Tag Archives: Arizona

Beyond Sponsorship

We meet a wide array of needs for children and their families through our Hope In Action Fund, which provides support outside of sponsorship. From providing aid in the wake of emergencies to supporting weekend and summer feeding programs, individual, one-­time donations to this special fund really go a long way. They support income-generating projects, and they go towards the construction of homes and schools – and even medical clinics at our affiliated projects. As a way to show our appreciation for your support, we want to share just some of the many amazing accomplishments we were able to make in 2017, thanks to your contributions to our Hope In Action Fund.

Helping kids in the united states

Last year, our Hope In Action Fund provided continued assistance for a combined College/Career Awareness and Parent Resource Program at our affiliated project Carr Creek Elementary School in Kentucky. The fund also aided our volunteer coordinator at Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C. in the development of a mentoring program. Thanks to your contributions, we were able to provide additional resources in New Orleans, Louisiana, which included aid for an after-school program, uniforms for children whose families could not afford them, and 500 books distributed at three literacy events during the year to increase a love of reading and to help build the home libraries of 500 children.

Kids in Kentucky have benefited greatly from our Hope In Action Fund.

Our Hope In Action Fund also provided backpacks and school supplies for “Readifests” at several of our Kentucky schools to support kids at the start of the school year. Funds enabled the entire student body of Bevins Elementary School in Kentucky, including children enrolled in our program, to benefit from an educational drug awareness and personal resiliency program. Additionally, our Hope In Action Fund provided opportunities for our sponsored and unsponsored children at Sparta Elementary School in North Carolina to attend cultural and educational performances outside of their community – experiences that they otherwise would not have had.

Donations also offered disaster relief for children impacted by serious flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thanks to you, we were able to provide canned hams, canned vegetables, and boxed food for Thanksgiving for children at our newest project in Richmond, Virginia, E.S.H. Greene Elementary School. We were also able to pay for a young girl in Kentucky to have a much-needed eye exam, and to replace her broken glasses, improving her vision so that she’d have less difficulty keeping up in class.

Thanks to you, we were able to establish a weekend feeding program at Shonto Preparatory School in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, as well as provide assistance for a partial denture for a high school student in Kentucky who suffered an accident that caused him to lose his four front teeth. We were also able to address food insecurity by supporting weekend feeding programs and monthly markets of fresh fruits and vegetables at our four affiliated projects in Washington, D.C. We assisted three children enrolled in our program at Piney Creek Elementary School in North Carolina to attend and participate in the Junior Beta Club State Convention in Greensboro.

We couldn’t help with such simple but powerful things without our sponsors’ and donors’ contributions to our Hope In Action Fund.

Our Hope In Action Fund also provided a complete professional outfit for a high-achieving student at Greyhills Academy High School in Arizona so that she could advance and compete in the Navajo Nation Science Fair in Window Rock. Donations gave us the ability to help a little boy at Johns Creek Elementary School in Kentucky to be transported to and from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, by providing funds for gas and food, so that he could undergo additional procedures following his open-heart surgery.

Donations enabled 25 children at Johnson County Middle School in Paintsville, Kentucky, including children enrolled in our program, to attend and learn at the Summer Scrubs Camp at the Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg. Additionally, we were able to purchase playground equipment for the kids at G.H. Reid Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia.

Supporting kids internationally

Outside of the United States, last year, our Hope In Action Fund provided over a thousand pairs of new shoes to children in need in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We also made a contribution to the Materi Girls’ School in Meru, Kenya for the purchase of food for the families of the children who attend, who were suffering due to a terrible drought. We provided support to Guarderia El Angel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia to pay a few teachers’ salaries when the center lost funding from its local municipality. We also completed eight housing units near our affiliated project Villa Emilia in Bolivia to help the mothers of children enrolled in our program, who were formerly living on the streets.

We couldn’t help with such simple but powerful things without our sponsors’ and donors’ contributions to our Hope In Action Fund. Every contribution impacts a specific child or family – and oftentimes, it is life-changing for them. We are incredibly grateful that we have the ability to provide for children and their families beyond sponsorship, especially in circumstances that are dire, and in which they have nowhere else to turn for help. Thanks to you, thousands of children and their families are getting the support they need every year.

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HOW DO I CONTRIBUTE TO THE HOPE IN ACTION FUND?

You can contribute to our Hope In Action Fund in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to our Hope In Action Fund.

