Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC)
For more than 50 years, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), with the support of generous Canadians, has been helping children in developing countries to help break the cycle of poverty.
Where many people see devastation, CCFC sees hope. CCFC’s commercials have been playing on our televisions for years, both bringing the realities of developing countries into our living rooms and showcasing the immense amount of good achieved on behalf of Canadian sponsors. Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, what better time to go beyond the commercials and see what is behind CCFC’s good works.
Goodwill is the engine
CCFC has always been dependant on the goodwill and generosity of its many donors, to the tune of more than $40 million a year. One might think recent economic hardships (relatively, and relativity has never been more stark) would do something to slow the charitable hand, but Mark Lukowski, CEO of CCFC, says Canadians have been most supportive during the recent economic slowdown.
“Our funding has grown,” he says. “Canadians have been very generous during this difficult time. We believe Canadians who work with us are really committed to supporting their sponsor child, and I think that helps them realize the importance of staying with us.”
Lukowski says Canadians sponsor and provide support to nearly 50,000 children on three continents. CCFC has designed a program whereby monthly donations from sponsors address both the immediate and long-term needs of children and their families by providing fresh drinking water, disease reduction, education, nutrition, and medical care.
“We are primarily focused on the child and the sustainability of the child’s life in the community. Programs like micro-enterprise development, education, and increased literacy bring about a better future,” says Lukowski. The CCFC philosophy is that their work—and donor money—can have the greatest impact if it is invested on providing tools and creating a sustainable livelihood for a child’s family so they can lead healthy lives years after CCFC leaves the community.
Examples are in abundance: In the last fiscal year, CCFC provided more than 260,000 children with de-worming and anti-parasitic medication; more than 66,000 students received the necessary fees, supplies, textbooks and uniforms to attend class; more than 70,000 youth participated in HIV/AIDS prevention programs; and almost 4,500 small business loans were distributed. In Paraguay, CCFC launched a children’s rights campaign to help inform and educate children and parents about basic human rights and child protection issues for children. And most recently, CCFC responded to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan by delivering essential goods, co-ordinated by CCFC’s Global Alliance partner—ChildFund Japan. And that does not even speak to the small but essential daily differences CCFC has made in the hundreds of thousands of children and parents it helps.
Making donations work
According to their last financial statement, more than 80 per cent of CCFC’s annual expenditures goes toward programs activities. In addition, CCFC has extensive internal and external auditing processes that ensure CCFC will continue to be one of the most effective and accountable charities in Canada.
Donors are kept apprised first hand of the results of their gifts through CCFC’s integral correspondence program, whereby letter writing between child and sponsor is encouraged. “We encourage regular correspondence to express appreciation and share with the sponsor what life has been like to date, and how support has helped them,” says Lukowski. “The relationship we create between Canadians and children is a benefit not only to the child, but also to Canadians. Through their relationship with that child, sponsors help get an appreciation and understanding of how children live in the developing world. Having visited many of these communities, I can attest to that.”
In addition to the correspondence, part of what distinguishes CCFC from other organizations is CCFC’s close relationship with local NGOs already working within selected communities. CCFC employs a small, local staff in each country, who work with local partners engaging community members to improve the sustainability of the communities CCFC works in. “We engage local NGOs to help do the work in whichever community we are working in, which results in building capacity not only in the community we’re helping, but increases the skills and expertise of our local NGO partners as well.”
The goal of CCFC is to teach self-reliance, so that its work in communities is sustained and passed on from generation to generation. As an organization, it focuses its priorities in five main areas: providing healthcare, education and training, providing water and sanitation, supporting micro-enterprise development, and self-sustainability.
Lukowski says CCFC works “very hard” on maintaining great relationships within these communities because it is the best way to empower communities, and assist them to develop the necessary relationships with their local government in order to become self-sustainable after we leave.
CCFC typically works with a community for 12 to 15 years or until that community has the framework, infrastructure, basic skills, and training they need to provide a safe environment for children. That community then “graduates” from CCFC programming.
“Our goal, always, is to bring the community to a higher level of sustainability, so we really work hard on to make sure any progress made can be maintained after we leave. It takes a while because you are trying to empower the people and make key improvements in the area, but it is a celebration when we leave.
“These five sectors directly impact the fundamental causes of ongoing poverty. These sector programs are community based, grassroots, and participatory initiatives, guided by a vision of long-term sustainability. Equally important is our capacity-building process that emphasizes the training and development of local workers,” says the company website.
Micro-enterprise proven tool
When asked, Lukowski says while these core values have evolved little since the organization’s start, micro-enterprise development has become a highly successful approach to addressing poverty. These programs operate in several ways: as a savings mechanism, a small credit program and/or a small business skills program. Small loans (sometimes only $100) give enough capital for a member of the family—overwhelmingly the mother—to start a business, giving the family the means to provide food and education where they otherwise would have none.
If there is a cure for poverty, it has been found in the empowerment of women in developing communities, and Lukowski says these loans have been a “tremendous success.”
To help CCFC keep its focus on providing tools to children so they can lead healthy lives, CCFC provides a variety of giving opportunities such as sponsorship, mobile giving (whereby you can send a donation by text), online donations, and a gift catalogue.