Member Profiles

This is the new home for our Who's Who member interviews!

How well do you know your fellow Family members?

Read our latest interview with Renate Breithecker of Zefie (Germany) and catch up on others you missed, below.

1. Zefie joined Family in December last year. How are you finding being a member of the alliance so far?

For us, it is an exciting new experience to work on an international level. Zoom-meetings, the variety of new contacts, lots of information – we still have to get used to it. But it is very impressive and enriching to be part of the Family network! We are looking forward to our first face-to-face-Meeting and do hope that we can contribute to the issues Family is addressing – especially in the Children on the Move and Reintegration Working Groups.

2. Tell us about your role at Zefie

I have been working for Zefie since 2015. Zefie’s CEO, Oliver Freesemann, and I are long-term collaborators. For more than 20 years we have developed new concepts, evaluated projects and done practice-oriented research; we have published in specialised journals and given presentations on our findings and ideas. With Zefie I have done some small empirical studies about unaccompanied minors and their new life in Germany, and I do the annual statistical analyses and write reports. I was lucky to be in contact with Family from the first meeting and participate in the working groups, being the contact person between Family and Zefie.

3. What are the main challenges facing the children and young people you work with?

The main challenges are different for the various target groups we work with.

Young refugees are facing many problems; the main challenge is to integrate into the new, and for some, very strange society. They need to learn German quickly and finish school with a certificate to enable them to study or find a scholarship. They have to do this without the support of their families – and sometimes against the will of their families, who expect the young people to send money back home. The challenges they are facing in Germany combined with what they experienced on their way here are often hard to cope with and lead to drug abuse etc.

Children growing up in Germany, who stay with Zefie for a while, are burdened with a variety of different problems e.g. violence, abuse and neglect within their family, some have lost a parent, some parents are on drugs or have psychiatric health problems. About half of the children are reintegrated into their families, the others are supported in developing a new perspective and a social network for a life after youth care.

4. What is coming up for Zefie over the next year?

We notice that conflicts and excessive demands are growing within refugee families, so more and more children from these families are going into care. To offer good care for these kids and their parents, a special approach is necessary to address cultural differences. That is something we have to develop and strengthen.

We experience an increase in aggressiveness and a high level of actual violence among the young people who are in our care settings, which is often directed at our staff. It is violence against the person or their belonging (car, mobile etc.). As a consequence there is growing “angst” among our team and a refusal to work night shifts.

We developed two new projects, which will start this year: one is for young people with eating disorders – we are testing a new form of cooperation with a psychiatric clinic that aims at avoiding a transfer from care setting into the clinic through offering therapy and support in the care setting. The other project is for young families who are in need of constant support. Here, mother and child live in a care setting and fathers are allowed to stay with them for a while. This way it is possible to work pedagogically and therapeutically with both parents.

5. Which living person do you most admire and why?

That’s a difficult question! I do admire people who work with and for refugees around the world. Some do this kind of work for many, many years without being noticed or honoured, but their work is highly important. In Germany an “elder statesman”, a former minister of social affairs, Norbert Blüm, has been very supportive. In 2016, aged over 80, he went to Indomeni in Greece and stayed in a tent to show solidarity with the refugees there and to raise awareness of their awful situation. That made a big impression on me.

6. Tell us something interesting/funny about your family.

We are quite a big patchwork family, there is something going on all the time, never boring. A few weeks ago our third grandchild was born. The baby girl was given an unusual name, Tomma. When we told her 4 year old sister, who we took care of while the parents were in hospital, that the baby was called Tomma she replied: “That’s not a name at all!” Meanwhile we have all got used to the name, little Tomma has grown into our hearts and over Easter we had the whole family around to celebrate her birth and three other birthdays!

Abla El-Badry, Hope Village Society (Egypt)

How long have you been working for Hope Village Society (HVS)?

I joined HVS in 1994

Tell us about some of the challenges facing the children and families that you work with?

Domestic violence and economic difficulties are the biggest challenges that face the families and children we work with. There are many families who want to keep and protect their children but due to poverty they can’t, and children suffering from neglect and violence who try to satisfy their emotional needs within street life.

What is the best thing about being a member of Family for Every Child?

