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Art for the Soul and the Mind

When we think about what constitutes a well-rounded education for a child, what might first pop into our heads are academic subjects like math, science, and English. The arts, though, can have just as much of a significant impact on a child’s development, character, and personality as other core subjects. This is exactly why our volunteer coordinator at our affiliated project Belfry Elementary School is working hard to bring an arts camp to children enrolled in our program.

Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

On a recent visit to Pike County, Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Eugenia, who told Renée about her desire to create a Belfry-area summer arts camp for the students at her school and others nearby. She explained that in previous years, kids have attended a local church’s vacation Bible school during summer break. The church is no longer offering the camp, however, due to a lack of finances.

Eugenia is concerned that, without activities to keep them occupied in the summer, children won’t be safe at home alone while their parents are working. She is also worried that, without the school lunches that they usually receive during the school year, students from impoverished families will go hungry in the summer months. In addition, Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

Why art matters

Eugenia with one of our sponsored children

Art and creativity can benefit children in a variety of ways. Holding a paintbrush, crayon, or marker helps a child to develop their fine motor skills, as well as improves their ability to problem-solve. Drawing and painting can promote patience and determination for kids, because it gives them a task that they feel driven to complete. Since art is also a vehicle for emotion, children can work through ideas and issues when they exercise their creativity. Many children in our program have witnessed abuse or addiction, or they face depression and anxiety in their own lives or in the lives of those that surround them. Art can help them to express their feelings, which is crucial for them as they deal with past and present traumas, or other adversity in their lives.

A coordinator who goes above and beyond

Eugenia’s work goes beyond developing a summer arts program in order to support our sponsored and unsponsored children. She also ensures that the kids in her care are receiving exactly what they need in order to attend classes. She sends a letter home at the start of each school year asking parents for their kids’ clothes and shoe sizes. She also inquires as to what kinds of school supplies they would like to have. Then she shops for the students.

She also partners with a local hair salon, “Just Teasin’,” so that all the children enrolled in our program get haircuts so they may start the new school year looking their very best. During the holidays, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, Eugenia uses sponsorship funds to provide vouchers that families can use to purchase food at a local grocery store, and have a nice meal together to celebrate.

Before her visit was over, Renée let Eugenia know that Children Incorporated could provide support for her summer arts program from our Hope In Action Fund. Just as Eugenia is passionate about using art to help kids succeed, we at Children Incorporated also feel that art and creativity are an important part of a child’s education. Through academics and art, we hope that children are able to reach their full potential. With the support of our sponsors and donors to supplement special programs, kids will have the chance to overcome the difficult obstacles they face living in poverty.

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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.

Businesses Supporting Students

Pike County Central High School is the largest of five high schools in Pike County, Kentucky, with an enrollment of approximately 720 students. On a recent trip to Pike County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, whose name is also Shelley. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is the Youth Services Center (YSC) coordinator for the school; she describes the YSC as a safe space for all students of any economic background where they may freely come and go without judgment when they are in need of a new clothing item, shoes, school supplies, hygiene items, or a snack to eat.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that the children who are enrolled in our program – kids that she says are the most impoverished at the school – can visit her office for items they need without feeling embarrassed that their parents are unable to afford the school supplies they lack. Included among these necessities are book bags, notebooks, and socks.

Both businesses and our sponsorship program are helping children at Pike County Central High School.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley says that with the sponsorship funds she receives every month, she especially likes to buy “school logo” clothes for her students; they help kids to feel like they fit in with the rest of their classmates. In the fall, sponsored and unsponsored children each receive a hoodie, a long-sleeved shirt, and sweatpants; and in the spring, another long-sleeved shirt and a couple of T-shirts. She supplements the clothes with hygiene items like soap and shampoo, or other special necessities, depending on what each student’s particular needs are, throughout the school year.

A unique place 

During the visit, our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that her school is unique as a result of its close proximity to Pikeville, the county seat or governmental center of the county. Since the school is nearby, several Pikeville businesses support its resource center with food and clothing drives, which are a great help in keeping supplies stocked all year long. When she can, she tries to share with the other high schools in the area, like Phelps and East Ridge, which do not have as much local support due to their remote locations. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is hopeful that, with the recent uptick in businesses and factories moving into the area, there is potential not only for more jobs for graduating seniors from Pike County Central High School and their parents, but also for more support for the center from local businesses.

