Tag Archives: poverty

No Place for Homeless Kids in D.C.

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

***

It’s difficult to comprehend that children can continue to go to school when they don’t have a home — but for some students at John Hayden Johnson Middle School in Washington, D.C., they don’t have an option.

We hear from Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, about how homeless children in our nation’s capital manage to stay in school and how administrators at Johnson Middle are supporting them.

We hear from Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, about how homeless children in our nation’s capital manage to stay in school and how administrators at Johnson Middle are supporting them.

A newer affiliation

“Johnson Middle is one of our newer affiliated projects in Washington, D.C,” explained Renée.

“The school is located in the Douglass neighborhood of Ward 8. It is adjacent to the old, historic St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital, which opened in 1855 as the first federally operated psychiatric hospital in the United States. The back of the school grounds borders the hospital’s east and west cemeteries.”

“The school serves 275 children in grades sixth through eighth. The make-up of the student body is 97% black and 3% Hispanic/Latino. Sixty-two percent of students come from within the district’s boundary — and every student at the school is considered economically disadvantaged,” said Renée.

Meeting Jason

“Our Volunteer Coordinator at the school is Jason. It has taken him a while to build rapport and trust with his parents, but he is obviously a very caring person and wants to make a difference.”

John Hayden Johnson Middle School supports kids who are struggling as homeless teens.

While visiting with him, Jason told me that the school has a large percentage of homeless families, mostly single mothers, and their children. The shelters in Washington, D.C. will often get too full and overcrowded, and most are not safe places for children as they offer little protection,” said Renée.

“Jason continued to explain that Washington D.C. City Council has established a program for homeless women and children where the family is put into a motel room, and the city pays the motel rates. The children ride the city buses free to their schools so that they can continue to go instead of dropping out due to a lack of transportation. He said almost all of the kids he has put on our program are homeless.”

A need for enrichment for kids

“Before we concluded our meeting, I asked Jason how Children Incorporated could further help him in his efforts to support homeless children at his school,” said Renée.

“Jason said his biggest needs as a coordinator are food, especially nutritious snacks, hygiene kits, and good old fashioned “play clothes,” which will keep the students’ uniforms in better shape for a more extended period of time. He told me that many kids are wearing their uniforms when they get home in the evenings and on the weekends because that’s all they have.”

“Finally, Jason informed me that he wished for a way to provide enrichment outside of the neighborhood for kids. Ward 8 is lacking in anything cultural for the children to enjoy after school,” said Renée.

“Jason dreams of taking his students into Ward 2, which can be seen from the hills near the school grounds. Ward 2 has the National Mall, the White House, the monuments, and the museums.  It’s what tourists experience, but not what his students have ever seen in person. He feels that it is incredibly important for kids living in D.C. to get to experience all that the city has to offer by taking them on field trips that will show them a world that exists outside of their impoverished neighborhood.”

***

How do I sponsor a child in Washington, D.C.? 

You can sponsor a child in Washington, D.C. 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 Washington, D.C. that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

High Rents in Jackson City

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

***

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.”

***

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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Caring for a Generation of Students

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

***

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 our 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.”

***

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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Overcoming Difficulties in D.C.

Washington D.C. boasts some of the highest rents in the country and is home to many wealthy Americans. Yet, for many families, food security and affordable housing are constant issues. In areas where our affiliated project is located, there are often more convenience stores than grocery stores with healthy food items. In terms of housing, rent in D.C. tends to be higher than the national average. A family is considered rent overburdened when they pay more than 30% of their gross income on rent, and 46% of the households that rent are overburdened in Washington. For these reasons, support from Children Incorporated, and our sponsors, is crucial to children living in poverty.

Our partner in D.C.

In Washington, D.C., Children Incorporated is affiliated with an outstanding implementing partner, Communities In Schools (CIS).

“CIS is a national organization whose focus is building relationships that empower at-risk students to stay in school and become achievers, not just academically but also in life,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“CIS is a national organization whose focus is building relationships that empower at-risk students to stay in school and become achievers, not just academically but also in life,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“The Communities In School’s mission is complementary to our mission, and our collaboration has been a natural and successful fit. The CIS site coordinators around the United States serve as Children Incorporated’s volunteer coordinators.”

“Our coordinators in D.C. often tell me about how the support is greatly needed and valued by the students and administrators, and in fact, all of our programs — sponsorship, Hope In Action, and our Higher Education Fund — are making a difference in the lives of the children and their families in our nation’s capital,” said Renée.

“Starting in the 2019-2020 School Year, Communities In Schools of our Nation’s Capital has worked with D.C. Public Schools in an initiative called ‘Connected Schools.’ This is based on an effective program in Philadelphia. The goal is to accelerate better outcomes for students who are furthest from opportunities. Ten schools were identified to become Resource Hubs in their communities to meet the students’ and families’ needs both inside and outside the classroom.”

“There is better recognition by DCPS that academic success and student well-being do not happen in a vacuum. Students who are homeless and hungry will not spend much time studying their spelling words or times tables. This is obviously what Children Incorporated is all about, too, and our partnership is truly appreciated in this new, greater effort,” said Renée.

