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Overcoming the Limitations of Poverty

In the city of Tecpan, located some sixty miles west of Guatemala City, the majority of the roughly 50,000 inhabitants claims direct descent from the Mayas. Despite their rich cultural heritage, however, indigenous people often find themselves marginalized, left to endure the brunt of poverty and its associated effects, which are common in Guatemala.

On a recent visit to Guatemala with Ron Carter, our President and Chief Executive Officer, and Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, we went to the Tecpan School, our affiliated project where we support about one-third of the children in attendance. Run by nuns of the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity) Order, the school strives to aid the impoverished children of this region by offering them a well-rounded education.

“I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today.”

– José

The school itself is located on beautifully-kept grounds; well-manicured playgrounds and soccer fields inside the school’s compound are surrounded by brightly-painted classrooms where 570 students between the ages of five and fifteen attend classes daily. The children come from small villages in and around Tecpan. In addition to offering regular primary and middle school classes for the children, 200 young adult students from the community also study at the school on the weekends so that they may receive a diploma – but still work to support their families in the process.

Indigenous families struggling to survive

When we arrived at the school, we were taken on a tour by our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Virginia. Sister Virginia told us that many of our sponsored and unsponsored children come from indigenous families that are very poor because they work in agriculture on rented land where they make very little money. She explained that this year has been especially hard on families because the rainy season in Guatemala wiped out valuable crops, which kept families from earning the income they had expected.

As a result, Sister Virginia continued, our program is extremely important to the Tecpan School and the families we help to support. Children primarily receive school supplies and tuition payments through sponsorship funds, as well as uniforms and shoes. Also, their families receive bags of food every two to three months, which helps them immensely.

 Meeting José

José’s sponsor supported him through school, and he is now a teacher helping other children at the Tecpan School.

After we finished our tour, Sister Virginia introduced us to a former sponsored child, now in his early thirties, named José. José’s mother worked at the Tecpan School when he was a young boy; he would even sometimes go to work with her on the weekends. While he was growing up, his mother struggled financially; so our volunteer coordinator at the time offered to enroll José in our program so that he could receive the support he needed to attend the Tecpan School, which is much less crowded than typical public schools in Guatemala and is, therefore, better equipped to give children the attention they need in order to succeed. From kindergarten through high school, José’s sponsor helped to support him. Thanks to his academic achievements, he was able to enroll in college, where he studied environmental engineering and mathematics. After graduating, José returned to the Tecpan School, where he is now a math teacher. José had this to say about his sponsor and Children Incorporated:

“It was Children Incorporated who helped me through sponsorship so my mom didn’t have to pay for all my school expenses, clothes, and food by herself. I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today. There are other children from this community that have had the same limitations that I had growing up. I know that this program helps a lot of children in the community.”

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN GUATEMALA?

You can sponsor a child in Guatemala 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 Guatemala that is available for sponsorship

Promise for Kids in a Desperate Landscape

It is quite rare that our international volunteer coordinators have the opportunity to visit the Children Incorporated headquarters in North Chesterfield, Virginia – but when they do, it is such a treat for the staff. An exceptional guest dropped by recently – our Volunteer Coordinator and the Manager of St. John’s Community Center in Nairobi, Kenya: Mr. Njuguna. The stories that he recounted about the community center, the people it serves, and the multi-faceted work that it carries out daily were a testament to the practical and holistic approach that St. John’s employs in ensuring that its attendees are truly afforded a chance at a better life – a chance to break free from the piecemeal landscape of the slums.

Nairobi’s most destitute and crime-ridden neighborhood is the slums of Pumwani – and St. John’s Community Center serves its inhabitants, who live in absolutely deplorable conditions.

Nairobi’s most destitute and crime-ridden neighborhood is the slums of Pumwani – and St. John’s Community Center serves its inhabitants, who live in absolutely deplorable conditions. The community center serves children of all ages, as well as the community as a whole. It is comprised of a series of buildings that include a primary school, a childcare clinic, a counseling clinic, a library, administrative offices, and a church.

Mr. Njuguna began his presentation for the Children Incorporated staff with the context of the Mau Mau Uprising, which plagued the better part of the 1950s in Kenya. Also known as the “Kenya Emergency,” the revolt was the result of African resistance to colonialism – and it ultimately yielded Kenya’s independence from British colonization. This was the turning point that set the bloodstained tone for the country’s arduous ongoing struggle towards recovery – a healing that served as the mission of St. John’s Community Center, established to address the immediate needs and concerns of some of Kenya’s most destitute and hopeless at a time when promise was obscured by utter desperation.

