Tag Archives: help children

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

Carlos is learning English in school so he can 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 Carlos*, who is enrolled in our program, and his family. Carlos 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 Carlos’ 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 Carlos stays in school instead of dropping out to work. Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Carlos 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 Carlos faces a great deal of adversity living in poverty now, he is on the right track to having a brighter future in Antigua.

*Named changed for child’s protection.

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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

Returning to Guatemala

Guatemala is a country that is known for its beautiful lakes, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and brightly-painted buses; unfortunately, however, its residents struggle with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Even though the country boasts the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala faces many social problems, and it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The income distribution is highly unequal, with more than half of its population living below the national poverty line. Guatemala City, the nation’s capital and home of our affiliated project the Juan Apostol School, is no exception to these conditions.

An incredibly proud moment

When our President and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Carter, first visited the Juan Apostol School in 2014, he didn’t know what to expect; he knew little more than what he had been told about the project from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet. Founded in 1964, the Juan Apostol School serves children living in the surrounding impoverished area, ensuring that they receive a well-rounded education. The school also offers skills training courses so that students may have increased employment opportunities after graduation.

Mr. Carter and Tita with students at the Juan Apostol School in 2014

Luis had explained to Mr. Carter that the school serves elementary to high school-aged children in two different buildings. There, they receive instruction in core academic subjects, including English. Additional courses in drama, arts, and music are offered, too. Luis also explained to Mr. Carter that many of the children in our program there come from single-parent homes, and that many suffer from neglect and malnutrition – and some, even abuse.

When Mr. Carter arrived at the project, he was greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator Tita, who gave him a tour of the school. She further explained that the Juan Apostol School and the Children Incorporated program are enriching the lives of more than 500 children. Mr. Carter wrote this about his first visit:

“I had an absolutely wonderful visit to the Juan Apostol School; I honestly cannot say enough about Tita and the incredible warmth and hospitality I was offered. It was much more than I had expected. When I arrived at the school, a group of the kids had cooked for me, and they were so proud to show off their cooking skills. It was a real spread, too – salad, spiced shrimp, steak with a spicy chili pepper sauce, and cheesecake. I tried all of the food, then took a nice tour of the school – only to be told that another group of students had prepared more food! This time it was a chicken dish in delicious mole sauce, traditional rice, and tamales!

“I also had the opportunity to meet some of the young people in our program. One young man, Hugo*, is a senior this year. He has been in the Children Incorporated program since he was very young, and he has really excelled academically. He is the band director for the school, and they have won many trophies as a result of his skills. Furthermore, this same young man had a serious dental problem a while back; his front teeth had been badly damaged, and he was ashamed to look at people face-to-face and to smile. Children Incorporated paid to have his teeth fixed, and now he has a wonderful smile. Seeing this made me so incredibly proud of the work we do!”

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

More impressed than ever

Upon Mr. Carter’s return to Guatemala with me and Luis this past June, Tita and the school director, Mr. Morales, greeted us warmly at the school entrance. As we toured the school, Tita explained that in the last four years, the school has grown exponentially. Now, more than 1,300 children are in attendance between the two campuses, and the Juan Apostol School ranks top in the area.

Tita and Mr. Morales feel that the school is successful as a result of high parent – as well as student – participation. Not only do parents attend regular meetings at the school, but they also help with fundraising; and some even take skills training courses like cooking, sewing, and cosmetology alongside students, so that they may have an upper hand in the job market, and thereby better support their families.

As we visited with Children Incorporated kids in their classrooms, Tita expressed to Mr. Carter her gratitude not only for our sponsorship program, but also for the additional support that we provide to all the students. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, Children Incorporated has been able to purchase instruments for the school’s award-winning band, so that students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so could participate.

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

As we continued our walk between beautiful open-air school buildings and playgrounds, I could tell that Mr. Carter was more impressed than ever with the Juan Apostol School and everything it is doing to help children in need. While discussing with Tita how happy he was to see the school expanding their programs each year, Mr. Carter also spoke of his desire to find more sponsors for the unsponsored children on our waiting list, so that even more kids could benefit from the amazing efforts of this impressive school that continues to have a huge impact on the community year after year.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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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.

