

We told them no snapshots of friends and just goofing around. We want to see pictures of life in their community that would tell a story or might be of interest to someone learning about Dominica through their eyes.

After class we had a meeting with the assistant principal and a few of teachers.

Apparently the school is going to host a pageant of some sort and they want our class to photograph some of the students in costume next week so they don't have to hire a professional photographer to do a promotion. Even though we were a little wary, since the cameras aren’t really suited for this type of shooting, we agreed to let the students try, even though it will take away from our planned field trip on Monday.

Tonight we were invited to a going away party for a friend of our landlady's. A good crowd from the community turned up and it was pretty lively! The atmosphere was full of food and music.

We stayed for a bit and then retreated to our side of the duplex. In the back bedroom with the computer playing a movie, it's not to disturbing. They ended somewhere around 10:30 pm, just in time for us to catch some shut-eye.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 11, Take 2

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Photo credit: Rick Falco, Vision Project

Cameras are picked up about 9 a.m. with a quick check of the Internet at the school. The results as mentioned are a little disappointing. A couple of the students did not take pictures at all; some only a few. But two had some pretty good shots.

At class we discussed what went wrong. The biggest problem seemed to have been no knowing how to set up the shot. We decide to make it a little easier, requiring the students to still plan the shoot, but letting someone else take the picture.

We also got the impression they were getting a little discouraged when they were not accomplishing good photography, so first we showed them two of the best of everyone’s pictures to demonstrate that they can and are doing good work.

We also told them that some of their pictures have already been forwarded to CCF headquarters and that they are very pleased with the results. We sent them back out to try again.

Also during class we heard from Gelina that a meeting has been set up for us on Friday morning with a local photographer who is trying to run a similar program as ours on the island. We are hoping that some collaboration can possibly be arranged so our program can continue.

We’re eager to get some exercise and had planned to walk after class but the rain came and kept us in. It rains a lot here in short, but frequent downpours. I can almost watch the vegetables grow in our landlady’s garden.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Attack of the Centipedes!

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Gelina picked us up this morning so that we could go to the CCF office to use the internet and do a little shopping. It pours and pours making it a real challenge to shop, get back to CCF and then on to the bus home. Thank goodness for flip flops!

We met with a local photographer who connects us to someone who may be able to continue the class after we leave. Gelina said she will try to set up a meeting for us with him.

We are planning to hold an exhibition for the children on Jan. 23. We plan to have posters with 5x7’s of their best shots and a slide show as well. They are exploring some different locations for it, but it will hopefully be held in the village so that more of the community can come.

The school is inviting the president of Dominica to the event, who is from Grand Bay, and who challenged CCF to do a program in Grand Bay for the children.

That afternoon, our class has several children missing. We were told that there are other commitments and classes that the kids must attend. We were a little disappointed because we thought we’d have the kid’s full attention. Now some are missing technical information, assignments and cameras to take home.

The day’s lesson was based on manual applications of the camera so they could tell the camera what to do, rather than just shooting on automatic. Their assignment is to do a self-portrait, having the camera take the picture with the built in timer, and if inside, not using the flash.

Our land lady had given us a few DVD’s to watch on the computer and we watch in the bedroom as the only other option is sitting at the kitchen room table (our “furnished” apt. has no sofa or chairs, other than kitchen table, so it’s hard to find a place to stretch out other than on the bed).

Half way through the movie, Barbara and I both get up, I go into the bathroom and she goes into the kitchen. Then, at the same time, we both start screaming, not knowing why other one is screaming themselves.

Two, VERY LARGE centipedes, about 7 inches long with about 2 million legs are in the house! They’re very wiggly and move very fast.

Our neighbor Nika (former Peace Corp volunteer) has told us that the centipedes can bite and send you to the hospital, though they are not life threatening. We are also told that the severity of the sting depends on the phase of the moon (and are relieved to observe the moon is waning!)

Needless to say, we are a bit frantic. We spray them with bug killer which seems to daze them and then we sweep them out the door. None of our neighbors are around when I try to find out a bit more about them…I (Barb) do(es) not sleep too well…

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Champagne Beach and Our First Day Solo

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Yesterday Rick left and although we’re sad to see him go, we’re so thankful for his expertise in getting us started with the photography class.

Gelina picked us up and drove him to Loubiere where he took a taxi to the airport. She dropped us at Champagne Beach, where the bubbles come up out of the rock under the sea and it is like swimming in champagne!

The snorkeling was great and I saw my first Trumpet fish! But we didn’t see any turtles which was a disappointment. We came home on the local bus and just made it before a huge monsoon-like storm hit us.

When we first got home, we found that we’ve used up all our propane and Juliette took the tank away this morning – guess dinner will be cold tonight!

However, out of the blue, Juliette showed up with a full tank of propane and we can cook again!

