COVID-19 has brought tragedy and hardship to families around the world. Coping with the virus has been especially difficult in developing communities, where a lack of basic resources is the norm. Children, in particular, are greatly impacted by the sudden loss of adequate food, deepening family poverty, scarce resources and an increased risk of witnessing or suffering violence and abuse. This is why Children Believe – a Canadian charity that has helped more than one million children around the world overcome barriers to education and other life essentials – has been ramping up its support to the hundreds of thousands of people it serves across Africa, Asia and the Americas with the aim of providing life-saving relief. This week we spoke to Children Believe’s Chief Fundraising, Marketing and Development Officer, Aki Temiseva, to learn more about the work they’re doing world-wide.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Children Believe is a Canadian charity that works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. Over the past 60 years, we’ve helped more than one million children, from some of the most vulnerable communities around the world, overcome barriers such as inequality, discrimination and violence.
What problem does it aim to solve?
As an organization, we help children access education – inside and outside the classroom. We do this by working alongside children by advancing their rights, protecting them, promoting gender equality and providing them skills and resources to overcome poverty and injustice.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our current priority is to keep children and families healthy and safe as we navigate these challenging times. We are encouraging families to practice frequent handwashing, social distancing and other precautionary measures, through radio, pamphlets and other channels. We’re helping provide hygiene kits, including soap and sanitizer to especially vulnerable families.
We’re also keeping children learning through alternative methods such as radio and TV broadcasts, WhatsApp groups and through the distribution of educational pamphlets and other materials in the countries where we work.
When did you start/join it?
I joined Children Believe in July 2019, and I’m so happy to be here. I had known of Children Believe, and interacted with the team here in the past. I knew of the exciting work they were doing to help children and families around the world. I wanted to be a part of this global movement for positive change.
What made you want to get involved?
I’m passionate about making a life changing difference in children’s lives. The child sponsorship program enables us to work with children in the countries where they live. In this way we gain a clearer understanding of how children’s rights are violated, and bring together families, communities, coalitions, businesses and academia to champion their rights and aspirations. I knew that coming to Children Believe would be an excellent opportunity to make a difference.
What was the situation like when you started?
Children Believe has been helping children of all faiths, cultures and ethnicities overcome poverty and injustice for 60 years. So I knew I was joining a team that has a track record of success, and was poised to achieve even more.
Amazing things happen when caring supporters and partners, brave young dreamers and our team of unabashed idealists come together —all believing in the power of education to help kids help themselves. When I joined Children Believe, I knew that together, we could empower children to overcome barriers preventing them from accessing education, staying in school and pursuing their dreams. It was an exciting opportunity!
How has it changed since?
When I arrived at Children Believe we were in the midst of an organizational rebrand. The charity was previously known as Christian Children’s Fund of Canada. I led the team that completed the formal rebrand to Children Believe, which happened on October 1, 2019. What I brought to the rebrand was to sharpen the message to clarify that everything we do helps children access education and stay in school. Part of that is providing basic necessities such as water and health care, helping children understand their human rights, and supporting them to be champions of change in their own communities. I’m proud of how we have been able to bring our donors along on the journey. They understand why we do what we do. I feel privileged to work for an organization that, through the generosity of our donors, supports 160 of the world’s poorest communities. We have the support of more than 25 partners in the field who help more than 30,000 sponsored children. I’m humbled and proud to be a part of the transformational change we see in the lives of children.
What more needs to be done?
While COVID-19 has affected the whole world, the poorest communities and countries are most vulnerable because the resources to fight the virus are less readily available and families are already struggling in their daily lives to access basic resources.
In any crisis, children’s health, safety and education is at heightened risk. With education systems disrupted around the world, and learning losses at an unprecedented scale, our commitment to help children access education — inside and outside of classrooms — has never been more urgent.
Despite these challenges, our organization is responding to the crisis by focusing on helping prevent COVID-19 from spreading in communities, keeping children learning, and delivering immediate support to those most severely affected.
How can our readers help?
I’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the incredible community of sponsors and donors across Canada who continue to support our organization, despite facing personal challenges during COVID-19.
Today we are asking those who can, to consider sponsoring a child. The need has never been more acute. Those furthest away from us need to know there are people here in Canada who care, support and believe in them as they continue to pursue their dreams. During the pandemic we are also asking you to consider helping children and families with immediate needs. Donations will support our COVID-19 efforts to help children and families access critical health information, emergency food assistance, violence prevention and child-protection resources as well as innovative virtual education — essentials to those cut off from family, friends, teachers and social services.
To sponsor a child, learn more or offer support during this global pandemic, visit our website or call 1.800.263.5437.
Do you have any events coming up?
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have put events on hold for the time being. We will continue to evaluate based on the recommendations of municipal, provincial and Canadian government authorities. Our priority remains the health and well-being of the children and communities we support, our partners and our wonderful donors and sponsors.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I would like to suggest two education focused charities: Right To Play (a global organization with a Toronto office) and Pathways to Education, which works in Canada.