Staying Safe on the Field

Many poor families living in the city of Lages in south Brazil have migrated there from the countryside in search of employment to better their lives. Due to limited job opportunities among the ever-growing population there, however, families instead find themselves continuing to live in poverty, and having to move into impoverished urban developments such as Novo Milênio, which lacks electricity, drinking water, and even sewage service. Within this slum community, public schools are ill-equipped to provide a quality education to an increasing number of students.

Along with the soccer program, a volunteer psychologist at the center has been helping the community for several years now. He provides individual and group therapy, which are essential to recovery for children and families after experiencing violence and abuse.

Children roam the streets – sad, neglected, and vulnerable to the threats of crime. Thankfully, the CARITAS-Novo Milênio Center, a nonprofit organization run by the Catholic Church of Brazil, was established to help support these children and their families so that they may break the cycle of poverty in which they live. Formed in Germany in 1897, CARITAS works around the world to help alleviate the suffering of the poor, while also giving them the tools they need to transform their own lives.

Sports helping kids

While visiting our affiliated projects in Brazil, our International Projects Specialist, Andreia Beraldo, arrived at CARITAS-Novo Milênio during their annual Pinhao Festival, which is a national celebration. During these festivities, the center sells wines and foods made of pinhao, a pine nut harvested in the southern region of the country. The center holds the largest festival of this type in the country, and has gained national attention as a result, bringing in famous artists and visitors from all over the country every year. The administrators there prepare for the festival all year long. It lasts ten days total, is the main source of funding for the center, and it provides salaries for the staff.

After attending the festival, Andreia met with our new Volunteer Coordinator, Yara, to discuss the programs that the center offers to the children and their parents. The center supports about fifty children on a regular basis, many of whom are sponsored through our program. In addition to receiving clothes, food, school supplies, and hygiene items, thanks to sponsors and donors, the kids are also kept safe at the center. One of the ways in which it does this is through a soccer club. The club not only ensures that children get the exercise they need to stay healthy, but it also keeps them busy after school, so that they do not become involved with drugs or violence, which are prevalent in the impoverished community in which they live.

Yara told Andreia that she wished there were more support for the soccer club; she would love for the children to have new uniforms and soccer cleats – and the field is in need of renovation. Yara mentioned that with a new soccer field, the center could rent it for use by other teams, and generate even more income – which would be a big help in supporting even more children in the future.

A variety of other programs

Along with the soccer program, a volunteer psychologist at the center has been helping the community for several years now. He provides individual and group therapy, which are essential to recovery for children and families after experiencing violence and abuse. The center also provides support to pregnant women and newborns in the community. The administration regularly provides classes on abuse prevention and being a good citizen. The center also has a program called “Mesa Brasil,” in which groceries and fresh produce are distributed to families two to three times a week.

Before her visit ended, Andreia was also able to see a community bakery that is run by CARITAS. The bakery was started about six years ago with the help of donated funds from Children Incorporated, and it allows mothers of our sponsored and unsponsored kids to generate extra income. The mothers often get together when they are not baking to share ideas and recipes, and to discuss how they can work together to increase their incomes through baking – thereby supporting their families so that they may have the opportunity to escape poverty.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

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

Supporting Children in Brazil Who Face Trauma

Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world – both geographically and in terms of population. It is truly massive, sharing borders with every other country in South America except for Ecuador and Chile. The Amazon rainforest, recognized for having the greatest biological diversity on the planet, sprawls over the country’s northern half, with rugged mountains to the south.

Despite its wealth of natural resources and beauty, however, Brazil suffers from staggering poverty, rising inflation, unemployment, and a lack of social development. More recently, due to a conflict between the truckers’ union and the government over high gas prices, a truckers’ strike has created transportation issues throughout the country, which has caused school closures. During these trying circumstances, Children Incorporated continues to help support children living in poverty in Brazil so that they may have better opportunities in life – all thanks to our sponsors and donors.

The center comprises homes where children reside with foster parents who support them in overcoming the adversity they faced in abusive households, so that they may have a safe and healthy childhood.