Today was our first day on our own teaching without Rick and it went well. The computer and projector cooperated and the children are becoming better photographers every day.

Some are more intent upon photography than others and it is obvious in their photos. We definitely have some stars!

I’m hoarse and beat by the end of the class. The process of collecting all the cameras (the kids drop them in the vice principals office on arriving at school and we walk to the school to get them) downloading the photo’s and reviewing them, creating files and selecting their best work to review in class, takes up most of the morning.

We haul everything we needed to school in our suitcase: computer, external drive, projector, all the cameras, and then bring it all back home at the end of the class.

Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to some shopping and a discussion about continuing the Photography class after we leave Dominica.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Déjà vu and Something New

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Today, Gelina picked us up and we went to visit the Carib Territory – these people are original Indians from the Caribbean, and this is one of the few places where the original Carib people still live. It’s similar to an Indian reservation in the States.

The people here are very poor and CCF has a large presence. Gelina was scheduled to work with a group of children on creating a radio program to be broadcast throughout the entire island. There was also a local music group scheduled to work with the kids on creating their own songs and music, but sadly they did not show up.

Gelina and Melvin, a local who has a history in broadcasting, helped the children overcome their disappointment by planning future broadcasts to include music, poetry and storytelling about their home life, their parents and what it's like to be on the radio.

Gelina was so great with the kids. We left the children to explore the Territory; Barbara and I visited 2 years ago, but this was Rick’s first time. We went to the model village and saw a bunch of women making baskets. Usually there also demonstrations of dug out boats and cassavas, but they weren’t active today, which was too bad.

We drove on through the Territory, stopping for coconut jelly; a green coconut water that’s refreshing and much loved by the locals. Barbara also bought a few baskets (of course).

We ended up having lunch at Domcans which had very nice salads and French fries for us, as well as hamburgers for Gelina and Rick. Barbara and I ate here 2 years ago with CCF staff member Gary Duncan and local director, Francis Joseph. I even remember the owner who is Canadian and very nice.

He told us he has 2 or 3 rooms to rent with very nice with views of the valley and the ocean in the distance. For a second we thought bout taking him up on his offer!

We then set off to the Emerald Pool, one of Dominica's biggest tourist attractions. The waterfall ends in a small pool and the water appears dark green. There are rocks all around the pool and it’s very slippery.

I actually slipped and fell all over the rocks! I even lost my reading glasses and my sun glasses. Thankfully I was able to climb down and find them both and the cuts from my fall aren't too bad. Back at the main entrance they had peroxide and ice which was a big help.

We headed back to Grand Bay, following the sea along to Jungle Bay. Jungle Bay is an eco-resort where we stayed on our last visit. We saw the same guide we had before and the same waiter too!

Gelina told us she sings here occasionally and knows the staff well. When she was studying in the states she actually cut a couple of CD's and is very good. We arrived home tired and hungry from a busy day. I made eggs for dinner, played a round of Liverpool rummy and crashed into bed.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Thank Goodness for Rummi-kub and Liverpool Rummy

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

Today was a great success! We have a projector that works and Jack was able to download a trial CS3 on the computer to streamline our downloading and organizing (and now he has a new program to learn!)

While in Roseau we hit two grocery stores, the street vegetable market and came home on the bus loaded down. The bus was completely PACKED. We had a little girl on her way home from school squeezed in between us and three in front of us.

They were giggling and chattering the whole way home to Grand Bay (about a 30 minute winding ride over a mountain pass). I am amazed at all the little children taking the "city" bus into town and home for school. This would not happen in the States!

We use the computer and projector in class and the kids were able to see each other's work and were encouraged to critique one another. They were a little shy at first, but got more comfortable as the day went on.

Each day is packed and busy, but if we weren’t so busy, we’d have nothing to do at all. Thank goodness for Rummi-kub and Liverpool Rummy! I brought two books, but am already on my second so I’ll have to savor it.

Juliette, our landlady, has given us some videos to watch on the computer but the choices are limited. The computer also claims the DVD’s are from a different region and we are fighting with it to view them.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Camera Update!

A brief update from Jack Clarke

Before, we said that...

"Only fourteen out of fifteen cameras were returned to us, but we’ll have to find out what happened to the missing one… "

We've located the missing camera.

One of the students, Fancille, showed up later with it at class! She had left it at home and had to go home to get it in the next village.

All is well!

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Their First Snapshots

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

First three photos credited to Rick Falco/Vision Project

Yesterday morning Jack and I went for a very long walk to Stowe and back, which took about 1 and a half hours. The road follows the Atlantic coast and it is lovely.

That afternoon was the day the kids got their cameras. It was almost like a graduation as we called their names and they came up to receive their prized camera; they were so excited!

We gave them an assignment to go home and photograph their families. There was a lot of discussion about how they would do this. We discussed taking photos of their families doing what is important to them, photos that tell something about the person.

