Making A Difference From A Distance

We often get inquiries from kind-hearted people, who are looking to give back to vulnerable children. Seeing their photos and reading their stories touch many readers and motivate them to act. Volunteering is an important part of making a difference and using your abilities to better the world.

Some of the boys at the Ashirvad Home in India.

Some of the boys living at the Ashirvad Home in India.

Being a social media ambassador is a powerful way to spread information about vulnerable children and to tell others about the mission of Kitechild. By sharing our posts and telling your friends and family about us, you can help give a voice to these children. Other ways to help include hosting local events to raise funding or awareness for vulnerable children. We’re currently working on setting up campus programs to provide opportunities for volunteering across the country.

Kitechild volunteers on campus.

Kitechild volunteers on campus.

As you may have noticed, we haven’t listed visiting an orphanage among our volunteer opportunities. While it is a well-intentioned endeavor, it often has unintended negative results on the children. These children have often gone through personal traumas and difficulties, particularly from living without their families. Most people who travel to an orphanage to volunteer usually only go for a short period of time, which leaves the children with additional broken relationships and hardships.

Some of the children living at the HHK Home in Honduras.

Some of the children living at the HHK Home in Honduras.

There are other reasons why we don’t support sending volunteers to foreign country, otherwise known as voluntourism. Often, the volunteers don’t speak the same language as the children, which makes it difficult to engage in meaningful conversation.  In addition, there are little to no regulations or background checks for foreign volunteers, which puts the children at risk for abuse.

Children living at the LAMP Home in India, where we currently have a solar lighting project.

Children living at the LAMP Home in India, where we currently have a solar lighting project.

Sometimes the best way to support a vulnerable child isn’t glamorous and won’t allow you the joy of playing and caring for the child in person. You can have a bigger impact on the lives of these children by supporting Kitechild, either through spreading the word or investing in a project. We currently have three active projects that need funding: a solar lighting project in India, a water purification project in Kenya and a greenhouse project in Kenya. These projects are sustainable and have meaningful impacts on the education, nutrition and quality of life of these children. Consider supporting one of our projects and joining us in transforming the lives of vulnerable children. 

Solar Powered Solutions

Some of the 36 children benefitting from the solar project.

Some of the 36 children benefitting from the solar project.

The first thing most of us do in the mornings and the last thing we do at night is flip a switch. Yet, we very rarely put much thought into how much this modern convenience improves our lives. With the flip of a switch we can eat, read, walk to the bathroom at night and put to rest our fears if we hear a strange noise.  For 36 children in Rajamundry, India, this is something they’ll be able to have for the very first time. And some added bonuses? It will be through the sustainable energy of solar power, so it won’t negatively impact the environment. Additionally, since the home doesn’t have electricity, they can save the money they would be spending on having traditional electricity installed and on those monthly electrical bills. And those savings can get passed onto providing the children with the best care, access to nutrition and educational needs.

lamp home

The exterior of the children’s home.

This year, we were fortunate enough to visit India and the LAMP home for the second time, where these kids live. One thing we realized is that the home was in need of some repairs, which they could not afford. One of the things they needed was to have their roof reinforced. The good news is that the roof construction is now complete, thanks to a private donor working with Kitechild. The roof is now strong enough to support the solar lighting installation, which means that the children will now have a better roof to live under, as well as electricity.

Construction is underway at the LAMP home.

Construction is underway at the LAMP home.

The lighting installation consists of a total of six lights- three indoor and three outdoor lights. The indoor lights ensure that the kids will be able to do schoolwork during the evenings, which will improve their learning and potential performance in school. We all know how important education is to future opportunities, and the indoor lights can be a stepping stone to helping these children break the cycle of poverty. The outdoor lights are also really important, as they will keep the home safe and secure after the sun sets. The home is located in the northeast jungle of Andra Pradesh, near Rajahmundry. The area around the home has snakes and other potential hazards, so the safety of the children will improve with the outdoor lights and will help to eliminate injuries by improving visibility.

One of the children living at the LAMP home.

One of the children living at the home.

Here’s a little background on this home, as there are often misconceptions and misinformation about children’s homes. 36 children reside at the home, 20 of whom are true orphans, in the sense that they have no parents to care for them. The other sixteen are children whose families are living with extreme poverty, which makes it difficult for them to provide for their children. Through the home, the children have three meals everyday, are able to attend school and are under the care of long-term caretakers, who live with them at the LAMP home. The families of these children visit them whenever they are able. We’re hoping through this solar light project that these children will be one step closer to rising above poverty and will one do be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Some of the 36 children living at the LAMP home in India.

