I recently had the privilege of visiting several schools in West Virginia where Children Incorporated offers our child sponsorship program. It had been several years since my last visit to these schools; while I had clear memories from my previous trips, I wasn’t sure what I would find this go-around. Reflecting on the fact that everything in our world changes rapidly, I expected to find that these West Virginia schools were different from how they were when I last visited them. What I discovered, however, is that I was wrong to anticipate significant changes, for visiting these schools was, in many ways, like stepping back in time.

Sponsoring a child changes their life.

Mr. Carter with our Volunteer Coordinator, Lara at Genoa Elementary School

The first two schools I visited, Genoa Elementary School and Dunlow Elementary School, both in Wayne County, West Virginia, are very small institutions; one has a total enrollment of approximately 75 students, and the other, just around ninety. The school buildings are old and showing signs of wear after many years of use; and both sit in extremely rural areas, void of businesses and commerce.

As I drove to these schools from Huntington, West Virginia, a city of 50,000 people less than an hour away, I couldn’t help but feel a drastic shift from city to country – from have to have not. The roads began to curve; some became much narrower and less maintained. Businesses and houses became fewer and farther apart. Then, while seemingly in the middle of nowhere, I arrived at the first school I was scheduled to visit: Genoa Elementary School.

Hearing from our sponsored children

While the staff at the school was extremely welcoming to me – and they clearly take their responsibility of caring for students quite seriously – the heaviness of poverty just hung in the air. It was palpable; I could feel it. As I interacted with several students enrolled in the Children Incorporated sponsorship program, I was moved by their obvious need.

As I spoke with one little girl, she told me that her sponsor writes her letters and encourages her to study hard and always do her homework. She said that she always looks forward to the letters she receives from this woman, for they remind her that someone cares about her and wants her to succeed in life. A little boy at the same school showed me some of his artwork, and he told me that his sponsor sent money for the supplies he used to create his little masterpieces. He was very thankful for the gift.

For more than half a decade, we have been touching lives and offering hope and opportunity in areas where necessities are often in short supply. That, friends, is why our organization exists; and you, through your generous support of our work, make it all possible.

Our wonderful volunteer coordinator at the school shared that a number of children would go without shoes, warm clothing, and food if it weren’t for assistance provided by their sponsors through our organization. She voiced her appreciation, as did the school principal, for all the years that Children Incorporated has helped the poorest among their student body to fit in and experience a sense of normalcy while at school, by providing them with clothing similar to those worn by less financially-stressed youngsters. She talked of the significance of ensuring that these children, too, have pencils and paper, and adequate school supplies, as well as food on the weekends, when they do not receive the free hot meals provided on weekdays in the school cafeteria.

A sense of hope

At the second school I visited, Dunlow Elementary – even further away from a major city, and perhaps even more remote – I found a very similar situation: a small, dedicated, caring staff working very hard to ensure that the children they serve are being well-provided-for and are offered a safe place in which to learn and grow. Children who live in extreme poverty, as most of the youngsters enrolled in our programs do, look forward to attending school, because while there, they not only have access to heat, clean water, and nutritious food – things often missing in their home lives – but they also experience a sense of hope and possibility for their futures. They see beyond what is to what could be, and they dare to dream.

It saddens me that the assistance offered by Children Incorporated is still so vitally important in the lives of these youngsters; yet I am also grateful that we can be there to extend a helping hand and offer support that is truly life-changing. That is what Children Incorporated is about: improving the lives of children and their families as they face financial hardships and trials of all kinds. For more than half a decade, we have been touching lives and offering hope and opportunity in areas where necessities are often in short supply. That, friends, is why our organization exists; and you, through your generous support of our work, make it all possible.

Thank you very much!

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter

President and Chief Executive Officer

About Wayne County, West Virginia

Wayne County is nestled amid the vast natural beauty of the Allegheny Mountains, which still conceal deposits of the coal that once made this a rich and populous area of the Mountaineer State. Automation of mines and the ecological stigmas attached to coal as a fuel source have seriously damaged Wayne County’s economy. With coal mining almost shut down, businesses that once depended upon mining and the buying power of miners have closed. Unemployment continues to rise, and industry development remains at a crawl.

Like many small towns in this rural part of West Virginia, Genoa is remote, located far from any sizeable town or city. A few strip mines still produce coal, and there are some sawmills that cut lumber. Overall, however, Genoa’s economy is struggling, with high unemployment and a lack of industry development. Many residents in this region live well below the poverty line.

For these reasons, Genoa Elementary School and Dunlow Elementary School serve as beacons of hope and safe havens, as they are among the few places where children from impoverished families can count on support, encouragement, and a warm nutritious meal each day. The caring teachers at these schools strive to improve each child’s self-esteem and well-being through a well-rounded education – the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN WEST VIRGINIA?

You can sponsor a child in West Virginia 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.