Located twenty minutes from downtown New Orleans, the city’s eastern 9th Ward is a tight-knit community of over 65,000 residents. “The East,” as most locals call it, started off in the 1960s as a suburban-style area within the city limits. Beginning in the mid-1980s, this region began to decline into a state of poverty. The city’s public schools system, notorious for being one of the worst in the country, only perpetuated the problem into the next generation. Then came the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In the storm’s wake, countless businesses – and even hospitals – opted not to re-open, leaving the residents of an already-troubled community severely underserviced. Recovery has been slow. In an area prone to crime and littered with abandoned buildings and homes, kids face significant barriers to their ability to succeed in school.

In addition to having difficulty concentrating in school, some of the children lost their homes for a second time in their young lives.

At the ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary School, staff work hard to help children overcome these obstacles. Founded in 1965, the school was originally part of the New Orleans public schools system. It became a ReNEW charter school in 2013; and today, it is the largest school in the city, with 875 children in grades kindergarten through eight. The dedicated faculty strives to innovatively prepare students for college and beyond, providing personalized attention to each student’s educational and non-academic needs. The ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary School also offers an advanced Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) lab and a world-class library.

When disaster strikes

In February of 2017, a tornado severely damaged the ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary School building and the surrounding New Orleans East community. School was in session and children were in the building when the tornado struck.  The administration, faculty, and staff earned acclaim from city officials for keeping the children safe and maintaining order during the tornado, and no one was injured.

Renée with Erin and one of our sponsored children

After the storm was over, the school was vacated for repairs. As kids were shifted to a temporary facility, they found themselves in overcrowded classrooms that were cramped and uncomfortable. Some of the children suffered emotional trauma due to having experienced the tornado and the transition to a new school. Their test scores dropped as a result of these factors.

In addition to having difficulty concentrating in school, some of the children lost their homes for a second time in their young lives. Students who were in grades six and above had lived through Hurricane Katrina, and now they faced yet another natural disaster in their short lifetimes. 25 homes were damaged, and most of the families did not have renter’s insurance. As families worked to rebuild their lives, they lived with other families, often sleeping on couches in tight quarters.

Excited to read

Erin is our volunteer coordinator at ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary School. On a recent trip to visit the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with Erin. Erin told Renée that she loves our sponsorship program. While Erin focuses on providing basic needs such as clothing and shoes to our sponsored and unsponsored children, she is also a big believer in supporting literacy and a true love of reading. She participates in the Lollipop Book Club, through which she orders books for kids, and they receive a wrapped book and lollipop. Erin can shop for books by reader age or search by theme, such as John Newbery Medal winners. She said that the kids get really excited about their books.

Erin also expressed to Renée that she appreciates when sponsors send additional gifts to their sponsored children, because they allow her to take time to really be thoughtful and personal about the items she chooses for sponsored children. She often spends the extra funds on hygiene and grooming items – something that she feels the children need very often, especially while living in transitional environments.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN NEW ORLEANS?

You can sponsor a child in New Orleans 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 sponsorship@children-inc.org.