The children are very soft spoken and their accents have a Caribbean/British lilt that is challenging to understand at times!

Georgette brought us a new projector today, but we are still having trouble. All of the prompts are in Chinese characters and so they are trying to get us a manual.

This morning we picked up the cameras at the school, download the children's first photos onto the computer and reviewed them to pick their best shots. Thankfully all the software works, but it is slow going.

Rick recommends we use CS3 (Photoshop Professional), which we do not have on this computer. We have created files for each child and all their pictures, then there are sub files of their best shots to be reviewed and discussed in class.

Fourteen out of fifteen cameras were returned to us, but we’ll have to find out what happened to the missing one…

This afternoon we went on a field trip, walking with the children into the town of Grand Bay to photograph village life. We want to show them the value of photographs taken of people “doing” their life, rather than posed shots.

It’s very challenging to keep track of all the children, keep them "focused", and taking "real photos" instead of just snapshots.

Some of the villagers like to be photographed and some do not. We have a lot of explaining to do almost every time they go to take a photo, but most villagers are OK once they learn we are with the school and teaching the kids.

We are missing two girls today, one went home sick and the other had to baby-sit her brother

The kids have taken so many photos; so many we’ll get to download and review! This will take most of the evening to do, but we finished and after one quick game of Liverpool Rummy and we are off to bed!

Tomorrow is an early day – we’re going to Roseau with Gelina to have Rick teach the CCF staff some basic photo taking skills.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Turning Words into Photographs

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

All photos credited to Rick Falco/Vision Project

Yesterday and today were both busy days! On Monday we met at the school, were introduced to all the staff and given a tour so that we may choose a room for the class (a room with a view of the sea).

Then we were off to Rosseau, CCF headquarters, with Gelina who is our primary contact here to go over more details, have lunch and walk the town. We were also able to pick up a few additional groceries.

That was the first day we had any email access and we will not have Internet in the apartment but can use the school Internet each day, Monday through Friday. However, it’s painfully slow. Gelina brought us back at the end of the day so we have not had to take the bus yet! We are all exhausted after a long day.

The heat is oppressive, and we have no A/C; only two fans to keep the air moving. The room we have for the class, however, is one of the few that does have A/C. I wonder if they would let me sleep there!

Today, we hurried to an 8 a.m. assembly and we are introduced by the vice principal and by CCF director to the entire school. I gave a speech and so did Rick; Barbara took our pictures since she is too camera shy!

We also have our first mini disaster; the overhead projector they’ve given us to use is not working properly. Rick was trying to give a presentation to half of the school and the images are all green and distorted. As a last resort, he had to use just his laptop.

That was tough viewing for a couple hundred kids on a tiny screen! We hope to get another projector tomorrow or else things will be difficult when we start having to review the kid’s pictures as a class.

So goes working in a remote place!

After lunch, which was generously provided by CCF to each child in the class and the teachers, I took pictures of each child and printed them so that we can try to remember their names.

The kids also get their first assignment: write an essay about their family and make notes of how they would photograph them. Tomorrow we will review and discuss their essays, then they will get to take the cameras home and start photographing.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Community: A Photographic Journey

By Jack and Barbara Clarke, CCF Donors and Rick Falco, President and Creative Director of Vision Project

All photos credited to Rick Falco, Vision Project

In search of an innovative way to continue giving to children associated with CCF, donors Jack and Barbara Clarke had an idea.

They decided to team up with Rick Falco, president and creative director of Vision Project, for the chance to introduce to the youth of Dominica, a fresh way to view their world…

…through the lens of a camera.

For three weeks and ten sessions, students were loaned cameras to be used as tools for visual and social research into their society. They learned everything from preparation and photography technique to the importance of documentation and editing.

My Community: A Photographic Journey gave middle and high school students in Dominica the opportunity to see all the components that make up their daily life in Dominica as a whole; to understand how their community functions on its own and as a part of the connected global society.

Here begins Day One of Jack, Barbara and Rick’s trip:

Well, we arrived yesterday without difficulty in Dominica. One missing bag arrived on the next plane much to our relief.

We were met at the airport by the CCF-Dominica Director Francis Joseph. Our first stop was the supermarket where we spent a small fortune stocking up on groceries for 3 weeks. We do not know when we will have another opportunity to get to a big store since there is not one near where we will be staying. We arrived at Grand Bay and our new home away from home at dusk.

The house has a view of the Atlantic over the rooftops of the houses below us and a view of mountains all around. There are cows in the yard behind us. The house is sparse, clean and adequate.

NO A/C, NO TV, NO Phone, NO internet.

We pay as we go for electricity and so far have paid $100 but don't know how long that will last. We also have one big surprise: NO HOT WATER!

Even in this warm climate that is a little challenging! Today we are on our own and will do a little walking and explore the village of Grand Bay. Tomorrow we meet the staff at the school.

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