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Visiting Lebanon and South Korea

After many years of not being able to visit Lebanon and South Korea, where we support hundreds of children through our sponsorship program, our International Programs Director, Luis Bourdet, was finally able to visit both countries at the end of last year.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories about Luis’ visits to our projects in Lebanon and South Korea.

“In recent years, great turmoil and many political issues have created instability in countries neighboring Lebanon and South Korea. As a result, previous plans to visit the two countries have had to be postponed,” said Luis.

“Thankfully, last year it became safe enough for me to travel to both countries to see first-hand the positive effects that our sponsors are having on impoverished children.”

Our affiliated projects

sponsor a child in lebanon

In Lebanon, Children Incorporated is affiliated with three projects

In Lebanon, Children Incorporated is affiliated with three projects: The Armenian Evangelical Schools (AES) and the Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID), both located in the country’s capital, Beirut; and the Armenian Evangelical Secondary School in the small city of Anjar.

We have a large number of projects in South Korea – seventeen in total, all of which are homes for orphaned children. Our affiliated sites are located all over South Korea, including in the cities of Seoul, Busan, Iksan, Daegu, and Gwangju. Thanks to the help of our Korean Volunteer Coordinator, Ms. Soung Ok Cho, who oversees all of our projects in the country, we are able to work with so many homes.

“Since most of the homes are located in cities with large populations of more than 1.6 million people, and they are far away from one another, it would be truly difficult to coordinate and visit sites on a regular basis without the help of Ms. Cho,” Luis stated.

A Brief history of Lebanon

Located in Western Asia, Lebanon borders with Syria to the north and east, and with Israel to the south. Cyprus is west of it, across the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the country’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland, Lebanon has a rich history and cultural identity evincing the influence of such illustrious civilizations as the Greek, Roman, Arab, Ottoman Turk, and French.

However, Lebanon’s wealth of diversity has also contributed to its turbulent history. Lebanon continues to suffer the repercussions of a history riddled with wars – both civil and international. Unemployment, underemployment, and the ever-present threat of war are tragic realities there. These are, perhaps, most pronounced in Beirut. Settled over 5,000 years ago, this historic city is Lebanon’s largest and primary seaport, but it is also afflicted with dire poverty and its subsequent socioeconomic effects.

About South Korea

Comprising the lower half of a mountainous peninsula in East Asia, this populous nation, with a population density ten times higher than the global average, is today renowned for its future-oriented advancements in technology.

Although it emerged as an autonomous country in the aftermath of World War II, more than half a century after the Korean Armistice Agreement, South Korea is still haunted by the ghosts of its turbulent past. The Korean War, from 1950 to 1953, devastated South Korea, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives – both military and civilian – and leaving thousands of children orphaned. As a result, a number of orphanages were constructed – orphanages that now house Children Incorporated enrolled children, ensuring that they have the resources they need to go to school.

More stories to come

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories about Luis’ visits to our projects in Lebanon and South Korea. Seeing these two diverse countries through his eyes, we hope you will catch a glimpse of how – thanks to our affiliated projects, volunteer coordinators, sponsors, and donors – we are able to make a huge a difference in the lives of children in need.

“Children Incorporated support is essential in these countries for the purchase of clothing, food, and shoes, so that children living in poverty can attend school,” said Luis.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN LEBANON OR SOUTH KOREA?

You can sponsor a child in Lebanon or South Korea 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.orgor go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Lebanon or South Korea that is available for sponsorship.

Limited Housing for Students in Hazard

Perry County Central High School is located in the city of Hazard in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. Hazard, once a nineteenth-century settlement with a booming coal mining community, is nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. The geographic isolation of Perry County has led to deep-rooted preservation of this region’s rich culture; but this has also contributed to economic stagnation over the years.

Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing.

Poverty, drug abuse, and a lack of health insurance are just a few of the problems that this part of Kentucky faces, and they are due to limited employment opportunities and the dwindling coal market. Though many Hazard families struggle, life for some has started to improve, as Perry County has taken steps to incite new economic growth. Yet one major issue still plagues low-income families: a lack of availability of affordable housing.

Students without homes

sponsor a child in kentucky

Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community.

Founded in 1995 as the result of the consolidation of two other local high schools, our affiliated project Perry County Central High School is a large school with an enrollment of around 900 students. 72 percent of the students there qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). On a visit to the school, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Tina. Tina told Shelley that she feels she is perfect for her job because she grew up very poor in a large family with thirteen siblings. She, therefore, understands the issues that many of the families in the community are dealing with when it comes to living in poverty.

