Helping the Hidden Children

The Global Fund for Children takes a unique approach to grassroots organization empowerment. The results have transformed — and saved — millions of lives.

When Emmanuel Otoo visits organizations for the Global Fund for Children (GFC), a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit, he often expects a rough road. Literally. Many of the groups GFC funds are small but innovative organizations that work on significant local problems. Sometimes, however, just getting there is a challenge. For example, a recent short trip to a Kenyan site involved a two-hour taxi ride to a market town, followed by a bouncy jaunt on the back of a motorcycle, then a long walk across a wet field.

The children GFC helps are also hard to reach — they may be abandoned babies, trafficked children, child brides or teens infected with HIV. Many are not attending school and live in slums or on the street. And they are invisible to much of the world.

“Many large organizations do not have the time or energy to take the risks needed to reach these children,” says Otoo, a native of Ghana who brings more than 15 years of experience with an anti-slavery group, a social investment fund, and the United Nations to his work as GFC program officer for Africa and the Middle East. “That’s what makes our approach unique.”

Founded in 1993, GFC seeks out early-stage, locally grown organizations that help children meet basic needs and stay in school. Since 1997, it has helped more than 10 million children through 600 local organizations. GFC now operates in 50 countries, scouting out groups that work with children in the most desperate situations. Once GFC’s program officers get to know an organization and its mission, GFC may choose to enter into a long-term partnership, providing the organization with cash grants — often starting around $5,000 — along with training and advice over a period of three to seven years. For most organizations the result is transformative.

South Africa’s Kliptown Youth Program offers a telling case in point. It began as an after-school program for children from the slums of the city of Kliptown. The program led to sports teams and tutoring, as well as financial assistance that paid school fees for some children. Guided by GFC — and with financial support from FedEx and other organizations — Kliptown Youth has expanded its capabilities and reach. When GFC began working with it six years ago, the organization’s budget was less than $100,000 a year. It’s now five times that, allowing the organization to provide meals, tutoring, sports and after-school programs for 400 students every day, along with assistance for youth moving on to post-secondary education.

“We help organizations strengthen their capacity and program quality,” says Otoo. “We believe in what these organizations are doing, so we help them get these things in place, and we provide grants to support programs while they do it. We design the partnership relationship to suit them.”

Otoo and GFC’s other seven program officers also organize workshops that unite groups from the same geographic area that are trying to address the same problem. The workshops may involve site visits, chances to share program information and peer learning opportunities. The goal is to help each organization elevate its services and remain true to its mission.

“For me, this is a way of life, not work,” says Otoo.

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  1. Those who deserve love the least need it the most.

    Benjamin Ampah December 16, 2015
  2. Great article. This time of year with package pressure and the demands that we all put on ourselves to deliver The Purple Promise it's great to read stories like this and get reminded of all that you have.

    Jean Roes December 17, 2015
  3. It does take villages to raise our children. Thanks to the founders of GFC and to all of the other organization involved in helping our children of tomorrow. Reading their circumstances made me sad, however, knowing that we do have organization out there that are involved gives me great hope for our children. Thank you FedEx for being the caring company that you are. I'm very proud to say that I work for a company that has great compassion for the human lives of others.

    Vickie Hall December 17, 2015
  4. I'm a FedEx maintenance tech. My wife and I are blessed to be the parents of 18 children. Mostly adopted 5 international. My question to you . Do you assist any organization that help the children get adopted, or families that are adopting?

    Thank you for any information.

    David C Stickler

    David C Stickler December 18, 2015
  5. Great story this is a wonderful organization and I am glad to hear Fedex supports these type of much needed programs. I have talked to many women from these countries and the stories can be unimaginable. It's very good to know there is some help being offered.

    Regina December 18, 2015
  6. As I drive to work I see a sign that states how this town is "twinned" with another in the UK. Imagine if our stations were partnered with one of these GFC programs. It could be a way to get their message out to our employees and customers. At times like Christmas, or anytime, perhaps it would help raise funds and put some light on the lives of these "hidden Children."

    Dan Barry December 18, 2015
  7. Thank you so much for what you do to help children of the world. the world will be better if people help each other. I took a certificate course on Non Profit Orgs. and am thinking on starting or helping already established institution in Ethiopia to provide school uniform and school supplies. I would like to know more about South Africa’s Kliptown Youth Program to learn from their experience.


    MESERET WOUBE (MISSY) December 23, 2015
  8. It is an Honor to work for a company that invests in the future of others.. I have lived my life with one daily focus.. help at least one person everyday in any way you can.. It is amazing how this grows and thousands of people are helped daily across the world.. Thank you for caring about the Hidden Children and GCF programs..

    Stephen Cording December 30, 2015
  9. It makes me so proud to work for a company that helps an organization that is doing such great things…bravo zulu to everyone!!!

    sandy hutton December 31, 2015
  10. It is my joy to see more people and organizations such as GFC and FedEx team up to deliver and save vulnerable and "hidden children "wherever they may be I really appreciate the work of the program officers so much, the deplorable state in which most often they operate, the sleepless nights and means of transportation, countless of impediments and the frustrations they go through, thanks Emmanuel proud u are a Ghanaian, thanks GFC and FedEx for all

    Thomasia January 7, 2016

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