Tag Archives: poverty

The Challenges of Home Life

Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage lies Wolfe County, Kentucky.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live. Wolfe County carries the unfortunate distinction of being one of Kentucky’s most impoverished regions.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live.

At one time, logging, tourism for nearby mineral springs, and factories employed the majority of this area’s residents. Over time, these industries vanished, leaving ghost towns, unemployment, and high poverty rates in their wake. High dropout rates and adult illiteracy only serve to fuel the cycle of poverty.

“Today, leaders and residents in Wolfe County are working hard to reimagine new opportunities to rebuild the local economy,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“One area being explored is tourism. Wolfe County is home to the outstanding Red River Gorge, a canyon system in the Red River. The gorge lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest, and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a National Archeological District. There are many high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges. There is a gorge that is a popular place for rock climbers. A few small businesses have sprung up to support tourists, ranging from those selling supplies to an outstanding pizza restaurant.”

A long way to go

Regardless of the efforts, the county still has a long way to go for real economic development. Since the collapse of the coal industry, many of its families struggle with poverty, hopelessness, and addiction. Sadly, as always, the children are the most vulnerable — including those at our affiliated projects, Wolfe County Middle School and High Schools.

Per the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center, the county’s average child poverty rate for 2014-2018 was 38%. From 2012 to 2016, it was a wretched 55%. The improvement is not because of the county’s ability to address poverty, but because so many families have moved out in hopes of better opportunities.

Working to support kids in need

Fortunately, the Family Resource Youth Services Center at Wolfe County Middle and High Schools can help children and their families to succeed in school by minimizing or removing non-cognitive barriers to their learning.

Kids in Wolfe County are fortunate to have a volunteer coordinator like Connie to look out for their well-being.

The resource center’s offerings range from Born Learning (for infants and preschoolers) to Back to School Bashes and Ready Fests, to Red Ribbon Week (drug awareness and prevention), to recognizing and responding to violence, and to bringing partners and resources to address the children’s well-being and success.

Children Incorporated is proud to be able to partner with the Family Resource Center in Wolfe County Middle and High School. It is in these places that we hope to help children develop resilience, to graduate from high school, and eventually to break the cycle of poverty by having work that will support themselves and their own families someday,” said Renée.

Getting to meet with Connie

Wolfe County Middle and High School are side-by-side schools, and the Youth Services Centers are both run by our volunteer coordinator, Connie. The total enrollment at the middle and high school is about 600 students. Children Incorporated U.S. Programs Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with Connie recently to find out more how our program is supporting her work.

“I met with Connie at the high school during my last visit to Wolfe County. Connie says she likes our sponsorship program because it helps her kids with clothing, which is very important to middle and high school kids,” expressed Shelley.

“She takes her high school students on a bus to Lexington to shop at Kohls, where the kids can pick out clothes and shoes.  She says it’s an enjoyable experience for them, and she is grateful that she can be so flexible with the program.”

Connie also told Shelley that transportation is a significant barrier for her students; many of them rely on the school bus system to get to and from school. Because of this, these students are unable to participate in any after-school programs, tutoring programs, or extracurricular activities because they do not have a way to get home.

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life.

Fortunately, the school has been awarded a grant for the 21st Century after-school program, and part of the grant money will be put towards bus transportation for the students. Per the 21st Century website: “21st Century Community Learning Centers provide essential support to students who are often underserved and offer creative, engaging learning opportunities to kids of all ages and backgrounds.”

An even bigger concern

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life. They come to school, and their minds are elsewhere because they are worried about where they will sleep from day to day or worrying about mom or dad being on drugs.

Often there is not enough food in the house, and they come to school hungry and tired after the weekend. Many of the students are living with grandparents or other relatives. A growing number of students are moving into the area because they are in foster care.

These students have grown up in volatile environments and bring a lot of challenges with them to school each day. Often these students act out in school, which can be difficult for the teachers and other students.

Even with all the issues these children face, the high school’s graduation rate is very high, and that is thanks to a dedicated and caring staff and administration at the high school.

If a student is failing several classes, they can take online courses or attend one on one classes at an extension campus to graduate.

“Connie is hoping that with the new after-school program, the graduation rate will be even better. After graduation, some students will attend college while others attend technical college or transition to work,” said Shelley.

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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.

High Rents in Jackson City

Jackson City is located in rural and mountainous Breathitt County, Kentucky. Until the 1990s, coal was the foundation of the county’s economy, but the steady decline of the coal mining industry has begun to wreak havoc upon the local economy.

