Tag Archives: On the Road

Words Are Not Enough

We are very grateful to receive testimonials from our incredible volunteer coordinators from around the world, especially because they get to the see first-hand, on a daily basis, the amazing impact that our sponsors are having on the children all over the world. Today we would like to share a beautiful letter from Neil, one of our volunteer coordinators in North Carolina, who has expressed his gratitude and appreciation for our program and more importantly, our sponsors.

A letter from Neil

“Dear Children Incorporated Staff & Sponsors,

Words seem inadequate as I to describe the smiles and heartfelt appreciate my students demonstrate from the gifts and letters they receive from their sponsors.  How do I describe the pride a student exhibits as he walks down the hall in a new pair of sneakers?  Or how to describe the twinkle in our students’ eyes and the voracious manner in which they read letters from their sponsor as they try to image far off places?  I do not believe it is possible to describe the appreciation the students, or I, feel for the sponsors.  Words are not enough.

Let me tell you about the sneakers first.  There are two boys who come immediately to mind.  Life has dealt them a very difficult hand.  Both have absentee parents and are being raised by either a grandparent or great grandparents.  While having many excuses to be mad at the world and creating waves of pain and anger, both of these young men work diligently to learn as much as they can, follow the rules, and interact with their classmates in cooperative manner. They come to school and do their very best every day.  At Christmas I asked each of them what they would like from their sponsor.  Both wanted a pair of Stephen Curry high-tops sneakers. 

Thank you doesn’t express how much the assistance from Children Incorporated and the sponsors mean to the students and myself.  Know that it is heartfelt and truly meant.

– Neil

I told them I would see what I could do.  Because their sponsors’ monthly funds and additional holiday gifts, I was able to get both boys exactly what they requested.  Each of these young men are used to being disappointed, to having promises made and ultimately broken, and to wish for brand-name products and to get discount brands instead.  That is their experiences in life.  When they sat down in my office, opened their bags of gifts, and there, in their hands were the coolest shoes a kid could get, oh the disbelief, and then the smiles.  Tenderly they pulled their new shoes from the box, as if they were plated in gold and the bright colors dazzled their eyes.  One young man looked up to as if to ask if they were really his, and had to be encouraged to try them on.  One asked to wash his hands before he tried them on so he wouldn’t get them dirty.  The other day I greeted one of the young men as he was dropped off at school.  The shoes looked almost as good as they did the day he got them.  I asked his grandmother about this, and she stated that every day when he comes home from school, he takes off his shoes, washes them, and puts them away.  He told her that he has to take care of them because they are the nicest shoes he has ever received in his life.  This from a rough and tumble boy is an example of the worth he places in those shoes. 

Another special story

It is unfair that I get to see the smiles from these children and you, their sponsors, do not.  There have been times, like those described above, which bring a tear to my eyes.  One small girl, upon receiving her new, sparkling shoes, had to show me how good she could spin like a ballerina, the entire time, watching how her new shoes sparkled in the light.  Another couldn’t stop tapping her feet to make the lights in her shoes to come on and go off.  Another young lady ran up to me and gave me a very unexpected hug (she is a child who seldom expresses her emotions) and spun around showing me her new outfit, stating “I feel like a millionaire in these clothes.”  Things that I would take for granted meant the world to these students. 

There is one last story I would like to share.  One of the sponsored children is intellectually and physically disabled.  Non-verbal and unable to provide for his own care, I have to depend on his caregivers to find out what to get him.  They told me he loves blocks and loves to put them away after playing with them.  For Christmas, thanks to his sponsor, he received several different types of blocks and a container to put them in.  While he wasn’t able to open them, as the caregivers opened his gifts and show them to him I could tell he was quite happy and excited.  After Christmas break the caregivers reported that he played incessantly with the blocks, arranging them, and stacking them.  When finally tired, he would use as much care as he could to put each block in his new container. 