Why small businesses help

Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

Businesses choose to help support kids in need for a variety of reasons. For starters, there are tax benefits for doing so. Donating to a qualified tax-exempt organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code means that a business may deduct these contributions in its tax return. There are also marketing opportunities for businesses to advertise the philanthropic donations they make; non-profits may, in turn, publicize support as well. Additional possibilities for networking with new potential clients may present themselves, too, as a result of a business-charity partnership.

Working with charities may also offer volunteer opportunities for a business’ employees; and many companies offer matching gifts programs for employees to participate in. Despite the many benefits for businesses themselves, however, business owners oftentimes support charities simply because they want to give back to their own communities. Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

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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.

Grandparents As Parents

Bevins Elementary School lies in the easternmost region of Kentucky, in beautiful Pike County. This area was once a prosperous and thriving one, when its coal and timber industries were booming. The mountain passes and rugged terrain, while suitable for mining and logging, have effectively blocked other types of industries from settling in this part of the state. Thus, as mines closed, those who had spent their lives working underground could not find new employment opportunities above.

Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

Today, poverty plagues this region, and adults are not the only ones experiencing the debilitating impact of its effects. Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

A passionate coordinator

On a recent trip to Eastern Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) coordinator at Bevins Elementary School, Sandy, who is also our Volunteer Coordinator. The school is located in a very small community called Sidney, west of Belfry. With an enrollment of only 227 children, the school is one of the smallest schools in the Belfry district.

Upon meeting Sandy, Renée observed that she takes a great deal of pride in her job. Her excellent work is demonstrated in her dedication to further aiding the children she serves through our programs. In fact, last year, Sandy was nominated by her principal as a contender for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators’ annual Fred Award. The award – inspired by Fred Shea, the postman who is the subject of Mark Sanborn’s national bestseller, The Fred Factor – recognizes non-administrative staff, students, and volunteers statewide whose daily efforts are deemed extraordinary and integral to a positive learning atmosphere in their school communities.

We support children in need in Eastern Kentucky.

Renée pictured with one of our sponsored children at Bevins Elementary School

Sandy is impassioned by FRYSC’s work to remove the “non-cognitive barriers” to children’s success in school by providing them with clothes, shoes, school supplies, and hygiene items throughout the academic year. She also works closely with the other coordinators in the middle and high schools in the Belfry district to collaborate on outreach efforts between older and younger siblings in the same families.

This is in order to ensure that all children are receiving the basic needs that are so important to their academic success. When it comes to working with our sponsored and unsponsored children, Sandy explained to Renée, her primary focus is always to obtain clothing and shoes, as well as school supplies. Sandy considers each child’s individualized personal needs upon selecting her purchases.

Training for grandparents

As Sandy discussed how she would like to see the resource center develop, Renée learned about a county program to be launched by FRYSC coordinators this school year called Grandparents As Parents (GAP) – a program for which financial assistance is greatly needed. There is a high percentage of grandparents and great-grandparents raising children in Pike County, sometimes due to parents passing, and other times because parents are incapable of caring for their own children as a result of problems with drug abuse. Many require support with regard to issues such as recognizing the signs of bullying; training on how to monitor kids’ social media use; and how to utilize technology for themselves for job training, and to check online for academic performance and behavior notes for the children in their care. The workshops will also touch on budgeting, and proper sleep and nutrition; and attendees will be provided with literature for reference.

After listening to Sandy speak so passionately about helping these grandparents – many of whom are living in poverty, and never expected to be raising their grandchildren – Renée informed Sandy that Children Incorporated would be happy to provide funding for this special program through our Hope In Action Fund. This fund is maintained for instances just as this. Now Sandy can rest assured that grandparents in her community will receive the support they need to raise their grandchildren to be the most successful students they can be.

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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.

25 Years in Pike County

Recently, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited one of our longest-standing and most stable partnerships – the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) of Pike County in Kentucky. Children Incorporated began our outreach in Kentucky not long after the founding of our organization in 1964. At that time, our program was in only one county in the state: Menifee. Unfortunately, when our volunteer coordinator in Menifee County retired a few years later, no one was able to step in and take her place; so that project site was reluctantly closed.

In order to continue helping children in need in the Appalachian Region of the United States, one of our staff members at the time, Dorothy Carver, went to our founder, Mrs. Jeanne Clarke Wood, with an interesting proposal: her husband was relocating for work from Richmond, Virginia, where our headquarters was located at the time, to North Carolina. Mrs. Carver offered to reinstate our Appalachian Division with a focus in western North Carolina, where extreme poverty was rampant. Mrs. Wood agreed; once Mrs. Carver relocated to North Carolina, she began traveling regularly, steadily expanding our sponsorship program in the state.

