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life Inside issue 4

Putting children in the centre LIFE FOR CHILDREN AND THOSE WHO CARE FOR THEM Youth work in Oxford: page 4 You’re not alone Collective care for page 10 refugee children Children should be page 11 seen and heard

God uses children to change nations. No one is too small or insignificant in his eyes! The Bible is full of children used by God and children who’ve overcome the odds to become great men and women of God. Today, children are born into situations of great risk of abuse, trafficking, disease, disaster, early death – yet are being used by God to share his love and to change society.

Let’s empower the children in our churches to lead us in prayer. Be a part of this year’s World Weekend of Prayer for children at risk on 4-5 June.

Let’s make them more visible and listen to them. The resource pack includes: Activity ideas Five-part Bible study series Prayer diary leading up to the event Song with score and YouTube clip Prayer postcard

Resources are available to download from the website As we turn to God together please join us wherever you are this June to pray for a change of attitude and action by communities towards their children.

We are an international Christian charity inspiring lasting change in children’s lives through the power of collective action because we have a vision to see children safe, well and fulfilling their God-given potential.


Last year we reached more than 1.2 million children in 22 countries through our 37 partner networks, which comprise a total of 5,300 churches and community organisations. Find out more at


My niece and nephew love taking selfies. Last Christmas I received a photo booth kit and we happily spent an hour or so taking silly photos, each time wearing a different costume. We always want the perfect picture, particularly when it comes to children but does that picture mirror real life? In a photo we automatically position children in the middle of the frame but focusing on them each day takes work and commitment. In this issue of ‘Life’ and at Christian events over the summer, we want to encourage you to think about the place of children in your lives and to put them in the centre – just like you do when you take that photo of them. Over the coming pages, read how the attitudes of policemen in Uganda and Zimbabwe are changing, how churches are increasing in numbers and children are thriving – all because they are beginning to see the importance of children and giving them a voice (page 11-13).

Liz Cross Supporter Care Co-ordinator needs of Syrian refugee children (page 10) or why one youth advocate in the Philippines commented that, “I can say that I made a big impact in the lives of young people like me” (page 6-7). Closer to home, hear Hannah Woods share her excitement about being part of Viva’s Doorsteps initiative in Oxfordshire and the value of churches working together (page 4-5). Finally, be inspired by our ‘five ways to treat children well’ based on the Good Treatment Campaign running in countries such as Bolivia, Tanzania and India (page 14). Putting children in the centre cannot be achieved as isolated individuals but has to be done together. Thank you for the part you play in helping us do this.

Find out how Lebanese churches are responding to some of the most pressing

WIN Email me at or use the form on page 13 to tell me what you enjoyed reading in this issue of ‘Life’ and you could win copies of two beautiful picture books written by Martin Thomas. They show how important it is for parents to be there for children and help them reach their potential. ( 3

© Dan Foy


ALONE A collaborative approach to working with children is hugely valuable for both young people and youth workers. Hannah Woods explains why she’s excited by being a part of Viva’s Doorsteps initiative in Oxfordshire. I vividly remember the sounds of a fight which happened many years ago. I lived near a secondary school, and regularly heard end-ofschool-day celebrations – but this was different. I remember a point where I needed to act and went outside to break it up. I remember being shocked that they listened and went away, leaving one shaky young person and her friend waiting for the crowd to go. I remember telling that story in an interview for a placement, and later being asked what I thought youth work was. I knew, for me, youth work was the difference between a young person feeling alone or not feeling alone. I know how important it is not to feel alone, to have somewhere safe to ask important


questions and hear important answers, and feel known and be accepted. There is a story of two men, walking down a beach littered with starfish which are dying. Every few steps one man would stop, pick up a starfish and throw it back into the water. Eventually his friend asked him why he was bothering; there was no way he could ever save them all. The man replied, “It makes a difference to this one.” I can’t help all of Oxford’s young people. Most youth workers I know could use another day a week. Funding and training for youth work has been slashed repeatedly since the recession began. We try to make every minute count, but more time, funding and volunteers would mean we could support

