Situated in the hilly rural Eastern Kentucky Coalfield region of Appalachia, Leslie County is an area of stark contrasts. Its breathtaking rugged beauty and veins of coal drew its first residents there more than a century ago; and for generations, coal mining served as a primary source of employment for its residents.
For some students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in at school.
With the rapid decline of that industry, however, employment opportunities have drastically diminished, resulting in the need for many families to move away and seek employment elsewhere. Those who remain must endure the daily realities of poverty, including a widespread drug abuse problem that devastates the entire community – not just the users themselves.
Thankfully, students at W.B. Muncy Elementary School have teachers and administrators to provide them with a well-rounded education, as well as support from Children Incorporated sponsors and donors to help them overcome the barriers they face living in poverty. For some of those students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in with the other students who aren’t experiencing difficult circumstances.
On a trip to Leslie County, Children Incorporated’s U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with our Volunteer Coordinator at W.B. Muncy Elementary School, Amy, as well as with a few children in our program. Amy explained to Shelley that Children Incorporated helps her to obtain clothing, backpacks, and school supplies for her students, along with other essential items – which is incredibly important for single and unemployed parents, as well as for grandparents who are struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis because they are raising children again.
After meeting with Amy, Shelley had the opportunity to sit and talk with a special student named Joseph*. Joseph is currently unsponsored and on our waiting list. Amy helps him with additional funding that she receives from Children Incorporated’s Shared Hope Fund, which helps to support kids who are waiting for sponsors. When Shelley was first introduced to Joseph, she could see that he had a tough exterior; he sometimes found it difficult to allow himself to smile.
After he returned to class, Amy told Shelley that Joseph harbors a lot of anger because of the situation in which he finds himself: he is being raised by a single dad who doesn’t have a lot of money. Joseph feels like he really stands out from other kids at school. Amy then told Shelley a story about how our program was able to help Joseph to overcome some of those issues he faces.
A hat makes a big difference
A few months prior, Amy realized that Joseph needed new clothes and shoes, because his were worn out. So she invited him to the Family Resource Center so that she could ask him what he wanted and needed. He told her what he could use; but before he left, he leaned in close to Amy and quietly said, “The school is having a ‘Hat Day’ next week, and I don’t have a hat like the other kids. If you could get me a hat, too, I would really appreciate it.”
Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.
Amy purchased Joseph’s new clothes, including a hat, over the course of the next few days. When “Hat Day” came around the following week, Joseph made a point of returning to the Resource Center to see Amy; he was wearing his hat and a brand new outfit – as well as a big smile on his face. Joseph said, “I really love my hat. Thank you for remembering that I didn’t have one for today.” Later that day, he returned to the Resource Center once again and told Amy, “You don’t know how much this helps my dad. We don’t have a whole lot of money, so now he won’t have to worry about getting me clothes and shoes.”
According to Amy, the Children Incorporated program has had a great impact on Joseph’s life; it has really helped him to blossom and feel more confident. Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.
*Name changed for child’s protection.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?
You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.