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Transforming Mothers in Medellín

When our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and I first arrived in Medellín, Colombia, I noticed a striking difference from our visit to the capital city of Bogotá. Unlike many other cities that I have visited in South America with Children Incorporated, Medellín’s level of poverty and destitution was present even in the most well-off areas of town. As we drove from the airport to downtown Medellín, I was surprised to see homeless people living on the streets — even in the more affluent neighborhoods. This was something I didn’t often see in underdeveloped or developing countries.

Centro Primavera offers mothers courses so they can graduate from high school and training so they can gain the skills they need to obtain employment.

We arrived in the early evening and planned to meet with our volunteer coordinator, Piedad, and her assistant, Manuela, outside of the San Pedro neighborhood, where our affiliated project, Centro Primavera, is located.

We arrived at a small, downtown Medellín restaurant where we joined Piedad and Manuela, who were already waiting for us. Piedad explained that she has been with Centro Primavera for 25 years. The organization operates in one of the tougher neighborhoods in the city — where drug use and crime are prevalent, and many impoverished women are forced to work in prostitution to make money to support their children.

Piedad outside of Centro Primavera with a few of our sponsored children.

Piedad’s primary goal is to help get these young women and mothers off the street. Centro Primavera offers them courses so they can graduate from high school and training so they can gain the skills they need to obtain employment. Other programs at the Center are geared towards providing children of these mothers a place to get tutoring support and play inside and away from the violence and drug abuse that is rampant in their neighborhood.

A place for mothers and children

The next day, we met Piedad at Centro Primavera in the early morning. She took us on a tour of the facility, which serves children both as a daycare center and an afterschool enrichment center. Children ranging from infancy to eighteen receive nutritious food and medical care.

The older children enjoy arts and crafts, dance classes and games in one of the many recreation rooms available for their use. The Center also has a full library on the first floor, a kitchen on the second floor and private offices where women and children received psychological support.

Stories of My Neighborhood

“Relatos de mi Barrio” was created by Centro Primavera staff members to help the community understand the Center’s mission.

After taking the tour of the buildings, Luis and I had the chance to sit down with some of the mothers and hear more about the programs that Centro Primavera offers. The Center focuses on four programs: skills training in such areas as cosmetology, computers, baking and leatherwork; prevention of abuse; women’s rights education; and sustainability and resources for the institution to continue with its work.

The fourth program is called “Memory and Identity,” which focuses on providing information about the San Pedro neighborhood to the local community and authorities so that there can be a plan of action as to how to handle issues that arise. Piedad shared with us a book that she had created called “Relatos de mi Barrio,” which tells the history of San Pedro and how Centro Primavera has had a positive impact on the community over the years.

It was apparent to both Luis and me that Piedad works hard for the mothers and the children at the Center. She is incredibly grateful for the Children Incorporated sponsorship program which offers basic needs to kids and gives them a sense of encouragement and pride from their sponsors. She would love to get more children enrolled in our program – at the time of our visit, more than twenty children were available for sponsorship.

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How do I sponsor a child in Colombia?

You can sponsor a child in Colombia 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 Colombia that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Easing the Burden on Families in Santiago

Spanning over 2,000 miles of South America’s western coastline, with deserts in the north, rainforests in the south, and the snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountains ranging throughout, Chile is a stunning country.

Children with disabilities receive support thanks to the Handicapped Children’s Center.

Yet despite its natural beauty and reputation as politically progressive when it comes to human rights, Chile suffers from excessive inflation and an ever-increasing unemployment rate. Due to these economic realities, millions of Chileans are desperately poor.

A big telethon in Chile

The anguish typically associated with poverty becomes even starker when impoverished families are caring for a disabled child, such as the families with children at our affiliated project, the Handicapped Children’s Center in Santiago.

Thankfully, children with various disabilities receive treatment and support in an educational environment and help from their sponsors at the Center.  Without the much-needed aid the Center provides, disabled children and their families would have nowhere to turn to receive services and resources they so desperately need.

Beyond support from our sponsorship program, the Handicapped Children’s Center receives funding year-round thanks to Teleton, Chile. Teleton is a charity event held in various locations around the country in the first week of December. During the event, Chilean television networks hold a 27-hour telethon to raise money to help children with developmental disabilities. Since its inception in 1978, over $286 million has been raised, and 13 rehabilitation centers have been built all around Chile. It is the world’s most-watched telethon.

Because the Handicapped Children’s Center is a well-funded organization, it provides children and young adults up to age twenty years old medical care and therapy for free.

Free care for kids in need

Because the Handicapped Children’s Center is a well-funded organization, it provides children and young adults up to age twenty years old medical care and therapy for free. The Center is equipped to provide care and support to children suffering from the effects of polio, congenital disabilities, Downs Syndrome, and other mental and physical handicaps.