Fostering kids in need

Children Incorporated is affiliated with five projects in Brazil. Casas Lares – ACRIDAS, the CADI center, and the Recanto Esperanza Center are all located in the capital city of Curitiba in Parana; and projects Irmandade Nossa Senhora Das Gracas and the CARITAS – Novo Milenio Center are about seven hours south of there, in the city of Lages. On a recent trip to Brazil, our International Projects Specialist, Andreia Beraldo, traveled to Curitiba, a sprawling city just south of Sao Paulo, where she visited our affiliated project Casas Lares – ACRIDAS. While there, she met not only with our volunteer coordinators at the project, but also with our sponsored children and the foster parents who care for them.

Casas Lares – ACRIDAS was established after a non-profit organization of business and civic leaders, ACRIDAS (the Christian Association of Social Assistance), witnessed the plight of poor children living in the slum neighborhoods in Curitiba, and decided to take action. They established several orphanages to assist these deserving young people, including Casas Lares – ACRIDAS.

Many children who are placed at Casas Lares – ACRIDAS are there by court order, to protect them from the threats of abuse, drugs, violence, and malnutrition that they faced while living with their biological parents. The center comprises homes where children reside with foster parents who support them in overcoming the adversity they faced in abusive households, so that they may have a safe and healthy childhood; and all the while, the center provides the kids with additional support.

The foster homes at Casas Lares – ACRIDAS are clustered around the center, which has served between 48 and 62 children at a time, from birth to twelve years old. Casas Lares – ACRIDAS utilizes monthly sponsorship funds from Children Incorporated to purchase school supplies, clothes, shoes, food, and hygiene items for the children there. Thanks to their sponsors, these kids have the resources they need to attend school so that they can learn and become healthy adults.

The kids are able to run and play with each other at the home.

Our Volunteer Coordinators Rodinéia and Angela showed Andreia around the well-maintained two-story building, which was constructed a few years ago thanks to contributions from Children Incorporated donors. Casas Lares – ACRIDAS was originally intended to be a nursery for the younger infants; but as a result of changes to Brazilian law, the number of infants at the home has decreased, as they are now typically placed at individual foster homes not affiliated with this project. Today, a portion of the building is still being used as a nursery for the youngest children, while an industrial kitchen and several administrative offices occupy the rest.

Helping children cope

During her visit, Andreia was given the opportunity to have lunch with some of our sponsored and unsponsored children, and to meet their foster mothers. Rodinéia and Angela shared stories with her about the children, explaining the reasons for which they had been placed at Casas Lares – ACRIDAS. They talked about how all of the children had suffered extreme violence and trauma in their young lives; many of them have seen and experienced severe cruelty.

Thankfully, however, the kids are able to run and play with each other at the home, where they are given a chance to forget about the traumatizing events they have witnessed in their lives. Andreia noticed that some of the children were more reserved than others on the playground; but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves, thanks to the care they receive from our coordinators and their foster parents at Casas Lares – ACRIDAS.

Andreia learned from her visit that the current primary need of the children beyond the regular support they receive from sponsorship is psychological monitoring. Rodinéia shared that 100 percent of the children there need continuous psychological therapy to help them process the trauma they have lived through, and to support their healthy growth. The children receive free health care from the government, but there is always a long wait to be seen by a public psychologist.

A large number of the children are left without psychological monitoring, which is essential for children with such distressing backgrounds. With additional help, these children, who have already dealt with much hardship in their lives, will not only have the opportunity to grow up in a loving environment, but will also hopefully be able to overcome the adversity they have faced at such young ages.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

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

A Kind Partnership

Thanks to our new partnership with Kind Traveler, travelers can now help provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, healthcare, and educational support to children living in poverty in the U.S. and abroad when they book hotels through the Kind Traveler website.

Kind Traveler, a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC), is the first socially-conscious “Give + Get” hotel booking platform that empowers travelers to benefit communities, the environment, and animals. Travelers give a donation of $10 per night that they book to a local charity that positively impacts the destination they will visit, or to a charity of their choice on the platform. As a reward for their donation, travelers receive an exclusive rate to use in booking directly with the world’s best hotels and unique properties. 100 percent of the donations raised on the Kind Traveler platform go directly to charities.