No life left unchanged

Mr. Njuguna further explained that about sixty percent of the city of Nairobi’s official population lives in slums. He made reference to an “official” population, because a significant portion of the community is unaccounted for as a result of births occurring in the slums themselves rather than in hospitals, where babies are always registered upon birth. Many of the infants born in slums are never registered with the government due to a lack of resources and knowledge about the complicated process. Unregistered residents, to further complicate things, are unable to obtain employment, which renders them unable to support themselves – much less provide adequate care for their children. This is but one component of the extensive catalog of critical issues that St. John’s Community Center is currently addressing.

Mr. Njuguna spoke with Children Incorporated’s staff about the St. John’s Community Center in Nairobi, Kenya on a recent visit to the office.

With the help of several partnering organizations, St. John’s Community Center boasts one primary focus to which all aspects of its work leads: instilling self-esteem and self-worth in those in attendance so that they may rise above hopelessness. Not only does the community center address poverty, child abuse and neglect, unemployment, and civil ignorance, but it also houses programs for the economic empowerment of women, group meetings in which parents and guardians may share tips and concerns – and youth programs in which all Children Incorporated kids participate. St. John’s even trains its teachers in counseling so that they are better-equipped to address the emotional needs of the community.

Perhaps one of the most essential ways in which Children Incorporated sponsors and donors contribute to the center is through our Mosquito Net Fund, which provides children enrolled in our program with an integral tool in combatting mosquito-borne illnesses, which are prevalent in Kenya. Mr. Njuguna explained during his presentation at our headquarters that these mosquito nets also serve our kids and their families in a less tangible way: because mosquito nets are considered a luxury in the community, those that receive them experience a confidence that only ownership can bring.

St. John’s Community Center strives to address any and all concerns that arise for the community, optimizing the utilization of on-hand resources all the while. When an urgent need for a sanitary bathhouse in a nearby slum presented itself, the community center sought and acquired funding for the construction of one. A question soon arose: Who will maintain the bathhouse? St. John’s implemented a program through which it employs its older youth so that they may learn about responsibility on the job while also earning money to contribute to their households.

When student tardiness became a legitimate worry at St. John’s Community Center, possible resources were investigated for the provision of morning meals in order to ensure a more timely arrival for students. The community center partnered with an organization that provides support for morning porridge, and tardiness has been eliminated almost completely.

A holistic approach in which Children Incorporated plays a meaningful role

The list of programs and interventions realized by St. John’s Community Center goes on: HIV/AIDS prevention programs; life education and pregnancy prevention programs for young girls; skills training programs in handicrafts, carpentry, etc. for adolescents; and civic duties and human rights education for all. Children Incorporated has helped to fund the construction of new classrooms in which these courses are administered, and your contributions help to finance vocational and apprenticeship training.

Children Incorporated’s presence at St. John’s Community Center, in effect, promotes a high retention rate for students.

Our sponsors help to ensure that kids receive the school supplies they need to do their very best; and malaria prevention medications are dispensed to them so that they may be healthy enough to attend classes. Funds from our donors and sponsors currently help to provide lunch to 187 students in attendance at St. John’s Community Center, which has drastically reduced absenteeism among all age groups. No longer hungry during the day, these youth do not need to beg in the streets during the school day – or steal – just to get some food in their bellies. Nourished and full, these kids are afforded the chance to concentrate in an environment where they feel safe and protected, so that they may participate, learn, and perform well.

Of utmost importance, Mr. Njuguna explained, the sponsored kids at St. John’s Community Center know that they’re not at risk of the embarrassment of overdue school fees. Children who attend other schools often learn about overdue fees upon arriving, and they are turned away. Sometimes they even find out in front of their peers, which can be humiliating. With school fees paid by sponsorship funds, parents and guardians are able to provide the children in their care with other basic needs, like food; a great burden is lifted. If it weren’t for the payment of school fees, after all, many kids would not have the opportunity to obtain an education – and therefore never have the chance to break the cycle of poverty.

