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Our Spring 2021 Newsletter

We are happy to share with you our Spring 2021 Newsletter, highlighting our work around the world thanks to our sponsors and donors and their generosity and dedication in helping children in need. Enjoy!

Tablets Are Bringing Education to Children Around the World

Many children in our sponsorship program are experiencing exceptional difficulties during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, as schools have had to shift to virtual learning. These adjustments have been hard on parents, teachers and children — especially for those students who don’t have the technology they need at home to keep up with their course work.

We are happy to share with you our Spring 2021 Newsletter, highlighting our work around the world thanks to our sponsors and donors and their generosity and dedication in helping children in need. Enjoy!

Thankfully, because of our amazing donors, Children Incorporated has been able to provide tablets to children in our program in Latin America, India, and in the United States over the last few months so that children can continue learning until schools are back to in-person learning in the near future. These tablets will allow students to keep up with their studies and do not have to be returned when classes resume so children can keep learning at home after the pandemic as well!

Bringing Joy to Children During the Holiday Season

Our sponsors and donors are often the only reason children in our program receive holiday gifts, and for that, we are incredibly grateful — especially after an exceptionally difficult year for so many families.

On behalf of all our volunteer coordinators around the world, we would like to share a message from Sandy at Beaver Creek Elementary in Kentucky to express our gratitude for the holiday gifts you provided:

“Thank you for all the support you give our children. You are our backbone. We couldn’t survive without Children Incorporated. Merry Christmas to all Children Incorporated staff and sponsors!”

Our Warm Clothing Fund Brings Smiles to Children in Need

Brain poses for the camera with this new clothes.

Every year, your donations to our Warm Clothing Fund do more than just keep children properly clothed — it also brings immense joy to children who otherwise might never get new winter clothes.

Our volunteer coordinator, Monica, at Gouge Elementary School in North Carolina wrote to us about Brian*, after she provided him with warm clothes, thanks to his sponsor: 

“I showed Brian the new clothes I bought him, and he is loving it. He said, ‘I just love clothes!’ And I took the picture in that moment. The mask is hiding his laughter. We both got tickled because he got so much clothes, he couldn’t hold all of it.  The socks are in his book bag.

This was definitely the highlight of my week. Thanks to Children Incorporated sponsors for all you do, and for letting me be a part of this!”

*Name changed to protect the child.

 An Interview with Board Member, Liz Collins

Our President and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Carter, recently sat down with our Board Chair, Liz Collins, to discuss her long and valuable relationship with Children Incorporated.

RON: Liz, you first became involved with Children Incorporated in 2003 when you accepted a job as a sponsorship coordinator. You later served as Director of Marketing and Development. What are your recollections of your time as an employee of Children Incorporated?

I loved being able to share all of the amazing work that went on in our programs with our donors.  As a result of their giving and the tireless efforts of our volunteer coordinators, we changed a lot of lives.

Liz Collins, Board Chair

LIZ:  I loved being able to share all of the amazing work that went on in our programs with our donors.  As a result of their giving and the tireless efforts of our volunteer coordinators, we changed a lot of lives.

RON: Do you have any special memories of that time?

LIZ: I do. The stories of the children who graduated from high school and went on to college are special to me. I recall one particular story of how we were able to send funds to have a child’s driveway paved so that he could use his wheelchair to get to the bus. Before that, his brother had to carry him down the driveway to the bus each day. I also think about the incredible artwork of Roberto Andrade, one of the children in Latin America who benefitted from our program. There are so many more wonderful  memories!

RON: You left Children Incorporated in 2010, shortly after your son, Noah, was born, but I asked you to return to Children Incorporated as Board Member at the start of 2015, and you willingly agreed.  Just a few months after you joined, Steve Holton, our then chair, was forced to resign due to health reasons, and you were selected as Board Chair. In your wildest dreams, did you ever see that coming?

LIZ: No! I was truly taken by surprise with the sudden turn of events, but honored and humbled to be able to serve the organization in a new way.

RON: As Board Chair, what are your impressions of Children Incorporated? What are you most proud of? What is it about Children Incorporated that you most value?

LIZ: Children Incorporated might be among the smaller sponsorship organizations, but it is by far the most personable. That’s what I love, and I truly believe our donors and volunteer coordinators value that attribute as well. We’re transparent in our funding, and we’re extremely conscientious about our overhead so that much more of every dollar raised can go to the children, families, and communities we serve.

RON: I agree that our personality as an organization, as well as our transparency, are the keys to our continued success. But I also have to say that we have a wonderful network of volunteer coordinators, and our small but loyal staff really is incredible.

Emily was very excited to receive school supplies thanks to her sponsor.