Some of the children living at the LAMP home in India.

Lighting Up The LAMP Home

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We are proud to announce a new solar light project in India. The project begins by reinforcing the roof of the children’s home and then by installing solar lights, 3 of which will be outdoors and 3 will be indoors. This home does not currently have electricity, so these lights will be a real life-changer for the 36 children living there. By having indoor lighting, the children will be able to do their homework in the evenings and the outside lights will make the grounds a more secure and safe place to live. To learn more about this project and to invest in the solar light installation, please click here.

Doing Good with Greenhouses

Greenhouses are something you may not think much about… especially when it comes to promoting social justice. But, in many parts of the world where food and finances are scarce, greenhouses can provide a sustainble food source, as well as income generating opportunities. These small glass buildings are designed to optimize plant growth and grant communities access to fresh produce throughout the year. We’ve created several greenhouse projects in Kenya, which have been successful in providing vegetables and generating funding for children, and we’re currently setting up another one.

Here’s our greenhouses being installed in Kenya.

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Nearing harvest time with the tomatoes grown at the greenhouse.

In Nakuru, we installed six greenhouses, which grow lettuce, cabbage, onions, kale, spinach, green peppers, and red beets. By growing their own fresh produce, this children’s home has been able to save thousands of dollars that was normally spent on food costs. Some of that money has been reinvested into the project, through the implementation of a drip line system. The drip lines save water waste, as well as cost and time from the gardeners. Through selling the extra vegetables in the market, they’ve also been able to purchase cooking charcoal for the meals of the over 200 children who live at the home.

watoto greenhouse

The plants are flourishing at our greenhouse.

We also setup a greenhouse project in Nairobi, which has been producing thousands of pounds of vegetables. Among the varieties of produce grown are lettuce, tomatoes, kale and spinach, all of which go first to the 57 children who live at the home benefitting from the greenhouse. After that, the surplus produce is sold in the markets and the profits then cover their educational costs. In Kenya older children have to pay school fees to continue their studies… and with this greenhouse, these kids can!

A teacher at the home educating the children in Nairobi.

A teacher at the home educating the children in Nairobi.

At another location in Nairobi, we’re working on a greenhouse project that will provide food for 43 children. Like the other greenhouse projects, this one will first guarantee access to fresh, health vegetables to the kids everyday- something many of us take for granted. After that, the excess produce will be sold for profits, which will guarantee the children’s education. Also like our earlier projects, this greenhouse is environmentally friendly, and sustainable, as the income generated covers the cost of maintenance and gardeners. Find out more about this upcoming project and how you can be a part of a green revolution that puts food on the table and keeps kids in school.

 

Technology and Human Rights

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Photo: Micah Farfour/DigitalGlobe

Here’s a cool story about the merging of technology with social justice. Now satellites are being used to expose human rights violations. This is really important because lots of places where these violations are occurring don’t allow outsiders. But, now with this new technology we can have a better idea of what’s happening in the world and how we can help. Read more: goo.gl/x957Fx 

Menstruation: Normal, Natural and Neglected

There exists a normal body function that affects the education, health and well-being of women all over the world, due to persisting taboos and lack of access to adequate supplies. It’s something that even in America, we’re often uncomfortable talking about: menstruation.

Photo: EcoFemme

Photo: EcoFemme

Even in 2016, most women in India do not use sanitary products for their periods. Instead, they use a variety of materials including newspapers and cow dung, which can have serious health implications. For example, 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, which is something that can be greatly reduced through education and supplies. But getting feminine products is often prevented by the social taboos that majorly affect the 355 million women of menstruation age in India. Some of the other consequences from the myths surrounding menstruation is that the women are sometimes considered impure and barred from temples, can be excluded from the community during the duration of their period or forbidden from drinking from the same water supply as the rest of the village. And in addition to the social taboos, the solution isn’t as simple as shipping pads and tampons to India. There are major issues of disposable non-biodegradable feminine hygiene products in India, as many of the items end up being flushed down the toilet, which blocks sewers systems, or end up contributing to India’s landfill problems.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

However, there are options being explored by advocates such as Anshu Gupta. Gupta founded a recycling center in New Delhi, where volunteers create cloth sanitary napkins for the women of India. Gupta created the organization to help change the social stigmas that surround menstruation and find a way to provide cheap, environmentally-friendly feminine hygiene products. These biodegradable pads are now being issued by the millions by the MyPad  and the Not Just a Piece of Cloth campaign. Gupta found that these products “gave these women, who neglect or are ignorant of this critical health issue, a sense of dignity and self-respect.”