PUTTING CHILDREN IN THE CENTRE I look at each young person and know there is something of the image of God in them; that they are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139). a far greater number of young people to a far greater depth. However, I can help that one young person in front of me, and the one after her, and the one after that. I look at each young person and know there is something of the image of God in them; that they are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139). I try to help them identify and celebrate what they bring to the world; young people often don’t realise that what they are good at is valuable. Knowing the other workers in the area means we can start to collaborate in supporting young people. That’s why I think Viva’s Doorsteps initiative, launched in Oxfordshire in 2015, is so crucial. By joining it, we at Oxford Youth Works are discovering new places to send young people for support. I am beginning to learn the hearts and minds of the other service providers in the area, and the type of support they can provide, and they are learning about us. Oxford Youth Works is a Christian schoolsbased youth work charity. Through Doorsteps, we recently began a partnership with a community-based youth project. I joined one of their sessions and later bumped into one of those young people in school. When that boy was having a hard time, I was able to connect someone from the school pastoral service with the community youth worker. One way I’ve experienced the value of joined-up working was when I met a girl called May whom I worked with for several years. Sadly she had to take a year out of school due to health complications. Through our relationship, May became involved with the youth group run by my church, and one of the leaders started meeting with her to share the Christian faith. I knew the chaplain at May’s school, who supported her in liaising with health professionals. I mentored May, walking and talking together every week after a group and helping her get the most out of the other professionals. I knew what the chaplain,

the youth pastor and the health professionals were doing – which left me free to do the mentoring, challenging and encouraging that are my strength. Now, May is involved in delivering Christian youth work herself! I remain convinced that when we work together, it will both be encouraging and liberating for us as practitioners and it will increasingly benefit young people. As Doorsteps becomes more active, I look forward to seeing many more of these ‘May’ stories. Hannah Woods is Director of Youth Work for Oxford Youth Works. She is married to Jon, mum to Evangeline and Thorbern, and spends too much time knitting and reading to be cool. Doorsteps supports Christians, churches and grassroots groups, building collaborations that respond to the needs of children, young people and families in their communities. Find out more at © Oxford Youth Works

Walking in Oxford: Youth work is about journeying together 5

Children are learning their rights and knowing that they are valued

LOVED, VALUED AND RESPECTED A youth advocacy campaign in the Philippines is helping thousands of children to stand up to sexual abuse at the hands of adults. Ellie Cameron shares Debbie’s story. It’s hard for us to imagine a place where child abuse goes by unchallenged, where children don’t know their rights and don’t expect to be valued. Yet for many children in the Philippines, this is the norm. Viva’s partner network, Philippine Children’s Ministries Network (PCMN), is committed to tackling this problem: to changing a culture of neglect and abuse to one of valuing, nurturing and protecting children.


At the age of 14, Debbie had two choices. The most likely option was for her to join a gang in the murky backstreets of Tondo, a district of the capital city, Manila – a place where so many children sadly

end up trapped in this underworld of drug dealers and prostitution. Living on the sewerage pipes, choices for the future for these children are limited and bleak, and they don’t believe that they deserve anything better. Debbie was given the choice to join Youth for Safety, PCMN’s youth advocacy campaign designed to educate children on how to recognise, report and therefore prevent child sexual abuse. Training for youth advocates includes courses on children’s rights, sexual abuse prevention and online safety, and supports them to stand up for themselves and for others. Debbie had to unlearn the idea that adults had the right to treat her however they wanted, or that she was too young to be able to contribute anything of value to her community. Instead, she was encouraged to develop her musical abilities and discovered a

PUTTING CHILDREN IN THE CENTRE This is Debbie’s dream: that children in her community will grow up free from fear and with hope for the future, as every child deserves.

Children publicly speaking out against sexual abuse

gift for teaching and, more importantly, a sense of purpose. She says, “PCMN and my church showed me that it’s not right for children to think that they cannot contribute anything good to their community because they are still young. As a Youth Advocate, I can say that I made a big impact in the lives of young people like me.” Youth advocates pledge to pass the information they’ve learned on to their peers, enabling them to educate and protect many more children from harm. So far, PCMN has trained 191 youth advocates, reaching over 9,000 more children with their message of protection and empowerment. These children will not grow up believing the lie that child abuse is inevitable or acceptable. Instead they will know that they have rights, they have choices and they are valued. Like Debbie, they can be leaders in their community, not victims. Debbie is now 19 and studying for a degree in Public Administration at the University of Manila. She continues to be involved with PCMN, helping to develop materials for the Disaster Risk Reduction project. The project aims to protect children during natural disasters, as the ensuing chaos makes this a time when they can become especially vulnerable. Again, she is preventing other children from suffering the same experiences which she faced as a child.