LIZ: Yes, I agree completely. That old saying “It takes a village” really applies. That is how I see Children Incorporated. The staff, our donors, and the volunteer coordinators, all working together, make it all happen. And, it’s a village I’m very proud to be a part of and to serve in.

Still in Need of Ordinary School Supplies  

School closures have meant big changes for families and children in our program, but despite the adjustments that the pandemic required, students still need the most basic items that Children Incorporated has always provided for them.

While many of our sponsored children are learning remotely at home, either partially or wholly, they still need ordinary school supplies, especially the younger ones. Emily*, received a bundle of new supplies at home thanks to her sponsor and promptly wrote to him to say that she loved everything — especially the dry erase board and matching magnets. From her photos, you can see that Emily’s sponsor has made her  incredibly happy as she adjusts to home learning!

*Name changed to protect the child.

A Special Thank You to Our Partner, the Jeunesse Kids Foundation

 In January 2021, we were approached by the Jeunesse Kids Foundation to participate in a fundraiser they were hosting virtually. Jeunesse Kids is dedicated to creating a positive impact in the lives of children worldwide, and the foundation is funded and supported by a vast community of caring individuals who are passionate about building a better tomorrow for young people in underprivileged communities around the world — which very closely aligns with Children Incorporated’s mission and vision.

We are very proud of you, Kris!

Thanks to the efforts of all of the Juenesse Family, their fundraiser raised over $102,000 for Children Incorporated from donors around the world over the course of a weekend which will go towards purchasing tablets for virtual education children in Peru, Argentina, the Philippines, Kentucky and New Mexico, repairing a greenhouse at the St. Michaels Special Education School in Arizona, and towards expanding on skills training programs at the Montero School in Bolivia. We are incredibly grateful for their support!

From Sponsored Child to Attorney: Our Higher Education Fund at Work

We want to send our congratulations to Kris in Honduras for receiving her University Degree at the end of 2020. Kris has been in our sponsorship program since 1999. Thanks to her sponsor and our Higher Education Fund, she was able to attend school over the last twenty years and now has graduated as an attorney. We are very proud of you, Kris!

A New Roof at the Dandora Center in Kenya

While students were out of school for remote learning, we were able to continue to support our projects thanks to donations to our Hope In Action Fund so administrators could repair buildings in anticipation of the return of students in the near future.

At our affiliated project, the Dandora Center in Nairobi, Kenya, a new roof replaced an old worn one which will protect the children from poor weather and heat when they are back in classrooms.

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A New Lease on Life in Colombia

Last year, Children Incorporated Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and Director of Development, Shelley Callahan, visited our affiliated project, the Centro de Orientacion, in Manizales, Colombia.

“It was terrifying to think that these children and their mother lived in such an unsafe place,” said Callahan.

During their trip, they met with a family of two of our sponsored children who were living in a difficult and dangerous situation — and one from which they desperately wanted to escape.

“The home was in terrible condition. The children showed us a hole in the floor where the shack flooded every time it rained. They were at risk of the entire structure being destroyed in the rain. It was terrifying to think that these children and their mother lived in such an unsafe place,” said Callahan.

“When we returned to the United States, Luis spoke with our volunteer coordinator, Pilar, at Centro de Orientacion, to find out if the home could be repaired. She came back to him with the news that it couldn’t because the family didn’t own the property and therefore couldn’t make improvements on it. We were sure at the time there was nothing that we as an organization could do help improve their home.”

“What we didn’t realize at the time, is that Pilar was determined to get this family out of [harm’s way]. She contacted the local government to find out about housing options for the family, and within a few months, they were able to move. Once they relocated, Children Incorporated was able to provide support with household items as well as funding  for some smaller necessary items so they could enjoy their new and safe home.”

About Colombia

Situated in the northwestern corner of South America, Colombia is rich in natural beauty, comprising rugged Andean mountains, lowland plains, sprawling Amazon rainforest, and coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Archeological evidence suggests that humans have called this land home for thousands of years. Its modern history begins at the end of the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus and the first Spanish explorers arrived in the region, subsequently establishing the area’s first successful Spanish settlement in 1508. Spanish colonization continued for over 400 years.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Colombia gained its independence and established itself as South America’s first constitutional government. However, political instability in the mid-to-late-twentieth century led to the uprising of guerilla groups which have wreaked havoc through all manner of social injustice. Tragically, their targets are most often children. Kidnappings, human trafficking, recruitment as soldiers into paramilitary groups, and forcible participation in drug-trafficking rings are all too common realities for vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Colombia.

Kidnappings, human trafficking, recruitment as soldiers into paramilitary groups, and forcible participation in drug-trafficking rings are all too common realities for vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Colombia.