One day shortly after the end of Christmas break I was in his room giving a guidance lesson to him and his class.  The boy, typically remote and aloof, began to smack his hands together, beat on his desk, and attempted “talk” to me.  I walked over to him and offered him my hand.  This student had never attempted to interact with me before that day.  He began patting my hand and in the ultimate display of affection, took my hand and rubbed it back and forth over his head.  He chattered away at me and repeatedly patted my hand and had me rub his head during the rest of the guidance lesson.  Never would I have believed that the boy understood that the blocks came from me.  But he did.  And he displayed the tremendous depths of his gratitude in the only manner his unique mind and body could.  I left his room that day with a profound sense of humility.  I had received a blessing his sponsor should have received.  And what a humbling blessing it was for me. 

Thank you doesn’t express how much the assistance from Children Incorporated and the sponsors mean to the students and myself.  Know that it is heartfelt and truly meant.

 With gratitude,

Neil

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN NORTH CAROLINA?

You can sponsor a child in North Carolina in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

When Community Matters Most

It is an unfortunate reality that, when it comes to our affiliated projects around the world, including in urban and rural areas in the United States, we often hear from our volunteer coordinators that there just aren’t enough funds provided to them to help every child in need. Sometimes the reason is that a school’s budget has been cut, or the number of children in attendance is growing faster than the administration can keep up with; or maybe a significant donor is no longer able to fund certain programs, and no new donor has replaced them. Whatever the reason, a lack of funding means that children living in poverty suffer without basic resources, and they are at risk of falling behind in school.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program.

Because funding isn’t always secure for the schools, community centers, and orphanages with which we partner, our volunteer coordinators are endlessly grateful for our sponsors and donors, who help the kids in their care that are enrolled in our program. Donations from Children Incorporated don’t always cover the needs of every child at a project, however; and in many cases, our coordinators seek help from the surrounding community in order to ensure that kids living in poverty are getting what they need. One such volunteer coordinator who did just that is Deloris at Mullins Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky.

Rebuilding her center

Sponsor a child in Kentucky.

Deloris shows Renée and Shelley her supply closet, which is full, thanks to a local church.

Mullins Elementary School is a spacious and well-equipped newer school located just outside the Pikeville city limits. Deloris originally worked in the school’s front office; then she was transferred to the family resource center when our last volunteer coordinator there, Tammy, retired a few years ago. On a trip to visit the school, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, and our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Deloris, who explained that when she took over in her new position, she felt like she was starting from square one.

The center had been completely cleaned out after Tammy’s departure, and Deloris found that she had almost no budget to work with and no supplies to distribute to kids who were going to school without proper clothes or any school supplies at all. She told Shelley and Renée that it has been a big task for her to rebuild the center from the ground up. She has had to work hard to figure out how to provide for the students at the school, as well as for their families, who she knows all too well are struggling to make a living in this impoverished region of the United States.

Getting the supplies she needs

In order to obtain the food and school supplies she needed, she reached out to a church in the community to make food baskets during Thanksgiving and Christmas for families who would otherwise go without holiday meals. The church also held a school supplies drive that enabled Deloris to stock a closet in her center. Thankfully, when it comes to the donations that sponsored children are receiving from their sponsors, Deloris has had the funds in place to shop for children enrolled in our program so that they receive new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, as well as hygiene items on a monthly basis.

Before their visit ended, Shelley and Renée discussed how Deloris could identify more children to enroll in our sponsorship program so that we could hopefully link them with sponsors, too. Deloris was excited to work towards getting more children sponsored, with the hope that with additional sponsorships paired with continued help from the community, she could ensure that all the kids at Mullins Elementary School are receiving the consistent support they so desperately need.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Stepping Back in Time

I recently had the privilege of visiting several schools in West Virginia where Children Incorporated offers our child sponsorship program. It had been several years since my last visit to these schools; while I had clear memories from my previous trips, I wasn’t sure what I would find this go-around. Reflecting on the fact that everything in our world changes rapidly, I expected to find that these West Virginia schools were different from how they were when I last visited them. What I discovered, however, is that I was wrong to anticipate significant changes, for visiting these schools was, in many ways, like stepping back in time.

Sponsoring a child changes their life.

