In May, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited Martin County in Kentucky, where she met with many of our sponsored children at our affiliated schools, as well as at some of their homes. The breadth and depth of the poverty in Martin County is staggering. Over the many years that Renée has been visiting Eastern Kentucky, she has seen the homes of the impoverished on the sides of main roads; but it still amazed her that home visits would take her off state roads, and onto tiny county roads, where along gravel lanes and dirt ruts, there is even more dire poverty. Some homes are so far into the mountain hollows that Renée can’t even begin to imagine how the homes were placed there.

Grandparents Stepping Up

Upon visiting with Billy* at his school, Renée found his situation to be very representative of many Martin County children, because his grandparents are raising him and his little sister, Kristen*. Both grandparents are disabled and subsist on small disability allotments from the government.

Renée with a sponsored child and her parents

Renée noticed that Billy is cheerful and has a positive attitude. He was comfortable telling her that he loves having a sponsor, and that it has helped him very much. He was excited to talk about the opportunity to enjoy a week at Trooper Island Summer Camp in Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park; the camp gives underprivileged Kentucky children, ages ten to twelve, some time away from their stresses so they can simply be kids. State troopers lead them in all kinds of recreational activities, and they have conversations about healthy living, safety, and making wise choices.

So Many Children in Need

Renée also met with Blake* and Ruby* at their school; these two siblings had been living with their parents in a partially burned house that had no running water. The Family Resource Center, our partnering organization in Kentucky, worked with other county partners to find the family another place to live. The kids’ housing is now better and safer, but their circumstances are still extremely bad.

As Renée spoke with the parents, they told her how much the sponsorship program has meant to them, because the kids’ sponsors have helped so much over the years.

Another sponsored child, Scott*, was just enrolled in our program in January. He lives with his grandparents, siblings, and other relatives. There are ten people in the home, which is a very dilapidated dwelling. Renée also met Stuart*, who lives in a camper trailer by a local pizza restaurant. There are ten people living in his home as well, including his first cousin, Nathan*, who is also in our program. Their home life is not only an impoverished one, but it is also incredibly unstable and rather neglectful.

Loving Parents Struggle to Provide Support

Her first visit took Renée to the home of the Johnson family, who lives in one of the most deprived trailer communities in the county. Both the mother and father are kind and loving, but have little education or physical capacity. Their children are Susan*, age fourteen and in high school; Brooke*, age eighteen and also in high school; and Holly*, age nineteen and a former sponsored child. The father is a general laborer and can find only temporary jobs. The mother has respiratory problems and is in poor health, which often causes her to be bedridden.

Homes in Eastern Kentucky, which are sometimes too small for large families

When Renée entered the home, she saw that the front door opened directly into the living room, and a small sofa was in front of her. There was a small bed against a wall, and that’s where one of the girls sleeps. To the right of the living room was the kitchen. To the left of the living room was a doorway that opened into the parents’ room, which was taken up by a king-sized mattress and box spring foundation, and is where the mother spends most of her time. The family had decorated the home with old beach towels, which hung from the walls and the ceilings.

As Renée spoke with the parents, they told her how much the sponsorship program has meant to them, because the kids’ sponsors have helped so much over the years. The Johnsons are among the poorest of the families with kids in our program; but even though it seems virtually impossible for the parents to improve their situation, Renée could tell that they have hope for their children, and that the support they receive from sponsorship is important in encouraging the girls to do well in school and succeed.

The Wilson family also welcomed Renée into their home. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are the parents of Becky*, nine; Lola*, seven; and Maria*, five. All three girls are sponsored. The middle child, Lola, is extremely small for her age and has some health challenges. The parents have tried diligently over the years to support their children, and our volunteer coordinators have worked closely with them in their efforts.

These are just a few examples of how much of a difference your sponsorship and contributions make; little by little, we can help break the cycle of poverty by offering more and more children education, hope, and opportunity.

They were living in a ramshackle apartment, but are now in a public housing complex – which is a big step up for them. The parents are extremely proud of their small apartment, and the mother has decorated it with modest items purchased at yard sales, thrift shops, and dollar stores. This home is much better for the girls than their former situation.

Through her home visits, both parents and guardians told Renée over and over that the most important things for their children to have are absolute basics, like food, clothing, school supplies, and hygiene items. After paying rent and utilities, caretakers often find they have virtually nothing left over to help support their rapidly growing children, which is why our sponsorship program is so valuable to these families.

These are just a few examples of how much of a difference your sponsorship and contributions make; little by little, we can help break the cycle of poverty by offering more and more children education, hope, and opportunity.

*Names changed for children’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 and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or email the sponsorship department at sponsorship@children-inc.org.