Tag Archives: child poverty

A Thank-You to Our Supporters

I will never forget the first time I visited the offices of Children Incorporated. It was on a Monday in February of 2003, a day that became one of the most significant in my life. That was the day that I was hired as Assistant Director to the U.S. Programs Division of Children Incorporated.

I clearly recall the sense of deep gratitude I experienced upon being hired to work at Children Incorporated, and through the years as I have moved from one position to another, my thankfulness has only grown.

I had worked for another, much larger child sponsorship organization for nearly twelve years, and I was happy there. I had hoped to stay with that company for the remainder of my career, doing work that was beneficial to children and families around the world. Yet in August of 2002, without warning, my position and those of several of my co-workers were eliminated. I was stunned to lose a job I loved, and for several months, I sought without success to find another place to work and to serve.

An extraordinary moment

Then, on a Sunday evening that February 2003, as I was attending church, something quite extraordinary happened. I asked the church to pray for me in my efforts to find a job. After the service ended, a man who seemed familiar walked up to me and began a conversation. He explained that he had at one time also worked for my former employer, and he recalled meeting me there. Then, he said, “You should call Children Incorporated, the place where I work now. They may have something for you,” and he gave me the number of then-President and Chief Executive Officer, Marian Cummins.

I called Mrs. Cummins the next morning, and she couldn’t have been nicer. She invited me to come in for an interview that same day. I went and was greeted by not only Mrs. Cummins, but also by Jeanne Clarke Wood, the founder of Children Incorporated and two other staffers, Odell Dunavent and Helen Strathy. I was hired on the spot, and I started my position at Children Incorporated just a couple of days later.

A place to feel at home

I knew from my very first day at Children Incorporated that it was a special organization. I closely observed how the small but dedicated staff interacted with one another, and just how much work they seemed to get done. I listened as the division directors spoke with project coordinators in the field, and I was amazed to hear them referring to sponsored children by their names and not just by numbers as had been the norm at my previous place of employment.

From day one, I knew I had found my work home. The transition from a large, formal, often sterile environment to one of caring, personal connections and heartfelt dedication was a welcome change for me. I clearly recall the sense of deep gratitude I experienced upon being hired to work at Children Incorporated, and through the years as I have moved from one position to another, my thankfulness has only grown. I tell people all the time how blessed I am to work for an organization like Children Incorporated where I know that I am making a difference each and every day.

We are but the vessel through which children are fed and clothed and cared for in many diverse ways. You make all of our work possible, and I am thankful for you!

Thanks to you this Thanksgiving

You also make much more of a difference in the lives of children than you may even begin to realize. The programs Children Incorporated has established to provide assistance to youngsters functions only as a direct result of your giving. We take the dollars you provide — and with the able assistance of our network of volunteer coordinators — offer children education, hope and opportunity for their futures.

We are but the vessel through which children are fed and clothed and cared for in many diverse ways. You make all of our work possible, and I am thankful for you!

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Excelling in San Pedro Sula

Honduras’s industrial center and second-largest city, San Pedro Sula, has a reputation for being dangerous. Deemed the “murder capital of the world” for almost a decade until 2016, crime and economic distress have led to the mass migration of Honduran minors seeking safety from gangs and drug-related violence.

But for those children who have no choice but to stay behind and face danger and violence, places such as our affiliated project the Maria Reyna Home offer a safe environment in which to grow up — and receive a quality education.

A home for neglected girls

Founded in 1942 as a girls’ orphanage, the Maria Reyna Home cares for orphaned, abandoned or neglected girls. Located in one of the most impoverished and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in San Pedro Sula, the Home offers a refuge from slum housing, hunger, disease, crime and pollution that are all-too-tragic realities in the city.

For those children who have no choice but to stay behind and face danger and violence, places such as our affiliated project the Maria Reyna Home offer a safe environment in which to grow up — and receive a quality education.