Thyra Khuri Bishwa Karma, 16 years, Narsi village “ I get scared of snakes. There is a village called Mumuri where a girl got bitten an when people come and see us at the chaupadi. I feel ashamed. I feel so ashamed.”

Photo: Poulomi Basu, Time Magazine: A 16 year old girl in a chhaupadi hut.

Why is this important? Because without the proper sanitary products, women’s lives are greatly impacted.It’s difficult for many women to gain access to these necessities and live their normal lives because of stigma surrounding menstruation. In some parts of Kenya, for instance, women who are menstruating are prevented from interacting with livestock, preparing meals or eating any animal products. In some communities in Nepal, the banishment of menstruating women, known as chhaupadi is a common practice. Once a month, these women are forced to live in makeshift huts and are forbidden from socializing or sharing food with their families. This practice is not only damaging to a woman’s emotional state, but very dangerous, as it leaves the women exposed to the elements and to abductions. Mothers are taken away from their children, and the women are subjected to physical and emotional abuse from spiritual leaders, who believe the women have been possessed by demons.

 

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Because of taboos like these and the lack of supplies, many girls are prevented from attending school while they have their period. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 20 days of school per year, according to a Duke University study. This puts girls at a disadvantage to achieving education equality and dissuades communities from investing in the education of girls.

 

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

As an organization that focuses on the quality of care and educational opportunities of vulnerable children in their communities, this is a huge concern for us. Education is pivotal to breaking the cycle of poverty. We work to raise the quality of life for vulnerable children, especially those living in orphanages. We know that poverty is the main contributing factor that leads to children living their lives in an orphanage. Most of these children have one or both living parents, but their families simply cannot support them financially. If we can break down the barriers that prevent children from getting their education, like obstacles related to menstruation, we can help people permanently rise out of poverty. By escaping the cycle of poverty, more families will be able to care for their children in their home, which is infinitely better for the well-being of all involved.

One of the most important things we can do is to bring attention to this issue and not be afraid of having frank conversations about menstruation. Nancy Muller, of the NGO Path,  sees the fear of discussion as a major obstacle to helping these vulnerable women and girls. “People prefer not to think about it or talk about it. It’s a challenge to secure funding because menstruation is not seen as a critical or life-threatening issue,” said Muller.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Even in America, there is a lot of work to be done for the accessibility of sanitary products, but luckily, progress is being made. Chicago just banned the tax on tampons and pads, by a unanimous vote. And the New York Assembly has just passed Linda Rosenthal’s legislation to exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes. Rosenthal calls taxes like this, “a regressive tax on women and their bodies.” Activists in Canada have also been successful in getting their government to repeal taxes on pads and tampons. It seems that more and more states and countries are waking up to the importance of accessibility to sanitary products… and as we keep bringing attention to women’s health issues, things can only improve for women and girls everywhere.

 

References

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/blood-money-the-race-to-crack-indias-lucrative-menstruation-market

http://time.com/3811181/chhaupadi-ritual-nepal/

https://www.good.is/features/issue-36-the-bloody-truth

http://jezebel.com/free-tampons-for-everyone-1762358570

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/03/16/tampon-tax-ban-new-york/

http://jezebel.com/the-majority-of-women-still-use-euphemisms-to-describe-1761939612

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/films/not-just-piece-cloth

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

Believe You Can and You’re Halfway There

believe you can

 

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” This Motivation Monday quote comes from Theodore Roosevelt and we think it’s the perfect inspiration to start this week off with. Sometimes it’s hard to see how things will get better, but it’s important to have a vision for the future, so you can achieve your goals. Believe, act and make a difference!  

Progress at Ashirvad

chickens ashirvad

 

Our chicken project in India is continuing to make progress. Some of the chickens are now almost three months old and should be laying eggs soon. This project works to improve the nutritional and educational needs of the 79 children living at Ashirvad Home. How does it work? These chickens are sold in the market and the profits pay for fresh fruit and also fund computers and a teacher for the children. 

Helping Children Accused of Witchcraft

Photo Credit: Anja Ringgren Lovén

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Anja Ringgren Lovén went to Nigeria three years ago as a humanitarian volunteer, but nothing could have prepared her for what was in store for her. Lovén is the founder of the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation and is dedicating to bettering the lives of vulnerable children. While being in Nigeria, she has seen firsthand some of the thousands of children who are accused of witchcraft and the terrible consequences that children endure on account of these strong superstitions. One of those children that Lovén is helping has been starved and shunned from the community. The child is now going by the name “Hope,” which he has given to people all over the world through his story of resilience. Read more @HuffPost: goo.gl/yHWsKm