Mr. Carter with our Volunteer Coordinator Lara at Genoa Elementary School

The first two schools I visited, Genoa Elementary School and Dunlow Elementary School, both in Wayne County, West Virginia, are very small institutions; one has a total enrollment of approximately 75 students, and the other, just around ninety. The school buildings are old and showing signs of wear after many years of use; and both sit in extremely rural areas, void of businesses and commerce.

As I drove to these schools from Huntington, West Virginia, a city of 50,000 people less than an hour away, I couldn’t help but feel a drastic shift from city to country – from have to have not. The roads began to curve; some became much narrower and less maintained. Businesses and houses became fewer and farther apart. Then, while seemingly in the middle of nowhere, I arrived at the first school I was scheduled to visit: Genoa Elementary School.

Hearing from our sponsored children

While the staff at the school was extremely welcoming to me – and they clearly take their responsibility of caring for students quite seriously – the heaviness of poverty just hung in the air. It was palpable; I could feel it. As I interacted with several students enrolled in the Children Incorporated sponsorship program, I was moved by their obvious need.

As I spoke with one little girl, she told me that her sponsor writes her letters and encourages her to study hard and always do her homework. She said that she always looks forward to the letters she receives from this woman, for they remind her that someone cares about her and wants her to succeed in life. A little boy at the same school showed me some of his artwork, and he told me that his sponsor sent money for the supplies he used to create his little masterpieces. He was very thankful for the gift.

For more than half a decade, we have been touching lives and offering hope and opportunity in areas where necessities are often in short supply. That, friends, is why our organization exists; and you, through your generous support of our work, make it all possible.

Our wonderful volunteer coordinator at the school shared that a number of children would go without shoes, warm clothing, and food if it weren’t for assistance provided by their sponsors through our organization. She voiced her appreciation, as did the school principal, for all the years that Children Incorporated has helped the poorest among their student body to fit in and experience a sense of normalcy while at school, by providing them with clothing similar to those worn by less financially-stressed youngsters. She talked of the significance of ensuring that these children, too, have pencils and paper, and adequate school supplies, as well as food on the weekends, when they do not receive the free hot meals provided on weekdays in the school cafeteria.

A sense of hope

At the second school I visited, Dunlow Elementary – even further away from a major city, and perhaps even more remote – I found a very similar situation: a small, dedicated, caring staff working very hard to ensure that the children they serve are being well-provided-for and are offered a safe place in which to learn and grow. Children who live in extreme poverty, as most of the youngsters enrolled in our programs do, look forward to attending school, because while there, they not only have access to heat, clean water, and nutritious food – things often missing in their home lives – but they also experience a sense of hope and possibility for their futures. They see beyond what is to what could be, and they dare to dream.

It saddens me that the assistance offered by Children Incorporated is still so vitally important in the lives of these youngsters; yet I am also grateful that we can be there to extend a helping hand and offer support that is truly life-changing. That is what Children Incorporated is about: improving the lives of children and their families as they face financial hardships and trials of all kinds. For more than half a decade, we have been touching lives and offering hope and opportunity in areas where necessities are often in short supply. That, friends, is why our organization exists; and you, through your generous support of our work, make it all possible.

Thank you very much!

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter

President and Chief Executive Officer

About Wayne County, West Virginia

Wayne County is nestled amid the vast natural beauty of the Allegheny Mountains, which still conceal deposits of the coal that once made this a rich and populous area of the Mountaineer State. Automation of mines and the ecological stigmas attached to coal as a fuel source have seriously damaged Wayne County’s economy. With coal mining almost shut down, businesses that once depended upon mining and the buying power of miners have closed. Unemployment continues to rise, and industry development remains at a crawl.

Like many small towns in this rural part of West Virginia, Genoa is remote, located far from any sizeable town or city. A few strip mines still produce coal, and there are some sawmills that cut lumber. Overall, however, Genoa’s economy is struggling, with high unemployment and a lack of industry development. Many residents in this region live well below the poverty line.

For these reasons, Genoa Elementary School and Dunlow Elementary School serve as beacons of hope and safe havens, as they are among the few places where children from impoverished families can count on support, encouragement, and a warm nutritious meal each day. The caring teachers at these schools strive to improve each child’s self-esteem and well-being through a well-rounded education – the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN WEST VIRGINIA?