Moved Beyond Measure

When International Student Exchange (ISE) contacted me in the fall of 2016 and said that they had chosen Children Incorporated to be their domestic philanthropic partner for the coming year, I was pleasantly surprised. ISE is a high school exchange program that brings together people from around the world, fostering cross-cultural learning. Under the leadership of their Chief Executive Officer, Wayne Brewer, they have been positively impacting the lives of children worldwide for in excess of 35 years.

Mr. Carter with ISE representatives in Madrid, Spain

Mr. Brewer, along with Tal Stanecky, who serves as Senior Program Advisor at ISE, selected Children Incorporated from among many other organizations due to the transparency we exhibit, and the fact that such a high percentage of our funding is used to benefit children and families. “Children Incorporated was so appealing,” said Mr. Stanecky, “because of its ability to adapt and tailor its services to children all around the world. The donations being given to the charity were really going to the people who needed it the most.”

This past November, I traveled to Madrid, Spain as a guest of ISE, and while there, I met many of the wonderful people who make up that special organization. I met and interacted not only with directors and board members, but also with representatives and field workers – those who toil within small towns and large cities across America to find host families for exchange students who wish to come to the United States and learn more about our social, economic, and political systems.

Over a five-day period, I shared many warm conversations and lots of laughter with these incredible people, and I returned to the United States with a true sense of awe and appreciation not only for the people of ISE, but also for the organization as whole.

Donations already at work

“The donations being given to the charity were really going to the people who needed it the most.”

While in Spain, International Student Exchange presented me with a very generous monetary contribution for Children Incorporated, with the very specific purpose of assisting us as we improve the lives of U.S. children over the coming months. Renée Kube, Director of our U.S. Programs Division, has been hard at work overseeing the first distributions of the ISE funds. Thus far, Children Incorporated has purchased laptop computers for a residential school in Huerfano, New Mexico; provided building supplies for an outdoor reading center in Pinon, Arizona; and obtained the necessary materials to lay an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk for wheelchair-bound students at a special education school in St. Michaels, Arizona.

Additionally, backpack feeding programs and monthly fresh foods markets have been funded in our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. In the small community of Glade Creek, North Carolina, an after-school program based on cultural enrichment and music lessons for students is now a reality, in part thanks to funds received from ISE – and much more will be accomplished as the direct result of their kindness and generosity.

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to ISE for recognizing the life-changing work that Children Incorporated regularly accomplishes. Furthermore, I want to thank them for entrusting us with funds that will provide education, hope, and opportunity to many children and young people this year and in years to come, as our partnership continues. Children Incorporated is honored to be associated with a fine organization like ISE – and I, personally, am moved beyond measure.

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter
President and Chief Executive Officer
Children Incorporated

Making Memories with Back to School Shopping

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s back to school shopping reached $27 million. It is the second largest shopping season for retailers, after the winter holidays. In fact, the beginning of a new school year is a little like Christmas; the children are excited, and everything is shiny and new. But just like during the holiday season, many families wince at the economic pinch they feel as fall approaches, having to stock up on school supplies for their children at the close of summer break.

Receiving new school supplies at the beginning of the school year helps sponsored children feel ready to learn!

The Pride of Having New Shoes

Most of us have fond memories of back to school shopping – the happiness of opening a new box of crayons, with their bright colors, waxy smell, and perfect pointy tips; the fun of choosing spiral-bound notebooks with your favorite movie or television characters; the pride of having new shoes. However, for impoverished parents and guardians, these are memories they can’t afford to make with their children.

Over the years, as I have traveled to our affiliated schools in the United States and talked with our dedicated volunteer coordinators, I have often heard that back to school time is difficult, and often very stressful for the families in the communities we serve.

Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year.

When a summer electric bill is due or food stamps have run out, or the old car needs a repair so you can get to your part time job at the mini mart on time, getting your child new clothing and supplies for school is something that gets moved to the back of the line. And if there is a big brother or sister who needs new clothes and supplies as well, then the cost has doubled. These items may be essential for kids, but they can also be impossible for parents to afford.

We know that receiving a new outfit and school supplies provides concrete benefits above and beyond confidence and self-esteem – these items help kids stay on track to attend school regularly and to keep up with their classmates. Giving them the tools to learn sets them up for success for the entire school year.

Our Back to School Fund helps our coordinators stock cabinets full of supplies for children for when they return to school from summer break.

Wanting to Fit In

In addition to poverty, many of the children we serve are also dealing with some kind of trauma. The family situation may be chaotic and unhappy. Yet, while coping with poverty and instability, the children in our program want to look and feel just like any other kid. They want to fit in. Imagine the joy on a little girl’s face when she receives a new backpack emblazoned with Disney princesses, when she has never had a new book bag to start school; for once, she feels “normal”.