Many families, who once depended upon the mines for income, now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages, welfare, and food stamps. Poverty and unemployment have become intrinsic parts of daily life in Jackson City — which is exacerbated by the high cost of rent.

The school on the hill

Our affiliated project, Jackson City School, is nicknamed by residents “the school on the hill.” It is indeed perched atop a very tall hill behind the county courthouse. From the school grounds, there is a view over the rooftops of the little city below, as well as the rolling hills and mountains over the horizon.

Our volunteer coordinator, Dixie, has a lot of experience working with children in need.

While visiting Jackson City School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Dixie.

“Dixie a is a real winner of a coordinator — the students at Jackson City School are lucky to have her. She came to Jackson City Schools after working at the former Sebastian Middle School in Breathitt County, so she arrived at the Family Resource Youth Services Center fully understanding our sponsorship program,” explained Renée.

“Dixie is energetic and warm. She has developed close relationships with her students and families.” 

Rent overburdened in America

During their meeting, Dixie told Renée that the Family Resource Center’s greatest needs are support for the Backpack Weekend Feeding Program and her Parent Program. The Parent Program offers parents help with issues like child development and abuse prevention strategies, such as working on methods to calm down, patience, and time outs.

“Dixie explained that, since Jackson is the county seat, its middle class and professional families tend to live here and to enroll their children in the city school system rather than in the county school system,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

“At the same time, there are six low-income housing apartment communities in Jackson that offer a total of 134 affordable apartments. One hundred two of these do not provide direct rent assistance but remain affordable. Thirty-two are formal, income-based apartments. The need outpaces the demand. If a family moves to another county, then that apartment is quickly rented to a new family.”

In the United States, households who pay more than thirty percent of their gross income are considered to be “rent overburdened.” In Jackson, a household making less than $1,357 a month would be regarded as overburdened when renting an apartment at or above the median rent. Nearly thirty-seven percent of households who rent are overburdened in Jackson.

Dixie and our sponsors to the rescue

“For families of children in our sponsorship program, this means a disproportionate amount of their low income is required to pay for rent, leaving only a small percentage available for utilities, food, gas, auto maintenance, and repairs — as well as their growing children’s needs for new shoes, school supplies, and other needs,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

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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.

Filling a Gap in Guatemala

As of the time of publishing this story, Guatemala had the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 of all Central American countries, yet there are still many challenges that families are facing.

Today we hear from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, about the current situation in Guatemala.

Today we hear from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, about the current situation in Guatemala and how Children Incorporated is responding.

COVID-19 impact on Guatemala
“Some of our affiliations in Guatemala are supporting the children regularly, but with many difficulties as they have a curfew in place in the country: no one is to move from 6 pm to 4 am every day. Many people complain about the lack of social distancing, especially in the poor, overcrowded areas of the country,” said Luis.

Yet despite these issues, there have only been around 1000 cases in Guatemala reported. Probably because of the government implementation of the mandate, restrictions to [going]  outside without a mask, lockdown of the country, and of course, social distancing.”

Food and hygiene product bags are packed up at our affiliated project, Sagrada Familia, for families to take home.

“No flights are allowed internationally, and no traveling within states. The president has taken this epidemic very seriously as he is a medical doctor and has worked very hard on making the right decisions so far, as per the information I have received from my family and coordinators,” said Luis.

“Currently, schools are still suspended, and most businesses at this time. Only essential work goes on and under restrictions. Since traffic is always a problem in the country, you can imagine [that] getting home before the curfew hour has been a challenge. The curfew will stay until further notice, although yesterday, the president allowed some shopping.”

“The government of Guatemala had a [plan to provide] one-time cash support to families [in the amount] of Q1,000 (equivalent to US $130 dollars), but only about Q200 million was available originally, [which supported] only about 200,000 families of the 17 million people living in the country,” said Luis.

“Of course, the amount has grown since, but the support to families is practically non-existent. Almost half of the population in Guatemala were low-income earners, and the percentage of people receiving aid in this group was minimal. No one having an income above the minimum wage (minimum wage is about US $220 a month) would receive this incentive. Only people making less than that would qualify, including street vendors and non-income filers, nannies, and house service people earning much less.”

Our Response

We are grateful for the support that our sponsors and donors are providing to families in Guatemala at this time. Thanks to donations made to our COVID-19 Response Fund and to our sponsored children, we can send funds to our affiliated projects to provide food, hygiene items, and other necessities for children while they are out of school for the duration of the outbreak.

