Tag Archives: guatemala

Looking for the Bigger Picture

When I received an email earlier this year from sponsor Laura DeCook about a bake sale fundraiser she was hosting, I was thrilled to hear about her efforts to help her sponsored child, Caroline*, beyond her monthly sponsorship contribution.

What I didn’t realize at the time was just how much more Laura was doing when it came to being involved in Caroline’s life — and the lives of other children as well.

I would soon find out that Laura had plans to fly from California to Kentucky to meet Caroline in person and that the donations she was collecting were going towards helping other children at Caroline’s school — those kids that don’t have sponsors like Laura yet.

I caught up with Laura to ask her about her sponsorship experience, her visit to Kentucky and how she feels about the power of sponsoring a child.

Laura’s mom, who accompanied her on her trip to Kentucky, is pictured with the girls

SC: Do you recall how you first got involved with sponsoring a child with Children Incorporated?

LD: Yes! I was going through a difficult time professionally and mentally, and someone told me about the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

I had been looking into organizations where I could give back and stop focusing so much on myself and looking at the bigger picture, which would make me feel more satisfied with my life.

When I read how much the author loved Children Incorporated, I did my research and loved what I saw. I immediately decided to sponsor a child most in need and was assigned to a very young boy, Elisandro, in Guatemala. He moved away about five years later, and I temporarily sponsored another boy until he too moved away.

I now sponsor the loveliest boy in Guatemala City, Danny*, who is twelve years old. He writes the most eloquent letters I’ve ever seen a young boy write. I can tell he is going to be very successful one day.

SC: You sponsor a young girl in Kentucky named Caroline. What level of communication have you kept with her through your sponsorship? What has that communication meant to you and her?

LD: After sponsoring children in Guatemala for years, I decided I would like to sponsor another child in the U.S. — one that I could send packages to and maybe eventually meet in person more easily. Caroline was around eight years old when we first began writing to each other, and I loved seeing photos of her wearing the clothes I had picked out — including a cool jacket with the letter “C” on it.

“I’ll never forget Caroline trying to fit all of the clothing and art supplies I brought with me into her locker with a huge smile on her face.”

She wrote me really sweet letters every couple of months, always answering the questions I asked her in mine. She is eleven now, so it’s been quite a few years seeing her grow up in photos and the way she writes now, which is so much more mature.

SC: What was your motivation to host a fundraiser to provide additional support for the school where Caroline attends?

LD: One day, at the start of the summer, I was at the gym thinking about what I wanted to do for my birthday. Since parties aren’t a big deal to me anymore, I didn’t want my friends to feel obliged to go out and spend a lot of money.

I then had the idea that I would start a fundraiser to help out Caroline’s school through a PayPal money pool. I had decided by that time that I was going to visit her in Kentucky over Labor Day weekend so that I could tell her school resource coordinator about the donation in person. I was able to raise a great deal from generous friends quickly, but I wanted to go even higher.

Funds raised from Laura’s bake sale went to support children without sponsors at the school where Laura sponsors Caroline.

I then thought of another way to quickly fundraise — a bake sale at my company. Last year I had run a charity bake sale for a veteran’s organization over the 4th of July, so I thought, why not Children Incorporated this year?

My company, Expedia Group, matches dollar-for-dollar to charitable organizations, so I knew I’d be able to raise quite a bit. After all was said and done, the bake sale raised about $700, and my friends donated the rest to make my total close to $1100. Expedia matched it, and the funds were given to the school and to three boys awaiting sponsorship there.

SC: That’s incredible! Can you tell us more about what your visit with Caroline was like for you?

LD: It was amazing. I still think about it all of the time. When Caroline and her sister, who is also sponsored through the Children Incorporated program, walked into the room, it was like a photo coming to life. Caroline was so excited she was shaking.

