Tag Archives: child poverty

Words Are Not Enough

We are very grateful to receive testimonials from our incredible volunteer coordinators from around the world, especially because they get to the see first-hand, on a daily basis, the amazing impact that our sponsors are having on the children all over the world. Today we would like to share a beautiful letter from Neil, one of our volunteer coordinators in North Carolina, who has expressed his gratitude and appreciation for our program and more importantly, our sponsors.

A letter from Neil

“Dear Children Incorporated Staff & Sponsors,

Words seem inadequate as I to describe the smiles and heartfelt appreciate my students demonstrate from the gifts and letters they receive from their sponsors.  How do I describe the pride a student exhibits as he walks down the hall in a new pair of sneakers?  Or how to describe the twinkle in our students’ eyes and the voracious manner in which they read letters from their sponsor as they try to image far off places?  I do not believe it is possible to describe the appreciation the students, or I, feel for the sponsors.  Words are not enough.

Let me tell you about the sneakers first.  There are two boys who come immediately to mind.  Life has dealt them a very difficult hand.  Both have absentee parents and are being raised by either a grandparent or great grandparents.  While having many excuses to be mad at the world and creating waves of pain and anger, both of these young men work diligently to learn as much as they can, follow the rules, and interact with their classmates in cooperative manner. They come to school and do their very best every day.  At Christmas I asked each of them what they would like from their sponsor.  Both wanted a pair of Stephen Curry high-tops sneakers. 

Thank you doesn’t express how much the assistance from Children Incorporated and the sponsors mean to the students and myself.  Know that it is heartfelt and truly meant.

– Neil

I told them I would see what I could do.  Because their sponsors’ monthly funds and additional holiday gifts, I was able to get both boys exactly what they requested.  Each of these young men are used to being disappointed, to having promises made and ultimately broken, and to wish for brand-name products and to get discount brands instead.  That is their experiences in life.  When they sat down in my office, opened their bags of gifts, and there, in their hands were the coolest shoes a kid could get, oh the disbelief, and then the smiles.  Tenderly they pulled their new shoes from the box, as if they were plated in gold and the bright colors dazzled their eyes.  One young man looked up to as if to ask if they were really his, and had to be encouraged to try them on.  One asked to wash his hands before he tried them on so he wouldn’t get them dirty.  The other day I greeted one of the young men as he was dropped off at school.  The shoes looked almost as good as they did the day he got them.  I asked his grandmother about this, and she stated that every day when he comes home from school, he takes off his shoes, washes them, and puts them away.  He told her that he has to take care of them because they are the nicest shoes he has ever received in his life.  This from a rough and tumble boy is an example of the worth he places in those shoes. 

Another special story

It is unfair that I get to see the smiles from these children and you, their sponsors, do not.  There have been times, like those described above, which bring a tear to my eyes.  One small girl, upon receiving her new, sparkling shoes, had to show me how good she could spin like a ballerina, the entire time, watching how her new shoes sparkled in the light.  Another couldn’t stop tapping her feet to make the lights in her shoes to come on and go off.  Another young lady ran up to me and gave me a very unexpected hug (she is a child who seldom expresses her emotions) and spun around showing me her new outfit, stating “I feel like a millionaire in these clothes.”  Things that I would take for granted meant the world to these students. 

There is one last story I would like to share.  One of the sponsored children is intellectually and physically disabled.  Non-verbal and unable to provide for his own care, I have to depend on his caregivers to find out what to get him.  They told me he loves blocks and loves to put them away after playing with them.  For Christmas, thanks to his sponsor, he received several different types of blocks and a container to put them in.  While he wasn’t able to open them, as the caregivers opened his gifts and show them to him I could tell he was quite happy and excited.  After Christmas break the caregivers reported that he played incessantly with the blocks, arranging them, and stacking them.  When finally tired, he would use as much care as he could to put each block in his new container. 

One day shortly after the end of Christmas break I was in his room giving a guidance lesson to him and his class.  The boy, typically remote and aloof, began to smack his hands together, beat on his desk, and attempted “talk” to me.  I walked over to him and offered him my hand.  This student had never attempted to interact with me before that day.  He began patting my hand and in the ultimate display of affection, took my hand and rubbed it back and forth over his head.  He chattered away at me and repeatedly patted my hand and had me rub his head during the rest of the guidance lesson.  Never would I have believed that the boy understood that the blocks came from me.  But he did.  And he displayed the tremendous depths of his gratitude in the only manner his unique mind and body could.  I left his room that day with a profound sense of humility.  I had received a blessing his sponsor should have received.  And what a humbling blessing it was for me. 

Thank you doesn’t express how much the assistance from Children Incorporated and the sponsors mean to the students and myself.  Know that it is heartfelt and truly meant.