Through these opportunities, Debbie is turning those experiences into the driving force which compels her to educate, to encourage and to advocate for her own rights and those of her peers – skills which will carry her through life. “I envision that all the young people in my community will know about Youth for Safety and Disaster Risk Reduction and every young person will become a leader. In this way, fewer children will become victims.” Children who know their rights will not assert them unless they are told that they are deserving or until they believe that they are valued. Debbie is proof of the success of the Youth for Safety programme, and of the lasting impact that it is having on the lives of children in the Philippines, by giving them not just education, but value, a voice and a future. “There will be peace, not only in our country but also in the hearts of the children,” she says. “The fears, anxieties and worries in their hearts will also be gone. I know these feelings because I experienced them when I was a child.” This is Debbie’s dream: that children in her community will grow up free from fear and with hope for the future, as every child deserves. Let’s join her in making that happen. Ellie Cameron is Viva’s Operations Officer All images © PCMN

Visit to support life-changing programmes like this


© Louish Pixel



YOU BELIEVE OF THEM.” Lady Bird Johnson




CHILDREN Eight million children are estimated to be in urgent need of assistance inside Syria and neighbouring countries due to conflict. Viva is working alongside local Lebanese NGO, LSESD, and its networks of church partners in Syria and Lebanon, to develop child-focused programmes to address the risks children face. Many are experiencing abuse or violence, missing out on education, involved in child labour or struggling to cope with the horrors they’ve been through. Local churches have recognised the need to support children, and it’s been exciting to see the new ways in which they are working to help children develop. It’s been a privilege to support a team of young people in a conflict-affected area of Syria to initiate and develop a ‘child friendly space’ – a safe place for children to come every day where they can play and learn, and receive support from people they can trust. Many children have lost a parent or have been separated from part of their family. One team member shared, “Often children will sit with us and cry, and we cry together.”


In Lebanon, where one in four people is a Syrian refugee, it’s been encouraging to see the innovative ways in which churches are putting children at the centre. After five years of conflict, one of the greatest needs for children is education, with over half of refugee children in Lebanon still out of school. Viva is providing training and support

It’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that children living in situations of conflict are not left behind, writes Kezia M’Clelland, who is supporting work with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. for a number of churches that have begun informal education projects and, by bringing them together, children’s needs can be more effectively met. In today’s world of often unpredictable and long-lasting conflicts, churches are willing to be involved in caring for children and their families for the long-term. This is critically needed right now. Viva is looking to build on the work we’re already doing here to find further ways to use our resources and experience to equip those working with children in these most difficult of circumstances. Kezia M’Clelland is Viva’s Children in Emergencies Programme Specialist, currently supporting church partners in Lebanon who are working with children affected by the Syria crisis.

“I have learnt that loving each other is the most important thing.” A boy from Syria who attended a child friendly space.


Churches in Zimbabwe are becoming increasingly child-friendly



Poverty is cruel. It doesn’t just deny you resources, security and health. It also erodes your ability to make choices or believe that change is possible; it can strip you of hope and sometimes even humanity. Where poverty rates are high and life is a constant struggle, there is often little momentum for people to break out from the pattern of abuse or neglect that they may have themselves experienced. This means that children can not only experience material and emotional deprivation but also high levels of abuse from angry, despairing adults around them. Without hope there can be little prospect for improvement.The callous cycle of inter-generational poverty grinds on. More than half of Uganda’s children are considered vulnerable. They are not simply living in low income families; they lack the essentials

Jo Mitchell reports on how Viva is training children in Uganda and Zimbabwe to be change-makers. they need to thrive: food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, education and information. In Zimbabwe, an estimated quarter of all children are orphans. There are believed to be 100,000 child-headed households, where children are raising children because their parents have died and there is no one left to help. This leaves many of the country’s children in desperate need and often invisible to those around them who are struggling with their own circumstances. Culturally, in these countries, the status of children is low, in particular the youngest, adolescent girls and children with disabilities. They are vulnerable to abuse or neglect by adults and are rarely consulted about issues or decisions that affect them. But one of the very characteristics that makes children vulnerable in such circumstances also 11

gives grounds for hope. Children watch and model what they see. They are at a stage in their lives when they are powerfully influenced by their environment and the messages – implicit or explicit – that they hear. If children can be shown a different way, there is opportunity for real change. Viva’s aim is not simply to try to provide what is lacking – food, shelter, medical help, education – but to raise the status and visibility of children, so that wider society values and protects them and is increasingly intolerant of their exploitation. But how to do this? Anyone who spends much time with children will know that they are vocal, honest, imaginative, direct, inquisitive and able to cut through the clutter of social norms, politics and prejudice. So who better to push forward the process of change? This is exactly what is happening in Uganda and Zimbabwe, where our partner networks CRANE and Viva Network Zimbabwe (VNZ) are busy putting children at the centre of their work, developing children’s leadership skills and knowledge of their rights so they can believe in the possibility of change and work together to achieve it. 12

