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Britta Holmberg is project director for The World Childhood Foundation. Located in Germany, Brazil, Sweden and the USA, the foundation’s goal is to prevent exploitation and abuse of Children. Over 100 projects across the world are implemented and supported by the foundation because every child has the right to safety, happiness, playfulness and curiosity in life. Mrs. Holmberg is involved in various projects worldwide; here she tells us about some of the success stories, and what to dream, inspire and act means in changing a child’s world one project at a time. — by Amma Aburam

Have you always wanted to be an advocate for Children’s rights? How did it come about?

For me, the interest and awareness about children’s rights has developed step-by-step. My first contact with children in vulnerable situations was when I worked at summer camps for children from the Chernobyl area, some of whom were living in institutions because of their hearing deficiencies. I remember visiting an institution in Belarus where deaf children were supposed to practice “hearing” and how so much of their education was led by teachers who did not know sign- language. Visits at several orphanages in Eastern Europe in the nineties made it very clear to me that these children were deprived of their childhood and that better options needed to be developed.

What are some of the key ongoing projects at the World Childhood Foundation? What is their impact?

Childhood supports around 100 projects around the world, all of which are important for the communities where they are implemented. I am especially proud when we take a risk and fund something that we believe in but where we cannot know from the start how it will turn out. There are many key projects that have had an impact also on national level, for example a program for HIV-positive mothers in Russia which led to a complete change in approach from the local authorities that could give the mothers better support and information which resulted in less children being abandoned at birth. We are also supporting a cluster of programs in Siem Rep in Cambodia that together not only can identify children who have been sexually abused at an early stage but also provide them and their families with qualified support. We have funded a number of parenting programs in South Africa, which have given thousands of children a safer and more loving childhood but also contributed to shed the light on locally developed low-cost programs.

Play is an integral part of the projects the World Childhood Foundation supports
Play is an integral part of the projects the World Childhood Foundation supports

What are your best/favorite success stories of the impact the foundation has had on the lives of children?

There are so many stories! Childhood has a very close contact with the partners that we support on the ground and we visit each project twice a year. We often meet with beneficiaries as well and each of them has their unique story. One meeting that made a strong impression on me was with a number of fathers in South Africa whose sons participated in a program for high-risk youth – who were on the edge of being removed from their families and/or expelled from school. Part of the program is working with the parents and making an effort to find at least one positive father-figure for the boys. The way these fathers described the transformation from being a distant, quite authoritarian father to one that actually starts to listen to their child and show affection and how much the loving relationship with their child now means to them was such a wonderful experience – not the least since absent and violent father are one of the key problems in South Africa – and loving, present fathers one of the key factors for change. There are also so many stories of resilience. I remember one 15 year old girl in Thailand that used to work on the streets – begging and scavenging – to support her uncle and aunt that she lived with as well as her siblings. With help from our partner organization she could return to school, the aunt got help to start a small business and the girl was now receiving vocational training to contribute to the family’s income. She had such dignity and strength despite a very difficult situation.

What in your opinion are the three building blocks in implementing children’s rights within communities?

One is simply to see and treat children as human beings! That might seem evident but in my experience it is far from being the case. In so many situations we treat children as a separate category that we do not listen to or scream at or humiliate in a way that we would never do with adults. Number two is being humble, starting with trying to understand the challenges and possibilities in each community – not thinking that we can come in from the outside and provide the solutions. Support the local capacity and local solutions. Number three is skipping the idea of quick fixes. Change takes time. If you want to get to the roots of problems, you will need to have a holistic approach and long-term perspective.

Early childhood development project in South Africa
Early childhood development project in South Africa

What are some of the challenges you face while working for Children’s rights and how do you address them?