 With gratitude,

Neil

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN NORTH CAROLINA?

You can sponsor a child in North Carolina 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.

When Community Matters Most

It is an unfortunate reality that, when it comes to our affiliated projects around the world, including in urban and rural areas in the United States, we often hear from our volunteer coordinators that there just aren’t enough funds provided to them to help every child in need. Sometimes the reason is that a school’s budget has been cut, or the number of children in attendance is growing faster than the administration can keep up with; or maybe a significant donor is no longer able to fund certain programs, and no new donor has replaced them. Whatever the reason, a lack of funding means that children living in poverty suffer without basic resources, and they are at risk of falling behind in school.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program. Donations from Children Incorporated don’t always cover the needs of every child at a project, however; and in many cases, our coordinators seek help from the surrounding community in order to ensure that kids living in poverty are getting what they need. One such volunteer coordinator who did just that is Deloris at Mullins Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky.

Rebuilding her center

Sponsor a child in Kentucky.

Deloris shows Renée and Shelley her supply closet, which is full, thanks to a local church.

Mullins Elementary School is a spacious and well-equipped newer school located just outside the Pikeville city limits. Deloris originally worked in the school’s front office; then she was transferred to the family resource center when our last volunteer coordinator there, Tammy, retired a few years ago. On a trip to visit the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Deloris, who explained that when she took over in her new position, she felt like she was starting from square one.

The center had been completely cleaned out after Tammy’s departure, and Deloris found that she had almost no budget to work with and no supplies to distribute to kids who were going to school without proper clothes or any school supplies at all. She told Shelley and Renée that it has been a big task for her to rebuild the center from the ground up. She has had to work hard to figure out how to provide for the students at the school, as well as for their families, who she knows all too well are struggling to make a living in this impoverished region of the United States.

Getting the supplies she needs

In order to obtain the food and school supplies she needed, she reached out to a church in the community to make food baskets during Thanksgiving and Christmas for families who would otherwise go without holiday meals. The church also held a school supplies drive that enabled Deloris to stock a closet in her center. Thankfully, when it comes to the donations that sponsored children are receiving from their sponsors, Deloris has had the funds in place to shop for children enrolled in our program so that they receive new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, as well as hygiene items on a monthly basis.

Before their visit ended, Shelley and Renée discussed how Deloris could identify more children to enroll in our sponsorship program so that we could hopefully link them with sponsors, too. Deloris was excited to work towards getting more children sponsored, with the hope that with additional sponsorships paired with continued help from the community, she could ensure that all the kids at Mullins Elementary School are receiving the consistent support they so desperately need.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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.

Stepping Back in Time

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.

***

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.

Changing the Life of a Child in Need

Phelps Elementary School is on the far eastern side of Pike County, almost to the border between Kentucky and West Virginia, and about 45 minutes from the county seat. On a recent trip to Pike County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, Brandi, who talked with Shelley about the level of poverty among families in the area, and why many of them are having a hard time making ends meet.

Even as a young boy, Danny is very aware of the poverty in which his family lives, and he knows that he would go without so much in his life if he weren’t receiving help from his sponsor.

Phelps Elementary School serves children from preschool through the sixth grade, with an enrollment of about 350 students. Brandi explained that many families of sponsored and unsponsored children who attend the school have an income that is 200 percent below the Federal Poverty Line. Jobs in the area are mostly for minimum wage; local businesses include Family Dollar, Dollar General, and a few independently-owned companies and stores.

Some members of the community travel to Pikeville for work – but only if they can earn more money by doing so, to make the commute back and forth worth their time and effort. A few parents are employed at the local Kellogg Company factory, but many of those jobs require long hours away from home, which is not ideal – especially for single parents.

Many of our sponsored students feel that sponsorship has changed their lives.

Meeting Danny

During Shelley’s visit, Brandi took her on a tour of the school, where she was able to meet a few students enrolled in our program. Shelley recalls that one student in particular, Danny*, really stood out to her.

Even as a young boy, Danny is very aware of the poverty in which his family lives, and he knows that he would go without so much in his life if he weren’t receiving help from his sponsor. While Shelley talked with Danny, he told her, “Having a sponsor has changed my life. She has helped me with so much. I need so much. That is what my sponsor is for, thankfully.”

After meeting with Danny, Shelley learned from Brandi that without his Children Incorporated sponsor, Danny would never have decent clothes, shoes, school supplies, or hygiene items, which are all so important to him – as they are to all children – while he’s growing up.

*Name changed for child’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 at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Siblings Raising Siblings

Oftentimes, children living in poverty have to grow up quickly. Their parents might work long hours away from home – or even out of town – which means kids must cook their own meals and put themselves to bed without mom or dad tucking them in. Sometimes, unfortunately, even if a parent is not working out of the house, they are not emotionally, psychologically, or physically capable of caring for their children.