Tina explained to Shelley that at Perry County Central High School, there is not much of a middle class; as Tina described it, “There is no in-between – you either have money or you don’t.” Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing. As a result, there is a large homeless population among the students at the school.

A very long wait list

According to Tina, Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community. There are about 150 of these apartments in the whole town, so the waiting list to get in is very long. This means that many families have no choice but to find temporary housing arrangements, which is not ideal for students who require stability while they’re attending school.

The students who Tina considers to be homeless are not necessarily living on the streets or in shelters; some of them are staying on couches at friends’ houses, or staying with teachers or relatives. Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter. Tina says that at the end of the day, even some students who do have homes to go to often beg to go home with friends or teachers, because their home life is unstable – or even unsafe.

Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter.

A lack of transportation

Another great area of need for the students of Perry County Central High School is transportation. Many students want to work part-time jobs. In these cases, school buses can be re-routed to drop them off at work after school – but then they have no way to get home. Students often end up walking home, which can be dangerous and exhausting for them.

Transportation is also an issue for students who want to attend the local college, Hazard Community and Technical College, to get a jump-start on higher education courses. There is a transportation service through the college that picks students up and drops them off every day, but it costs $5.00 a day – or approximately $100.00 per month. Most students cannot afford this service. Tina wishes that students who want to go to college in the area could be provided with free transportation.

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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.

Sending Rebecca to Prom

Founded in 1878, Leslie County lies nestled in the rural foothills of Kentucky’s Eastern Coalfield region. Despite its wealth of natural beauty and proud history, this region suffers from widespread poverty and deprivation. Once bolstered by the area’s booming coal and lumber industries, the county’s economy is now deteriorating.

Between 2013 and 2015 alone, Leslie County suffered a loss of 700 coal-mining jobs, with no foreseeable recovery in the coal industry. The resulting unemployment left county residents in a state of crisis. New job development is all but nonexistent, due to this region’s remoteness, inaccessibility, and small population.

Sponsoring a child changes their life.

Thanks to local businesses, students at Leslie County High School were able to attend prom.

Moreover, a widespread lack of education among the residents exacerbates the problem. The county has a 63 percent high school graduation rate, and only seven percent of residents aged 25 and older there hold a Bachelor’s degree. Amid the staggering economic and societal problems facing this area of Kentucky, Leslie County High School provides the opportunity and hope students need to help them escape the cycle of poverty.

Not enough students to fill the school

While visiting Leslie County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Lesley, our volunteer coordinator at Leslie County High School. Lesley explained to Shelley that, although the school itself is housed in a very large building, enrollment has been steadily dwindling.

At the time of their meeting, 485 students were enrolled at the school – which has the capacity to serve 1,000. Lesley told Shelley that in her first year as our coordinator there, there were 900 students in attendance; but because of the trend of students graduating, going off to college, and not returning to Leslie County because there are no jobs there, the population in the area has decreased year after year.

MEET REBECCA

During her time at the school’s resource center, Shelley had the opportunity to meet a special sponsored student named Rebecca*. Lesley has known Rebecca, who is now a senior in high school, since she was a toddler. Rebecca lives with her father, who is a loving and involved parent, but is unemployed due to a disability; so he struggles to provide for himself and Rebecca with the meager benefits he receives.

Each year, businesses in Leslie County partner with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) at the school to ensure that every student that wants to attend prom may do so, and can look and feel their best while they’re there.

Even though her father doesn’t have money for much outside of paying bills and buying food, Rebecca was still able to attend her high school prom, thanks in large part to the support of the local community.

A prom to remember

Each year, businesses in Leslie County partner with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) at the school to ensure that every student that wants to attend prom may do so, and can look and feel their best while they’re there. A boutique in town donates prom dresses and suits for students to wear, and a beauty shop sets up at the school so that students can have their hair and makeup done.

On the day of prom, Rebecca’s dad took her to school at 10:00 a.m. so that she could pick out a dress and start getting ready. During the entire day, and into the night, her father sat outside in the car in the parking lot until prom was over at 10:00 p.m. When Rebecca told Shelley and Lesley this, Lesley asked Rebecca why her dad had stayed at school instead of going home. Rebecca told them it was because he didn’t have enough gas to go home and return to pick her up – so he decided to just wait for her while she was inside enjoying her special day.