One challenge that we struggle with is well-meaning people who want to “rescue” children, often with a charity approach that puts the helper in focus rather than the child or the family they claim they want to help. I am so sad to see that so much resources, energy and personal investments are spent on the wrong types of projects that sometimes are even harmful to children. One example is orphanage tourism and volunteerism where children are turned into tourist attractions and are easy targets for people who want to exploit them. Since people love funding orphanages it means that in some areas that is the only option available for poor families who cannot afford to put their child in school. Skewed funding leads to children being separated from the families that would actually be able to take care of them if some support was available that did not require that the child is placed in an orphanage. There are plenty of good intentions related to children at risk – but if you do not combine that with knowledge you will at best not contribute to any sustainable change but at worst actually make the situation worse.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? Any ideals?

I have a wonderful job and am happy to continue doing what I am doing for quite some time. If I get tired of travelling as much as I do I would love to focus on research and maybe evaluations of programs.

What does our mantra Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you personally and professionally?

For me, the mantra Dream, Act and Inspire means that we all have an important role to play to raise awareness about children’s rights and that we need to step up and do things that we might not really dare to do, but need to do anyway.

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The weekend 19th to the 20th of September in Geneva marked the yearly Alternatiba Léman Festival which was centered on the theme of promoting local initiatives for climate change and the art of positively living together. The Festival hosted conferences and debates, as well as food and clothing stands, music, movie projections and local food products. It took place on the sunny Plaine de Plainpalais, a prominent square within the city of Geneva, with events also held at the house of associations and the communal hall of the Plainpalais neighborhood.

The Festival gathered around 500 people in support of local farmers, local merchants and helpful sustainable living in Geneva and the surrounding areas. It was a true embodiment of local actions for climate and the joys of connecting for a positive lifestyle. Horyou collaborated with the association and supported its “The Meal” initiative, a lunch cooked with locally produced agricultural products, with the idea to gather a large number of people from across the world to share a Meal in support of farmers and their plea for food sovereignty and access to resources, soil, water and seeds.

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“The Meal” was held simultaneously in about 20 other locations worldwide, with the same goal of promoting consumption of local products. In Geneva, it delighted 200 people on the Plaine and consisted of long tables filled with fresh tomatoes, salads, gazpachos, fresh fruits and vegetables, sauces and pasta.

“The Meal”, a truly unifying power in its ideals and encouragement throughout the world, was thus the occasion for all participants to get together, share thoughts and build solidarity within their communities, on the spot, as well as via Skype conversations. Geneva connected with Mali – led by Aminata Touré -, Morocco – led by Nicole Jeffroy -, Nepal – led by Jagat Basnet -, and Pakistan – led by a young university student called Irene Farkhanda -, to mention but a few locations.

Proceeds from “The Meal” went to various nonprofits in Geneva and in Benin, as the Festival had a dedicated area for local nonprofits and various organizations. Horyou had a stand as well, and so did some of the organizations on the Horyou platform, such as One Action and Voix Libres. The event went on through Sunday with even more participants and visitors. We look forward to seeing bigger local agricultural food tables, and more Meals shared in more locations across the world at next year’s festival.

By Amma Aburam

Horyou Geneva

On Feb. 27, the Horyou Geneva team spent an afternoon at the local children’s hospital. The afternoon was spent entertaining the kids through various activities such as face painting, storytelling and origami. This was Horyou’s second time helping out at the hospital, and similar to the first time, we split up into groups and headed to the different waiting rooms.

On the ground floor, Anna and Alejandra were in charge of face painting. As expected, the kids were very shy at first, so Alejandra decided to get flowers painted on her face. As soon as she was finished, the kids were impressed and started to line up for their turn. Anna painted an array of tigers, butterflies, flowers and cats on the children’s faces. They were all very happy and left with big smiles. One boy was so excited that every time he looked at himself in the mirror, he started giggling. Face Painting

The rest of the Horyou Geneva girls were spread out on the first floor of the hospital. Amma and Laurie were in charge of the arts and crafts. Using cardboard, colored pencils and other arts-and-crafts materials, they made animals and crowns for the kids. These children, including the parents, were all very happy with the results. The origami team consisted of Mariko and Rui. The most popular origami among the kids was the crane and the hat. Mariko taught some of the parents so that they could make them at home.

