Tag Archives: mexico

Two Important Ways You Can Help Children

Dear Friends,

At any given time, we have over 1,000 children on our waiting list for sponsorship. Currently, there are more than 600 unsponsored children in our United States Division alone. One of our organization’s most difficult challenges is finding enough sponsors to support all the children referred to us by our network of volunteer coordinators. After being enrolled in our sponsorship program, some children wait many months – even years – before they are matched with individual sponsors.

One of our organization’s most difficult challenges is finding enough sponsors to support all the children referred to us by our network of volunteer coordinators.

Ideally, every enrolled child would have a sponsor – but the reality is that there aren’t as many individual sponsors as there are children in need in our program. That is why our Shared Hope Fund is incredibly important. Established to assist children who are not yet linked with sponsors, the fund provides food, clothing, educational assistance, and much more as these children wait to be sponsored.

We have heard many heartwarming stories of young people who have benefitted greatly as a direct result of our Shared Hope Fund. Avi*, a young man from India, is one such person. He did not have a sponsor, yet assistance from our Shared Hope Fund supported him throughout his high school years. After graduating, Avi desperately wanted to continue attending classes and receive vocational training, so he applied for assistance from our Higher Education Fund, which gave him the opportunity to go on to college.

Avi is now a Doctor of Pharmacy and has been working in this field for about a year now. Like Avi, there are other young men and women who have graduated from high school and who are now attending college under these same circumstances – and we are very proud that we are able to help them through our Higher Education Fund.

Both of these special funds are very important, and we need your support in order to keep meeting needs as they arise! Our Shared Hope Fund made it possible for Luisa*, a young girl in Guatemala, to receive school supplies while she waited to become sponsored. Marlene, a precious child from Kentucky, received a brand new pair of glasses when hers broke – and she didn’t have to wait until she had a sponsor to receive this assistance. Through our Higher Education Fund, Summer, also from Kentucky, is now a junior in college with the goal of working in the field of business administration after she graduates. Chelsea, another young woman who was enrolled in our child sponsorship program, is now a college senior and straight-A student who will soon begin her career as a systems analyst.

Our Shared Hope Fund and our Higher Education Fund are but two of the many ways in which Children Incorporated continues to meet needs around the world. Please consider making a contribution to one or both of these special funds today.

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter

President and Chief Executive Officer

Children Incorporated

 

*All names changed for individuals’ protection.

***

HOW DO I DONATE TO THE SHARED HOPE FUND AND THE HIGHER EDUCATION FUND?

You can donate to our Shared Hope Fund and Higher Education 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 and make a donation to assist unsponsored children or to our Higher Education Fund.

Educating Girls Is Critical to Reducing Poverty

International Women’s Day is coming up next week, on March 8. It’s a time for us to reflect on the contributions women make to society, despite the massive challenges they face here and around the globe.

DSCF0996

Anyone can see that women and girls are still less valued than men and boys in many cultures. Women – even educated women – still earn significantly less than men in the job market. And in some cultures, young girls are not even given opportunities for learning or growth so that they may support themselves and their families in the future.

We’d like to think of this as a problem found only in impoverished countries; but the discrepancy is easy to track in America as well.

A recent story in the Dallas Morning News stated that seventeen percent of women and girls in Texas live in poverty. Sadly, that’s not out of line with the national average: 14.7 percent of American women are living in poverty – a significantly higher rate than that of men – according to the 2015 Census.

A lot of that has to do with the wage gap: women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men make. But it also has to do with a systematic lack of opportunities for girls, and that’s where Children Incorporated has been directing its efforts.

Education is the key

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

We already know that education is critical in reducing poverty rates. Many children live in situations where one or both parents are either uneducated, or at the very least, are undereducated. As such, these parents often have very low-wage jobs, with few or no benefits. Due to a lack of financial resources in the family, they have an incredibly difficult time moving up and improving their station in life. If only the parents were better educated and more qualified to hold higher-paying jobs with benefits and perks, perhaps the family could escape the trappings of poverty.

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

Raising role models

One shining example can be found in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Last spring, Children Incorporated Director of Development Shelley Callahan and Director of International Programs Luis Bourdet visited Villa Emilia, a small compound just outside of the city that helps women and children who have been living on the streets turn their lives around.

DSCF6552

The alleys of Santa Cruz are home to countless women who work the streets to keep their children fed. It’s hard and dangerous, and often illegal. The children grow up uneducated and homeless themselves. As they grow into adulthood, the boys can become laborers or field hands. The girls, however, often have no options but to take to the streets too – thus continuing the cycle.

Sister Pilar and the nuns at Villa Emilia find these families in the alleys and bring them to the community to live. The women are trained in garment making, the children are educated, and everyone is taught work ethic and life skills that they can pass down.