Instead of focusing on school and getting to play with their friends and siblings, older brothers and sisters end up helping raise kids themselves – which can add a lot of stress to their lives.

In instances like these, kids find themselves taking on all household responsibilities, including watching over their younger siblings. Instead of focusing on school and getting to play with their friends and siblings, older brothers and sisters end up helping raise kids themselves – which can add a lot of stress to their lives.

Just a step ahead of her siblings

On a recent trip to visit Feds Creek Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Jan, who introduced Shelley to a special student named Laura*.  As a fifth-grader, Laura is helping to raise her younger sisters, Rebecca* and Lori*, even though she herself is only slightly older than the two of them. Although her parents are unemployed and at home during the day, Laura is the one responsible for getting her sisters up and ready in the morning before school, which is a difficult task for a ten-year-old.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Jan with a couple of our sponsored children at Feds Creek Elementary School

Sometimes the girls go to school wearing each other’s clothes; Rebecca has shown up in Lori’s pants and shoes, because that’s what Laura told her to put on. Although it is a lot for her to do, Laura does her best to raise her siblings and make sure they get to school and don’t fall behind.

Thankfully, even though Laura has a great deal of responsibility on her plate at home, when she gets to school, she has Jan and the resource center – as well as support from her sponsor – to give her some much-needed relief. Instead of taking care of others, she can be taken care of by loving and supportive adults, which gives her a chance to concentrate in class and just be the kid she deserves to be.

*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 at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Working to Make Dreams Come True

Shelby Valley High School is located in the southern part of Pikeville, Kentucky. The school is fortunate in that U.S. Route 23 traverses its surrounding area. Route 23 is one of only two four-lane highways that pass through the county. This makes this part of Pike County more attractive for businesses; unlike many other counties in Eastern Kentucky, where employment opportunities are slim to none, several small companies dot the route, employing people with marketable skills. There is a daycare center, a nursing and rehab center, a sandwich shop, a small florist, a diner, and a gas station there. The county seat is just eleven miles to the north, so those with reliable transportation find employment there as well.

At Children Incorporated, we believe in every child’s potential – and we take every opportunity we can to ensure that all students in our program realize that they are capable of having bright, promising futures.

Passionate about the mission

Adjacent to the new Valley Elementary School, Shelby Valley High School has an enrollment of approximately 597 students. The school was built in 1990 as a consolidation of two old high school buildings. Shelby Valley became affiliated with Children Incorporated in 1998, as the students who were enrolled in our program at the local middle school moved up to high school. In addition to core curriculum, Shelby Valley offers fine arts, as well as career and technical education. Extracurricular activities include clubs and sports. There is a large athletic complex on the campus, and sports are a big part of student life at the school.

The Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) coordinator at Shelby Valley High School is Shannon. Shannon is passionate about FRYSC’s mission, and she is a strong supporter of our organization. On a recent trip to Pike County, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited with Shannon, who gave her a tour of the building and grounds. She also made arrangements for Renée to meet and talk with a couple of our sponsored children, including Ryan* and his mom, Paula*.

Ryan pictured with his mother, Paula, and Renée.

Encouraging Ryan

Ryan, an only child, and Paula live in an apartment complex located just a few lots behind the school. Ryan is in the twelfth grade and has been in our sponsorship program since he was five years old, when he started kindergarten. Ryan’s mom has some disabilities and is unable leave the house for work.

As they talked in the resource center, Paula told Renée that Children Incorporated has meant so much to her family over the many years that Ryan has been in our program. He has had a few different sponsors since kindergarten, and he has appreciated the help he has received from each of them. Ryan always enjoys writing to his sponsors to let them know that he is grateful for their support, and how helpful it is for his mom to not have to worry about how to get him clothes, shoes, school supplies, and other things he needs as he is growing up.

Ryan told Renée that he has participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for all four years of high school. Renée could tell from her conversation with him that he is an extremely serious and responsible young man. Ryan expressed that he would like to attend the University of Pikeville, and major in computer science and criminal justice. Renée was excited to hear that he is interested in receiving a higher education, knowing that attending an excellent high school like Shelby Valley and participating in great extracurricular activities like ROTC, Ryan has a good shot at getting into college if he sets his mind to doing so.

Before their meeting ended, Renée made sure to encourage Ryan to continue working hard in school to make his dreams come true. At Children Incorporated, we believe in every child’s potential – and we take every opportunity we can to ensure that all students in our program realize that they are capable of having bright, promising futures.

*Names changed for individuals’ protection.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky 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.