Tag Archives: bolivia

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.

A Thousand Shoes for a Thousand Kids

As the end of the year approaches, I can say that the Children Incorporated staff as a whole is amazed by what we have accomplished thus far in 2017, thanks to our incredible sponsors and donors. When our President and CEO, Ron Carter, sent out a letter in December of 2016 asking our supporters to help us reach our goal of providing 1,000 pairs of new shoes to sponsored and unsponsored children at our projects in the coming year, we never dreamed the response would be so tremendous.

Just three months after launching our Shoe Fund campaign, our supporters had already donated more than $30,000 to ensure that children in our program in Latin America, Africa, and Asia would receive new shoes. We can’t thank you enough for what you have done for these special young girls and boys.

The importance of shoes

There are a lot of basic needs that children go without on a daily basis – something we understand all too well. Providing basic necessities, like clothing, food, hygiene items, and educational support, to kids is the foundation of our sponsorship program, and we believe that each and every one of these aspects is incredibly important in helping children have a greater chance to succeed in life. So why did Mr. Carter want to focus in particular on getting shoes to kids in need?

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes.”

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes,” says Mr. Carter. “In some cases, children attend school only every other day because they have to share a single pair of shoes with a sibling. We have always made a point of providing good, solid shoes to these children, knowing that shoes can be very expensive. As such, the Children Incorporated Shoe Fund campaign has been one of our most meaningful endeavors.”

1,235 pairs and counting

We are very grateful that our donors understand that items that can sometimes appear small and insignificant can really improve the lives of children. Shoes may not seem like a big deal, but as Mr. Carter stated, it’s sometimes the difference between a child going to school or not.

Because of you, we have provided children at our affiliated projects the Pedro Poveda School, Guarderia El Angel, the Lourdes School, the Santa Clotilde Orphanage, Villa Emilia, the Montero Home, and the Cristo Rey Mission in Bolivia with shoes this year. Thanks to you, children at Hogar Santa Julia and Hogar Santa Maria in Mexico have brand new shoes to wear to school. If it weren’t for you, children at the Dandora Community Center in Kenya, the Rainbow ‘Erdata’ Center in Ethiopia, Chrishanti Lama Sevana in Sri Lanka, La Milagrosa in Costa Rica, and Santa Isabel Ana Seton in Guatemala wouldn’t have received new footwear, either.

To date, we have provided 1,235 pairs of shoes to kids in need, and we will continue distributing shoes in the upcoming months.

Thank you for all that you do to help children – we couldn’t do it without you.

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Building Homes and Securing Futures in Bolivia

It has been fun to reminisce about my trip to Bolivia last year now that Luis has returned from his visit there just a few weeks ago. When I caught up with him to hear updates about our projects, there was one in particular I couldn’t wait to ask about. While we were in Bolivia together last year for the inauguration of the Montero School, Luis had just been to Santa Cruz for yet another inauguration – the completion of homes built for women and their Children Incorporated-sponsored children, who until now had been living at Villa Emilia.

A Shining Light in the Dark

Sister Pilar outside of a home constructed by Villa Emilia

When Luis and I visited Villa Emilia last spring, we were greeted by smiling children and mothers who lined the driveway leading to the community center, where the kids sang songs and read poems to welcome us. Villa Emilia is a special place; our volunteer coordinator, Sister Pilar, and the other Sisters that run the home pull women off the streets of Santa Cruz. They give them a safe place to stay, and offer them a job in the garment factory on the property, where they make school uniforms that are sold to generate money to run the home. It is really an amazing place – well-kept grounds and small dorm-style living facilities offer the families refuge from tough street life; and the children are able to attend local schools and receive support from Children Incorporated sponsors. As a result of living in a stable environment, the children at Villa Emilia are some of the best in their classes, we’re told!

Villa Emilia isn’t set up for women to stay there permanently; once they are able to save money, the Sisters help them find housing close by, so that they can continue to work at the factory, and their children can stay in the same schools. But even more than just helping the women find housing outside of the compound, the Sisters also help the women purchase their own property, on which they can eventually build a home – offering them a real, sustainable living situation.

Sister Pilar’s Mission

The Sisters also help the women purchase their own property, on which they can eventually build a home – offering them a real, sustainable living situation.

