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Rarely Enough Food on the Weekends

The remote town of Crownpoint, where our affiliated project Mariano Lake Community School is located, is in northwestern New Mexico, near the Arizona border and the vast Navajo Nation. Many of the American Indian families in this area generate income by making and selling jewelry, kachinas (traditional, carved figures that represent deified ancestral spirits), and pottery. Some families maintain small herds of livestock. Others, who can’t find work this region of the United States, where unemployment is high, find themselves having to travel outside of the state for work.

Some parents rely on public assistance for feeding and clothing their children. For this reason, the Mariano Lake Community School is important for the kids who attend, because there, they can receive a good education and have a healthy environment in which to reside during the week – and their experiences there are enriched by compassionate teachers who work hard to build their self-esteem.

The value of dorm life

Mariano Lake Community School is a small boarding school of approximately 150 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. The school consists of small portable buildings, which house the classrooms. The complex also has a cafeteria, a library, administrative offices, and a separate dorm for boys and girls.

For some parents, the relief comes from knowing that their children will eat enough at school during the week.

The dorm on the school’s campus serves many important purposes for both the students and their parents. Although school buses do travel the hour or more to the communities in which the children’s families live, the many dirt roads along the way often become impassable during and after rain and snow. If the buses can’t make it down a road, the children down that road are not picked up, so they miss school that day.

The dorm is also quite valuable for parents who work out of town during the week, because they don’t have to worry about their children’s safety. For some parents, the relief comes from knowing that their children will eat enough at school during the week, when they might otherwise go hungry at home, because there is not enough money to feed them.

Parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children at Mariano Lake Community School are often bus drivers, cooks, or security officers that make very small incomes. When they do receive their paychecks at the beginning of each month, students are sometimes absent from school, because there is food to eat at home, and money to pay for things to do – so they don’t make the trip to school. By the end of the month, however, the students are going hungry again.

Those who live at the dorm receive three meals a day. On the weekends, when they return home, they often go hungry, or they just eat junk food or snack food when money gets low or runs out. Once the weekend is over, these kids arrive to school on Monday mornings very hungry for breakfast. By Monday night, they are exhausted and fall asleep early, because they haven’t had a chance to get their energy back up from eating so little for days in a row.

Feeling unloved and unwanted

On a recent trip to New Mexico, U.S. Projects Specialist Shelley Oxenham met with Barbara, our Volunteer Coordinator at Mariano Lake Community School, who also manages the dorm. Barbara told Shelley that teachers and staff are seeing more and more students coming from difficult home situations. There is alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and drug use at home.

Children sometimes feel unwanted and unloved, which results in negative behavior both at home and at school. The kids sometimes talk back and swear at their parents and teachers in frustration. Unfortunately, because of these behavioral issues, another reason that some parents want their children to be in the dorm during the week is so they don’t have to deal with them – which only makes their situations at home even worse.

Barbara explained to Shelley that even though the children’s behavior can be disruptive, she does what ever she can to help them to have a better life. She says that the Children Incorporated sponsorship program is especially important because not only do the sponsored children really need the clothes, school supplies, and hygiene items they receive, but they also need encouragement and support from a caring adult, too. Barbara hopes that writing to and receiving letters from sponsors help the students know that someone really cares about them.



You can sponsor a child in New Mexico 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.

Visiting Navajo Country

The To’Hajiilee (pronounced “toe-HA-ji-lee”) Community School is located in northern New Mexico in the area around Cañoncito. This school is typical of those that serve Navajo children in the United States and are funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs – except for one thing: it is far removed from the vast Navajo Nation, which spills from Arizona into New Mexico and Utah. Though not a part of the Nation, this area is still considered “Navajo Country,” where a few sheep graze against a landscape of barren desert relieved by occasional flat-topped mesas.