Today, Children Incorporated is affiliated with all seventeen public schools in Pike County, which is the easternmost and largest county in North Carolina.

A Breakfast for Champions

In 1990, when Mrs. Carver retired, our Appalachian Division consisted of 32 projects in western North Carolina. Her assistant, Irene LeCroy, took her place as the new Appalachian Division Director. Mrs. LeCroy worked hard to continue to expand our work with impoverished children and their families. She wanted Children Incorporated to acquire affiliations in Kentucky, as well as move into West Virginia. It was she who first learned of Kentucky’s newly-developed Family Resource and Youth Services Center. Thanks to Mrs. LeCroy, our first re-affiliations since the early 1970s were in Pike County, Kentucky. The first was Kimper Elementary School in March of 1993 – and more and more were added over the years.

Today, Children Incorporated is affiliated with all seventeen public schools in Pike County, which is the easternmost and largest county in Kentucky, encompassing 788 square miles. It has a rugged mountainous terrain, with narrow river valleys and great scenic beauty. However, the continuing decline of the coal industry has yielded high rates of unemployment; underemployment; and rural out-migration, in which families are forced to leave their homes in search of steady work elsewhere. The county’s child poverty rate is 29 percent – and twelve percent of those kids live in deep poverty, in which their families’ incomes are less than half the poverty threshold.

We are incredibly grateful for our coordinators in Pike County, who work hard every day to ensure children’s needs are met.

Since this year marks Children Incorporated’s 25th anniversary of our work in Pike County, Renée and Shelley decided to start their week-long trip of visits to our affiliated schools in the area with a breakfast meeting to acknowledge the FRYSC coordinators, who also serve as our volunteer coordinators. Renée and Shelley invited all seventeen coordinators, as well as Mr. Robert Osborne, who is the Director of Federal Programs for the Pike County Board of Education, and who supervises our coordinators there.

Renée and Shelley hosted a fun breakfast, getting all the coordinators together to reminisce about how Children Incorporated sponsors and donors have facilitated their work helping kids in Eastern Kentucky over the years. Renée and Shelley also made it a point to express their gratitude to the coordinators for dedicating so much time and effort to ensuring that their students benefit fully from their sponsors’ crucial support.

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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.

A Decade of Sponsorship – Half a Century of Gratitude

The children in our program not only have the opportunity to obtain an education and experience the hope that lies therein – they also witness firsthand the transformative impact of giving in their lives. This culture of benevolence often perpetuates itself, and those who have received give back when they are able. Such is the case of a humble and sincere gentleman who visited the Children Incorporated headquarters in North Chesterfield, Virginia over the summer to tell us his story.

Reverend Solomon belonged to the first generation of Children Incorporated kids at our affiliated project the J. Calvitt Clarke Home, named after our founder’s father, in Dornakal, Telangana in India. From 1967 to 1976, Reverend Solomon’s sponsor – an individual to whom he attributes the enriched life he leads today – helped to support his education. He went on to graduate from high school and college, and returned to the same organization that manages the home that offered him invaluable assistance throughout his childhood, working as an accountant from 1980 to 1982. Dedicating his studies to theology, he became a pastor about a decade later, and started working with Word and Deed India, an organization that provides rehabilitation and treatment to those suffering from leprosy, as well as runs schools and hostels for underprivileged children.

Reverend Solomon in Dornakal as young man

Through the years, Reverend Solomon has thought of his sponsor often, and continues to do so to this very day. He treasures what a gift his sponsorship was, as it meant better lives for him and his family – and ultimately, better lives for so many more children in India. Reverend Solomon went on to found the nonprofit organization Oikonomos Ministries India with his wife Naomi in his home state in 2001. It began with 63 kids, and currently serves 610 orphaned and impoverished kids in the area.

“I didn’t hear from my sponsor, but I knew they were there for me,” Reverend Solomon told us. He is there for the Oikonomos children in the same way his sponsor was there for him, ensuring they receive basic necessities. He also pastors at Beth-EL Baptist Church and ministers locally, offering spiritual care and counseling as well as career guidance to the young adults of Oikonomos who are pursuing university studies.

“You must make use of this opportunity”

On this, his first trip to the United States for a pastoral training conference, Reverend Solomon made it a priority to stop by the Children Incorporated headquarters to tell us – and you – how sponsorship positioned him and seven other kids from his village on a marked path to success. “I remember hearing in school that Children Incorporated was in Richmond, Virginia,” he said. So when he discovered that he would be traveling to Virginia, he made the decision to pay us a visit.