In the midst of their struggles, Children Incorporated and our caring sponsors and donors serve as a safety net. Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year. Your contributions will bring happiness, hope, and success to many children in need.

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE BACK TO SCHOOL FUND?

You can donate to the Back to School Fund in one of two ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to the Back to School Fund.

written by Renée Kube

Renée oversees Children Incorporated’s work in the United States – from the rural southeast and southwest; to the urban areas of Detroit, New Orleans, and our nation’s capital – and even in our own backyard, Richmond, Virginia. She works closely with our U.S. Projects Specialist and an outstanding network of over 100 volunteer coordinators at our program sites.

» more of Renée's stories

My Sponsor Story: Appreciating the Sweetness in Life

After hearing story after story from her friend Hilary about child sponsorship through Children Incorporated, Kathy Niles decided she wanted to sponsor a child of her own. Little did she know that sponsorship would lead to unforgettable travels with her friend, getting to know several children – and an even deeper understanding of and appreciation for Native American culture.

We caught up with Kathy to find out about her experiences as a child sponsor, and about the impact those moments have had on her life.

SC: Tell us a little about yourself.

Kathy’s sponsored child in Arizona

KN: My home is in Ashaway, Rhode Island, and I am 64 years old. I have two children of my own, and was a single mom for most of their childhoods. I held several manufacturing jobs off and on, but finally started my own cleaning business fifteen years ago, of which I am the only employee.

It hasn’t been an easy road for me – especially career-wise. My grandmother used to say, “You have to have the bitter to appreciate the sweet!” The bitter can be very hard; but in many cases, it forms the mold in which one becomes stronger, more caring, and driven to work harder to succeed.

 SC: How did you get involved with Children Incorporated?

KN: I learned about Children Incorporated through a friend of mine, Hilary, who was sponsoring a child in Appalachia. So in 2007, I sponsored my first child, Joel*, who attended the same school as Hilary’s sponsored child – and Hilary and I traveled to the school together to spend the day there and visit our sponsored children. It’s something any sponsor should do if they have the opportunity, because it was so rewarding, and I felt very blessed to have been able to visit the project.

In 2011, Joel moved to a different area, and that’s when I started sponsoring Chelsea* – and I have been sponsoring her ever since!

Hilary’s stories of Children Incorporated made me want to do something for a child in need; I didn’t have grandchildren, so I figured I would spend my money on sponsorship. And I decided that I would like to have the chance to help a child get ahead, and to have the chance to fight through their struggles to go on to college and better themselves.

SC: How many children have you sponsored through Children Incorporated?

I decided that I would like to have the chance to help a child get ahead, and to have the chance to fight through their struggles to go on to college and better themselves.

KN: I followed Hilary’s lead and started sponsoring children on the Navajo Reservation, too. Some of them have moved away, so I have had a few different ones there; but I don’t want stop sponsoring there, because I feel bad for these kids that need help.

SC: When you signed up, did you specify preferences for your sponsored child?

KN:
Yes – originally, I wanted a sponsored child in Appalachia; I started sponsoring in the Navajo Reservation when I decided to add an additional sponsorship.

I visited the Shonto Preparatory School in Arizona with Hilary, who was traveling there to see her sponsored child graduate high school. It was a very inspirational, rewarding experience for me. In this world stricken with poverty and strife, there is a strong family bond that I noticed, and we were welcomed and accepted – even as minorities.

That’s when I decided to sponsor a Native American child, too. I just recently received information on a new child there, and I am hoping that this will be a lasting relationship, for as long as she is in the school.

Kathy also sponsors a young girl in Kentucky.

SC: Is there anything more you can tell us about the projects you have visited?

KN: The volunteers at the schools are people that give of their time, hearts, and souls to help.

SC: Please tell us about the children you currently sponsor.

KN: Chelsea in Appalachia is fifteen and in the tenth grade; she lives with her mom and four sisters, two brothers, and some cats. She likes playing games, and is good at building things – and not surprisingly, she wants to be a mechanical engineer when she grows up!

I would love to be able to go to her high school graduation; that is my goal. And I would love for my kids to join me when I do. I pray that Chelsea continues to do well, and that she finds a special interest that she can pursue for her future. She is a beautiful young woman; I always get a new picture of her every year.

And Cari* in the Navajo Reservation is also in the tenth grade, and enjoys studying global issues in school. She likes to listen to music, and she’s good at singing; she especially likes the music of singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. She lives with her mom, and has two brothers and one sister – and she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up!