Inigo, Matthew and Lucas entertained the children in the waiting room on the second floor of the hospital. They started off by playing board games they had brought. The kids were again very shy and did not talk much, but as soon as the games got going and they started winning, they began smiling and really enjoying themselves. Once the board games were over, Lucas teamed up with a little girl and played a game of foosball against Inigo and Matthew. The little girl raised her arms in celebration as she and Lucas won the game.

Storytellers Mamy and Vincent spent time going from room to room reading stories to the children. To Mamy’s surprise, one of the books had a song in it, so he took a deep breath and started singing. This not only entertained to kids but Vincent as well. They left the rooms leaving behind smiles on the kids faces.

All in all, it was a very heartwarming experience and is definitely something the Geneva team will be doing again.

Horyou is enriched by tons of new content every day and it may be a bit overwhelming to find what fits your interests. In order to sort them, you can use our search filter, available on the Explore, My Sphere and Ready to Act pages. Here’s how:

  • Let’s use My Sphere as an example. First, click on the filter button to expand it.

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Multiple combinations are possible; for example, you can choose to select only a category and a country, or a certain type of content and a continent, or just News. When ready, click on “Apply filters.” If you change your mind, you can reset your selection by clicking on “Reset Filters.”

Important: by default, your filtered search will be memorized on the Explore page. To reset your filter, you must expand the toolbar and click on “Reset Filters,” then on “Apply Filters”.

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Should you have any questions or suggestions for our next tip, feel free to reach us at support@horyou.com.

The invitation tool is our newly launched feature! This tool enables you to invite your friends and contacts to Horyou in just a few clicks. The invitation email contains an informative and easy-to-follow introduction to Horyou and a direct links for your contacts to join the platform. The best part of this new tool is that you can earn Lights once your friends and contacts join! Let us show you how:

  • First, access the invitation tool. invitation1

  • You can then manually add email addresses by typing them (green square). If you copy/paste address from a document (list, csv, spreadsheet …), make sure there is a space or a comma between each address. By default, we suggest a subject and an introduction text (red square) that explain Horyou and invite them to join. You also have the option to type your own text. It’s scientifically proven: By being creative and personalizing your content, more of your (super) friends will join you on the platform and you will gain more Lights! When ready, just click on “Send Invitation(s).” invitation2

  • If you prefer, you can also connect with your email provider (only Gmail and Yahoo are supported at this moment) to directly access your address book. To do so, enter your login details. At this point, your browser may block a popup window, so make sure you unlock it first. As you can see below, you can select all of your contacts or pick them individually. As mentioned, you can use our suggested text or personalize. Please note that we will never share your email address with external parties, and this invitation email will be sent only once to your contacts. When ready, just click on “Send Invitation(s)”.invitation3

Should you encounter any difficulty, please send us a message at support@horyou.com.

By default, we show you content only in the language you selected when you registered. But chances are, you may understand or be interested in any of the following languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic. We are proud to support diversity and universality; our platform is a living example. On Horyou, you will find users from 50 different nationalities. Therefore, we will show you how to fully enjoy and benefit from our multilingual platform. Ready to make new connections, exchange ideas, view and create Projects and Actions, and much more?

  • First of all, go to your dashboard. capture1

  • Click on “customize my page” capture2

  • Then select the language(s) of your preference (the ones you would like to see on the platform) and click on “add.” Don’t forget to click on “save” at the bottom of the page to keep your new settings. capture3

That’s it! You’ll now see more content, Actions and Projects posted on different languages from our Horyou community. Check your Explore page to start interacting with the new settings! As usual, if you have any questions about the platform, or you just like this post, feel free to send us a message at support@horyou.com.

See you soon! :)

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