About Guatemala

Located just southeast of Mexico, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. Its spectacular mountains boast a wealth of natural resources and stunning biodiversity. For centuries, this land served as the core territory of the Mayan civilization. Following two centuries of Spanish colonization, Guatemala gained its independence in the early nineteenth century, only to endure another 150 years of political instability and civil unrest. Additionally, this area is prone to devastating natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes, which cause mudslides and flooding. Despite recent economic growth and successful democratic elections, Guatemala still struggles with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment.

Thanks to donations made to our COVID-19 Response Fund and to our sponsored children, we can send funds to our affiliated projects to provide food, hygiene items, and other necessities for children while they are out of school for the duration of the outbreak.

About our affiliated projects

Juan Apostol School
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Founded in 1964, the Juan Apostol School strives to provide the deserving children of this impoverished area with a well-rounded education — the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. In this way, students here have the opportunity to rise above the difficult socioeconomic circumstances into which they were born.

Zacapa School
Zacapa, Guatemala

In 1952, upon discovering that many children were unable to receive an education due to the limited number of schools in this rural area, a group of American Lutheran missionaries established a boarding school to remedy the problem. Although not many children board at Zacapa School today, the school continues its mission of providing impoverished children with a sound education — the key to breaking the cycle of poverty — and moral guidance.

Santa Isabel Ana Seton
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Families wait to pick up items while also practicing social distancing in Guatemala.

Named for a North American nun who was canonized in 1975, the Santa Isabel Ana Seton Welfare Center serves as a beacon of hope in the city’s poorest district. Here, the Sisters of San Vincente de Paul and Santa Luisa de Marillac tend to the needs of local impoverished families. Additionally, since Guatemala’s public education system suffers from overcrowding, numerous teacher strikes, and a general lack of school supplies, the Sisters also provide education through the affiliated Escuela Santa Maria private school. Together, the school and project strive to provide these deserving children with basic needs and sound education.

Sagrada Familia
Antigua, Guatemala

Sagrada Familia’s mission is to provide Antigua’s impoverished children with the educational, nutritional, and medical support they so desperately need. With the well-rounded education they receive, students here are given the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and rise above the problematic socioeconomic circumstances from which they come.

Casa Central
Guatemala City, Guatemala

In one of Guatemala City’s slum neighborhoods, the Casa Central School was founded in the mid-nineteenth century and run by the gracious nuns of the Sisters of Charity. Casa Central has a long and honorable history of ministering to the children here, offering them a place of refuge from the instability and crime that pervade this neighborhood.

Bethel-Quetzaltenango Primary School
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Established by the local Bethel Church, the Bethel-Quetzaltenango Primary School’s mission is to assist Quetzaltenango’s impoverished children. Here, these deserving boys and girls receive a well-rounded education.

Tecpan School
Tecpan, Guatemala

Run by nuns of the Hijas de Caridad (Daughters of Charity) Order, the Tecpan School strives to aid the impoverished children of this region. The school offers children a solid education from caring administrators and staff.

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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.

Caring for a Generation of Students

Marie Roberts Elementary School is located in the small community of Lost Creek, Kentucky, in Breathitt County.

In a part of the country where 48.3% of children are living in poverty, the Family Resource Center at the school, and our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, are able to offer children the critical support they need to survive in difficult circumstances.

“Jackie is the original coordinator who brought our sponsorship program to the school many years ago. She has been a loving and stable presence for easily a generation of students,” explained Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“With her students, Jackie is very warm, and they feel comforted and loved in her presence.”

Good news for children in need

While visiting with Jackie at Marie Roberts, Renée had a chance to hear more about how Jackie, and our sponsors, are helping some of the most vulnerable kids in Lost Creek.

“Jackie said her job is about removing as many barriers as she can to her students’ academic potential and well-being. The barriers are all related, in one way or another, to the high child poverty rate,” said Renée.

“Jackie shared with me information from studies that show when children grow up in impoverished households, they tend to have worse health than children in better economic situations. Their education is also negatively impacted. Poverty can even affect their income attainment into adulthood as well.”

An exterior photo of Marie Roberts Elementary School

But it wasn’t all bad news that Jackie had for Renée. During their meeting, they discussed the heartening news that recent research has supported the theory that positive sustained relationships with caring adults can buffer childhood trauma and the toxic stress they feel from growing up in a difficult environment.

“Not only are school staff like Jackie able to be that caring adult for children, so are Children Incorporated sponsor[s]. Having someone in their lives who cares for them and provides some financial support, but also some emotional support through correspondence – often over a period of years – is powerful,” said Renée.