Through the years, Reverend Solomon has thought of his sponsor often, and continues to do so to this very day.

Reverend Solomon proudly showed us photographs of other former sponsored children who had become bank managers, top-ranking police officers, and other successful professionals. “Poverty drove us to study well,” he said. “We thought, ‘You must make use of this opportunity and succeed in life.’” He told us of the extreme poverty from which his family suffered greatly, and he recounted to us an incredibly touching story:

When he would leave for the J. Calvitt Clarke Home as a boy, his family would give him enough money to travel to and from the home – and if they had it, a bit more for spending money while he was away. On one occasion, upon arriving to his house from the home, Reverend Solomon found that his mother was not there. When he asked his father where she was, he was told that she had gone out looking for some change for rice, because she wanted to be able to feed her child while he was visiting from school. Reverend Solomon felt awful about this, and upon his mother’s return, gave her the money she had given him months before; he had managed to save it, because his sponsorship covered all of his needs while he was away. His family was able to eat that night.

Years later, married with two daughters, and the executive director of a nonprofit organization, Reverend Solomon finished his story with tears in his eyes, and with such a grace that can only reverberate from raw gratitude. The cracking of his voice as he became emotional and the earnest air about him revealed the kindness that resides in his heart as a result of the compassion shown to him as a little boy.

Our common mission comes full circle

Reverend Solomon closed his visit by telling us about a question he had asked himself on his way here: “What can I do for Children Incorporated, because Children Incorporated has done so much for me?” Both our work and his is made possible by sponsors and donors. So it didn’t take him long to come to the conclusion that he would thank us by sponsoring a child in India himself. While his organization transforms hundreds of young lives there, he wishes to transform the life of a child through the same organization that linked his sponsor to him so many years ago.

From one sponsor having made a difference in the life of just one child, hundreds of people – children and communities alike – are now benefitting. Reverend Solomon takes great pride is how instrumental his own life has been in lifting up his village, as he is a living example of what its people’s lives can become when they are presented with possibility. Little could Reverend Solomon’s sponsor ever have imagined: the support that began fifty years ago and lasted for a decade is now a driving force pushing an entire community forward in Telangana, India.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?

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

Supplying Families in Guatemala City with Food

After spending three days visiting our affiliated projects in Guatemala, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs; Ron Carter, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and I arrived at the last project we would be visiting: Casa Central in Guatemala City. Founded in the mid-nineteenth century and run by the nuns of the Sisters of Charity, Casa Central has a long and honorable history of ministering to children living in poverty, offering them a place of refuge from the instability and crime that pervade their neighborhoods.

Providing children with food to take home is an important way to keep them healthy so they can attend school.

When we arrived in the early afternoon, we were greeted warmly by our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Estefanía, who showed us around the center. The center is a large two-story facility that comprises classrooms for primary and secondary schools, a social assistance center, courtyards, and an industrial-sized kitchen. Beautiful flowers grow in pots along its walkways, and some of the buildings there are painted bright colors. These things make the environment at the center a cheery and welcoming one.

As we walked, Sister Estefanía explained to us that children between first and twelfth grade attend school at the center. There, they are not only provided with a good education, but they are also given a safe place to learn and play during the day while their parents are at work.

A powerful ending to an amazing trip

After touring the school, we made our way to the social assistance center area, where our sponsored and unsponsored children and their parents were waiting to meet us. Chairs were lined up on two sides of the room, and there was an aisle down the middle. Two long tables full of food items, like cereal, grains, cooking oil, and spaghetti noodles, stood in the front of the room. Luis addressed the crowd of more than fifty families, all of which listened patiently as he described how grateful we are to have the opportunity to help support the children we serve through Casa Central.

Two long tables full of food items, like cereal, grains, cooking oil, and spaghetti noodles, stood in the front of the room.

When Luis finished, Sister Estefanía invited each family, who had brought their own large woven bags with them from home, to approach the tables. Two other Sisters began filling their bags with food items. Once the bags were full, some of them stood as tall as the children!

As the families left with their food through the back door, we said goodbye to each one, shaking the parents’ hands – and they all had big smiles on their faces. I, too, was smiling – thinking about just how lucky I am to be working for such an amazing organization as Children Incorporated. To see that these families are receiving the food items they require for proper nourishment, and to know that their children are healthy enough to attend school – all thanks to our sponsors and donors – was a great way to end a very special trip to Guatemala.

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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.