The Sisters also help families to build permanence and stability. When families move to Villa Emilia, they live in homes that are owned by the Sisters. However, with the wages they earn in the villa’s garment factory, the women purchase homes of their own, giving their children a fresh start living in a new home and getting an education.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Skills for life

In Lages, Brazil, Children Incorporated began supporting women of Grupo Art’Mulher, a community bakery that sells cookies, breads, pastas, and cakes. The group’s purpose is to teach business skills and a trade to mothers, who also earn an income for their work.

In its first year, twenty women received instruction on how to bake and how to sell baked goods. Grupo Art’Mulher began making a name for itself at the local market, and many members of the first class ended up getting jobs in the food industry.

That was five years ago, and since then, the program has only grown. The mothers of Grupo Art’Mulher have learned to support their families, and have learned cooking and business skills to pass down to their own children. They’ve also earned enough to give back – a percentage of the bakery income will be donated to start music and theater courses in a building across the street froDSCF3105m it this year.

In some areas, like in Santa Cruz and Lages, we sponsor programs aimed toward women and girls specifically. But at all of our projects, we value girls and include them in our programs just as we do boys. We do not support work where intolerance or gender prejudice is known to exist.

In areas for which we fundraise to create special facilities, such as the computer lab we helped get up-and-running in Mexico, or the school we built in Bolivia, female students are afforded the same access to services as the male ones. In Guatemala, we support a wonderful school where children are given vocational training of all kinds – and the girls are just as involved, if not even more so, than the boys.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education. That will allow them to do better in life financially than their parents did, and to slowly change the outlook of the entire community in which they live.

Self-Sufficiency

The Pumwani slum of Nairobi is considered one of the worst communities in the world. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people live crowded together in shacks about the size of an American bathroom, with no water or electricity, and along streets of mud.

One of our projects there is St. John’s Community Center, where 200 children are taught academic subjects, as well as trades like woodworking, metal work, sewing, and cooking, so that they can get jobs and get out of the slums.DSCF9626

And sometimes success is easy to see in someone’s face. Callahan and Bourdet met a graduate of the program, Mwanaharusi, who learned to sew at St. John’s. She saved enough money to buy a foot-powered sewing machine, and now has her own business making clothes and mending garments.

It’s modest success by some standards; but in the darkest corners of the world, it’s a major victory. A girl born into poverty in a country where girls are often not educated at all – finishes school, starts her own business, and is able to support herself and her family.

Moving Forward

With every success like Mwanaharusi’s, we move one step closer to equality. But we don’t do it alone. With funding from our sponsors, and with continued attention to childhood poverty and income inequality – both at home and abroad – we will keep moving forward together, one step at a time.

***

How do I sponsor a child through Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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 that is available for sponsorship.

“I Won’t let him down”

On our site visit to Guadalajara last fall we met young Renaldo*. The five-year-old is the youngest of three children in his family, and he attends the La Luz (in English, “The Light”) Children’s Home, a home for children who have one or both parents serving time in prison.

dscf3402When we met Renaldo, he was making a special picture for his sponsor, Stephen Suelzle, a printer who lives 2,469 miles away from him in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to Suelzle’s sponsorship and the extra monetary gifts he provides, Renaldo regularly receives clothes, shoes, and toys, which are all purchased by our Volunteer Coordinator at La Luz, Sister Nellie.

Suelzle has been a sponsor through Children Incorporated for more than a decade, helping kids in Brazil and Mexico. We contacted him to find out more about how he discovered Children Incorporated, his relationship with Renaldo, and what sponsorship means to him.

CI: How did you get involved with Children Incorporated?

SS: Around twenty years ago, I met a young man, through mutual friends, who was from Brazil. He was only here a short time, and without proper permissions. He just really wanted to see America. We spent a lot of good time together. But eventually, immigration made him go back. I have always wanted to sponsor children. So initially, I started sponsoring boys in Curitiba, Brazil to sort of remember him.

CI: Had you previously sponsored a child? 

SS: No. This was the first time.

CI: Is Renaldo your first sponsored child with Children Incorporated?

SS: No, there were at least three others. They were all boys who were a wide range of ages. The first were from Brazil, and then later, Mexico. I originally asked for boys from Brazil, and let Children Incorporated decide beyond that, because I knew they would know best who needed help. Children Incorporated suggested someone from Mexico, and that’s how I started sponsoring boys at La Luz.

dscf3380The more I heard about the La Luz Home, the more I liked it. I especially liked that it sounded much more like an extended family situation (because of the adults who work there, and other children who are there), as opposed to someplace to just stick kids who had nowhere to go.

CI: What do you know about Renaldo?

SS: I know he’s five years old, and in his third year of pre-school. He always sends me drawings and colorings. I seem to remember soccer being mentioned, too.

CI: What do you know about his living situation?