You can sponsor a child in West Virginia in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Siblings Raising Siblings

Oftentimes, children living in poverty have to grow up quickly. Their parents might work long hours away from home – or even out of town – which means kids must cook their own meals and put themselves to bed without mom or dad tucking them in. Sometimes, unfortunately, even if a parent is not working out of the house, they are not emotionally, psychologically, or physically capable of caring for their children.

Instead of focusing on school and getting to play with their friends and siblings, older brothers and sisters end up helping raise kids themselves – which can add a lot of stress to their lives.

In instances like these, kids find themselves taking on all household responsibilities, including watching over their younger siblings. Instead of focusing on school and getting to play with their friends and siblings, older brothers and sisters end up helping raise kids themselves – which can add a lot of stress to their lives.

Just a step ahead of her siblings

On a recent trip to visit Feds Creek Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Jan, who introduced Shelley to a special student named Laura*.  As a fifth-grader, Laura is helping to raise her younger sisters, Rebecca* and Lori*, even though she herself is only slightly older than the two of them. Although her parents are unemployed and at home during the day, Laura is the one responsible for getting her sisters up and ready in the morning before school, which is a difficult task for a ten-year-old.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Jan with a couple of our sponsored children at Feds Creek Elementary School

Sometimes the girls go to school wearing each other’s clothes; Rebecca has shown up in Lori’s pants and shoes, because that’s what Laura told her to put on. Although it is a lot for her to do, Laura does her best to raise her siblings and make sure they get to school and don’t fall behind.

Thankfully, even though Laura has a great deal of responsibility on her plate at home, when she gets to school, she has Jan and the resource center – as well as support from her sponsor – to give her some much-needed relief. Instead of taking care of others, she can be taken care of by loving and supportive adults, which gives her a chance to concentrate in class and just be the kid she deserves to be.

*Names changed for children’s protection.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Our Partner International Student Exchange Releases an Update on Their ISE Gives Back Charity Initiative

International Student Exchange (ISE) is pleased to announce the release of their most recent ISE Gives Back charity initiative update. This initiative was designed to provide support to organizations that assist underprivileged children around the world. The most recent ISE update covers their ongoing partnership with Children Incorporated, which has helped children in need across the United States, specifically, for the last two years; and it details some of the programs funded through their $100,000 donation.

“It’s truly remarkable what we’ve been able to accomplish together in these last two years, and we look forward to continuing this impactful work.”

– Amanda Corey of ISE

“Being able to launch this initiative and see how it has positively impacted so many people is an absolute honor,” said Amanda Corey of ISE. “We have heard so many wonderful stories, like from Alyssa*, a young girl from Kentucky who received treatment at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston after she sustained severe burns during a house fire. It’s news like this of kids receiving the help they need that keeps us moving toward our mission to bring people together for the greater good of the world.”

In addition to helping this family, ISE’s partnership with Children Incorporated has also had a far-reaching impact. In Washington, D.C., the donation provided funds for a weekend Backpack Feeding Program for children who would otherwise not have food to eat on the weekends; as well as helped to fund a Joyful Food Market – a market where families with limited access to grocery stores can obtain fresh vegetables, fruit, proteins, and more once a month.

Thanks to ISE, children all over the United States are receiving much-needed support.

In Richmond, Virginia, the ISE-Children Incorporated partnership resulted in the purchase of Legos and Lego Base Plates for the Broad Rock Elementary School library. They will be used for the school’s math program, which promotes coding and logistical and higher-level thinking.

To the south, in North Carolina, funds from the $100,000 donation helped to sustain the Junior Appalachian Musicians program, where children stay after school to learn about traditional Appalachian instruments and culture. Across the country, in Arizona, the donation provided funding for the construction of a reading pergola and native canyon grape vines at Pinon Community School in the Navajo Nation, as well as supplies for students to turn grapes into jam for consumption at school and at home with their families.