Located in a wing of a local hospital in Santiago called Teleton. Teleton is a large, modern building, comprised of examination rooms, physical therapy, a swimming pool, and a center for making prosthetic aids, which are provided to children free of charge. the Handicapped Children’s Center is the rehabilitation wing of the hospital. Transportation to and from the facility, when needed, is also offered at no cost to families.

New surgery techniques are helping disabled children in Chile to walk normally again.

The staff includes physical therapists, orthopedists, podiatrists, neurosurgeons, urologists, dentists, occupational therapists, teachers, psychologists, social workers, nurses, audiologists, and a full prosthetic staff. The Center emphasizes self-care and independence in its therapy, and families are encouraged to play an active role in the children’s rehabilitation. The goal is to prepare the Center’s participants to become entirely independent at school, at home, in the workforce, and society. Able children attend local public schools to do so, and those who are not able to due to their disabilities are educated at the Center.

Helping children to walk

The support children receive at the Handicapped Children’s Center is individualized involving physical and recuperative therapy as well as psychiatric. Children also enjoy arts programs as a part of their participatory therapy. Doctors, nurses, technicians and nurses are available with access to robotics technology, providing the best possible support for maximum recovery.

Additionally, special new surgery techniques have been performed on children with physical limitations so they may walk normally. Recently, three children that are enrolled in the Children Incorporated program have benefited from the surgery with staggering results.

Along with the care they receive at the Center, sponsored children receive school supplies, food, and clothing and transportation allowances so they can participate in regular therapy sessions. Over the years, children and their parents have expressed gratitude for the support they received from sponsors as it lowered the family burden on treatment expenses.

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How do I sponsor a child in Chile?

You can sponsor a child in Chile 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 Chile that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

New Teachers with Fresh Ideas in Chile

Our affiliated project, the Maipu Center, is located on the outskirts of Chile’s capital city, Santiago. Santiago lies nestled between the towering Andes Mountains to the east and a smaller, coastal range to the west. Nearly five million people — more than a third of the country’s population — reside here, many of which are underprivileged Chilean families.

Concentrated in the city’s southern and northwestern regions, the slums of Santiago are home to impoverished children who are forced to live in makeshift dwellings or deficient public housing. Many of their parents work in the service industry or for small businesses, making low-wages with very little chance for upward mobility.

Helping families in need

The Maipu Center was founded over 80 years ago by a Roman Catholic congregation of women, the Daughters of St. Joseph. Today, 70% of students at the center are from families living below the Chilean poverty line. Without the support of the Maipu Center, or their Children Incorporated sponsors, these children would not have the chance to receive a quality education, which is the key to helping them break the cycle of poverty in which they live.

Functioning as a private school and community center, the center is a spacious, well-kept complex of buildings comprised of classrooms, a kitchen, a dining hall, a church and a community room for activities. Students receive two nutritious meals a day. In addition to standard academic courses, children also take dance and aerobics classes.

Improved academics and new energy 

During a visit to the Maipu Center, Children Incorporated Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and International Projects Specialist, Kristen Walthall, were excited to find that the school academics have improved over the years — thanks to the support of a recently hired energetic principal and new, young teachers who are bringing more knowledge of technology and modern methods of education to the school.

“The school’s new principal has renovated all practices and academics in the school, implementing a new information technology department, as well as music and arts departments,” explained Luis.

Thanks to their sponsors, children are not only receiving help while in school but outside of school as well. With the children’s basic needs met, their parents don’t have to worry as much about affording these necessary items.

“Sponsored children are benefiting greatly from these changes, and according to the principal, they are doing better academically because of the new school’s new programs and the enthusiasm of the staff.”

On top of receiving a great deal of support from the Maipu Center administration, children enrolled in our program also benefit from their sponsors. Sponsorship funds are used to help cover school fees; to provide school supplies, book bags and daily snacks; as well as to purchase clothing.

Thanks to their sponsors, children are not only receiving help while in school but outside of school as well. With the children’s basic needs met, their parents don’t have to worry as much about affording these necessary items.

Still more do accomplish in the future

Although an academically progressive school, the principal expressed to Luis that he still struggled to find local funding for operating costs. Still, he wasn’t going to let it get in the way of him giving children every opportunity they deserved to succeed.

Before Luis left, the principal talked about his desire to remodel some of the classrooms, as well as cover the playground area with a roof so it can be used during the summer and winter months for outdoor activities.

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How do I sponsor a child in Chile?

