For the Kids
Save the Children, now in Fairfield, continues its mission
Fairfield has its share of important businesses, think GE and Bigelow Tea. But a new addition to town really stands out. The international organization Save the Children has recently planted its roots at 501 Kings Highway, in a building that also houses the Fairfield Board of Education. The familiar Save the Children logo is visible to passersby, but these new offices are something to see.
After 40 years in Westport, Superstorm Sandy hit. “Our offices were terribly damaged,” says longtime Fairfield resident and CEO Carolyn Miles. “We looked at all our options, but it came down to two: renovate or move.” Moving was by far the more cost-effective plan—and for a global nonprofit organization, saving money is always top of mind. “We wanted to be within ten miles of our old location, and convenient to highways and trains for all of our employees,” says Miles.
The new offices are 60,000 square feet of cherry-red accents with a larger-than-life photographic mural of smiling children’s faces that greets you in the entryway. Another wall showcases artifacts the organization has collected over the years from all the countries in which they work and visit. One thing differing from the Westport space is the fact that Carolyn Miles doesn’t have her own office—just a cubicle like everyone else. “The new offices have an open-space configuration, which we thought would encourage more collaboration,” explains Miles. They have private conference rooms when the need arises, but it is one of many reasons the staff love working with Miles.
There are very few people who haven’t heard of Save the Children, an organization started in 1932 with a simple—but very effective—school-lunch program that brought kids in Appalachia back to their classrooms during the Great Depression. Helping to feed, protect, and educate the world’s children is a mission that has since expanded to include 120 countries, but many might be surprised to hear what STC is up to in our own backyard.
Of the almost 300 employees at STC’s Fairfield location, 9 percent are Fairfield residents and while they do their share of international travel, they also work hard to connect to their communities, and specifically local kids to help raise awareness about Save the Children.
Brad Kerner, a Fairfield resident, has been at Save the Children for nine years as an adolescent health advisor. He and his team design, monitor, and evaluate STC International programs for children in their second decade of life. While Kerner’s focus is outside the U.S., he teaches a group of students at Merkaz, a Jewish high school group held though the B’nai Brith Temple in Bridgeport. “It is all about raising awareness,” says Kerner.
Through fundraising and engagement, the agency works with American schools on a number of levels. Staffers at STC collaborate with teachers to instill the values of global citizenship by tying their work either into ongoing classroom experiences, or into service learning opportunities. Teachers in turn often contact the agency for information on a particular area that they are studying, and students will also reach out to the organization to see how they can help—often by hosting fundraisers. The agency has a priority right now on creating Save the Children clubs in schools. Locally, there are active clubs at Fairfield Warde High School, Staples High School in Westport, and in Westchester at Mamaroneck High School, and there will be a club soon at Ridgefield High School. They also work closely with the JUHAN group (Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network) at Fairfield University. “These clubs help us by raising awareness about the needs of other children,” explains communications coordinator Jeremy Soulliere.
While you might hear more about STC’s work in Syria, Iraq, or Africa, some dedicated staff work solely state-side to provide child protection activities and programs, including the creation of “Child Friendly” spaces that allow children in a community affected by an emergency access to structured play, emotional support and supervision. One event recently struck too close to home. The day following the shootings in Sandy Hook, Save the Children set up a child-friendly space in Newtown. “We do this so that children in the area can have a safe, friendly environment where they can play, do arts activities, and talk with us if they feel compelled,” says Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais, senior director of US emergencies.