About thirty minutes away from Villa Emilia, Sister Pilar took us to a neighborhood where she pointed out a few modest homes. They were sturdy brick structures, and she explained that each of the homes had separate bedrooms, which was something we hadn’t seen often in smaller houses in Bolivia. Across the street from the completed houses were other homes that were still under construction.

According to Sister Pilar, the Sisters purchased the land from the government, and then the women paid the five-year mortgages on the properties, after which point they owned them outright. Along the way, they also saved money to build homes on their properties. The timelines for the start construction varied for each family, depending on how much they could save each month. If Villa Emilia received any funding from an outside source, the Sisters would pitch in to start construction so the women could move into permanent housing more quickly.

Luis outside of a newly built house, ready to cut the ribbon

Another ten-minute drive away, we arrived at a field where grass grew as tall as our knees, and power lines were strung above our heads. Peaking up above the grass were pipes, a sign that water lines had already been laid in the ground. Sister Pilar told us we were standing on eight plots of land, already purchased by Villa Emilia.

Eight women had been selected to pay the mortgages on the land, and they were already more than two years into their payments – but far from being able to afford to build their homes. The cost of each house would be roughly $7,000, which would take the women a long time to earn. Once they had the money, though it would take only about six months to construct the houses.

We left that day, having been touched by Sister Pilar’s mission to give these families better lives in permanent homes, and a chance to raise their children off the streets.

The Right Thing to Do

One of eight newly constructed homes

After we returned from our trip, Luis decided the right thing to do would be to have Children Incorporated support the building of the houses. If the women were left to make the money to afford the homes on their own, it might be ten years or more before they moved in. By then, most of the sponsored children will have grown up and moved on, never having a chance to live in homes that their hardworking mothers owned.

Luis talked to Sister Pilar about sending over plans for the construction, and told her that he would like for the project to get underway as soon as possible. Knowing he would be returning to Bolivia in almost exactly a year, Luis encouraged Sister Pilar to get the project going quickly so that he could share the success with Children Incorporated supporters upon his return.

A Celebration of Home

 Three weeks ago, Luis returned to Villa Emilia, and was once again greeted by a loving group of boys and girls and their mothers, as well as Sister Pilar. When he entered the community center, he saw a large bulletin board on a wall that was covered in paper hearts. Each heart had the name of an individual Children Incorporated sponsor who was helping the children at Villa Emilia. After meeting with the children, it was time to go see the new houses.

When Luis arrived, he no longer saw an empty field; he saw eight concrete houses making a new small neighborhood where no buildings had stood before – and the families were already there waiting for him.

The first person Luis greeted was a grandmother who has two daughters, both of whom have children in our program. They stood in front of their new home, excited that the day they had waited for a long time was finally here. Luis cut the ribbon that had been gently tied across the front door, and Sister Pilar handed the grandmother the keys to her new home. She was overwhelmed with happiness, and tears streamed down her face.

The always-ambitious Sister Pilar told Luis she would love to build more houses. There were enough plots in this new neighborhood to build fifteen more houses if they could find the funding to do so.

Luis spent the afternoon cutting one ribbon after another, welcoming families into their new homes. He toured the beautiful new homes, which had two separate bedrooms, a large living area, a kitchen, and a bathroom each. They had electricity, running water, sewage systems, and large windows to allow for air and light to come in.

As they left that day, the always-ambitious Sister Pilar told Luis she would love to build more houses. There were enough plots in this new neighborhood to build fifteen more houses if they could find the funding to do so; and she would even love to see a community center in the area so that the neighborhood could really flourish. She was excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the lives of these women and their children, and she was feeling so uplifted by the day that all she could talk about was doing more.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BOLIVIA?

You can sponsor a child in Bolivia one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Bolivia that is available for sponsorship.

One Year Later: Returning to the Montero School

It’s hard to believe it has already been a year since Luis and I were in Bolivia together, visiting projects in La Paz and Santa Cruz. Although Luis has been traveling to visit sites for many years now, it was my first trip with Children Incorporated, and it marked the launch of our On the Road series. Looking back, it was incredible to have had the chance to visit our affiliate projects in Bolivia, and to meet with our volunteer coordinators, such as Sister Josefina at the Pedro Poveda School; and to spend time hearing stories from our sponsored children, like Carla, who grew up in our program and is now in college. Even more importantly, I feel privileged to have had the chance to be a part of something very special during that particular trip – the inauguration of the completion of the Montero School classrooms. The construction of the classrooms was hugely important not only to the students at the school, but it was also important to the whole community – and I didn’t realize what it meant to people until I was there to see it.