It only took about 15 minutes of conversation to feel a bond to her and her sister. We were soon laughing, talking about our lives, our pets, school, telling jokes, everything! What I thought would be one hour turned into close to three. The head of the school’s resource center, Angela, is a saint. She was such a wonderful host and had lunch waiting and answered every question I had about the girls’ lives before I met them. She showed me around her office, where she has neatly organized bins of clothing for children who come to school with dirty clothes or need an article of clothing. Getting to know her was just as much fun as meeting Caroline!

Caroline and her sister took Angela and me on a tour of their school before we said goodbye. I had tears in my eyes. I’ll never forget Caroline trying to fit all of the clothing and art supplies I brought with me into her locker with a huge smile on her face.

SC: Did you know much about Kentucky before your visit? What stood out to you?

“It is the best $30 a month anyone could spend. Children Incorporated and its sponsors are seriously changing lives.”

LD: I work in travel, so I had a general idea of the lay of the land and had read about Lexington and the beautiful horse farms and great food.

It was fun to see some of Kentucky a couple of days before I drove out to Appalachia, starting in Louisville, then to Lexington. The thing that stood out the most was the genuine Southern charm that everyone has. People were so down to earth and kind. It’s a huge change from so much of the Bay Area where everyone is always rushing from one place to another. In Kentucky, they seem to really slow down and enjoy life more.

The highlight of the sightseeing portion of the trip was going to a farm with retired horses that had run in the Kentucky Derby, some having made millions of dollars from their days on the track. I’m not a big supporter of horse racing but love how well the horses are now being taken care of in their old age!

Angela at Morgan County with Caroline and her sister. Caroline’s sister is also in our sponsorship program.

SC: What would you tell someone else sponsoring a child who might be considering doing so themselves?

LD: It seriously has been the most rewarding experience. Connecting with a child who is lacking so much that others take for granted has been so humbling.

Seeing the huge smiles on their faces when I get pictures of them with new clothes and shoes sometimes makes me really emotional but in a good way. It is the best $30 a month anyone could spend. Children Incorporated and its sponsors are seriously changing lives.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child with Children Incorporated?

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

Hearing From Our Sponsored Children Abroad

Our sponsors and donors often hear from our staff and coordinators about the work we are doing around the world through our On the Road Series. But not as frequently do you hear from our sponsored children directly — especially those that live outside of the United States.

We want to share special stories with our supporters from the children in our program around the world — and how their sponsors are making a huge difference in their lives.

We want to share special stories with our supporters from the children in our sponsorship program around the world — and how their sponsors are making a huge difference in their lives.

Michael’s* Story: The Tecpan School in Guatemala

“My name is Michael, and I am in the second grade in school. I love math and literature as I have good teachers. I live in Tecpan, Guatemala, a town located in the highlands of Guatemala, where mostly Mayan people live. In my house I live with my mother and siblings and other family relatives, totaling 13 people, as we support each other as a family.”

We love hearing from our sponsored children about how their sponsors impact their lives.

“The house is a small shack located on a farm. My grandfather is the watchman and was given this place to live. The house is made of wood and mud bricks. It has dirt floors and a roof made from metal sheets.”

“My father died some years back, and we only have my mother to care for us. I feel lucky that my siblings and I have our grandfather to let us stay with them at the watchman house.”

My siblings and I never attended school until we met the sisters at Tecpan School. They help our mother to register us at school and share the importance of education for all of us. My mother works as a day laundress and makes the equivalent of about 3-3.50 dollars a day when she works.”

“My brother also helps by selling newspapers on the streets of Tecpan. I really want to learn and go to school, so I was excited to hear about the Children Incorporated program. I know that with the help of a sponsor, I will be able to attend school and change my life.”

Monica: Pinagpala Children’s Center in the Philippines

“I know that with the help of a sponsor, I will be able to attend school and change my life.”

– Micheal from Guatemala

 “I live in a small rural and agricultural town in the Philippines with my parents, four brothers and a baby sister. We have a small, two-room house made with cinder blocks and metal sheet roofing. It is all we can afford.  All 7 family members share this home. My mother does not work, and my father is the main supporter of our home. He is a tricycle driver and earns about 100 to 150 pesos per day (about $3 US dollars).”