Thanks to her sponsor

Before their meeting was over, Rebecca told Shelley that her sponsor helps her mostly with clothes, which she really appreciates. Rebecca loves having nice, new clothes to wear, because it makes her feel good about herself. She also told Shelley that she plans to attend Hazard Community and Technical College after graduation, and obtain a degree in nursing. Currently, Rebecca holds an after-school volunteer position at a local nonprofit coffee shop. When she starts taking college classes, however, she wants to start working at a local nursing home to gain experience in the field as she simultaneously takes the required courses.

*Named changed for individual’s protection.

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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.

Fitting In with the Crowd

Situated in the hilly rural Eastern Kentucky Coalfield region of Appalachia, Leslie County is an area of stark contrasts. Its breathtaking rugged beauty and veins of coal drew its first residents there more than a century ago; and for generations, coal mining served as a primary source of employment for its residents.

For some students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in at school.

With the rapid decline of that industry, however, employment opportunities have drastically diminished, resulting in the need for many families to move away and seek employment elsewhere. Those who remain must endure the daily realities of poverty, including a widespread drug abuse problem that devastates the entire community – not just the users themselves.

Thankfully, students at W.B. Muncy Elementary School have teachers and administrators to provide them with a well-rounded education, as well as support from Children Incorporated sponsors and donors to help them overcome the barriers they face living in poverty. For some of those students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in with the other students who aren’t experiencing difficult circumstances.

Meeting Joseph

Helping a child in need will change their life.

Sponsorship often helps children with their self-esteem, as well as provides them with basic needs.

On a trip to Leslie County, Children Incorporated’s U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with our Volunteer Coordinator at W.B. Muncy Elementary School, Amy, as well as with a few children in our program. Amy explained to Shelley that Children Incorporated helps her to obtain clothing, backpacks, and school supplies for her students, along with other essential items – which is incredibly important for single and unemployed parents, as well as for grandparents who are struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis because they are raising children again.

After meeting with Amy, Shelley had the opportunity to sit and talk with a special student named Joseph*. Joseph is currently unsponsored and on our waiting list. Amy helps him with additional funding that she receives from Children Incorporated’s Shared Hope Fund, which helps to support kids who are waiting for sponsors. When Shelley was first introduced to Joseph, she could see that he had a tough exterior; he sometimes found it difficult to allow himself to smile.

After he returned to class, Amy told Shelley that Joseph harbors a lot of anger because of the situation in which he finds himself: he is being raised by a single dad who doesn’t have a lot of money. Joseph feels like he really stands out from other kids at school. Amy then told Shelley a story about how our program was able to help Joseph to overcome some of those issues he faces.

A hat makes a big difference

A few months prior, Amy realized that Joseph needed new clothes and shoes, because his were worn out. So she invited him to the Family Resource Center so that she could ask him what he wanted and needed. He told her what he could use; but before he left, he leaned in close to Amy and quietly said, “The school is having a ‘Hat Day’ next week, and I don’t have a hat like the other kids. If you could get me a hat, too, I would really appreciate it.”

Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.

Amy purchased Joseph’s new clothes, including a hat, over the course of the next few days. When “Hat Day” came around the following week, Joseph made a point of returning to the Resource Center to see Amy; he was wearing his hat and a brand new outfit – as well as a big smile on his face. Joseph said, “I really love my hat. Thank you for remembering that I didn’t have one for today.” Later that day, he returned to the Resource Center once again and told Amy, “You don’t know how much this helps my dad.  We don’t have a whole lot of money, so now he won’t have to worry about getting me clothes and shoes.”

According to Amy, the Children Incorporated program has had a great impact on Joseph’s life; it has really helped him to blossom and feel more confident. Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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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.

Dressing the Part of a Professional

Buckhorn School is located in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field. This region is known for its lumber and coal industries, which sustained the people of this beautiful, very rural and isolated part of Appalachia for generations.  Unfortunately, however, those industries are now waning, and there are few businesses in the area today. High unemployment and transportation problems are also major setbacks for most residents.

Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too.

Founded in 1902, Buckhorn School has a dedicated staff of teachers and administrators that have worked hard to create a nurturing environment where every student has the opportunity to obtain a quality education. This is especially valuable for students whose families are living in poverty.

As the only kindergarten through twelfth-grade school in Perry County, Buckhorn School has an enrollment of approximately 200 students. Our sponsorship program helps to provide children there with basic needs throughout the year. For many of Buckhorn’s high school students, support from sponsors means that they are receiving quality professional clothing and shoes that they may use for future job interviews.

Shopping for themselves

sponsoring a child changes their life.

Judy, who is pictured here with Shelley Oxenham, encourages her students to do their best.