SS: Only the basics. He stays at La Luz during the week, and goes home to his mother on the weekends. I think his siblings stay there, too. I don’t know the names or ages of the rest of his family.

CI: Do you know where his father is, or what happened to him?

SS: Because of the nature of La Luz, I assume he is in prison, or in a similar situation. But I don’t know anything else.

CI: Do you communicate with Renaldo directly?

dscf3393SS: I haven’t so far, because he was so young. But he is old enough now that I think it would be a good idea – and to send him my picture as well.

CI: Does he send you letters? 

SS: All the time. They always include a wonderful drawing, or something he has colored. I look forward to them, and keep them all in a photo album.

CI: What does he say?

SS: He always thanks me for helping him. In February, a social worker sent me a letter where they told me he had said, “I am very hard-working. I liked my gift very much.” In at least one picture, he addressed me as “Mr. Stephen”. I liked that. Mostly, he just says, “Thank you.”

CI: Are his letters in English or another language?

SS: The letters are always in Spanish, and translated into English [at the Children Incorporated office]. The writing that I assume to be his is pretty good for a five-year-old!

I send extra money each month, besides the sponsorship amount, so he can get extra things he might need; and then I also send extra for his birthday and Christmas.

CI: Do you send him gifts? 

I send extra money each month, besides the sponsorship amount, so he can get extra things he might need; and then I also send extra for his birthday and Christmas. The coordinator at La Luz takes care of purchasing the gifts for him. In a way, it makes me feel like I won’t let him down.

CI: Does Renaldo ask for specific things, or does the Volunteer Coordinator pick things out for him?


SS:
I always designate the extra money for something he might want or need. In other words, my hope is that the child would have some say in how the money is used. It’s important to have the things you need. But if possible, it can be huge to have something you really want every once in awhile at least, especially for a child.

CI: What do you know about Mexico?

SS: I couldn’t pass a history test about Mexico. I only know that when I visited there a long time ago, I felt so at home. I would have stayed if I could have. I have always enjoyed the company of Mexican people in my life, and have a good friend now who is from Mexico.

CI: What do you know about Guadalajara?

SS: Not very much, I’m afraid. I wondered what the neighborhood was like, and at one point, I used Google Maps/Street View to find out. It was so amazing to see the La Luz building and surrounding area. To be honest, it looked just like neighborhoods here in the U.S. Having that connection, even if only online, meant a lot to me.

dscf3398CI: What do you know about the home he attends?

SS: I only know that it is for children who have one or both parents who are in jail. I don’t know anything about its funding or founding, or anything like that.

CI: What has surprised you most about La Luz?

SS: Everyone there – the children and social workers – seem to be so happy, and to be doing a good job. This isn’t really surprising, but rather something that makes me very happy.

CI: What advice would you have for someone considering sponsorship?

If you decide you want to sponsor a child, then commit to doing it – making sure that the sponsorship money is there every month – because it is just as important as taking care of your own children.

SS: If you decide you want to sponsor a child, then commit to doing it – making sure that the sponsorship money is there every month – because it is just as important as taking care of your own children. While I’m sure there are procedures in place to take care of the loss of a sponsor, I would never want to be the one to tell a child I wasn’t going to sponsor them anymore.

(* Name changed for child’s protection.)

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN MEXICO?

You can sponsor a child in Mexico 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@childrenincorporated.org, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Mexico that is available for sponsorship.

Top 10 Most Popular On the Road Stories of 2016

It’s been an amazing year. Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to feed and clothe children all over the globe, and provide them with supplies for the school year. Your donations also made it possible for us to send holiday gifts this season to tens of thousands of children whose stockings would have otherwise been empty.

DSCF9626It has also been our pleasure to report on our projects around the world, from rural Morgan County, Kentucky to the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, to help illustrate the impact your donations make on the lives of the children we serve. Check out the most popular On the Road stories of 2016:

  1. The Ministering Angels of Casa Hogar Ines: Shelley and Luis meet Sister Flor, who oversees Casa Hogar Santa Ines, a group home for more than thirty girls who have nowhere else to go. See how your contributions help provide school supplies, clothes, shoes, and so much more.

 

  1. Inside that Backpack Lies Choice, Agency, Style and Self-Worth: Few things come to you brand new when you are living below the poverty line. Imagine that for the first time in your life, you get to choose what you want.

 

  1. Two Wheels and the Wind in Your Hair: Shelley C. and Shelley O. surprise Kentucky children with new bikes.

 

  1. Touchdown in La Paz: Can three new bridges and new cable cars lead families out of poverty? What do the efforts to modernize in La Paz mean to its poorest citizens?

 

  1. Bolivia: Visions of Hope from 30,000 Feet: Luis and Shelley return home. They reflect on their trip to Bolivia, and think about what’s in store for the future.