Amanda went on to say, “As if that weren’t amazing enough, ISE and Children Incorporated are currently sponsoring 119 children through this partnership, including 58 older boys and girls, for whom it is most difficult to find sponsors. It’s truly remarkable what we’ve been able to accomplish together in these last two years, and we look forward to continuing this impactful work.”

Visit iseusa.org to learn more about the ISE-Children Incorporated partnership, and to discover what it’s like to become a host family or area representative.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

About International Student Exchange

International Student Exchange sponsors secondary school exchange for international students, as well as provides cultural exchange programs for American high school students interested in opportunities for living and studying abroad. Founded in 1982, this certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has provided quality foreign exchange programs for over 30,000 students.

ISE’s goal is for student exchange to bring people of the world closer together, and for the relationships created between exchange students, host families, and local communities to promote peaceful, cooperative international relations. Those interested in helping and getting involved may host an exchange student, or join a team of incredible area representatives.

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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 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 who is available for sponsorship.

Proud to Have a Sponsor

Last year, we wrote a story about how our Hope In Action Fund was able to help a boy named Robert* at East Ridge High School in Pike County, Kentucky. At the time, our volunteer coordinator at the school, Rhonda, was just starting her position as the head of the Family Resource Center when she met Robert as an incoming freshman. Shortly after getting to know Robert, Rhonda emailed our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, to tell her about Robert’s special situation.

“Thank you for the help you always give me and all the kindness you show me. I know you must have a heart of gold and full of love to help someone you don’t even know and have never met.”

– Robert

A special place in her heart

Here is Robert’s story:

The Children Incorporated volunteer coordinator at Robert’s elementary school is especially close to him. When she spoke with Rhonda at the beginning of the school year, she expressed that she has a special place in her heart for him. She shared some information about his home life – and most importantly, about the degree of need that he experiences.

Robert lives with his single father, who was renting a trailer; but there came a time when he could no longer afford it. So they had no choice but to move into a very small apartment. Robert’s father is disabled, and his limited disability benefits barely pay rent. The father has no transportation, and he sometimes struggles to provide food for his son. It wasn’t just the details of Robert’s home life that the elementary school coordinator wanted to share with Rhonda; she also felt it was important to mention that Robert was extremely self-conscious about his appearance.

The elementary school coordinator explained that, as a kid, Robert’s four front teeth had been knocked out, and he was desperately in need of a dental partial plate. At the time of the injury, a dentist helped him to recover from losing his teeth. Later, the dentist made an impression for a bridge, which is covered by Robert’s medical insurance – but the insurance does not cover partials or dentures.

When Robert’s father was told the cost of the partial plate, he told the dentist he couldn’t afford it. A few years later, when Robert reached high school, he was still missing those teeth – and he was unwilling to smile or talk to teachers or other students directly, because he was so embarrassed about it.

Robert smiles for the camera!

Realizing that Robert was in great need of some additional help outside of what he receives from his sponsor, Rhonda reached out to Renée to ask if Robert could be considered for assistance from our Hope In Action Fund to replace his missing teeth. Renée didn’t waste any time working on the request. Within a month, Rhonda received the funds needed to purchase Robert’s dental plate, and she ordered it for him immediately. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, Robert finally has something to smile about.

Catching Up with Rhonda

When our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, returned to Pike County in spring of 2018 to meet with Rhonda, she was shown a letter written by Robert thanking his sponsor and Children Incorporated. Rhonda explained that at first, she kept it a secret as to where Robert had obtained the money to get his teeth fixed, because she didn’t want to embarrass him; but then she realized that Robert was telling all of his classmates about his sponsor, because he was so proud to be in our program!

Robert’s not the only one who’s proud to have a sponsor. Rhonda says there are many other children at her high school that absolutely love having sponsors, especially when they have the opportunity to show off new school clothes, and receive Christmas gifts during the holiday season – things that these kids would otherwise go without entirely.

A letter of gratitude from Robert

“Thank you for the help you always give me and all the kindness you show me. I know you must have a heart of gold and full of love to help someone you don’t even know and have never met. Because of the money you send to the Children Incorporated program, my family resource center was able to pay the dentist for my new front partial. We are sending you a picture of the ‘new me’! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

– Robert

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.