Despite the wealth of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage there, the Navajos who live in and around Cañoncito are desperately poor. There is virtually no employment. Broken homes, alcoholism, and an inadequate amount of food are manifestations of the poverty in which they live. For this reason, the To’Hajiilee Community School serves as a beacon of hope for children. At the school, each child receives nutritious meals, encouragement, and a quality education – giving the students there the opportunity to rise above the difficult economic circumstances from which they come.

The reality of poverty in New Mexico

Katrina does not know what she would do without the Children Incorporated program, which provides warm clothing during winter months, shoes, school supplies, medical supplies, and food items for kids.

According to Poverty USA, an organization that tracks and reports on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico ranks 49th in poverty out of fifty states. The child poverty rate there is 30.1 percent. The U.S. Census reports that the critical poverty rates in New Mexico are concentrated among the American Indian population there. More than half of all adults in the Navajo Nation – 56 percent – are unemployed. While education is often seen as the key to reducing poverty, only 25 percent of Navajo adults have at least the equivalent of a high school education.

The Kids Count Data Center for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, another organization that tracks poverty levels, reports that intervening during childhood is key in breaking the cycle of poverty. The center’s data indicates that collaborative efforts are more likely to bear fruit – and New Mexico has begun an initiative to tackle childhood hunger.

The National School Lunch Program, which ensures that children eat a nutritional meal during the school day, is a big help; but still many children go home to inadequate food supplies on nights, weekends, and holidays. Experts say that another way to combat poverty is to improve educational opportunities for children. Children who pertain to minority groups are often hit the hardest by poverty, and New Mexico’s American Indian population is heavily impacted by it.

Drawing Water from a Well

The To’Hajiilee Community School serves pre-kindergarten students up to adult education. Built in the 1960s, it consists of several buildings and a gym. The school has an enrollment of over 300 students. It is approximately one hour west of Albuquerque. “To’Hajiilee” translates to “Drawing Water from a Well” in English. The well to which the name refers is located in a canyon just west of the school.

U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, recently met with our Volunteer Coordinator Katrina at the To’Hajiilee Community School. Katrina is the Director of Family Engagement at the school, and this past year was her first full year of managing the Children Incorporated program. She is supported by the staff of the school and Elayne, her supervisor.

At the beginning of the school year, Katrina sent a survey to students’ parents that requested shoe and clothing sizes for their kids, as well as a list of needs with check boxes to select next to them. Katrina used the completed surveys to shop for the students based on the answers, and she had their parents pick her purchases up. She tries to be discreet; she doesn’t want the kids to be labeled as the poorest in the school, causing them to feel embarrassed or ostracized. She said that most every family at the school needs the program, but she tries to enroll the children whose families she knows to be the neediest.

Katrina does not know what she would do without the Children Incorporated program, which provides warm clothing during winter months, shoes, school supplies, medical supplies, and food items for kids. She says that the sponsored children benefit very much, and that she loves it when sponsors are even more involved, and write letters and send packages to their sponsored kids.

As we continue our partnership with Katrina and the To’Hajiilee Community School, according to Shelley, we see our programs supporting the children’s health and education beyond our sponsorship program. After visiting the school, Shelley considered the opportunity for our Hope In Action Fund to contribute to school gardens and markets, which will tackle some food scarcity issues for both sponsored and unsponsored kids.



You can sponsor a child in New Mexico 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.

Going Above and Beyond for Kids in Need

Summers can be rather boring for children. While kids usually love the thought of being out of school and free from homework assignments, they often have a difficult time staying occupied and active. One woman from Warfield, Kentucky found a way to change that this summer. Denise Stepp, who serves jointly as the coordinator for the Warfield Elementary School Family Resource Center and as a volunteer coordinator for Children Incorporated’s child sponsorship program, established a gardening program at her school. As a result, not only do the children keep busy and have fun, but Denise has also provided a service to many families in the community.