“At the Maria Reyna Home, children from some of the darkest districts of San Pedro Sula are accepted. They have suffered neglect, malnourishment and even abuse before they come to live at the Home,” explained our Director of International Programs Luis Bourdet.

While living at the Home and attending classes on the grounds, the Sisters of Mercy of the order of St. Vincent take care of the children every day. They provide a clean and adequate living space, nourishment, protection and most importantly — an education. And according to Luis, the girls do very well academically at Maria Reyna.

“The change of living conditions is so great that most students excel in school here, while they had a hard time before,” said Luis.

“The sisters provide the children with training in embroidering and baking so that they have a skill once they graduate from high school. Because of this, many children upon graduation want to continue with their education.”

A new initiative

During his visit, the Sisters and Luis discussed a recent initiative to raise funds for additional accommodations for students who want to continue their education after graduating from high school.

“I agreed with the sisters completely that this was a vital need for the school, and Children Incorporated has agreed to support the home so they can remodel and accommodate those students who have the desire to attend local universities or technical schools,” said Luis.

“After the renovations are complete, some of the children will be able to stay, during a transitional period. That way they can be supported while finding sound employment so that they don’t return to the harsh conditions they come from.”

Additionally, the Maria Reyna Home administration plans to request scholarships from the local government and local universities for those students that are exceptional in academics.

In conjunction with the Home’s efforts, Luis also wants to support these young women through our Higher Education Program Fund so all who wish to can continue to pursue their academic dreams.

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How do I sponsor a child in Honduras?

You can sponsor a child in Honduras 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Honduras that is available for sponsorship.

Pride in Her Students

For years, Catlettsburg, where our affiliated projects Catlettsburg Elementary and Ponderosa Elementary Schools are located, was known as “The Gate City” because it was here that barges were loaded with coal to be shipped down the Ohio River to other ports.

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

The decline of the coal industry in Kentucky and West Virginia has severely diminished the city’s economic importance, and commerce is now minimal. Today, this area of Boyd County, Kentucky suffers from high rates of both poverty and illiteracy, since a significant number of adults have never completed high school.

These social and economic problems negatively affect even the youngest members of Catlettsburg, which is why both Ponderosa and Catlettsburg Elementary serve as bright and welcoming places for children to learn and escape some of the harsh realities they face at home.

The Haves and Have Nots

While visiting the two schools, our Director of U.S. Programs Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator Jenny. Jenny oversees the resource centers at both schools, ensuring that children — including sponsored and unsponsored children in our program — are receiving basic needs throughout the school year.

During their meeting, Jenny explained to Renée that because Boyd County is located in a very rural and beautiful part of the country, Catlettsburg has become a popular place for middle and upper-class families to build homes. Jenny feels that because of this migration, the student population is divided more conspicuously into the “haves and have nots.”

Although the children may come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

While the administration, faculty and staff of the schools may know which families struggle and which do not, Jenny says the students are very close and treat each other with kindness and respect.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Rising to a challenge

Before their meeting ended, Jenny told Renée a story expressing how much pride she had in her students.

In 2018, the deadly Camp Fire burned down much of the town of Paradise, California — including a school also named Ponderosa Elementary School. Not long after the fire, the principal of Ponderosa Elementary School in Catlettsburg was informed about a nationwide fundraiser through another Ponderosa Elementary School in Oregon.

The fundraiser, deemed “Pennies for Ponderosa Initiative” requested that the eleven schools named Ponderosa Elementary School in the United States collect donations for the rebuilding of the California school.

The children at Jenny’s school stepped up to the challenge. They not only raised money to help students on the other side of the country, but also sent video messages of hope and encouragement as they and their families worked to rebuild their lives.

Whether coming from an impoverished background or not, children at Ponderosa Elementary School showed that they were willing to do anything they could to help others in need — and that is something to be proud of.

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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.

Escaping a Poor Education

In the town of Santa Tecla, located six miles west of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, our affiliated project, the Marillac School is providing children with the opportunity to receive an education — and a quality one at that.