SC: Do you communicate with them regularly?

KN: Yes – I send them packages and letters. I send Chelsea money for her birthday, back to school, Christmas, and sometimes in the spring. I also buy her school supplies and hygiene articles; and I know she likes to read, so I have gotten her a gift card to Barnes and Noble. And every once in a while, I get a thank-you note from her, and it always touches my heart!

SC: What do you know about Arizona?

For those who can afford to help, I strongly suggest that you give to a child in need. It can and will make a huge difference in their lives and in their future; it will help mold them into strong individuals.

It was an eye-opener to go to Arizona and see children in their native regalia, and to hear children speaking their native language; it was beautiful!

SC: Is there any advice you might have for someone considering sponsoring a child?

KN: Children Incorporated is a great program, and it has helped many. For those who can afford to help, I strongly suggest that you give to a child in need. It can and will make a huge difference in their lives and in their future; it will help mold them into strong individuals.

I pray that my help has touched each one of these children that I have at some point given to.

*Names changed for children’s protection.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN APPALACHIA?

You can sponsor a child in Appalachia in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our Sponsorship Specialists, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

 HOW DO I HELP CHILDREN IN ARIZONA?

You can help children in Arizona in one of two ways – our Hope In Action Fund provides for children in special cases, such as in emergencies, and when special items, like eyeglasses, mattresses, and bedding are needed. Our Warm Clothing Fund and our Back to School Fund support children in the Navajo Nation as well.

History, Heritage, and a Helping Hand

Shonto Preparatory School isn’t like other public schools. Located in northern Arizona, the school is in the heart of the Navajo Nation, and serves children who are economically poor, but rich in culture and history.

00032Most Shonto families don’t have running water or electricity, but yet they take daily classes to learn a language that was first written down only a generation ago. They have little money for clothes and school supplies, but they supplement their income by making and selling the art that represents their tribal history.

Marlita Haviland has worked as the media resource officer for Shonto Preparatory School since 1996, and she works as a volunteer coordinator for Children Incorporated, helping to connect sponsors to students who need financial support.

“Children Incorporated helps them be able to get clothes and school supplies and food,” she said. “Most of the families use it [sponsorship funds] for clothes and shoes, but I have one family who uses the money totally for food – so I know they’re really hurting for food.”

An Employment Desert

Shonto is an elementary, middle, and high school with just over 600 students altogether. Virtually all of them are Native American, and more than ninety percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunches.

“Children Incorporated helps them be able to get clothes and school supplies and food,” she said. “Most of the families use it [sponsorship funds] for clothes and shoes, but I have one family who uses the money totally for food – so I know they’re really hurting for food.”

Much of the reason for this poverty is that jobs are scarce, Haviland said. There are eight or ten jobs at each of the three trading posts in the area, and there’s a health clinic, and the two schools – but that’s about it. Even those few employment opportunities are hard to get; the clinic employees are mostly highly-skilled healthcare workers, and the schools require a college degree of anyone working directly with children.

There’s a Walmart, a coal mine, and a power plant about an hour away, but the coal mine and power plant are both slated to close. Most families supplement what little income they have by making and selling traditional Navajo art and crafts.

Cottage Crafts

“The Navajo are extremely talented with art – any kind of art,” Haviland said. “They do painting, beadwork, jewelry, metalworking, rug weaving – and, of course, pottery.”

A few local artists earn enough to make a living at it, and a couple of them have become internationally known; but for most, arts and crafts just help to make ends meet.

Home gardens help, too, and corn is the primary backyard crop. The local species requires very little water, which is fortunate, because most residents depend on the rain, not irrigation or hoses. The local corn isn’t eaten by itself, though – it’s too tough. Instead, it’s ground up and cooked with other ingredients.

img_0785Some residents also sell food on the streets to make money. For instance, a few people sell burritos outside the school every morning, Haviland said.

But most have very little money, so Children Incorporated sponsors help the children receive the needed items their parents struggle to provide.

Shopping Trips

Haviland manages the shopping for those with sponsors. When the children’s funding comes in, she meets the families at Walmart, where they’re told how much they have to spend, and what it can be used for.

Each family then makes their own decisions about what they need most – shoes or backpacks, shampoo or bread – and then they meet her at the checkout line.

“I review their purchases to be sure everything is appropriate,” she said. “Sometimes I have to tell the students, ‘No, I’m sorry, that’s not acceptable.’ But for the most part, they are buying clothes and shoes and school supplies.”