Denise, who loves gardening, decided to share her green thumb skills with the students that she serves. She went to the school principal and asked for permission to begin a food-to-table gardening program that the students, out on their summer break, would oversee. He gave his blessing for a large plot of land behind the school, and he wrote a grant for a small greenhouse and gardening supplies. Denise rounded up the children and got them excited about planting, caring for, and harvesting the food they would grow. Children Incorporated then provided funds so that Denise could purchase a compost barrel in order to help the children learn how compost enriches garden soil.

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services.

Denise’s summer gardening camp ran every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, and she and her helpers worked with the kids on gardening techniques. Funds from Children Incorporated allowed Denise to buy supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags to preserve the garden food. The children have loved participating in the summer gardening camp! They have taken part in many hands-on learning activities, from baking muffins with zucchini they themselves have grown to making sauerkraut from their cabbage harvest – and they’ve taken jars and bags full of freshly-picked vegetables home to be shared with their families.

A long-time volunteer

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services. The Warfield community was once a coal-producing area; however, as a result of a decline in the coal business, there is now a high unemployment there. The community now has a 93 percent poverty rate. There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and there are many single-parent families. The children endure great poverty, and some come from rather unstable homes. Denise cares deeply about the students she serves, and she goes the extra mile to show them love and support. Her job does not end at 3:00 p.m. with the close of the school day. She takes the job home with her; it is consistently on her mind.

Denise doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks the walk. Thanks to the child sponsorship program at the school and additional contributions from Children Incorporated, Denise is able to ensure that many children receive basic needs that support their well-being and health, such as clothing and shoes, and also school supplies, books, and backpacks. Under her guidance, the school system also held a summer feeding program, which transported breakfasts and lunches to 600 children Monday through Friday all summer long.

As the new school year begins, corn and potatoes will be harvested from the summer garden, and used to prepare food for the students and families on Kentucky Heritage Day. On October 13 of this year, Denise will host a pig roast, and the children will experience the rewards of their hard work by enjoying foods prepared with vegetables they’ve grown. . The school garden has given the children responsibility and a sense of ownership of their school. They take pride in the building, and vandalism is at an all-time low. They are also learning to eat more vegetables in order to be healthy and fight obesity. Much of this is due to the dedication and love displayed by Denise Stepp.



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.

Beyond Sponsorship

We meet a wide array of needs for children and their families through our Hope In Action Fund, which provides support outside of sponsorship. From providing aid in the wake of emergencies to supporting weekend and summer feeding programs, individual, one-­time donations to this special fund really go a long way. They support income-generating projects, and they go towards the construction of homes and schools – and even medical clinics at our affiliated projects. As a way to show our appreciation for your support, we want to share just some of the many amazing accomplishments we were able to make in 2017, thanks to your contributions to our Hope In Action Fund.

Helping kids in the united states

Last year, our Hope In Action Fund provided continued assistance for a combined College/Career Awareness and Parent Resource Program at our affiliated project Carr Creek Elementary School in Kentucky. The fund also aided our volunteer coordinator at Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C. in the development of a mentoring program. Thanks to your contributions, we were able to provide additional resources in New Orleans, Louisiana, which included aid for an after-school program, uniforms for children whose families could not afford them, and 500 books distributed at three literacy events during the year to increase a love of reading and to help build the home libraries of 500 children.

Kids in Kentucky have benefited greatly from our Hope In Action Fund.

Our Hope In Action Fund also provided backpacks and school supplies for “Readifests” at several of our Kentucky schools to support kids at the start of the school year. Funds enabled the entire student body of Bevins Elementary School in Kentucky, including children enrolled in our program, to benefit from an educational drug awareness and personal resiliency program. Additionally, our Hope In Action Fund provided opportunities for our sponsored and unsponsored children at Sparta Elementary School in North Carolina to attend cultural and educational performances outside of their community – experiences that they otherwise would not have had.