An Educated Proposal

Students in their classroom at the Montero School

In late 2015, Luis spoke with Sister Geraldina, our volunteer coordinator at the Montero School in Okinawa, a rural community a few hours outside of Santa Cruz. Geraldina mentioned that she wanted to add additional classrooms to the school so she could enroll more students. The town has a lot of poor residents, and educating the kids is really the only way to help them get out of poverty, as it is in so many places in the world. Sister Geraldina’s proposal wasn’t just an idea that she casually mentioned to Luis; in fact, the foundation had already been started. But she didn’t have any funding to complete the classrooms, so what was there was nothing more than a flat outline of a building on the school property.

Luis liked the idea of expanding the Montero School in order to educate more students; and thanks to our incredible supporters, only a few months later, construction was underway. The proposal was to add seven additional classrooms to the Montero School, which would allow 200 or more students to attend classes every day. By April of 2016, when Luis and I visited the school to celebrate the completion of the classrooms, everything except the two bathrooms was complete. By the time we arrived, desks for the students were in place, and the building was ready for students to start learning there the very next day.

Impacting an Entire Community

The construction of the classrooms was hugely important not only to the students at the school, but it was also important to the whole community.

For me, the most memorable part of being at the inauguration of the new classrooms at the Montero School was getting the chance to celebrate with the community. Nearly 600 people came for the ribbon cutting ceremony, and I loved how festive all of it was; starting early on in the day, children and their mothers hung crepe paper and blew up balloons to decorate the new classrooms before the afternoon ceremony. I couldn’t believe how many local people showed up to the event, and it seemed that everyone was participating in some way – decorating, dancing, singing, or by bringing food to share.

For Luis, before leaving for Bolivia once again, the memory of the inauguration called him to reflect on how incredible it is to see the projects that Children Incorporated supports work to provide for the educational needs of children beyond sponsorship. What struck him was more than just knowing the families were grateful for the new classrooms – it was also knowing that the school would help many generations to come. I agree with Luis: sponsorship is the core of Children Incorporated‘s work, but when we have opportunities to do more – like build schools, homes, or dormitories – we can reach more people and change the lives of entire families for the better.

Luis and I enjoyed the inauguration immensely, and were even able to stay in Okinawa an additional day to see the children start classes the next day.

Back in Bolivia
Just a few weeks ago, Luis returned to Bolivia to visit twelve of our projects, this time traveling to La Paz, as well Sucre and Santa Cruz – including the Montero School.

The grounds of the school outside the new classrooms are now landscaped, thanks to the help of the students.

Upon arriving in Okinawa, Luis was greeted by Sister Geraldina, who had the same enthusiasm and energy as she did the year before when it came to showing Luis the new classrooms. The first thing Luis noticed that was different was the new concrete walkways leading to the classrooms; only gravel had been there the year before. Surrounding the walkways were plants and flowers, both in pots and buried in the ground, lush and green, and well cared for. Grass had grown all around where once only dirt and remnants of the construction site had been. Sister Geraldina explained that the students were completely responsible for beautifying the area around the new classrooms; and they also maintain the grounds, making sure the foliage gets watered and trimmed as needed.

She then showed Luis the completed bathrooms, which were covered in white tile and were in perfect condition, clean and functioning well. She then took him to visit the students in the classrooms. Since last year, air conditioning units had been installed, a gift from students’ families – something they did to show that they care a great deal about having the new classrooms at the school. Sister Geraldina explained that nearly 400 children are taking classes now during two separate shifts during the day, and there are even adult reading classes being held at night.

Every single one of them have benefited from the new classrooms.

Luis was more than impressed by what he saw a year later at the Montero School. Not only had the classrooms and the grounds been kept up and even improved in ways, but the community continued to invest in the new building, and it didn’t seem like they wasted a second of the day in using the classrooms for educating children and adults alike. Knowing he saw the community using the building to its full potential, it makes all the sense in the world to me now why so many people came to the inauguration. Every single one of them have benefited from the new classrooms.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Bolivia?

You can sponsor a child in Bolivia one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at    1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Bolivia that is available for sponsorship.

The Road Ahead: Catching Up with On the Road’s Shelley Callahan

Around this time last year, Children Incorporated’s Director of Development, Shelley Callahan, and Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, boarded a plane and set off on the first of many adventures together, On the Road. Side by side, the two traveled to dozens of projects around the globe, from as far away as Ethiopia, to as close to home as Kentucky.

