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The big-heartedness of Canadians and their deep concern for the welfare of less privileged people around the world has once again come to the forefront in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to a new opinion survey commissioned by Children Believe, a Markham, Ontario-based charity that works globally to help the world’s most vulnerable children overcome barriers to education and achieve their dreams.

The national online survey, conducted by Angus Reid Forum, shows 88 per cent of more than 1,500 respondents recognize the increased threat COVID-19 poses to vulnerable communities around the world, and 72 per cent say they are willing to support vulnerable communities globally, not just in Canada.

Fred Witteveen, CEO, Children Believe, says the organization’s efforts to break barriers to education hinges on the health, well-being and safety of children, particularly during COVID-19.

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“Through the generosity of Canadians, we have been able to support 572,000 people thus far during the pandemic in six of the countries where we work – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nicaragua and Paraguay,” he says.

Children Believe is addressing four key areas in its COVID-19 relief efforts: helping to stop the spread of the virus; ensuring children are nourished; keeping children safe from violence and exploitation; and helping children continue learning.

“We know what’s happening in vulnerable communities around the world,” says Mr. Witteveen. “We are there on the ground, and we’re doing what’s necessary – we are agile, and we are helping through positive action.”

In India, one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, Children Believe quickly identified a need for mental health support, social supports and mentorship. In response, they launched an online program to build a team of professionals to counsel community members.

Nancy Anabel, Children Believe’s country director, India, says more than 200 community members from villages where the organization works have accessed counselling services so far.

“Counsellors are helping people cope with COVID-19 anxiety, fear and depression; education-related stress and fear of exams; child-protection issues, such as child marriage, child labour and abuse; depression due to economic loss; as well as family issues, domestic violence and alcoholism,” she says.

Ms. Anabel notes that even before COVID-19 the Indian government recognized the need for mental health support, and the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.

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“COVID-19 trampled the very foundation on which the people we help depend, closing off vital community resources,” she says. “It is raising levels of fear, anxiety and depression as the vulnerable feel more rejected and alone.”

Mr. Witteveen says the work being done by Children Believe in India and elsewhere is the result of the kindness and generosity of Canadians willing to help.

“As COVID-19 pushes millions of children into deeper poverty, heightening the risk of abuse and causing learning losses at an unprecedented scale, we are extraordinarily grateful to Canadians helping us take action to protect those most vulnerable around the world,” he says.

Children Believe works globally in more than 160 communities helping empower children to live and dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in and be heard.

“For 60 years, Children Believe has brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists,” says Mr. Witteveen. “We have a shared belief that creating access to education – inside and outside of classrooms – is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.”

Children Believe is a member of ChildFund Alliance, a global network of 11 child-focused development organizations working in more than 60 countries around the world. ChildFund Alliance helps nearly 16 million children and their families overcome poverty and achieve their rights.

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To learn more: childrenbelieve.ca/covidhelp


Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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