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For the Children

Henrico-based ChildFund International is a leader in charitable work.

Filipino children take part in activities at a ChildFund-created children's area following Typhoon Haiyan.
By Joan Tupponce
Anne Goddard was riding in a car in Kenya four years ago when a policeman pulled the vehicle over to the side. Goddard, who knows Swahili, listened as the driver talked to the policeman. A moment later she saw them hugging.

“The policeman didn’t stop us to give us a ticket,” says Goddard, who serves as president of ChildFund International. “He stopped us to thank us.”

He had seen ChildFund’s name on the side of the car, he told Goddard; as a child he had received support from the program. “He says he wouldn’t have been able to go to school to become a policeman if it hadn’t been for ChildFund,” she says.

Now celebrating its 75th year, ChildFund International is the largest international child development organization based in Virginia. It works across the globe for the well-being of children.

“There are more than 400 million children living in poverty today,” Goddard says. “We’re committed to breaking the generational cycle of poverty so those children can achieve their full potential.”

J. Calvitt Clarke, a Presbyterian minister in Richmond, founded the organization in 1938 as China’s Children Fund to help feed and house children orphaned in the Sino-Japanese War. Since that time it has provided nearly $3 billion in services to children. The majority of its funding comes from individual contributors through monthly child sponsorships.

A young Kenyan girl enjoys clean water provided by ChildFund.
The organization changed its name to Christian Children’s Fund in 1952 to address the impact of poverty on children. It changed the name again in 2009 to reflect its international scope and its help to children of many backgrounds. It currently works in 30 countries, assisting 18.1 million children and family members.

Goddard joined the organization in 2007 because she was attracted to its focus on children along with its comprehensive approach. “I have seen a lot of things that were short-term, one to three years, but it really takes a long-term commitment to change the poverty that a child is born into and ChildFund has that,” she says.

The organization works with children from infancy to young adulthood, helping them grow and develop, build a good foundation and eventually acquire the skills they need to enter the workforce.

One of its programs in Ethiopia, for example, helps youth who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Older children in the youth-led program mentor younger children who have been affected. Biruk, an 11-year-old orphan, was able to advance to the fourth place in his class with the help of his mentor. “He taught me life lessons, courage and confidence,” Biruk told members of the program.

ChildFund staffs its offices with local residents in each of the 30 countries it serves. “They oversee the work that our local partners do,” Goddard says. “They provide technical assistance, training, monitoring and evaluation.”

The organization’s biggest footprint is in Africa, followed by Brazil and India. In 2002 the organization formed the ChildFund Alliance, 12 organizations that partner together in more than 55 countries. “We helped start these organizations,” Goddard says. “Almost one-third of our money is raised through them.”

ChildFund also works in five states in the United States, selected after a review of the 10 poorest counties in the nation: Oklahoma; Mississippi; Texas; and North and South Dakota, where it works in Indian reservations. “There is a poverty of spirit and a real need. They have great social problems from alcoholism to depression to suicide,” Goddard says of the reservations. “It’s a different kind of poverty than overseas.”

Locally it is starting a partnership with ExCELL, part of VCU’s early-childhood and family-literacy program. ChildFund will help VCU expand its program through Just Read!, a program ChildFund has in other states.

The organization also focuses on disaster relief when a disaster hits a community that it serves. It was the first organization to set up a child-centered spaces in the Philippines to provide security after Typhoon Haiyan. “We keep these efforts going as long as needed,” Goddard says. “We use our center as an outreach to the local community as well. It will be about a $12 million relief effort over the next two years.”

Last year ChildFund increased its efforts to serve children, thanks to the generosity of supporters – individuals, grants, foundations and corporations. The organization’s annual revenue for the year was $252 million, up from $245 million in 2012. Eighty-two percent of every dollar raised goes to helping children.

“I would like to say thank you to the Richmond community for 75 years,” Goddard says. “There are millions of people around the world that know ChildFund and know that hope comes from a city in the United States called Richmond. ChildFund is a wonderful link that the greater Richmond community has with the world.”