“We all help on the upkeep of our house, so I help with the cleaning and with the care of my little sister. I am in the fifth grade and love math. Children Incorporated support is a great help for my family because my parents cannot afford to send me to school, but because of my sponsor I get my school supplies, shoes, clothing and other school needs and fees.”

“We also get so much needed extra food a few times a year when I don’t need anything for school. I am so glad I have the support of the Children Incorporated program. It is my motivation to continue with my education.”

Lana: Pinagpala Children’s Center in the Philippines

Sponsorship support is a great help to families because parents often cannot afford to send their children to school.

“I am Lana. I am in the eighth grade in school, and I like to learn English. I live in a small rural agricultural town in the Philippines. My family includes my parents, three brothers and four sisters. We all live in a small house made with cinder block walls, cement floors and metal sheet roofing. My father is a small day farmer, and my mother takes care of all my siblings and me.”

“We all help around the house, so I have to help my mother with cleaning and sweeping while I am not at school.  We also help with the care of the younger siblings. The Children Incorporated program is helping with supporting my education, while the feeding program that I participate in at the center is easing my parents’ burden for my food. I get my uniforms, school supplies and any school fee covered with my sponsor’s help. I am so glad I was selected to participate with the Children Incorporated program.”

James: Msamaria Mwema in Kenya

“My name is James, and I am in the seventh grade in school. I like to go to school. I am an orphan — I lost my mother some time ago, and I never met my father. I don’t have any siblings that I know of, and I live at the boarding home at Msamaria Mwema in Kenya.”

“I love to play soccer with my friends, and I also love rice and beans stew. I help with anything I can at home so that I can safely stay here until I finish my education. I am glad I participate with the Children Incorporated program so that I have the chance to continue my education to the end.”

*Names changed for children’s protection.

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How do I sponsor a child internationally?

You can sponsor a child internationally 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 an international child 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.

Our Incredible Work in the Land of Eternal Spring

I first traveled to Guatemala in 2004. That trip was strictly for personal reasons, as I was going there to meet my Guatemalan-born daughter, who was in foster care at the time, as my family and I awaited final approval of our adoption. Even though I was quite focused on the task at hand, I couldn’t help but notice the many contrasts in the “Land of Eternal Spring”. Beautiful modern buildings stood side-by-side with tiny make-shift houses; and modern cars shared the roads with men and women in traditional Mayan attire leading oxen and goats to market. The heavily-polluted air of the mostly grey cities hung in stark opposition to the pristine air of the countrysides, where lush green vegetation grew all along the slopes and hillsides. In the midst of it all were the people: most of them honest, hard-working folks trying to get by on very small incomes. I couldn’t help but respect and admire their persistence – often in the face of great struggle – to support themselves and to create better lives for their children.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala.

Returning to Guatemala

I returned to Guatemala on two occasions over the next decade, and I grew to have a particular fondness for the country and its people. It wasn’t until this year in July, however, that I was truly able to witness first-hand the incredible work that Children Incorporated is doing in the country. Along with my co-workers Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and Shelley Callahan, our Director of Development, we visited five of the seven Guatemalan schools where the Children Incorporated sponsorship program operates. At each school, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. As our group arrived at each center, we were surrounded by happy, smiling youngsters who were genuinely glad to have us as their guests. Our wonderful volunteer coordinators also greeted us warmly and shared many touching stories of how these children and their families depend upon assistance from our organization so that these youngsters may attend school, receive clothing and food, and have opportunities to learn skills that will help them find jobs when they reach adulthood.

While in Guatemala, I met with many of our sponsored children at our affiliated projects.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala. There, we met a man who as a child was enrolled in our sponsorship program. As a result of the assistance he and his family received, he graduated from school, went on to attend university, and is now a teacher at one of the schools where we have sponsored children. He credits Children Incorporated with making this all possible. I also spoke with a single mother of three who had stopped by one of our program sites to collect badly-needed food items provided to her as part of our sponsorship program. As she gave me a big hug, in broken and limited English, she told me that without Children Incorporated, her family would not be able to afford enough food to eat each month. She would also be unable to afford to send her children to school. As tears rolled down her cheeks, she asked me to let “everyone in America” know what a blessing Children Incorporated is to her family, and many others like it.