Haviland takes a look at their food choices, too, counseling them on nutrition as she decides what may be purchased with Children Incorporated funds.

“I tell them that pop is not okay, but juice or even Kool-Aid, I’ll accept,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard, because sometimes the families don’t understand – it’s what they’ve been used to getting.”

Once everything has been rung up, Haviland pays for it with the family’s gift card, which was purchased with the child’s sponsorship funds.

One of the benefits to waiting in the checkout area is that she sees everyone who comes through the store, and she’s always greeted by former students.

“They’re always excited to see me,” she said. “I get to keep up with a lot of them that way.”

176_shonto_sheridan-laughter-with-ci-coordinator-marlita-havilandOf course, since Walmart is more than sixty miles from Shonto, some families can’t get there. Some send their shopping lists to Haviland, and she buys their items for them. And a few older students are allowed to do their family shopping online from the school, with Haviland’s assistance.

The children and Haviland are used to managing without direct parental involvement. Many students live with grandparents or other relatives, either because parents have had to take jobs far away, or because they’re not in the picture at all.

Cultural Identity

Some families still live in the eight-sided hogans that the Navajo have traditionally built, but nowadays, most live in one-room homes made of wood or concrete blocks – though they’re little more than sheds.

“It used to be that very few kids had running water and electricity, but they’re becoming more and more common,” Haviland said. “In a survey a year ago, more of them said they have water and electricity – but not necessarily at their house; it’s often at another relative’s house they go to.”

“It used to be that very few kids had running water and electricity, but they’re becoming more and more common,” Haviland said.

One of the challenges faced by educators and aid workers is how to improve the children’s quality of life without erasing their cultural identity. To help maintain the children’s heritage, the school now mandates that everyone take a Navajo class every day.

Traditionally, the language is oral, and was never written down until the 1930s (which is why it was used by U.S. code talkers in World War II; since it wasn’t written, it couldn’t easily be learned by non-native speakers). When Haviland first came to Shonto, most children spoke Navajo, but not English. Over the years, however, the Navajo language has been dying out. Now, few children speak it, and few older people can read or write it.

Respecting families’ language, food, arts, and culture while also ensuring children have shoes that fit and healthy meals to eat is an ongoing challenge; but financial support from Children Incorporated makes it possible, Haviland said.


A Helping Handarizona-011

In her trips to Walmart, she watches her students learn to make good spending decisions, and get to pick out their own clothes and school supplies. And she gets to see these life lessons pay off in the form of former students who greet her as successful adults.

And she doesn’t always have to make the sixty-mile trip to Walmart to see it.

“We have former Children Incorporated students who work at the school,” she said. “One is a teacher. I didn’t know until he said ‘Yeah, when I was a kid, I was in Children Incorporated.’”

“Shonto is a wonderful community,” she added. “The people are very friendly and sociable – they just need a hand.”

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Arizona?

You can sponsor a child in Arizona by calling our office and speaking with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381 or by emailing us at sponsorship@childrenincorporated.org.

Creative Solutions to Food Insecurity in the Navajo Nation

At first glance, it would seem like the Navajo community in the Arizona high desert has little in common with the inner city neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

Both areas though, are food deserts, where residents can’t buy produce or other healthy foods because there aren’t any to be found.

page-schools-5In Washington, D.C. and other major U.S. cities, food deserts are located in low-income areas. There are no grocery stores there – just corner markets where residents can buy potato chips or soft drinks, or maybe canned soup – but not fruits or vegetables.

If you’ve got a car, you can drive a few miles to a grocery store outside of the city – but many inner city residents don’t have cars; or the time and mobility required to take public transit out for a shopping trip; or the wherewithal to carry more than a single bag of groceries on the bus or train.

In Arizona, it’s both different and the same. Within much of the Navajo Nation, the only places to buy food are convenience stores. Like the corner stores of Washington, D.C., they sell snacks and often cheese fries, but no produce.

“There aren’t enough full-service grocery stores that serve fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Navajo families usually have cars or trucks, but in Arizona, the nearest grocery store isn’t a couple of miles away – it’s more like 60 miles away.

So just as in D.C., the poorer families of Arizona live on Hot Pockets and canned pasta, potato chips and Coke, and other quick snacks bought from quick-stop stores.

