Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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When Olivia turned five years old in May, she celebrated like many children her age might – with a Disney-themed party, lots of games and a big cake.

However, instead of receiving gifts for her birthday the Sydney preschool student raised money to buy one of ChildFund’s Gifts for Good.

She asked friends to donate to the cost of a cow, to help a child and their family in Uganda access milk – a rare nutritious drink in poor communities in Africa.

“We set up a fundraising page and explained on there what her goal was, and put a link to it on her birthday invitation asking parents to consider supporting Olivia’s goal to buy a cow, as an alternative to a gift,” mum Martine says.

“I explained to Olivia that she would still have presents from us and her grandparents, but that with so many children being invited, we could help some other people in need as well.”

Many parents were enthusiastic about the idea, says Martine, and many of Olivia’s friends drew pictures of cows on the birthday cards they made. “It was lovely to see the concept went further than just Olivia!” Martine says.

The ongoing food crisis, which the United Nations described as the worst humanitarian emergency since World War II, has put Africa front and centre in our newsfeeds.

Unfortunately, it often takes extreme and tragic events for the rest of the world to turn its attention to what is happening in the world’s second-largest continent.

High levels of poverty are still experienced by far too many children and families in a number of African countries. But focusing solely on these problems can lead to outdated stereotypes that all children in Africa are “poor kids” living in traditional huts. This is not an accurate reflection – the reality is far more complex, and far more interesting.

So here are a few facts that might just change the way you think about Africa, and it’s place in our global neighbourhood.

Four out of five people in Africa have a mobile phone

It is a common stereotype that children in Africa have no access to modern technology. That’s not true – currently, around 80% have mobile phones.

In Kenya, the statistics are even higher with nine out of ten people owning a mobile phone. But this is still in stark contrast to the fact that one in two houses does not have adequate sanitation and the average school has only one toilet for every 100 children. This can lead to the outbreak of disease, many of which are particularly deadly for young children.