Tremendous potential

Considering the financial power of the $7 trillion travel industry, this partnership between Children Incorporated and Kind Traveler has tremendous potential for positive global impact. Last year alone, people around the world took more than 1.2 billion trips. Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent of travelers polled in Tourism Cares and Phocuswright’s Good Travels research study believe it is important for their travel dollars to benefit the communities they visit. The study also found that price is the leading reason for booking with a particular travel company. By offering an exclusive rate on hotel stays, Kind Traveler has created a solution that addresses both the consumer’s price motivation and their desire to make a difference.

Another major distinction between Kind Traveler and other travel booking sites is the former’s desire to educate. According to Phocuswright, “Three of ten giving travelers were prompted to volunteer or donate because of something they read, heard, saw or experienced.” Kind Traveler’s blog provides stories that inspire travel while underscoring the importance of giving back, living consciously, and choosing with purpose. By sharing the stories of Children Incorporated’s impact on the planet’s most vulnerable families, Kind Traveler is building awareness of the one in nine people worldwide who will go to bed hungry tonight.

By offering an exclusive rate on hotel stays, Kind Traveler has created a solution that addresses both the consumer’s price motivation and their desire to make a difference.

“Our win-win platform offers solutions for everyone,” said CEO and Co-Founder, Jessica Blotter. “For travelers, they become warriors for good and support hotels that are making a positive impact in the world – while receiving exclusive hotel rates. For hotels, they cultivate new relationships with cause-minded consumers and take another step towards corporate social responsibility. For charities, they receive 100 percent of donations and a new, sustainable channel for fundraising.”

Travelers can now support Children Incorporated when they book Kind Hotels in:

Aspen: Hotel Aspen, Molly Gibson Lodge

Austin: Lone Star Court, Hotel Ella, South Congress Hotel

Baltimore: Hotel Revival

Vancouver: Hotel Loden

Chicago: Hotel Felix, The James Chicago – Magnificent Mile, Virgin Hotels Chicago

Costa Rica: Cala Luna, Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas, Casa Chameleon Mal Pais, Casa Chameleon OCiO Villas

Hawaii: Turtle Bay Resort

Houston: Hotel Sorella CityCentre, Hotel Ylem

Idaho: Hotel Ketchum

Los Angeles: Dream Hollywood, The Hollywood Roosevelt, The Mondrian LA, Hotel Angeleno, Hotel Erwin, Terranea Resort

Mexico and the Caribbean: COMO Parrot Cay (Turks & Caicos), Hotel El Ganzo (San José del Cabo), Ka’ana Resort (Belize), Itz’ana Resort + Residences (Belize), NIZUC (Cancún), The Jamaica Inn (Jamaica)

Miami: Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach, Dream South Beach, The Betsy – South Beach, The Palms Hotel & Spa, 1 Hotel South Beach

Minneapolis: Hewing Hotel

New York City: Arlo Hotel NoMad, Arlo Hotel SoHo, Dream Downtown, Dream Midtown, The Benjamin, The Standard East Village, The Standard High Line

Orange County: Monarch Beach Resort, The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Balboa Bay Resort

Palm Springs: Two Bunch Palms

San Antonio: Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

San Francisco: Hotel G, Hotel Spero, The Mosser Hotel, Kensington Park Hotel

San Jose: Hotel Valencia Santana Row

Tampa: Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa

Telluride: Lumière Telluride

Virginia: Lansdowne Resort & Spa (Leesburg), Quirk Hotel (Richmond)

Washington, D.C.: The Embassy Row Hotel, Liaison Capitol Hill

Wisconsin: The Charmant Hotel (La Crosse), The Iron Horse Hotel (Milwaukee)

Learn more about how you can #TravelKindly with Children Incorporated and Kind Traveler here.

– Content provided by Kind Traveler CEO and Co-Founder, Jessica Blotter
– Photos courtesy of Kind Traveler