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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