While visiting Buckhorn School, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Judy, the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) Coordinator and Children Incorporated Volunteer Coordinator. Judy has worked at the school in various positions for twenty years, and she has been the FRYSC Coordinator there since October of 2017.

During their meeting, Judy explained to Shelley that the Children Incorporated program has allowed her to purchase clothes and shoes for sponsored children, which has been especially helpful for her high school students, who otherwise might never have new outfits to wear. Since they are among the older students in our sponsorship program, instead of shopping for them, Judy meets the high school-aged sponsored kids at a local clothing store and lets them pick out their own clothes and shoes. While shopping, Judy encourages them to choose items that they may wear not only to school, but also to professional settings when they are seeking employment opportunities after they graduate.

“Professional Day” for students

Judy explained to Shelley that she feels that preparing seniors for obtaining employment after graduation is about more than just wearing the right clothes. Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too. Every year, the school hosts a “Professional Day” where seniors are asked to wear their most professional outfit to school, and they are given tips on how to dress appropriately in their business attire. The seniors also receive help creating their resumes, they learn how to search for jobs online, and they carry out practice interviews so that they may feel more confident in pursuing employment on their own.

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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.

Easing a Delicate Heart

Hear from our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, about her visit with our volunteer coordinator and a sponsored child and his mother at our affiliated project Johns Creek Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky:

“I arrived on a cloudy afternoon; and even though it was April, spring had not yet reached the higher mountain elevations. The trees had buds, but no leaves.

“I was welcomed warmly by long-time Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) Coordinator and our Volunteer Coordinator, Dwayne. It had been a while since I’d visited, so Dwayne took me on a tour of the buildings and grounds so I could familiarize myself with them.

“Rebecca told me that she will never forget our organization’s special help when she and her husband were so desperate.”

– Renée Kube

“Dwayne explained that the original building was constructed around 1950. A separate addition was built in 1975, with a courtyard between the two structures. Finally, a third addition was built in 1991 that enclosed and reclaimed the courtyard for academic purposes, and also provided a new cafeteria.

“Johns Creek Elementary School is the second-largest elementary school in the entire county, with over 800 children. Dwayne feels the school has an excellent academic reputation, and that young parents choose to live in the community so their children can attend school there. It is located in the rural community of Meta, where there is a lot of poverty. 72 percent of the students at the school receive free meals. However, the county’s overall poverty rate is so high that it has qualified for countywide free breakfasts and lunches.”

A tireless advocate

“Dwayne is a tireless advocate for his students, and he works with partners large and small, near and far, for their benefit. He uses a company called Kits for Kidz that provides new, discounted, name-brand school supplies that can be ordered by age and grade. He partners with Operation Warm, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Pennsylvania that provides new winter coats to needy children.

“And he works on a smaller scale with a county group called Manna From Heaven Outreach, Inc. that provides clothing, hygiene items, and sometimes furniture. By collaborating with Operation Warm, Dwayne doesn’t have to use sponsorship funds for winter coats, so he instead focuses on using that money for the purchase of shoes and clothing for our sponsored children throughout the year, which really helps him and the children in our program.”

Taking action

Renée with Joshua and his mom, Rebecca

“After our tour, Dwayne took me to his office, where he had made an appointment for me to meet with Joshua* and his mother, Rebecca*. Joshua is eight years old and is the youngest of three boys who live with their mother and stepfather. All three boys are currently in our sponsorship program. His mother is a homemaker, and his stepfather does landscaping work. Joshua has Down syndrome, which comes with some developmental and physical problems. Overall, his health was stable until this school year, when he had three emergencies that required hospitalization.

“One of these emergencies resulted in a delicate heart operation at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Rebecca took Joshua to Ohio, and she stayed with him while his stepfather stayed home with the two older sons. Dwayne appealed to Children Incorporated for help for the family during these emergencies, and we were able to respond. Our Hope In Action Fund provided food for the stepfather and older boys, some aid with food and lodging for Rebecca, and some funds to purchase food and pajamas to ease Joshua’s stay in the hospital.

“While visiting with them, Rebecca told me that she will never forget our organization’s special help when she and her husband were so desperate. And she added that they are, of course, very grateful for the regular assistance that the boys receive from their sponsors, too.”

Thank you, Renée, for sharing this heartfelt story as a reminder of how Children Incorporated sponsors and donors make a difference in the lives of so many children and families in Kentucky, all over the United States, and around the world!

*Names changed for individuals’ protection.

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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.