About Our affiliated projects

Rondon Center
Bogotá, Colombia

The Rondon Center serves as a beacon of hope to the surrounding community in Bogotá. The center’s mission is to provide a safe environment for the children of working mothers. By looking after the children’s immediate needs while providing the foundation for a brighter future, the center helps deserving families rise above the difficult circumstances from which they come.

Centro Primavera
Medellín, Colombia

Located in the large, industrial city of Medellín, Centro Primavera fills multiple roles, serving as a daycare and an afterschool enrichment center. While children receive nutritious food, medical care, and skills training, working mothers savor the peace of mind knowing that their children are safe, well cared for, and receiving the guidance and encouragement they need to become productive citizens.

Centro de Orientación
Manizales, Colombia

Centro de Orientación offers a source of hope in the large, central-highland city of Manizales. Established by an order of nuns, the center offers a place of protection and safety for impoverished mothers and their children. The facility functions as a community center to rehabilitate mothers who have fallen victim to the ravages of poverty, while helping their children become mature, confident, and educated young adults.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COLOMBIA?

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

SPONSOR A CHILD

Valuable Lessons Learned in Manizales

For our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and me, our trip to Colombia ended in Manizales, where we visited the last of our three affiliated projects in the country, Centro de Orientación.

Established by an order of nuns, Centro de Orientación functions as a community center to rehabilitate mothers who have fallen victim to the ravages of poverty, often having no other choice than to work on the streets of Manizales to make money.

A brother and sister who are enrolled in our sponsorship program

In addition, the Center provides nutritious meals and a safe place for children to enjoy recreational activities while teaching them how to become mature, confident and educated young adults. Support from Children Incorporated sponsors ensures that the children have clothing, school supplies and food to take home each month.

Lifting women up through training

Located in the San Jose neighborhood of Manizales, the Center serves children ages 6 to 16 years old, as well as their mothers, during the weekdays. The children attend local schools where they are taught core academic subjects such as science and math. In the afternoons, they receive tutoring and vocational training, in areas such as hairdressing or sewing.

During the school day, the children’s mothers are taught how to use industrial sewing machines, how to make crafts to sell in local markets and how to cook — skills that they can use to obtain employment so they can support their families.

During the school day, the children’s mothers are taught how to use industrial sewing machines, how to make crafts to sell in local markets and how to cook — skills that they can use to obtain employment so they can support their families.

When Luis and I arrived at the Center, we were met by Sister Solidad, our volunteer coordinator, and her assistant, Claudia. While taking a tour of the facility, Sister Solidad explained that four Sisters live at Centro de Orientación who all work closely with the children to teach them self-worth. They encourage the children to believe in their potential to do more than just finish primary and secondary school. They also strive to help mothers pursue educational opportunities at the Center so they can support themselves and lift their families out of the impoverished situations in which they live.

Waiting to start a family

After our tour, we met with our sponsored children and their parents in the basement of the Center, where a large, open room full of plastic chairs had been arranged in a circle.

As Luis spoke with the group about their sponsorship experiences, Claudia explained to me that since Centro de Orientación has been offering its skills training programs to the community, she has noticed over the years that the younger women are waiting until they are older to have children. And when it comes to teaching their own children valuable life lessons, they are confident in explaining to them the importance of getting an education and learning skills for work before they start a family.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COLOMBIA? 

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

SPONSOR A CHILD

Transforming Mothers in Medellín

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

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

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

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

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

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

A place for mothers and children

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

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

Stories of My Neighborhood

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

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

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

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

***

How do I sponsor a child in Colombia?

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

SPONSOR A CHILD

Changing Lives through Garment Making in Colombia

Situated in the northwestern corner of South America, Colombia is rich in natural beauty, comprising rugged Andean mountains, lowland plains, sprawling Amazon rainforest and coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Its modern history begins at the end of the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus and the first Spanish explorers arrived in the region, subsequently establishing the area’s first successful Spanish settlement in 1508. Spanish colonization continued for over 400 years until the mid-nineteenth century when Colombia gained its independence and established itself as South America’s first constitutional government.

However, political instability in the mid-to-late twentieth century led to the uprising of guerilla groups, sparking violence throughout the country. Tragically, children were often the victims of terrible inhumanities and social injustices. Kidnappings, human trafficking, recruitment as soldiers into paramilitary groups and forcible participation in drug-trafficking rings became common realities for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

With civil unrest a part of Colombia’s past since 2016, the country is safer than it once was, yet many families struggle living in poverty. Thankfully, our affiliated project, the Rondon Center in Bogotá, offers mothers of our sponsored children an opportunity to earn money at the Center’s garment factory, Creaciones Miquelina, while also providing basic needs to the children, thanks to our sponsorship program.