The idea was simple: give readers a first-hand look at the impact of child sponsorship. “The day-to-day life in these towns is always a story of triumph over adversity,” Shelley had said. “We want our readers to have a front-row seat on our trips so they can see first-hand how Children Incorporated partnerships work on the ground.”

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Luis and Shelley on their first trip together to Bolivia

The duo is preparing for several more trips in 2017. We caught up with Shelley to get her perspective on the series one year later – and to find out where On the Road will take us this year.

CI: It’s been a year since you and Luis first took readers “On the Road” to visit Children Incorporated projects in Bolivia. What is most memorable to you about that trip, and why?

SC: Going to Bolivia was my first international trip with Children Incorporated, and it really opened my eyes to the work we do. As the Director of Development, I understand how important it is to provide basic needs to our sponsored children, and I am aware of the impact that our sponsors and donors have on our children and their families, but seeing it firsthand in La Paz and in Santa Cruz was really life-changing for me.

Also, getting to see a larger, long-term project come to fruition was beyond amazing. Luis and I were invited to participate in the inauguration of the addition to the Montero School, which had been under construction for more than six months. Thanks to the support of Children Incorporated sponsors, the school now has enough classrooms to teach hundreds of children on a daily basis. We got to celebrate with the community there, and we stuck around to see the children try out their new classrooms. The sheer joy and excitement was extremely moving.

That’s precisely why we are doing this – to show what one person can do. It’s really something to witness, and I’m honored to share it with our readers.

We traveled all over Bolivia, and met so many incredible people, including Carla, a woman who graduated from an affiliate program of ours in La Paz. Carla was abandoned by her parents when they left Bolivia in search of work. She was raised by her grandmother, who struggled to support her granddaughter on meager earnings from the produce she sold at the local market.

With support from her sponsor, and under the guidance of our volunteer coordinator, Josefina, Carla successfully graduated from the Pedro Poveda School.

Now Carla is in college and working to save money to build a house. She lives with her husband, and they have a daughter together. And she still stays in touch with her sponsor after all these years! It was such a testament to the power of what one person can do, and just how a seemingly-small gesture, like donating $30 a month to a child, can be life-changing.

CI: Why did Children Incorporated decide to launch the On the Road series in the first place?

SC: We launched On the Road to bring our sponsors and donors along with us in order to show them the impact their contributions are making on children all over the world.

We could never have anticipated the reaction we had from our readers. I’ve heard many times over the past year that people really do feel as though they went on a trip with me – whether it was to South America, Africa, or in the U.S.

That’s precisely why we are doing this – to show what one person can do. It’s really something to witness, and I’m honored to share it with our readers.

CI: Has anything surprised you along the way?

SC: There are always lots of surprises when you travel, but what really amazes me is how this experience has helped develop my relationship with our donors. People comment all the time on the pictures we share and on the stories we tell about our travels around the globe. It’s really wonderful to share these experiences with our donors.

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Luis with Carla, her daughter, and our coordinator, Josefina, in La Paz, Bolivia

CI: You started in Bolivia, and went on to cover site visits in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mexico – and even in the U.S. Which was the most challenging? Which was the most rewarding?

SC: This is a hard question, because every country is different, and every project is different, too! But I have to admit that visiting the slums of Dandora and Pumwani in Kenya was especially difficult. Site visits can be physically and emotionally draining at times. Long days of traveling to projects, having meetings, and interviewing children and their families already requires a great deal of stamina, but when you see the conditions the children live in, and you so desperately want more for them in life, it takes a toll.

Of course, out of the toughest challenges are the greatest rewards. In the bleakest of environments, I’ve seen up-close how sponsorship is making an impact. Most of the children we serve abroad would not be able to attend school if it weren’t for their sponsorship through Children Incorporated – it simply wouldn’t be possible. In many cases, school is the only safe haven available to these children. And in the U.S., sponsorship helps in ways that are so important. For example, there are children in Kentucky who are going to school in literally broken flip flops in the middle of the winter, with no coat – and they’re going home on the weekends to a house with no food. Sponsorship keeps those children warm and fed.

CI: Is there a place you wish you could have stayed longer? Why?

