Saturday, January 26, 2008

News from the Continent #1

Since I can't possibly blog on the many different Issues Affecting African Children (IAAC) I read about every day, I'm also going to do an occaisional "News from the Continent" blog. I'll link to articles that I've read, and if you fancy reading them, just click the link! I try to keep up on news across the continent; if you'd like to do the same, a great site is .

Article 1 discusses SOS Orphanage's work in Ghana using Football (soccer) as a tool for development with children. Very interesting take on how sports and values can make an effective change!

Article 2 is also from Ghana, and discusses the government's new social policy to distribute money to the poorest of the poor. The article argues that the money could be more effective if used in different ways (and I agree!).

Article 3, again from Ghana, discusses the country's high child mortality rate-- affected greatly by malaria.

Article 4 discusses the dangers children face in tumultuous Kenya. Instances of child rape and violence against children have risen dramatically since the election violence began.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Muhammad Yunus, Micro-Credit, and Africa

Although I'm not categorizing this in the Issues posts, it is a sort of indirect issue affecting African children.

Micro-credit, micro-loans, micro-enterprise, micro-franchise...they're the new buzz words in international development. Lending to the poor, helping them establish business and franchises-- all on an individual, small-scale level. All these words and works were spawned from a simple idea by a brilliant man-- Muhammad Yunus. He began his work in Bangladesh in the late 70's and early 80's, which eventually led to the founding of the Grameen Bank and the Grameen Foundation. Through his efforts and ideas, many other such institutions of aid have been established, enabling millions to gain the opportunities that lead them out of poverty.

I had the incredible experience to sit in on a conference call with Dr. Yunus a few weeks ago. An energetic, visionary man with a lip-twitching sense of humor, Dr. Yunus has become an icon in the development world, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. He defined his work as social business. The concept of business is about more than just making money-- humans aren't money making machines, he declared. Business needs to include human aspects, they need to do good to people. He gave the example of a newly-developed, nutrient-rich yogurt being used in Bangladesh. The purpose of the company is to help children become healthy.

He then addressed the idea of helping the poorest. Micro schemes have been accused of not reaching the poorest of the poor, so Dr. Yunus set out to prove that theory wrong. He spoke of beginning projects focusing on beggars in Bangladesh. They were given loans to earn money by door-to-door sales. And it worked! Many of the beggars, the poorest of the poor, stopped begging completely, and all were able to pay back their loans and earn more money. They could now earn an honest living.

Of all the things Dr. Yunus said, this struck me the hardest: all humans have unlimited potential. How can they unleash it? That is what micro projects are about-- the opportunity for an individual to tap their own potential and make of their life what they will. Now, I don't believe that micro-credit is a panacea for poverty. But it is one method that is very effective, and I for one am very excited to get involved in micro-enterprise at our orphanages and micro-credit for the people of the surrounding villages. Many of our children are not truly orphaned; families simply don't have the means to take care of them, and they are handed over to the orphanage. Micro-enterprises can help the orphanages care on the road to self-reliance, and micro-loans to the families can strike at the root of the problem. Maybe someday, a micro-loan may help some of our children return home.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Issues Affecting African Children #3: Food Shortages in West Africa-- Please Donate!

In a continent still largely fed by subsistence farming, anything can affect the availability of food. This article discusses the consequences of the late start and early end to the rainy season in 2007 is already being felt in West Africa. Rising food prices due to food shortages are beginning. Aid agencies are already being called on to avert hunger crises across the region. Of course, it is the poorest who are hit hardest by such disasters, and who knows when and if aid will come. So many places in the world need aid, and it often doesn't arrive until the pictures of children like scarecrows begin to grace our televisions.

Nana Esi, my host sister, age 4, is on the left. Adjoa, an orphan from New Life, age 3 1/2, is on the right.

This is an issue that strikes me deeply. It is in an area where those I know and love will be affected, which makes it more real to me. I picture my children's faces, many of them already too skinny and affected by malnutrition, if not starvation, and worry what this will do to them. I remember when I took my well-off, well-fed host siblings to the orphanage and discovered with shock how small and thin the orphans really were. For many of them, this started long before they ever came to the orphanage, and they certainly are better fed there than they would be in many other places. But they are my children, the children of my heart if not my womb, and the thought that their little bodies might suffer more than they already have makes me...afraid.

And so, I will do what many of them have already done at such an early age on the streets of Ghana: beg. Please, if you have the means, and maybe even if you feel you don't, please donate by clicking on the Donate button on the right. All donations go directly to the children pictured and talked about here. People often mention that "for the price of a cup of coffee..." I don't much care about the price of a cup of coffee. I care about my children, and I beg for your help to keep them fed and well-- whether it's the price of a cup of coffee, or less, or more.

Nana Esi, right, age 4. Comfort, left, an orphan from New Life, age 8. Such are the effects of malnutrition.

(All donations are made to Families for Children International securely through PayPal, and are tax deductible. )


I just wanted to clarify a few things on this post. Donations made will not go to handouts that do little in the long run. FFCI's goals are to help children and the organizations that support them become self-sufficient. Famine, food shortages, and rising prices are not new in Africa, and they will continue. We use our funds for projects such as square foot gardening, chicken raising, and micro-enterprises such as soap making. Some of these have already been started at New Life, and need a little boost. We are planning to implement them at Sankofa and FFCI as well with our summer volunteer groups. These projects help provide food and income to the children and the orphanages, and this news of food shortages and rising prices means a harder year ahead for West Africans. Our plan has always included these projects, and the need has become more urgent. Please help us create a self-sustaining environment for these children!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On the Road Again

I'm happy to report that our founder and president is out of the hospital and doing well! We are very relieved and grateful. If all goes well, he and his wife hope to travel to Ghana in March! Please continue to pray with us that they will be able to go and begin our school!

I will post again soon! For our next Issues Affecting African Children post, I will be discussing microcredit and the phone call I was able to sit in on featuring Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank. We will also soon be hearing from a volunteer who has just returned from Ghana on a trip to help fund and build a new building for New Life International Orphanage! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Please Pray for us!

So we've had a setback in our plans for this year in Ghana. Families for Children International founders Blaine and Katherine Porter were scheduled to leave for Ghana on Jan. 15th to finally begin the building of our school-- the first step of many. However, on Monday, Blaine began complaining of chest pain. After some tests and x-rays, it was discovered that he had several blood clots in his lungs. He is to be in the hospital all week as they watch him go through a round of blood thinners. He is feeling alright, but both he and his wife are of course worried, and very disappointed that their trip must be postponed. They hope to still be able to get over this year to begin the school. Please pray for Blaine to regain good health!

In better news, a former volunteer at New Life International has returned to Ghana this Christmas to see how progress has gone on the new building she has funded! The building will provide more sleeping, living, and playing space for the children, so they no longer have to share everything-- even beds. Hopefully when she returns, she'll be able to give us an update!