 

  1. Audacity and Hope in Kenya: After a series of bleak visits in the city slums, Shelley finds creativity and tenacity fueling hope and feeding children.

 

  1. Africa: The Impact of Compassion: Shelley considers her site visits in Africa, and the impact of compassion, in this special edition.

 

  1. From Kentucky to Kenya: The Universal Truth of Children: Shelley reflects on recent site visits to Bolivia and Kentucky, and examines some of the parallels that exist between the two.

 

  1. Back to School: Supplying Children with Education: ‘Tis the season of new backpacks, binders, and pencils. But for the fifteen million children living in poverty in the United States, these essential items are out of reach.

 

  1. The Hidden Face of Americana: Back from Bolivia, Shelley takes us to Eastern Kentucky, where the collapse of the coal mining industry has left many families struggling to make ends meet. More than sixteen million children live in poverty in the United States. Meet some of them, and see how your contributions are making a difference.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD THROUGH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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 that is available for sponsorship.

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving: Our Top Four On the Road Food Stops

In the eight months since we first launched On the Road Luis and I have traveled some 20,000 miles around the globe visiting the families and communities your contributions support.      

We are so grateful for the opportunity to report on the impact sponsorship has on the children we serve. We’ve met some pretty amazing people along the way, many of whom have welcomed us into their homes to break bread.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thought we’d share some of our favorite food samplings from around the world.

Salteñas (Bolivia)

If you travel to Bolivia, save room for lunch! Luis and I ate so well with the Sisters while we were there that most days we skipped dinner altogether.


We got to try some of the children’s favorites: majadito (rice cooked with onions, tomatoes, and spices, and served with fried eggs and yucca or plantains), mondongo (marinated pork, served with boiled corn and potatoes), and pique macho (cubed beef, sliced hot dogs, and stir-fried vegetables cooked in local spices and served over French-fried potatoes).

And of course, Salteñas!

A Salteña is the Bolivian version of an empanada. Filled with meat, potatoes, peas and more, this delicious pastry is a great mid-morning snack. Deliciosa!

Injera (Ethiopia)

dscf9167

Ethiopian food means injera, a spongy pancake-like flatbread made from teff, wheat, barley, corn, and/or rice flour.  A fundamental part of every Ethiopian meal, it is often eaten with meat stews and cooked greens. Luis and I make a habit of trying out the traditional cuisine on each of our trips – and, in Ethiopia, that included visiting a restaurant that offered traditional dancing as well as dinner.

Dishes come served on large platters to share, brimming with lentils, kale, and spicy tomato stew. The flavors are delicious and better yet, Ethiopians use the injera to scoop up the food – no utensils required!

Tortillas (Mexico)

dscf3166

Luis and I mainly ate tacos while in Mexico. The variety of fresh and flavorful ingredients is astounding. My favorite part of Mexican dishes: they all seem to come with fresh limes for extra flavor, although dishes are usually already full of flavor. Rice, beans, guacamole, and salsa are served with every meal, and tortillas are plentiful, brought to you in a round tortilla warmer that looks like an oven mitt to keep your tortillas warm as you eat your meal.

Sorghum (Kentucky)

dscf1887

Driving through Kentucky, it’s easy to find mainstays like pizza, fried chicken, spaghetti, biscuits and gravy, and chicken and dumplings. Last summer, we had the opportunity to stop by a local farm with one of our volunteer coordinators and meet a farmer who makes sorghum, a sweet syrup akin to molasses. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried sorghum on your biscuits. Yum!

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD THROUGH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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 that is available for sponsorship.

Finding Family for Mexico’s Most Vulnerable Children

 

dscf3574Mexico is such a modern, developed place that in many respects reminded me of America – but high unemployment rates have cities grappling with spikes in poverty and crime.

As a result, there are many children who have been abused, neglected, or flat-out abandoned by family members in distress. In several cases, the parents are unable to care for their children because they are incarcerated.

Children without families to help keep them safe, healthy, and to make sure they’re going to school often find themselves involved with drugs and crime. It’s because of this that Luis and I so loved to see the Sisters step in and fill the void.

dscf3398At homes like Hogar Santa Maria, Hogar Santa Ines, Mexiquito, and La Luz, it was the Sisters who were there for the children, providing not only support and guidance but real and moving affection, too. These parental figures provide the structure and consistency that help kids bloom into a generation that can positively impact its country. They foster a loving, nurturing environment where the children have adults to depend on and other children to play with.

Together, they’ve made a family.

After ten days of traveling through Mexico, I’m looking forward to returning home to see my own family. I can’t help but think about how fortunate I am to have them. I will not soon forget the stunning beauty of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Monterrey or the fragrant lime trees that filled Mexiquito – but it is the power of human kindness that is truly a marvel.