Children Incorporated’s presence at St. John’s Community Center, in effect, promotes a high retention rate for students. Knowing that they will receive primary and secondary support to nourish both their bodies and minds during the school week, children are motivated to attend the community center. Through this integrated nurturing, hope becomes tangible, and feeling it motivates kids to seize the opportunities that are presented to them today in order to have the best tomorrow possible.

A common passion

Mr. Njuguna’s work is heartfelt; while growing up, he himself witnessed the routine struggles of his impoverished parents. As a result, his drive is to incite change – not only in his own life, but also for those in his community. Our mission at Children Incorporated is also to foment change, because we passionately believe that children everywhere deserve education, hope, and opportunity. Contributions encourage change, because our work – and Mr. Njuguna’s work – would not be possible without our donors and sponsors.

Gratitude reverberated in each word that Mr. Njuguna spoke the day that he visited – with each program and benefit that he eagerly described in his presentation. That gratitude is for our supporters; it is for the ones who make our work and his a reality – the ones who are ultimately responsible for the promise that shines brightly in a dark corner of the Pumwani slums in Nairobi.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENYA?

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

A Kind Partnership

Thanks to our new partnership with Kind Traveler, travelers can now help provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, healthcare, and educational support to children living in poverty in the U.S. and abroad when they book hotels through the Kind Traveler website.

Kind Traveler, a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC), is the first socially-conscious “Give + Get” hotel booking platform that empowers travelers to benefit communities, the environment, and animals. Travelers give a donation of $10 per night that they book to a local charity that positively impacts the destination they will visit, or to a charity of their choice on the platform. As a reward for their donation, travelers receive an exclusive rate to use in booking directly with the world’s best hotels and unique properties. 100 percent of the donations raised on the Kind Traveler platform go directly to charities.

Tremendous potential

Considering the financial power of the $7 trillion travel industry, this partnership between Children Incorporated and Kind Traveler has tremendous potential for positive global impact. Last year alone, people around the world took more than 1.2 billion trips. Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent of travelers polled in Tourism Cares and Phocuswright’s Good Travels research study believe it is important for their travel dollars to benefit the communities they visit. The study also found that price is the leading reason for booking with a particular travel company. By offering an exclusive rate on hotel stays, Kind Traveler has created a solution that addresses both the consumer’s price motivation and their desire to make a difference.

Another major distinction between Kind Traveler and other travel booking sites is the former’s desire to educate. According to Phocuswright, “Three of ten giving travelers were prompted to volunteer or donate because of something they read, heard, saw or experienced.” Kind Traveler’s blog provides stories that inspire travel while underscoring the importance of giving back, living consciously, and choosing with purpose. By sharing the stories of Children Incorporated’s impact on the planet’s most vulnerable families, Kind Traveler is building awareness of the one in nine people worldwide who will go to bed hungry tonight.

By offering an exclusive rate on hotel stays, Kind Traveler has created a solution that addresses both the consumer’s price motivation and their desire to make a difference.

“Our win-win platform offers solutions for everyone,” said CEO and Co-Founder, Jessica Blotter. “For travelers, they become warriors for good and support hotels that are making a positive impact in the world – while receiving exclusive hotel rates. For hotels, they cultivate new relationships with cause-minded consumers and take another step towards corporate social responsibility. For charities, they receive 100 percent of donations and a new, sustainable channel for fundraising.”

Travelers can now support Children Incorporated when they book Kind Hotels in:

Aspen: Hotel Aspen, Molly Gibson Lodge

Austin: Lone Star Court, Hotel Ella, South Congress Hotel

Baltimore: Hotel Revival

Vancouver: Hotel Loden

Chicago: Hotel Felix, The James Chicago – Magnificent Mile, Virgin Hotels Chicago

Costa Rica: Cala Luna, Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas, Casa Chameleon Mal Pais, Casa Chameleon OCiO Villas

Hawaii: Turtle Bay Resort

Houston: Hotel Sorella CityCentre, Hotel Ylem

Idaho: Hotel Ketchum

Los Angeles: Dream Hollywood, The Hollywood Roosevelt, The Mondrian LA, Hotel Angeleno, Hotel Erwin, Terranea Resort

Mexico and the Caribbean: COMO Parrot Cay (Turks & Caicos), Hotel El Ganzo (San José del Cabo), Ka’ana Resort (Belize), Itz’ana Resort + Residences (Belize), NIZUC (Cancún), The Jamaica Inn (Jamaica)

Miami: Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach, Dream South Beach, The Betsy – South Beach, The Palms Hotel & Spa, 1 Hotel South Beach