There are many great things about being a member of Family:

  • Having colleagues from other countries helps me develop new ideas that could work in Egypt.
  • Cultural differences between the members
  • I also like that we are an alliance of national civil society organisations only. It is time for our type of organisations to get recognition internationally.
  • Developing knowledge and experiences by sharing up to date tools between members.
  • Feeling strong that we are able to learn across different continents and contexts.

Hope Village Society was one of the original members of Family. What is a highlight of your time in the alliance so far?

I feel very lucky to have been a part of Family from the beginning. It was just as the revolution happened in Egypt in 2011 and the country was collapsing. Family gave us the opportunity to speak out about the situation; not in a political way, but about how it had affected children and our struggles to keep going as an organisation.

At the start we were about 7 or 8 members. I felt very lucky to be a part of this group who helped to develop the policies and frameworks of Family - it was lots fun. When I see Family now in 2018, with this many members and all the activities happening, I feel very proud to have been here from the beginning and witnessing every step of building this amazing alliance.

Some of the highlights of being a member of Family include, speaking to foster families and children in Brazil in 2016 on a visit with ABTH, and visiting communities in South Africa with CINDI after the Assembly in 2014 - it was great to see the children and families and how they live.

The Digital Storytelling training we did with Family was unforgettable, I wish every member could experience this training.

Tell us something about your own family?

I am a wife, a mother of one daughter, Sara, and a grandmother of one boy, Ismail. I am very proud of my family.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Listen to music, walking, going out with friends, travelling.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That there are no guarantees in life and that the good work we do for people in need, returns back to us so quickly.

What are you most looking forward to over the next year as a member of Family?

  • Learning more and gaining experience.
  • How to bring benefits to members' work.
  • Participating with other board members to make Family more valuable and effective within other international alliances.

Miguel Ángel López Guerra, CONACMI (Guatemala)

Lea la entrevista de Miguel en español aquí.

Miguel is Executive Director at CONACMI

How long have you worked at CONACMI?

I have worked at CONACMI, since 1997, and have been the Executive Director since 2010.

What are the main challenges faced by the children and young people you work with?

Primarily vulnerability, faced with an absent government that does not create the conditions for children to be protected and to develop to their full potential. We have the lowest investment in all of Central America, in terms of access to health, education and legal protection, and institutionalisation prevails as the only alternative form of care. These are just some of the challenges that children and adolescents have to face on a daily basis.

What is the best thing about being a member of Family For Every Child?

The best thing about being part of Family For Every Child is the friendly atmosphere of trust and solidarity between members. Everyone is an expert in what they do, yet people are still very humble, very supportive, very human. This relationship allows us, at a personal and organisational level, to learn from others and strengthen our technical capabilities, to contribute to the care and protection of children.

Tell us something interesting / funny about your family.

I come from a large family. I’m number 6 of 8 children. I am married and I have a son and a daughter. My children are used to accompanying me to different activities in my work. I remember one occasion, when my son was about 5 years old, he came to wake me up early in the morning. When I turned to see him he raised a hand, as if asking for permission to speak, but he didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until I gave him permission that he asked me to take him to the bathroom. Afterwards, he told me that he’d learnt in one of the workshops he’d come to with me, that before speaking he should always raise his hand and ask for permission!

Tell us an interesting fact about Guatemala.

Guatemala is a country where four large cultural groups coexist. The Mayas (the majority), the Xincas, the Garífunas and the Ladinos or Mestizos. Within the Mayan culture, there are 21 different ethnic groups, each one of them has a different language and a different worldview from the other. Guatemala, survived an armed conflict of 36 years from 1960 to 1996.

What is your vision for children and families in Guatemala?

That all children can fully enjoy their rights. To achieve this the government must implement a comprehensive protection policy, and prioritise work with families and communities, to prevent, protect and restore their rights.

Ron Guttierez, Legal Services for Children (USA)

Ron is Clinical Director at Legal Services for Children.

Tell us about your role at LSC

I have been a social worker at LSC since 1996 – virtually half of my lifetime. In 2001 I was promoted to Clinical Director and I supervise our social work team of six and serve as a member of our management team. My role also includes direct client services.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I truly enjoy my direct practice work and the impact our services provide on an individual level. Simultaneously I enjoy supervising our social work team and seeing the greater impact of the whole team.

What are the main challenges facing the children and young people you work with?