Donations also offered disaster relief for children impacted by serious flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thanks to you, we were able to provide canned hams, canned vegetables, and boxed food for Thanksgiving for children at our newest project in Richmond, Virginia, E.S.H. Greene Elementary School. We were also able to pay for a young girl in Kentucky to have a much-needed eye exam, and to replace her broken glasses, improving her vision so that she’d have less difficulty keeping up in class.

Thanks to you, we were able to establish a weekend feeding program at Shonto Preparatory School in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, as well as provide assistance for a partial denture for a high school student in Kentucky who suffered an accident that caused him to lose his four front teeth. We were also able to address food insecurity by supporting weekend feeding programs and monthly markets of fresh fruits and vegetables at our four affiliated projects in Washington, D.C. We assisted three children enrolled in our program at Piney Creek Elementary School in North Carolina to attend and participate in the Junior Beta Club State Convention in Greensboro.

We couldn’t help with such simple but powerful things without our sponsors’ and donors’ contributions to our Hope In Action Fund.

Our Hope In Action Fund also provided a complete professional outfit for a high-achieving student at Greyhills Academy High School in Arizona so that she could advance and compete in the Navajo Nation Science Fair in Window Rock. Donations gave us the ability to help a little boy at Johns Creek Elementary School in Kentucky to be transported to and from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, by providing funds for gas and food, so that he could undergo additional procedures following his open-heart surgery.

Donations enabled 25 children at Johnson County Middle School in Paintsville, Kentucky, including children enrolled in our program, to attend and learn at the Summer Scrubs Camp at the Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg. Additionally, we were able to purchase playground equipment for the kids at G.H. Reid Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia.

Supporting kids internationally

Outside of the United States, last year, our Hope In Action Fund provided over a thousand pairs of new shoes to children in need in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We also made a contribution to the Materi Girls’ School in Meru, Kenya for the purchase of food for the families of the children who attend, who were suffering due to a terrible drought. We provided support to Guarderia El Angel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia to pay a few teachers’ salaries when the center lost funding from its local municipality. We also completed eight housing units near our affiliated project Villa Emilia in Bolivia to help the mothers of children enrolled in our program, who were formerly living on the streets.

We couldn’t help with such simple but powerful things without our sponsors’ and donors’ contributions to our Hope In Action Fund. Every contribution impacts a specific child or family – and oftentimes, it is life-changing for them. We are incredibly grateful that we have the ability to provide for children and their families beyond sponsorship, especially in circumstances that are dire, and in which they have nowhere else to turn for help. Thanks to you, thousands of children and their families are getting the support they need every year.



You can contribute to our Hope In Action Fund 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 donate to our Hope In Action Fund.

Combating Feelings of Desperation

Menifee County High School is located in rural Menifee County, in the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. With the continuing decline of the coal mining industry in recent years, and due to a lack of other industries in the area, Menifee County residents struggle in the wake of diminishing job opportunities. The problems that affect many areas of the Appalachian region of the United States, including unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse, have begun to take their toll on Menifee County as well. As a result, not only do parents living in poverty feel depressed and hopeless, but sometimes their children do, too.

Homework plays a key role in education

Our Volunteer Coordinator, Melanie, with a few students who are wearing their school color proudly

Many Menifee County High School parents didn’t finish high school themselves, and their lack of education keeps them from obtaining any of the few well-paying jobs that do exist in the area – which causes them to feel more desperate. Oftentimes, they can’t even begin to imagine a way out of their situation. It’s not surprising, because many of them are uneducated, undereducated, or are battling depression or substance abuse; in these instances, they are usually either absent from their children’s lives, or they’re unable to help them with their homework.

Thankfully, however, Menifee County High School provides a well-rounded education for students, including those who come from impoverished families in which education and literacy are not always top priorities.

Menifee Matters

Menifee County High School serves grades nine through twelve. The high school has an old section that is slightly run-down, but it is attached to a large, new, modern addition. Our volunteer coordinator at the school is Melanie, and she is very attuned to both our sponsored and unsponsored kids’ personal issues. She knows the students well, and is familiar with their home lives, as she makes frequent home visits to check on families that she feels might need additional emotional or psychological support.