Communities and schools around the world face barriers in providing children with a quality education.

Founded in 1940 by the Sisters of the Order of St. Vincent de Paul, the school serves as not only an escape from the harsh realities local students face growing up in poverty but an escape from poor public education or no education at all.

Considered a semi-private institution, the administrators of the Marillac School — with sponsorship support from the Children Incorporated program — work hard to ensure that kids are receiving basic needs and the best education that they can provide. This gives our sponsored and unsponsored children the opportunity to succeed.

What constitutes poor education?

Children at the Marillac School

Communities and schools around the world face barriers to providing children with a quality education. Lack of adequate funding to educational institutions can lead to overcrowded classrooms with little or no resources for students. Untrained teachers, lack of proper food and improper classroom facilities can also significantly affect children’s ability to learn.

The consequences of an inadequate education

What are the consequences of an inadequate education? Poor education can lead to illiteracy. It also inhibits children from qualifying for higher education or being prepared to join the workforce later in life. Children who aren’t properly education tend to be less healthy than those who do and are susceptible to turning towards crime and remaining in poverty in adulthood.

A better chance at a future

For impoverished children around the world, like those at the Marallic School, the benefits of quality education are tremendous.

Higher quality of education are associated with positive outcomes such as better health and well-being and a greater interest in politics and social issues. Students who attend quality schools gain a competitive advantage at getting jobs upon graduation, which can lead to a higher income and the chance for a family to break the cycle of poverty. Quality education also can discourage crime because when educated, children feel a sense of hope and opportunity for a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.

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How do I sponsor a child in El Salvador?

You can sponsor a child in El Salvador 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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in El Salvador that is available for sponsorship.

Backpacks Full of Food to the Rescue

Boyd County Middle School is located in the isolated and rural town of Cannonsburg, Kentucky.

When children don’t eat enough, it can shorten their attention span, lower their IQ and keep them from performing well in school.

Like many of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Field communities, Cannonsburg has suffered significantly from the decline of the coal mining industry. At the height of the coal operations, Boyd County was an essential and active port city for the transport of coal along the Ohio River.

Today, many of its residents live in dismal poverty. Illiteracy and high dropout rates are significant problems in the area.

Thankfully, students at Boyd County Middle School have caring teachers and staff that work hard to motivate and educate them so that they can graduate and become successful members of their community.

A newly renovated school

Not only do students at the school have a supportive group of administrators to help them, but according to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, they also have newly renovated school buildings to enjoy.

Unfortunately, for many children living in poverty, their only meals of the day can often be those they receive at school.

On a recent visit to Boyd County Middle School, Renée marveled at the new entrance façade, energy efficient windows, improved access to the gym and a new bus loading/unloading area designed to help with traffic congestion during peak times — all updates from the last time she visited the school a few years ago.

A lack of adequate food at home

While at the school, Renée also got a chance to meet with our volunteer coordinator, Vicki. Vicki told Renée that Boyd County Middle School serves 729 students in sixth through eighth grades. Fifty-seven percent of those children come from low-income families. These children often come to school without proper clothes, shoes and school supplies. Many of them don’t have adequate food at home either.

“Vicki expressed to me that her biggest need is for more help with her Weekend Backpack Food Program, which is currently assisting over 100 children,” said Renée.

Why is backpack feeding necessary?

Sending children home on Friday afternoons with non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food ensures that they get enough food on weekends and holidays when they can’t rely on a getting a nutritious meal at school.

Unfortunately, lack of food in the home for families living in poverty is an issue that many children in the United States face. According to Feeding America’s website, “Twenty-two million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program. For many of these children, school meals may be the only meals they eat.”

Roughly 13 million kids in America today don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends. One in five kids in our country goes without access to affordable, nutritious food on Saturdays and Sundays. Lack of adequate food leads to health problems in addition to hunger. When children don’t eat enough, it can shorten their attention span, lower their IQ and keep them from performing well in school.