Helping kids with their stress

Related to the trauma and stress many of the children endure, Jackie shared the school is now very fortunate to have two counselors from Mountain Comprehensive Care Centers which is part of the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities. They began working at Marie Roberts Elementary during the 2018-2019 School Year and have had a huge impact on the children. They provide assessment, counseling, and referrals in a convenient and familiar location — the school. This also helps with access barriers, as so many families lack reliable transportation.

Before she left, Renée and Jackie discussed the Family Resource Center’s needs, and right away Jackie said shoes.

“She explained that the kids grow so quickly, and shoes are so expensive. Many families can afford only the cheapest flip flops or slides from the Dollar Store, and Jackie is always looking for deals on name-brand, sturdy shoes,” said Renée.

“Thankfully, our sponsors and our Shoes and Socks Fund have also been able to provide funds for Jackie to purchase quality shoes for kids that will last.”

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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.

Moms Helping in Our Schools

Located in rural and mountainous eastern Kentucky, Breathitt County is one of the 100 poorest counties in the United States.  The economic prospects of Breathitt County are, at best, bleak. The coal mining industry that once dominated this area and provided employment for the majority of its population has been declining.

Children here not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults.

Today, there are few job opportunities for the area: three small factories, a community college, a grocery store, a department store, a small medical center, a juvenile detention center, and the county education system. Many families who once relied upon mining jobs for income now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages or federal assistance such as welfare checks and food stamps.

Tragically, drug and alcohol abuse are common, both stemming from and further contributing to these difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Children here, therefore, not only struggle with lack of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and school supplies, but they are also often in dire need of encouragement and positive interaction with adults. Many of them lack positive role models who can teach them how to maintain strong moral values and to be and have friends of good character and caliber.

A loving and supportive volunteer coordinator

Thankfully, children at Sebastian Elementary School have our volunteer coordinator, Genevieve, at the school’s Family Resource Center.

“Genevieve is a caring and dedicated staff member who is thrilled to partner with Children Incorporated sponsors to better equip students with the basic essentials and offer them a  positive influence,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children.

“It is always a pleasure and a treat to spend time Genevieve when I visit Breathitt County. She is another very long-serving coordinator and was the one who brought our organization to her school in 2004. She always goes above and beyond for her students.”

Parents lending a helping hand

During her most recent meeting at Sebastian Elementary School, Genevieve introduced Renée to her parent assistant, Jennifer.

“Jennifer is a wonderful help to Genevieve — and of course to our sponsorship program,” said Renée.

“She is the fourth assistant Genevieve has worked with through a program that places mothers in part-time employment at the school. Each of the previous mothers with whom Genevieve has worked has gone on to regular, full-time employment, in part thanks to the experience they got working at the Family Resource Center. Genevieve is very proud of them,” explained Renée.

“It’s an amazing program — mothers get to help children in our sponsorship program that are in need, and in exchange, can work towards helping to get their own families out of poverty. It’s a win-win situation.”

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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.

A Large Space with Ample Supplies

Blackey, Kentucky is proud of its distinction as a place where part of the movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was filmed. Once a bustling mining town with its own coal company, Blackey was devastated by floods and fires in the late 1920s. Even more tragically, during the Great Depression, the little community’s bank failed, and Blackey never regained its glory years.

“Michele has taken maximum advantage of her space. Every square inch is packed with materials and supplies for children — including those in our sponsorship program.” 

Lots of basic needs items for kids

Letcher Elementary School serves children from kindergarten through fifth grade. The school feeds into another Children Incorporated affiliated project, Letcher Middle School, which is attached to one end of the elementary school. Although the schools are on the same campus, they operate separately.

“Our volunteer coordinator and the school’s Family Resource Center Coordinator, Michele, is fortunate to have a large physical resource center, which is not usually the case in schools in Kentucky,” explains Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

We are grateful for our sponsors who make it possible for us to support children at Letcher Elementary School.

“Michele has taken maximum advantage of her space. Every square inch is packed with materials and supplies for children — including those in our sponsorship program.” 

A community with a big heart

During a visit to the school, Michele told Renée that Letcher Elementary and Middle Schools are fortunate to be located in Blackey, which is a small town with a big heart. The community members are very driven to help each other, and the city administrators offer many public places for residents to learn.

“Blackey has a tiny public library in town and a community center that is open to adults and children. The community center offers workshops in practical things like sewing and also activities like painting and handicrafts,” said Renée.

“It is wonderful that the community has a gathering place where people can come together to have fun and support one another emotionally and physically.”

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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.