In Uganda, 400 CRANE child ambassadors have been identified and taught to spot particular needs or injustices affecting children in their communities, and how to address them. They take part in regular camps and seminars where they are trained to go back and lead local Safe Clubs, which are made up of children who work together to tackle difficult but crucial issues like peer pressure and sexual abuse. The children are acting as vocal and determined advocates on behalf of other children. Rogers describes his response to seeing two other children in his village badly beaten by their parents: “One day these children went to fetch water and were delayed because there were many people at the borehole. The father beat them to the extent that you could touch their hands and hear a cracked bone.

PUTTING CHILDREN IN THE CENTRE “I reported to my school teacher who visited the home and advised the parents to take the children to hospital. We reported to the village chairman and the headteacher of our school who cautioned the neighbours to be on the lookout for any abuse in the home. The children were treated and are now at school.” An important part of the child ambassador training is how to identify and approach adults in positions of influence and authority, and hold them accountable for the protection of vulnerable children, like the village chairman and headteacher to whom Rogers reported this abuse. Police officers have spoken of their changed attitudes, of how they would previously never have believed that a child could speak out about the rights of other children, but how they are now listening and responding. In Zimbabwe, our partner network VNZ reaches 30,000 children through 62 organisations and 124 churches. There are many churches in Zimbabwe, and they have influence in the local community. Many church leaders, however, have given little thought to the children in their congregations, and often ask them to leave during the service and wait outside for the adults. Viva’s Child Friendly Church programme has been designed to help church leaders put children back at the centre of church life, in line with Jesus’s words in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Thirty-one churches in Zimbabwe have now taken part in the specialised training, which includes sessions on: • Recognising children’s roles and potential in church gatherings and the life of the church • Providing nurture groups for children and their carers and leaders • Preparing children to lead in prayer and adults to recognise children’s ability to pray powerfully • Developing effective outreach to children outside the church Network members are encouraged by how churches are starting to fully embrace the importance of building child-friendly environments and are now networking with other churches to run joint activities. Churches are also organising outreach teams to identify

and work with vulnerable children in their communities who do not come to church. As these churches become more and more child-friendly, children are being invited to sing, dance, lead prayers and even preach, and their confidence and ability is growing. Adults are increasingly recognising the potential of the children in their midst, and the importance of nurturing and releasing their gifts. In this way, children become visible, valued and increasingly able to articulate their needs and the needs of others like them. Turning the church inside out and upside down like this brings life to children and adults, both within and beyond the local church. Churches see growth in numbers as enthusiastic children bring along their friends, siblings and parents, and the word spreads. By valuing, investing in and empowering children in this way, Viva is helping thousands of children in Africa alone to recognise that they have worth and a voice. The hope is that these children will grow into confident, articulate adults who know how to spot and stop abuse, how to watch out for others in difficult circumstances, and how to build and lead their communities. These children, we believe, are change-makers in the making. Jo Mitchell is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford ( and was previously Viva’s Fundraising Manager.

“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished.” Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General

Sources: UNICEF 2015, Viva Network Zimbabwe 2015 Report, Eriks Report 2015 All images © CRANE 13

© Kevin Dooley



With so much conflicting advice about how to look after children and increasingly alarming statistics about unhappy young people, how can we focus on simple but effective steps to treat them better? Viva’s partner networks recently ran their own Good Treatment Campaigns where adults were asked to sign up to five simple promises. In exchange they were given a Promise Card to keep in their purse or pocket. The networks found they could reach thousands of adults more effectively by working collectively across their cities. Each campaign was a collaborative action of many churches


Tell them that you love them every day This is so simple yet often neglected. Find different ways of reminding your children that they are loved by you. Our actions speak loudly but words bring affirmation and longlasting warmth.