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Luis with sponsored children in Kenya

SC: I think I could have stayed in all of these places longer, because our coordinators are so welcoming and grateful for what Children Incorporated is able to do because of our donors. I have felt at home visiting all of our sites. But it would have been really cool to stay in Ethiopia longer, because we had provided some funds to help our affiliate project Kids Hope start a large garden to be maintained by the older sponsored children, to teach them and to provide food for the project – and I would have loved to have seen them get that going. They have since sent pictures, and it looked like everyone was having a lot of fun!

Of course, out of the toughest challenges are the greatest rewards. In the bleakest of environments, I’ve seen up-close how sponsorship is making an impact.

CI: Of all the On the Road stories you published last year, which is your favorite? Why?

SC: Tough question! One particular story that stood out is “Two Wheels and the Wind in Your Hair,” about the sponsor who donated bikes to children in Eastern Kentucky. It was so impactful because I got to be a part of so much of it – connecting with Claudette Gurley of New Hampshire, who had raised the money to purchase the bikes in memory of a friend who had passed away; actually going to Walmart and purchasing the bikes; presenting the bikes to the kids; and then meeting their parents when we dropped the bikes off at their houses. It was all very moving – to see the excitement on the faces of the children. I will never forget one of the boys saying, “I don’t know her (about the donor), but tell her I love her!”

CI: You’ve traveled extensively all over the globe for many years. How many stamps are in your passport?!  But seriously, what’s your best advice to those who want to travel off the beaten path?

SC:  I’ve been fortunate to have been able to see so much of the world. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting nearly thirty foreign countries in my lifetime. I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel with Children Incorporated, and to see firsthand the impact of sponsorship in the lives of the children we serve.

My best advice for any traveler is to have an open mind. Accept whatever comes your way, and respect all cultures and traditions, even if your natural reaction is to try to do things the way you are accustomed to at home. It’s always good to ask questions of everyone you meet – on the airplane, your host, someone who works at a local store. You will find out the best, most interesting information about a country from the locals, and you will hear the most fascinating stories from nationals. It is the only way to get a real, full idea of what life is like in a foreign country. And don’t forget to write it all down! Sharing stories is the way to make the greatest impact – if we tell others stories, we can help change the lives of others in need, just like On the Road tries to do.

Sharing stories is the way to make the greatest impact – if we tell others stories, we can help change the lives of others in need, just like On the Road tries to do.

CI: Did you bring home any souvenirs from the places you visited? What were they and why are they special?

SC: The best souvenirs are the ones that our volunteer coordinators or the children’s families give me, because they are personal and thoughtful. I have to say that the most moving gift I received was hand-painted tablecloths from the mothers of sponsored children at the Montero Home in Bolivia. They took hours to paint beautiful flowers on the tablecloths, which we would see in homes in Bolivia. It is hard to accept gifts from families that are in need, because they could sell them for money instead of give them to me; but it is the most heartwarming gesture, and a gift that will always remind me of these special people whom I have had the privilege of meeting and spending time with.

CI: You are gearing up for more travels soon. Where will you take readers in 2017?

SC: I will be in Costa Rica in May, visiting the La Milagrosa Center, the Costa Rica Center, and the Santa Luisa Center; and we will be distributing shoes to the children there, which is very exciting. On the same trip, I will also visit our projects in Nicaragua, which include the La Recoleccion Home and the Casa Betania Welfare Center – both homes where we support children living in poverty.

In July, Luis and I will be visiting projects in both Sri Lanka and India. We are currently trying to partner with another non-profit organization to take water filters to our children and their families in some of the schools we work with in Hyderabad, India, which is so important. Closer to the end of the year, we will be visiting projects in the Philippines – the details are yet to be determined, but in the past, Luis has taken eyeglasses with him to provide additional support for children and their parents.

Educating Girls Is Critical to Reducing Poverty

International Women’s Day is coming up next week, on March 8. It’s a time for us to reflect on the contributions women make to society, despite the massive challenges they face here and around the globe.

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Anyone can see that women and girls are still less valued than men and boys in many cultures. Women – even educated women – still earn significantly less than men in the job market. And in some cultures, young girls are not even given opportunities for learning or growth so that they may support themselves and their families in the future.

We’d like to think of this as a problem found only in impoverished countries; but the discrepancy is easy to track in America as well.

A recent story in the Dallas Morning News stated that seventeen percent of women and girls in Texas live in poverty. Sadly, that’s not out of line with the national average: 14.7 percent of American women are living in poverty – a significantly higher rate than that of men – according to the 2015 Census.

