Kids are awesome, aren’t they? I know everyone agrees with me, but I think it’s worth reminding ourselves once in a while. Kids, the things they can learn that I won’t get a chance to, the things they already know that I don’t, the prospect of a new generation, a world in flux, are all awesome things to consider. But birth is a tremendous lottery with the highest stakes. Opportunities in life vary dramatically depending solely on your place of birth. What is most amazing though is that kids aren’t concerned with geographic and socioeconomic circumstances. It’s innate – children everywhere are born with an enthusiastic spirit that compels them to laugh loudly, make friends quickly and invent games instantly. Fun is priceless, and where there is no new ball, kids improvise one from discarded belongings. At Africare, we support those children in Africa that are vulnerable to losing this spark too soon, and we help families and communities provide opportunities for kids to lead awesome lives into the future.
First things first, babies must be born healthy. Among other things, this requires that women seek professional care for childbirth. Many African women live too far from clinics to reach them after labor begins, so Africare’s solutions include constructing maternal waiting homes next to health facilities where women stay close to professional care as due dates approach, and educating people on the safety benefits of giving birth in a clinic. In addition to helping mothers and children survive childbirth, we can also help children start their lives disease-free. Methods exist to drastically minimize the risk of transmitting HIV from mothers to children, and 63 Africare-supported health facilities in South Africa have recorded zero cases of mother to child HIV transmission in all their deliveries since July 2011.
After joining us as another healthy member of the human race, a baby needs to stay healthy. Insecticide-treated bed nets, clean water points, improved sanitation facilities and health education campaigns are some of the methods Africare uses to help communities protect kids from the tragically preventable-yet-prevalent communicable diseases that kill thousands of children a day. Africare’s Community-Led Total Sanitation approach empowers communities to be the drivers of sustainable sanitation infrastructure improvements and behavior change, promising open defecation free environments for their youth and reducing diarrhea so kids can absorb more nutrients from what they eat.
Once children are born healthy and are protected from disease, they need to grow strong. Increasingly, the world is understanding that we are not just fighting hunger; we are fighting malnourishment as well. More voices, such as the Ashoka Changemaker’s Nutrients for All community, are shifting the emphasis from food quantity to quality. Community interventions must do more than increase amounts of food to stuff bellies – they must also improve the nutritional content of food to fuel the growth of powerful bodies and minds. Training in backyard gardening, food preparation and balanced diets are some of the ways Africare helps communities boost their kids’ nutrient intake.
Now we are getting close to awesomeness, but these gains depend on a child being provided for by a committed caretaker. Unfortunately, millions of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) must fend for themselves or even become the caretakers of other children. In these cases, Africare can economically empower those Africans that heroically decide to look after children that would otherwise be stranded. For example, in Nigeria, where it is estimated that 1.8 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, Africare supports women’s co-operatives in starting profitable businesses whose profits pay for food, uniforms and school fees for OVCs.
Once good health ensures a long future, going to school can unlock an awesome future. Africare projects dispel major barriers to education by helping communities provide for children and keep them healthy, and by helping schools provide safe, sanitary environments for their students. For example, Africare brought sustainable clean water, latrines and hygiene training to four secondary schools in Benin that are supported by Angelique Kidjo’s Batonga Foundation. Healthy, well-nourished kids have the strength to attend and to focus in school, where they will learn ways to solve problems themselves today and improve their communities tomorrow.
All over the world, awesome babies become awesome kids, who add up to become an awesome generation. Africare wants to work with you to trigger these multiplying benefits so African youths can lead their continent to a more awesome future. Kids everywhere deserve to lead awesome lives, and we work so our projects are as awesome as the kids we support.
This message was inspired by Kid President, an awesome youngster who wears suits, makes jokes, invents dances, and encourages kids everywhere to be awesome too. To get a pep talk from Kid President, click here.