An incredible appreciation

I left Guatemala with an incredible appreciation for the country and the strong, resilient people who live there. I also left with a clear understanding of what Children Incorporated means to them. Though Children Incorporated is quite small in comparison to other child assistance organizations, the scope of life-changing work that we accomplish is huge. On a daily basis – not only in Guatemala, but all around the world – we are offering people hope for their futures; an upper hand as they struggle to make ends meet, and even to survive. I hope that you will join us as we continue to positively impact the lives of children and families all around the world. Your donations make our work possible; therefore, you are the ones who are truly responsible for the opportunities we are providing. Thank you very much.

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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.

What Tourists in Guatemala Don’t See

Historic Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala, and it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Situated in the Central Highlands region, the town is surrounded by three volcanoes. It is known for its many renovated – and some beautifully deteriorating – colonial relics and civic and community structures, such as museums and libraries.

Antigua is a quaint scenic town that attracts tourists from all over the world, welcoming them to enjoy Guatemalan culture and food, or to learn Spanish at one of the dozens of language schools in the area. What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

Feeding families in need

On a recent trip to Guatemala, our President and CEO, Ron Carter; our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet; and I visited our affiliated project Sagrada Familia in Antigua. This community center is located among many fancy restaurants, hotels, and private residences in the middle of town, close to the public schools that the children enrolled in our program at Sagrada Familia attend.

The Sisters that run the center provide kids in need with educational, nutritional, and medical support – in large part thanks to their Children Incorporated sponsors. In the afternoons, children visit Sagrada Familia, where they receive help with their homework, have a place to play and study, and are given bags of food to take home once a month.

When we arrived at the center, our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Isabel let us in through two large wooden doors, which open up to a concrete play area surrounded by classrooms, a kitchen, and administrative offices. Sister Isabel explained to us that beyond the help the children are receiving through sponsorship at Sagrada Familia, the center is also able to provide a great deal of support to the local community.

Three times a week, the Sisters feed nearly 200 families that would otherwise go without meals. They also offer vocational programs such as dressmaking and cooking, so that the parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children may have the opportunity to learn skills that can help them gain employment or obtain higher-paying jobs to better support their families.

Learning English for the future

Ángel is learning English so that he will have better opportunities for employment upon graduation.

After visiting with our sponsored children and their parents, Mr. Carter, Luis, and I went with Sister Isabel to visit Ángel, who is enrolled in our program, and his family. Ángel is fifteen years old and in high school. He lives with his mother and sister in a three-room home made of tin and concrete, perched high up on a hill in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Antigua, where many of the impoverished residents in the town live.

There, away from the city, utilities such as electricity and running water are inconsistent. When I entered the home, I noticed that there were holes in the living room floor that exposed the dirt below. I wondered – knowing that inclement weather can be very dangerous for houses like theirs that are damaged or deteriorating – if this family feels safe during the rainy seasons.

While speaking with Ángels’ mother, we learned how she struggles to make ends meet as a single mom, and that our program is a huge help in ensuring that her family has enough to eat, and that Ángel stays in school instead of dropping out to work. Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Ángel is able to attend school, where he is also studying English. He and his mom both feel that this will help him to have more opportunities for employment after he graduates – possibly even in the tourism industry, which is a bustling one in his hometown. Mr. Carter, Luis, and I agree with them, and feel that even though Ángel faces a great deal of adversity living in poverty now, he is on the right track to having a brighter future in Antigua.

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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 and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.

Overcoming the Limitations of Poverty

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

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

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

– José

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

Indigenous families struggling to survive

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

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

 Meeting José

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

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

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

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN GUATEMALA?

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