Because of these harsh realities, backpack feeding programs like Vicki’s at Boyd County Middle School are crucial for children. Sending children home on Friday afternoons with non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food ensures that they get enough food on weekends and holidays when they can’t rely on a getting a nutritious meal at school.

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HOW DO I SUPPORT BACKPACK FEEDING PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.?

Our U.S. Feeding Program provides support for Backpack Feeding Programs at our affiliated projects. To donate, call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org or visit https://childrenincorporated.org/u-s-feeding-programs/ to make an online donation.

Support for the Long-Term

When our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, was contacted by Deb from Carr Creek Elementary School in Knott County, Kentucky twelve years ago, Renée had no idea how much of an affect that one phone call would have on children in need.

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

Deb had heard about the Children Incorporated sponsorship program during a regional Family Resource and Youth Services Center meeting among administrators and staff. After hearing about what sponsors were doing for children living in poverty, Deb knew she needed to get in touch with Renée about the urgent needs of impoverished kids at Carr Creek.

After talking with Deb, Renée agreed to partner with her and Carr Creek Elementary School — making them our first affiliated project in Knott County.

More schools in need

Before Renée knew it, the word about our organization’s support at Carr Creek had reached other Resource Center coordinators in Knott County. They each followed in Deb’s footsteps, calling to request partnering with Children Incorporated. Today, thanks to Deb’s initiative, we support thousands of children in dozens of affiliated schools in Kentucky.

Deb with one of our sponsored children

Not only was Deb the first coordinator to get in touch about our sponsorship program Knott County, but according to Renée, she is also the first coordinator in the state to submit a Hope in Action Fund request that was for more than just one-time aid for a particular emergency.

“Deb submitted a proposal on efforts to enrich the students’ knowledge in social studies because the results of their standardized test scores were very low,” explained Renée.

“She then designed a summer camp program with instructors that taught concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Before the program began, Deb created pre-tests for the students to take. After the program ended, the children took post-tests, and the results were good. The entire faculty of the school then built additional programs on those gains that Deb initiated.”

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

“We were delighted to see the success of Deb’s program. Since then we have supported many similar programs in the United States through our Hope in Action Fund. These programs are geared towards long-term projects that support children over time as opposed to just for the short-term,” said Renée.

A gift to say thank you

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

After receiving the quilt, Deb introduced Renée to a few of our sponsored kids as well as their parents.

Meeting special sponsored kids

Deb works hard to make sure sponsored and unsponsored children have school supplies all year long.

Deb invited Benjamin* to the Resource Center first. Benjamin lives with his unemployed parents and two older brothers. He loves football and roots for the local high school team. Deb told Renée that Benjamin is very appreciative of his sponsor’s help to make sure he has proper clothing and shoes.

Next, Renée met Olivia and her mother, Amanda. Olivia is a sweet little girl who lives with her mom, dad and little brother. Her father works as a heating technician, but his pay is meager. Olivia’s mom helps when she can by cleaning houses and catering for weddings. Her parents’ combined earnings are still so low that Olivia qualifies for free meals at school. Olivia told Renée that she loves writing letters to her sponsor. Amanda said that Children Incorporated is a blessing for her child, and that she’s so grateful for the program.

After Amanda and Olivia left, Deb explained to Renée that Olivia’s parents are responsible and very loving, and that Amanda regularly volunteers at the Family Resource Center so she can give back in thanks for everything that Olivia receives from her sponsor.

Grandparents stepping up to help

Lastly, Deb introduced Renée to a family of children — Rebecca, Natalie, Laura and Joanna — who are being raised by their retired grandparents. Deb explained to Renée that starting over and raising young children is not what most grandparents envisioned. Many are overwhelmed financially and emotionally.

Despite their situation, Deb is proud that these girls’ grandparents have stepped up and feels they are doing a good job. Sponsorship is really helping their family, and the girls all love having special friends in their sponsors that provide for them when their grandparents can’t.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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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.