Seeing Bogotá for the first time

Sponsored children receive bags of food to take home regularly.

Our trip to visit the Rondon Center was my first to the city of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital. Traveling with Children Incorporated’s Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, our plan was to meet our volunteer coordinator, Sister Diana, at the Rondon Center, and then visit a few homes before taking a tour of Creaciones Miquelina.

We arrived in Colombia on a Sunday, and traffic was light as we drove through the city making our way to the Center. I found the outskirts of Bogotá to be surprisingly modern, with shopping malls, high-rise apartment buildings and large green spaces for locals to exercise and walk their dogs.

Once we got further into the city, Bogotá began to feel familiar to other South American cities I have visited — with one big exception. Colonial-era architecture and spacious plazas were abundant, yet they had been covered with either graffiti or large, colorful murals. The lines between vandalism and artistic expression were blurred, as it seemed as though every building was painted in some manner. I couldn’t determine in many instances which paintings were planned and which were done illegally, but I felt that they added to Bogotá’s charm as a visually striking city.

Getting to know the Rondon Center

Named after the Rondon neighborhood in which it resides, the Rondon Center is home to a group of Sisters who run Creaciones Miquelina.

When we pulled through the Center’s front gates, I first noticed how nice the grounds were kept. Flower gardens with benches and fountains were found both outside and inside the Center, connected by paths that made for a serene setting.

As we got out of the car, Sister Diana greeted us warmly and quickly motioned for us to come upstairs with her. Our sponsored children and their mothers were waiting for us — they had planned a presentation to welcome us to Colombia.

When we entered a large recreation room on the second floor, the children were sitting quietly in plastic chairs next to their mothers, patiently awaiting our arrival.

Luis and I sat down, and then the children took turns performing skits. The stories the children told through their acting were ones of danger — drugs, kidnapping and prostitution. The subject matter seemed rather mature considering how young some of the children were, but I quickly realized that in Colombia, they were lessons that needed to be taught at the youngest of ages.

The realities that children face living in impoverished neighborhoods are harsh, and the Sisters at the Rondon Center want to make sure children understand their self-worth so they don’t end up down a dark path later in life — a dark path that many of their mothers had to work hard to get away from.

After the presentations, the Sisters handed out bags of food for the children to take home thanks to donations from their sponsors. They excitedly looked through the bags, holding up boxes of cereal and dry spaghetti, olive oil and flour. Luis and I chatted with some of the mothers for a few brief moments before the group eagerly departed so they could return to their Sunday afternoon family activities.

Working from home

After the children and their mothers left, Sister Diana took Luis and me to visit a few homes of our sponsored children. Like in many places in Latin America, poor families tend to live up in the hills, away from the city and the services that are offered to wealthier residents. Often times, it is the only place they can afford to have a little piece of land for themselves, even if it means their children are miles away from schools or community centers.

One of the homes we visited was of a little boy in our program who lives with his single mother and two sisters. Their small living room was occupied by a sofa, chair, two sewing machines and a tall shelf full of spools of thread and folded fabric.

As we stood talking, the boy’s mother explained that she started working in the garment factory at the Rondon Center and saved enough money to buy her own machines. Now, the company she works for delivers the fabric to her and comes to pick up the finished pieces each week when she has completed them.

The realities that children face living in impoverished neighborhoods are harsh, and the Sisters at the Rondon Center want to make sure children understand their self-worth so they don’t end up down a dark path later in life — a dark path that many of their mothers had to work hard to get away from.

She told us that over the years she has earned enough money to add an extension to her house while also getting to be home with her children in the afternoon and evenings. She proudly showed us some of the shirts she created and beamed when she told us that her son was one of the top students in his class.

Creaciones Miquelina

The next morning, Luis and I returned to the Rondon Center where Sister Diana offered Luis and me a tour of the Creaciones Miquelina. Established in 1977 by a Colombian nun named Esther Castaño Mejia, Creaciones Miquelina started with just a few sewing machines to offer help to women rescued from the streets. The workshop began by providing training so women could apply for jobs in other factories. Today, Creaciones Miquelina has grown to employ and train hundreds of women each year to work in their factory while providing daily meals to their children.

As we toured the factory, Sister Diana showed us where the garments were cut, where the designs for clothes were created and where the administration offices were located. Windows from the second floor overlooked the factory where roughly a hundred women were busy at work.

The entire operation was impressive, and knowing these women otherwise would have had no chance at learning skills they needed to take care of their families made our visit to the Miquelina that much more special.

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COLOMBIA?

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

SPONSOR A CHILD