A lot of that has to do with the wage gap: women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men make. But it also has to do with a systematic lack of opportunities for girls, and that’s where Children Incorporated has been directing its efforts.

Education is the key

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

We already know that education is critical in reducing poverty rates. Many children live in situations where one or both parents are either uneducated, or at the very least, are undereducated. As such, these parents often have very low-wage jobs, with few or no benefits. Due to a lack of financial resources in the family, they have an incredibly difficult time moving up and improving their station in life. If only the parents were better educated and more qualified to hold higher-paying jobs with benefits and perks, perhaps the family could escape the trappings of poverty.

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

Raising role models

One shining example can be found in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Last spring, Children Incorporated Director of Development Shelley Callahan and Director of International Programs Luis Bourdet visited Villa Emilia, a small compound just outside of the city that helps women and children who have been living on the streets turn their lives around.

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The alleys of Santa Cruz are home to countless women who work the streets to keep their children fed. It’s hard and dangerous, and often illegal. The children grow up uneducated and homeless themselves. As they grow into adulthood, the boys can become laborers or field hands. The girls, however, often have no options but to take to the streets too – thus continuing the cycle.

Sister Pilar and the nuns at Villa Emilia find these families in the alleys and bring them to the community to live. The women are trained in garment making, the children are educated, and everyone is taught work ethic and life skills that they can pass down.

The Sisters also help families to build permanence and stability. When families move to Villa Emilia, they live in homes that are owned by the Sisters. However, with the wages they earn in the villa’s garment factory, the women purchase homes of their own, giving their children a fresh start living in a new home and getting an education.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Skills for life

In Lages, Brazil, Children Incorporated began supporting women of Grupo Art’Mulher, a community bakery that sells cookies, breads, pastas, and cakes. The group’s purpose is to teach business skills and a trade to mothers, who also earn an income for their work.

In its first year, twenty women received instruction on how to bake and how to sell baked goods. Grupo Art’Mulher began making a name for itself at the local market, and many members of the first class ended up getting jobs in the food industry.

That was five years ago, and since then, the program has only grown. The mothers of Grupo Art’Mulher have learned to support their families, and have learned cooking and business skills to pass down to their own children. They’ve also earned enough to give back – a percentage of the bakery income will be donated to start music and theater courses in a building across the street froDSCF3105m it this year.

In some areas, like in Santa Cruz and Lages, we sponsor programs aimed toward women and girls specifically. But at all of our projects, we value girls and include them in our programs just as we do boys. We do not support work where intolerance or gender prejudice is known to exist.

In areas for which we fundraise to create special facilities, such as the computer lab we helped get up-and-running in Mexico, or the school we built in Bolivia, female students are afforded the same access to services as the male ones. In Guatemala, we support a wonderful school where children are given vocational training of all kinds – and the girls are just as involved, if not even more so, than the boys.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education. That will allow them to do better in life financially than their parents did, and to slowly change the outlook of the entire community in which they live.

Self-Sufficiency

The Pumwani slum of Nairobi is considered one of the worst communities in the world. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people live crowded together in shacks about the size of an American bathroom, with no water or electricity, and along streets of mud.

One of our projects there is St. John’s Community Center, where 200 children are taught academic subjects, as well as trades like woodworking, metal work, sewing, and cooking, so that they can get jobs and get out of the slums.DSCF9626

And sometimes success is easy to see in someone’s face. Callahan and Bourdet met a graduate of the program, Mwanaharusi, who learned to sew at St. John’s. She saved enough money to buy a foot-powered sewing machine, and now has her own business making clothes and mending garments.

It’s modest success by some standards; but in the darkest corners of the world, it’s a major victory. A girl born into poverty in a country where girls are often not educated at all – finishes school, starts her own business, and is able to support herself and her family.

Moving Forward

With every success like Mwanaharusi’s, we move one step closer to equality. But we don’t do it alone. With funding from our sponsors, and with continued attention to childhood poverty and income inequality – both at home and abroad – we will keep moving forward together, one step at a time.

***

How do I sponsor a child through Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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 search for a child that is available for sponsorship.

Perspective, Kenya

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written by Ron Carter

Ron Carter is President and CEO of Children Incorporated. Ron is responsible for overseeing all operations of Children Incorporated, with a specific goal of honoring the original vision and mission of the organization as created by Jeanne Clarke Wood in 1964.

» more of Ron's stories