“There are too many transportation barriers to accessing nutritious food,” said Renée Kube, Director of U.S. Programs for Children Incorporated. “There aren’t enough full-service grocery stores that serve fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Solving the Problem

pinon-scenesIn Washington, D.C., Children Incorporated has been solving the problem by launching farmers’ markets in the schools. The Joyful Food Market is a partnership program between Children Incorporated and local non-profit Martha’s Table, which allows families to shop for fresh produce just as at any other farmers’ market.

The only difference is that at the Joyful Food Market, everything is free. Families are allotted specific portions of each item, and they can walk through the aisles themselves to select what they want. Children are allowed to do the shopping, too; some parents can’t get to the market after school, so volunteers help the children shop for their entire families.

The Joyful Food Market approach doesn’t work in rural Arizona though, partly because so many of the children live at school rather than at home.

So Children Incorporated volunteers are taking a different approach there.

Out West

The Navajo Nation consists of 25,000 square miles of land, but no real cities. Flagstaff, Page, Albuquerque, Farmington, and Durango are all well outside of the Navajo Nation, and each requires a long drive across bad roads in order to get there.

Inside the Navajo Nation, Children Incorporated works in several schools, helping provide students and their families with clothes, shoes, hygiene items, and school supplies – plus, of course, healthy food.

Kube visited the Navajo Nation schools last October with Shelley Oxenham, Children Incorporated’s U.S. Project Specialist. Together, they discussed with volunteer coordinators the different needs and programs at each school.

pinon-community-school-18What the schools have in common is that most of their students are poor. Many don’t live with their parents, because their parents aren’t in the picture at all, or because their parents have taken work in remote locations. Children live with other relatives or at school; and while most aren’t starving, they suffer from food insecurity, poor nutrition, and a lack of money for basic necessities.

Gardens in the Desert

Teachers and volunteer coordinators at the Navajo schools focus on academics, as well as on life skills and health. To meet their goals, several schools have implemented gardening programs.

The Saint Michaels Association for Special Education provides education and care for children who are mentally or physically disabled. The school has built a handicap-accessible garden with paths and plant beds built for easy access by students in wheelchairs.

The idea, Kube said, is to add nutritious food to the children’s diets whenever possible, and also to give the children hands-on experience working in the garden and helping to make plants grow. The children raise houseplants and flowers in addition to vegetables, which the cafeteria staff prepares for student meals.

st-michaels-3There aren’t a lot of crops that grow well in the desert, but corn, beans, and squash – collectively referred to as the “three sisters” – do well, and when planted together, help one another to grow. They are at the center of Native American cooking traditions, and are grown in school programs and at home by the children’s families.

Pinon Community School is another Navajo school served by Children Incorporated. George Tso, the residential hall manager at the school, helps the students perpetuate their cultural heritage by working with local elders to teach them traditional Navajo skills, such as weaving, butchering meat, and building sweat lodges.

And, of course, raising crops.

“They’re growing corn, cilantro, habanero peppers, strawberries, squash, and tomatoes,” said Oxenham. “They also have two beehives set up with bees to pollinate the plants.”

Challenged by Geography

st-michaels-4Rocky Ridge Boarding School is one of the most rural in the area, accessible only by dirt roads on the border between the Navajo and Hopi Nations. Most of the students at Rocky Ridge are day students, but some stay at school all week. (Many of the Navajo schools have boarding options, generally because families live too far away, and the dirt roads become nearly impassable during the rainy season.)

Rocky Ridge is trying to implement a garden plan that children can replicate at home. Instead of building a large greenhouse or a huge school-wide garden, school administrators envision little garden plots that are easy for children to build themselves. That way, Oxenham said, they can build their own gardens at home using the skills they learn at school.

But there’s a hitch. Many Navajo families have no running water, and some have no electricity – so otherwise simple tasks become difficult.

“Gardens need to be built with a wind break; otherwise, the plants often cannot survive,” Oxenham said. “They’re working out how to do this and how to fund it.”

“Many families haul water, so there is a lack of excess water to be used for things like gardens, which, in such a dry climate, would require a lot of water,” she said.

Then there’s the wind.

“Gardens need to be built with a wind break; otherwise, the plants often cannot survive,” Oxenham said. “They’re working out how to do this and how to fund it.”

Healthy Eating for Life

It’s all part of a greater effort to get nutritious food, rather than just any food, to the nation’s poorest children.

“The matter of adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to people’s diets has come to the forefront,” Kube said. “Interest is growing amongst the coordinators, and it’s an area we have identified as one for current and future Hope in Action Fund proposals.”

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Arizona?

You can sponsor a child in Arizona by calling our office and speaking with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381 or by emailing us at sponsorship@childrenincorporated.org.