You can sponsor a child in Chile 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 Chile that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

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 during recreation time

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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

 

Thanks to You, Sponsored Children in Paraguay Have New Clothes and Shoes

For many children living in poverty, having a sponsor is their only means of receiving basic necessities such as food, clothing and educational assistance. Some may never receive brand new items such as blankets and shoes without the support of a caring sponsor.

Thanks to you, children, such as the girls from Hogar Medalla Milagrosa in Paraguay, and others around the world, are being provided for in ways in which their parents are cannot. We are incredibly grateful for your support to make sure children experience joy and receive items that are new and just for them.  

Thank you for everything you do! 

Read more about Hogar Medalla Milagrosa

Nestled in the heart of South America, Paraguay comprises an area roughly the size of California, and is characterized by semiarid grasslands, forested highlands, marshlands and rivers. Paraguay boasts a well-preserved indigenous identity and heritage, but a wide range of ethnicities call this small, landlocked nation home, including immigrants from Australia, Germany, Russia, Italy, France and Spain. Paraguay’s rich cultural diversity and wealth of natural resources, however, belie the abject poverty in which the majority of its residents live. Many areas of the country remain underdeveloped, with inhabitants relying on subsistence farming for their livelihood.

Thanks to you, children, such as the girls from Hogar Medalla Milagrosa in Paraguay, and others around the world, are being provided for in ways in which their parents are cannot.

Today, one of South America’s poorest nations, Paraguay is plagued by a history of bloody wars with neighboring countries as well as internal political instability, corruption, deficient infrastructure and poverty. Even the sprawling Paraguayan capital, Asunción, is no exception to these maladies. The Hogar Medalla Milagrosa serves as a beacon of hope to the impoverished children of Asunción, most of whom come from the streets or from broken homes where even affording food is a daily struggle.

Founded in 1895 and run by the nuns of the Order of St. Vincent de Paúl, Hogar Medalla Milagrosa serves as a primary school and a boarding home for orphaned or abandoned children. It not only strives to provide for these deserving children’s immediate, basic needs, but also instills moral guidance while equipping each child with a sound education — the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and rising above the difficult socio-economic circumstances from which they come.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Paraguay?

You can sponsor a child in Paraguay one of three ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; e-mail us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Paraguay that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

 

Embracing All the Possibilities Ahead

Each year — usually sometime in early September — I start listening to Christmas music.

Friends and family members scold me and make fun of me for it. They say it is way too early. As I walk into the Children Incorporated office many mornings singing the words to the most recent carol I listened to in my car, Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs, is quick to jokingly remind me that there should be no Christmas music and no Christmas decorations until at least after Thanksgiving or the start of the Advent Season.

Christmas music — and the entire Christmas season for that matter — encourages me to look forward, to dream and to embrace all the possibilities that lie ahead.

A sense of hope and promise

The fact is that I listen to Christmas music because it brings me incredible joy. I just love it! It lifts my spirit and fills me with a sense of hope, promise and anticipation of things to come. It challenges me to look beyond all of the negativity that is so prevalent in our world and to recognize the many ways I am blessed.

Christmas music — and the entire Christmas season for that matter — encourages me to look forward, to dream and to embrace all the possibilities that lie ahead.

Sadly, I am very aware that this is not the case for many children around the holidays. For young children, there is often the sad reality that a jolly old Santa will not visit their homes. For older children, the sense of wonder that is so associated with the Yuletide is sometimes replaced by cynicism and resentment as society celebrates all that they do not have.

Helping make Christmas wishes come true  

Children Incorporated can help sponsored and unsponsored children during the holiday season. Your generosity fulfills many dreams and meets many needs that otherwise would go unattended.

Funds from our child sponsorship program allow our dedicated volunteer coordinators to shop for items that are given to impoverished children, not only at Christmas but all year round. Sponsors also give special money gifts for the children they assist that enable our coordinators to obtain items that children both want and need.

Packages containing books, clothing and toys arrive at our various affiliated projects, and children’s eyes light up when they realize that someone outside of their family members and friends actually does care about them.

In this way, our organization allows children to experience the magic and joy of Christmas.

May our kindness offer them a sense of encouragement and a recognition of the world of possibilities before them. May we help them replace some of the sadness in their lives with celebration.

Sharing our blessing with children in need

Together, may we work to offer the children we serve a sense of hope, promise, and anticipation of things to come. May we fill this holiday season with songs for the precious boys and girls whose lives we strive to improve with our generosity and caring.

May our kindness offer them a sense of encouragement and a recognition of the world of possibilities before them. May we help them replace some of the sadness in their lives with celebration.

It doesn’t require a great deal on our parts — just hearts that care and a willingness to share our blessings with them.

With a song in my heart,

Ronald H. Carter
President and Chief Executive Officer

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