This may not seem like much, but just as our sponsorship program does, showing kids that they matter enriches their lives profoundly.

Melanie is aware that, because of difficult home lives in which kids are forced to deal with drug- or alcohol-addicted parents, many of the children in her care feel isolated and hopeless as they struggle with traumatic circumstances daily. To combat feelings of desperation, Melanie, along with other school administrators, started an initiative called Menifee Matters, so that students feel seen, noticed, and cared for. It started simply by providing students with magnetized name labels with which they could decorate their lockers. Then, each student received a Menifee Matters T-shirt. At the beginning of the school year, teachers wrote notes to their students to welcome each one back to school personally. They are small gestures, but Melanie says they make a difference for the kids.

This may not seem like much, but just as our sponsorship program does, showing kids that they matter enriches their lives profoundly. When a child knows that someone cares about them – when they might not always think that about people at home – they may be less likely to feel so alone or desperate. Encouraging children to feel good about themselves goes a very long way in helping them with their self-esteem, and it makes them feel like they are important, which can give them the confidence they need to succeed in school.



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.

Moved Beyond Measure

When International Student Exchange (ISE) contacted me in the fall of 2016 and said that they had chosen Children Incorporated to be their domestic philanthropic partner for the coming year, I was pleasantly surprised. ISE is a high school exchange program that brings together people from around the world, fostering cross-cultural learning. Under the leadership of their Chief Executive Officer, Wayne Brewer, they have been positively impacting the lives of children worldwide for in excess of 35 years.

Mr. Carter with ISE representatives in Madrid, Spain

Mr. Brewer, along with Tal Stanecky, who serves as Senior Program Advisor at ISE, selected Children Incorporated from among many other organizations due to the transparency we exhibit, and the fact that such a high percentage of our funding is used to benefit children and families. “Children Incorporated was so appealing,” said Mr. Stanecky, “because of its ability to adapt and tailor its services to children all around the world. The donations being given to the charity were really going to the people who needed it the most.”

This past November, I traveled to Madrid, Spain as a guest of ISE, and while there, I met many of the wonderful people who make up that special organization. I met and interacted not only with directors and board members, but also with representatives and field workers – those who toil within small towns and large cities across America to find host families for exchange students who wish to come to the United States and learn more about our social, economic, and political systems.

Over a five-day period, I shared many warm conversations and lots of laughter with these incredible people, and I returned to the United States with a true sense of awe and appreciation not only for the people of ISE, but also for the organization as whole.

Donations already at work

“The donations being given to the charity were really going to the people who needed it the most.”

While in Spain, International Student Exchange presented me with a very generous monetary contribution for Children Incorporated, with the very specific purpose of assisting us as we improve the lives of U.S. children over the coming months. Renée Kube, Director of our U.S. Programs Division, has been hard at work overseeing the first distributions of the ISE funds. Thus far, Children Incorporated has purchased laptop computers for a residential school in Huerfano, New Mexico; provided building supplies for an outdoor reading center in Pinon, Arizona; and obtained the necessary materials to lay an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk for wheelchair-bound students at a special education school in St. Michaels, Arizona.

Additionally, backpack feeding programs and monthly fresh foods markets have been funded in our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. In the small community of Glade Creek, North Carolina, an after-school program based on cultural enrichment and music lessons for students is now a reality, in part thanks to funds received from ISE – and much more will be accomplished as the direct result of their kindness and generosity.

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to ISE for recognizing the life-changing work that Children Incorporated regularly accomplishes. Furthermore, I want to thank them for entrusting us with funds that will provide education, hope, and opportunity to many children and young people this year and in years to come, as our partnership continues. Children Incorporated is honored to be associated with a fine organization like ISE – and I, personally, am moved beyond measure.

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter
President and Chief Executive Officer
Children Incorporated