Minneapolis: Hewing Hotel

New York City: Arlo Hotel NoMad, Arlo Hotel SoHo, Dream Downtown, Dream Midtown, The Benjamin, The Standard East Village, The Standard High Line

Orange County: Monarch Beach Resort, The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Balboa Bay Resort

Palm Springs: Two Bunch Palms

San Antonio: Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

San Francisco: Hotel G, Hotel Spero, The Mosser Hotel, Kensington Park Hotel

San Jose: Hotel Valencia Santana Row

Tampa: Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa

Telluride: Lumière Telluride

Virginia: Lansdowne Resort & Spa (Leesburg), Quirk Hotel (Richmond)

Washington, D.C.: The Embassy Row Hotel, Liaison Capitol Hill

Wisconsin: The Charmant Hotel (La Crosse), The Iron Horse Hotel (Milwaukee)

Learn more about how you can #TravelKindly with Children Incorporated and Kind Traveler here.

– Content provided by Kind Traveler CEO and Co-Founder, Jessica Blotter
– Photos courtesy of Kind Traveler

Growing Up with Children Incorporated

In the town of Fazenda Rio Grande on the outskirts of Curitiba in southern Brazil, our affiliated project Centro de Assistência e Desenvolvimento Integral (CADI) supports families who struggle to afford even the most basic of needs – and especially education-related expenses – for their children. What began in 1994 as a soccer school to motivate and assist children from low-income families has now become CADI  – a national nonprofit organization that provides assistance and developmental support to kids and families. The CADI center’s mission is to motivate and equip deserving children to rise above the difficulties they face, and to overcome poverty as adults.

The CADI center serves about 300 children on a regular basis, and it offers classes in robotics, arts and crafts, civics and ethics, martial arts, circus performance, and several other subjects that help children to develop the abilities and skills that are required to become successful adults. It also provides tutoring opportunities for kids, and houses sports teams that students may join.

The CADI center’s mission is to motivate and equip deserving children to rise above the difficulties they face, and to overcome poverty as adults.

Many of the children who go to the center after school live in nearby neighborhoods, and are abused and suffer severe violence in their own homes. Some of the kids in our sponsorship program are vulnerable to witnessing drug abuse at home or in the community, and some of them suffer from health problems. Most of the children come from broken homes where they live with just their mother, or with a stepparent or grandparent.

Believing in her own potential

On a recent trip to Brazil, our International Projects Specialist, Andreia Beraldo, visited the CADI center, which is located about forty minutes from downtown Curitiba. Visiting the center was very special for Andreia, because our Volunteer Coordinator there, Arianny, used to be a sponsored child at the project herself.

Arianny is a great example of how sponsorship assistance can make a big difference in a child’s life. She started attending the CADI center when she was only four years old, right around the time her parents divorced. While she was growing up, she received support from her sponsor and the center, and her parents attended counseling sessions at CADI. While meeting with one another, Arianny mentioned to Andreia that as a result of the counseling her parents received while she was growing up, they decided to re-marry, and their family is once again united.

As she became older, Arianny learned about ethics and arts and crafts, and she acquired a variety of skills at the CADI center. As a teenager, she became interested in social work, and decided to volunteer at the center to help other children who were growing up in impoverished families, like she did. When she graduated from high school, she started studying social work at a local university.

After graduating from college in 2015, Arianny became an intern at a local hospital. In 2016, the CADI center hired her as a social worker. As she told her story to Andreia, Arianny became emotional, because thanks to the CADI center and the support she received from Children Incorporated, she learned to believe in her own potential, and she grew up with hope for the future and a positive perspective in life.

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HOW Do I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

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

A Fortunate Place for Kids

The city of Marikina, considered part of metropolitan Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is home to the Fortune neighborhood. Within this community, most residents rent modest homes, which are typically little more than shacks constructed from scrap wood and sheets of corrugated metal. They usually have no indoor plumbing – or even beds – and are shared by eight to twelve family members. Tragically, hunger, malnutrition, health issues, and a lack of sufficient clothing often cause children living in this neighborhood to miss school – and sometimes even to drop out altogether.

Thankfully, Fortune’s Children at Parang, or the Fortune Center, our affiliated project in this part of the Philippines, is able to support impoverished children and their families. Established by the Damayan at Tiago Foundation, this center functions as both a school and daycare center, which offer community-building programs to assist teenagers and adults facing issues caused by poverty.