The struggles are varied and include extensive trauma, behavioral health symptoms, homelessness, disrupted education, lack of family support and acceptance.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year as a member of Family for Every Child?

As a first-year member of Family I have been exposed to the global reach of Family members and it has really opened my eyes. I most look forward to engaging with more members and broadening my perspective.

Which living person do you most admire and why?

I recently saw the Chilean film Una Mujer Fantastica (A Fantastic Woman) which stars Daniela Vega, an openly transgender actress. The film just earned the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in the US which is our highest film award honour. Her character in the movie presented such genuine resilience and unwavering strength in the face of extreme oppression which reminded me of the character I have seen in many of the children and youth I serve. Daniela’s real life story mirrors the fictional character in the movie and she has galvanized the movement for change in her home country. Bravisima!

What's the best thing about living in San Francisco?

San Francisco has all the appeal of a major city – great diversity of people and culture, access to cultural events and art, excellent food, etc. while still maintaining a small town ambience (the population is still below one million). San Francisco is also a naturally beautiful city with excellent access to the outdoors and nature.

Tell us something interesting/funny about your family.

My parents are both from Perú and my wife’s parents are both descendants of Polish Jews. We have two daughters who coined the phrase “Perjewvian” to describe their ancestry.

What is your vision for children and families in the US?

I hope for a time when ALL children are loved, valued and cherished as I love, value and cherish my daughters.

Sultana Erbas, Hayat Sende (Turkey)

Sultana is Networks and Platforms Unit Coordinator at Hayat Sende.

Tell us about your role at Hayat Sende.

I have been working as the Networks and Platforms Unit Coordinator for more than two years now and am responsible for coordination between Hayat Sende and its partners through national and international networks and platforms. For the last year I have also been project managing the 'Runners Toward the Future' mentoring project, which provides mentoring for university students living in state care in Ankara.

What are the main challenges facing the children and young people you work with?

Children and young people who have been raised in care are stigmatised against in different aspects of their lives, including the language people use about them and the general approach of society towards them.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year as a member of Family for Every Child?

I am personally looking forward to having more active dialogue with all members of Family, to learn more about their work and to become involved in more joint projects. Of course, as Hayat Sende, we are also looking forward to hosting the Assembly of Members in Istanbul in September!

Tell us something we don't know about Turkey?

Turkey is the birthplace of many historical figures: the biblical Abraham, the poet Homer, St. Paul the Apostle, the storyteller Aesop, and the father of history, Herodotus. Also Santa Claus was born in Turkey!

How do you like to spend your spare time?

I am a big fan of world cinema and film festivals so I mostly watch movies in different languages and from different countries. I also like juggling, which people may remember from the Assembly in Guatemala!

Tell us something interesting about your family.

My family gave me and my two sisters Arabic names, which is very common in Turkey. They wanted to choose names starting with “S” but it turns out that these three names have different “S” letters in Arabic, which is funny for me!

What is your vision for children and families in Turkey?

It is pretty much the same as Hayat Sende’s and Family for Every Child’s; I imagine a world where all children can grow up in a safe and loving family environment.

Caryn Onions, The Mulberry Bush (UK)

Caryn is Head of Research and Development at The Mulberry Bush.

Tell us about your role at The Mulberry Bush?

My time is split between research and clinical work. The research aspect is developing and disseminating the organisation's research and the clinical aspect is seeing three children weekly, plus some family and couple work.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like seeing children over a long period of time in therapy and getting to know them really well. I find children's play fascinating and prefer working with younger children as I like helping their understanding of their abuse via their play.

What are the main challenges facing the children and young people you work with?

Their experiences mean that they can often feel emotionally overwhelmed by distress and then find it difficult to be soothed and comforted.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year as a member of Family for Every Child?

Finding out more about the work of other members and seeing how I can contribute to the Alliance.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be lots of different things, but my main dreams were being a pianist playing a grand piano or a fabric designer.

Which other country would you most like to visit and why?

There are many countries in Asia that I would like to visit. As a teenager I was very interested in Buddhism and I also like an Asian fusion style of food.

Tell us something interesting/funny about your family.

One of the dogs we had used to love eating runner beans as they were growing in the garden.

What is your vision for children and families in the UK?

That neglect and abuse are eradicated.