Listen to what they have to say and spend time with them How is your intentional listening? Are you quicker to direct than to listen? British children reportedly spend 45 hours per week online or watching TV and only eight hours with parents. How much 1:1 time do you spend with each child in your care?


Accept them as they are and recognise their qualities Adults often wish to project their personal ambitions on their children but fail to recognise the qualities and emerging character in them. Start by accepting who they really are now just as God does with us. 14

and organisations working together. Child ambassadors were prepared to collect signatures and hand out Promise Cards, supported by trained adults. Based on some of the United Nations’ list of the rights of a child, we’re sharing these five ways to treat children well in the hope that they are also useful for you. Perhaps you could run a similar campaign where you live?


Support their learning and train them to accept good values Learning is life-long and holistic. A good trainer always encourages learners to find out for themselves, even if this involves making mistakes and taking time. Good values are part of this training. They will only be learnt if children are willing to accept them, so find ways to model values acceptably to them.


Teach them responsibility and help them to resolve conflicts Young people will experience conflict daily. We all do. How they handle conflict confidently and wisely will make all the difference. It is all about being responsible for their own actions and decisions. Words: John Walden, Viva Network Consultant

Any other tips on what works for you?

Email and tell us


GUIDING A CHILD ON THEIR WORSHIP JOURNEY There is a view by some that adult worship is more genuine, real or important than children’s worship – but I really don’t think that’s the case. Psalm 8: 2 says: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” For anyone who thinks that children are too young to engage in worship, this verse makes it clear that God has chosen that praise will naturally come out from young people. Amazing! I’ve given a lot of thought to the importance of journeying with children in worship. It can be particularly hard in this age of short attention spans, so we need to make the start of the journey fun and exciting, and something the children want to take part in. And if they are with us, then we stand a chance of journeying somewhere deeper with them. Action songs are certainly not the be-all and end-all of children’s worship, but they have been immensely helpful in encouraging children to come on board. Using sign language has also been a powerful way of helping children stay involved with quieter songs. Children are growing up in a world where they hear a lot of secular music on TV, the internet and

in computer games. So, my aim is to write songs with catchy melodies (and often quirky words!) based on scriptural truth, but written in a way that children can really relate to and want to join in with. It all helps provide a means for them to worship in a way that’s appropriate and relevant to them. It’s humbling and encouraging to get feedback on how my songs have really helped children (and adults) to connect with God. Children becoming bored in worship can have serious consequences on their view of church and God. So let’s do all we can to help children come on board for the worship journey with us and help them connect with our amazing God. And the good news is that it’s ok to have a bunch of fun along the way! Doug Horley is a recording artist signed to EMI/ Thankyou Music and Elevation Music. His song ‘We want to see Jesus lifted high’ was once chosen as the theme for the Global March for Jesus, sung by 25 million people in 176 countries! Doug regularly releases CDs, DVDs and travels nationally and internationally to put on family concerts. (



Fundraising for Viva reached new heights last December as 11 courageous men and women took on the challenge of a lifetime to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, raising £39,000 for our global work with vulnerable children. Sore feet, exhausted bodies and disorientated minds were worth it for the spectacular views at the top, the great camaraderie, and the sense of achievement at raising such a fantastic amount. For many it was a transformative trip. One of the team says, “I think I had a life-changing experience which I had not expected before the trip. It’s still something I am coming to terms with.” Read more experiences at

Inspired to do something like this for Viva? We’re currently planning the next big fundraising challenge, so please get in touch with Liz at for more details about this and other ideas to raise money for children.

Viva, Unit 8,The Gallery, 54 Marston Street, Oxford, OX4 1LF t: 01865 811660

FACEBOOK.COM/VIVATOGETHERFORCHILDREN Mixed Sources Product group from well-managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fibre. Cert No. SA-COC-09174 Front cover main: © Richard Messenger Front cover inset: © CRANE



Viva is an operating name of Viva Network. Viva Network is a company limited by guarantee no. 3162776, registered charity no.1053389, and registered in England at Unit 8, The Gallery, 54 Marston Street, Oxford, OX4 1LF. Any children referred to have had their names and photos changed in accordance with our Child Protection Policy.

Life magazine 4 (UK version)  

With the theme 'Putting children in the centre', Viva's latest magazine features articles about empowering children in Uganda and Zimbabwe,...

Life magazine 4 (UK version)  

With the theme 'Putting children in the centre', Viva's latest magazine features articles about empowering children in Uganda and Zimbabwe,...