As a result of regular monthly funds being sent to the center, the children are receiving a meal every day. Sponsorship support also provides tutoring for the children, and it supports all their educational needs, like uniforms, supplies, shoes, and clothing for school.

A busy place

On a recent visit to the Philippines, Children Incorporated’s Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, found that the Fortune Center was bustling with activity. Over fifty children at the center are supported by our sponsorship program there. Upon his arrival, Luis was greeted not only by our sponsored and unsponsored kids, but by their parents as well.

The parents expressed to Luis their gratitude for the support their children receive from their sponsors. As a result of regular monthly funds being sent to the center, the children are receiving a meal every day. Sponsorship support also provides tutoring for the children, and it supports all their educational needs, like uniforms, supplies, shoes, and clothing for school. Twice a year, a medical team goes to the center to set up a clinic for the children who live in the surrounding community and their families.

Luis found that since his last visit to the Philippines a few years ago, the children are continuing to thrive. Many of our sponsored children who have been in our program since they started school have graduated from high school now – and some are even off to college. Luis was told by the Director of the Fortune Center, Polly, that two former sponsored children, Maria* and William*, have even graduated from college. Maria studied English in college, and is now a high school teacher. She has mentioned to Polly that she is interested in returning to the Fortune Center to help establish an English tutorial program, with support from Children Incorporated.

Hope for the future

Before leaving, Luis spoke with Polly about what she hoped for the future of the center. Polly mentioned that she would love to establish a water purification plant on the property, so that a few families could start small businesses. The plant would generate potable water at a low cost while also employing members of the community who could then sell the water to Marikina residents to generate income. At the same time, the children could learn about small business administration by observing community members at work.

Beyond establishing this new program at the center, Polly would also love to add twenty to thirty more children to our sponsorship program, as many more kids who live nearby could use the support of a caring sponsor, so that they may also have the opportunity to obtain an education and rise above poverty.

*Names changed for individuals’ protection.

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HOW CAN I SPONSOR A CHILD IN THE PHILIPPINES?

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

Expanding Opportunities in the Philippines

The city of Tagaytay, where the Pinagpala Children’s Center is located, is on the island of Luzon, where many Filipino families suffer from extreme poverty. To help support the community, in 2000, members of a local church there established the Pinagpala – meaning “Blessed” – Children’s Center to provide educational assistance to local needy children and their families.

The Pinagpala Children’s Center recognizes that providing for the educational needs of impoverished children is an important step in giving them the tools they require to break the cycle of poverty.

The Pinagpala Children’s Center recognizes that providing for the educational needs of impoverished children is an important step in giving them the tools they require to break the cycle of poverty; and thanks to support from Children Incorporated, the center not only supports children with basic needs, but it also helps families through various skills training programs and educational activities.

Our Hope In Action Fund in action

Initially just a one-story structure, the Pinagpala Children’s Center received support from Children Incorporated’s Hope In Action Fund to construct a second story. As a result, the center’s programs were expanded to further support children, families, and the community beyond our sponsorship program. On a recent visit to the Philippines, our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, visited the center to see the completed second floor of the building. He also spoke with our volunteer coordinator there about how the new floor is being utilized.

Currently, the new addition is being used for feeding children in mornings and afternoons; for after-school tutoring in the evenings; and during the day, for hosting a small daycare center for parents who work during the day. The center’s partnership with Children Incorporated has been instrumental in not only educating our sponsored and unsponsored children, but also in helping to progress the overall development of the community in which they live as a whole.

One program teaches parents how to recycle old materials to make rags and garments to sell.

Plenty of achievements

What Luis found on his visit greatly exceeded his expectations. As he continued to talk with our volunteer coordinator, he was informed that the administrators at the Pinagpala Children’s Center have also started income-generating programs for the parents of children enrolled in our program. One such program teaches parents how to recycle old materials to make rags and garments to sell. There is also a small organic vegetable garden at the center where parents can learn gardening skills to grow produce to sell to other families in the community, as well as an income-generating project where pigs are raised for later sale.

The center also recognizes the need for supporting the locality with a community-based rehabilitation and drug addiction program to help young addicts break their drug habits. The local police chief there has even become involved with it, teaching workshops and hosting seminars to emphasize to the community the importance of not getting involved in drugs.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN THE PHILIPPINES?

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