Visiting Cardozo

As a part of their yearly visits to meet with our volunteer coordinators, Renée, along with U.S. Sponsorship Specialist Shelley Oxenham, visited the Cardozo Education Campus — one of four of our affiliated projects in Washington D.C.

Monique show Renée and Shelley her supply closet where she keeps items for our sponsored children.

“We were warmly escorted to the school by the Communities In Schools Director of Programs & Data, Sully Washington. Sully told us how much she values the partnership with Children Incorporated, which has meant so much to the students,” said Renée.

“Cardozo is located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Ward 1. The building is an old, historic high school building. It houses a regular 6th — 12th-grade school and a parallel International Academy for the large population of English language learners.”

“This school is the most diverse of our D.C. sites. Its 746 students are 51% Hispanic/Latino, 46% black, 2% Asian, and 1% white. A very high 44% are English language learners. A sobering 100% come from economically disadvantaged households. It’s also interesting that only 37% come from within the neighborhood. The other 63% come from outside the boundary,” explained Renée.

As they continued their meeting, Renée could tell that through Sully’s description of his work, the school’s officials were committed to helping the children in any way they could. Sully explained to Renée and Shelley that in addition to the International Academy, there is also a 9th Grade Academy to aid the transition to high school, and a STEM Academy. The school offers AP classes, a night school for credit recovery, Air Force JROTC, indoor and outdoor sports, and numerous arts and cultural clubs.

Meeting our coordinators

After their meeting, Sully introduced Shelley and Renee to the Communities in Schools Team, who all work together to support our sponsored children in D.C.: Monique, Diogenes, and Fabi.

“We had a great conversation with the CIS coordinators. They shared that a lot of the kids need help with their education. Nearby Howard University has provided tutors for after-school efforts. They also told us that the mix of students’ backgrounds has sometimes collided into misunderstandings, tensions, arguments, and fights. Due to this, Cardozo’s principal instituted a unity program called ‘One Cardozo,’ with a variety of activities and mediations to help. Our coordinators said things have gotten much better in this regard,” said Renée.

“For all of our sponsored children, homeless or not, Children Incorporated’s goal is to provide funds to help with materials and supplies that support their health, well-being, and education, so they stay in school, achieve their diplomas, and have hope for a brighter future,” said Renée.

“Monique, Dio, and Fabi shared that the students have many personal challenges that often mean their studies get put on the back burner. There is a high percentage of homeless students. They bounce from sleeping at shelters, to couch surfing at friends’ houses, to staying for a night here and there with a relative. Some have slept in cars for weeks at a time. Some are with a parent, and some, sadly, are all by themselves. It is hard for them to keep up with their clothes and meager personal possessions, which they must usually store in trash bags. They cannot leave these items behind at the shelter.”

For all of our sponsored children, homeless or not, Children Incorporated’s goal is to provide funds to help with materials and supplies that support their health, well-being, and education, so they stay in school, achieve their diplomas, and have hope for a brighter future,” said Renée.

“Sponsorship and Hope In Action Program funds that our organization provides goes towards providing food, hygiene supplies, air mattresses and bedding, and laundry detergent. The kids are very embarrassed when their uniforms are no longer clean, and the laundry aid helps them feel neat and proud of their appearance and supports their regular attendance in school.”

***

How do I sponsor a child in Washington, D.C.? 

You can sponsor a child in Washington, D.C. 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 Washington D.C. that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

A Stable and Loving Presence for Children in Need

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

***

Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage, Whitley County was founded in 1818 a few miles south of the Cumberland River.

Although an area of the United States known for its exceptional natural beauty, many Whitley County residents suffer from abject poverty. The last few years saw a decline in the coal industry. The result has been a lack of employment opportunities, and today, Whitley County is one of the few impoverished counties in Kentucky. As the few remaining industries and small businesses continue to close their doors, the current economic situation in the county is grim.

“Sherry has been a stable and loving presence in the lives of thousands of children who have moved up through the school. She is driven, organized, and takes pride in running successful programs,” said Renée.

Meeting Sherry

A two-hour drive southwest from Campton, Whitley County Elementary School is Children Incorporated’s westernmost affiliated project in Kentucky.

“The school is located in the small community of Rockholds. We have a fantastic coordinator at Whitley County Elementary named Sherry. Sherry had reached out to me years ago through her Family Resource Center when she found out about our sponsorship program,” said our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“Sherry has been a stable and loving presence in the lives of thousands of children who have moved up through the school. She is driven, organized, and takes pride in running successful programs,” said Renée.

“Sherry has an excellent parent volunteer who helps with all of her programs, including our sponsorship program. Her volunteer helps her with everything from shopping for the children to helping them with letter writing.”

The B Squad Project

During a visit to Whitley County Elementary School, Renée met with Sherry, who was excited to tell her about a new local partnership she had established.

“Sherry had recently begun working with a non-profit organization called the B Squad Project. The B Squad started with one person — the manager of the Pizza Hut in Williamsburg, Kentucky — who wanted to make a difference for local kids in need. She lobbied a network of business contacts, family, and friends to gain support. Once she had funds in place, the B Squad’s first outreach project provided beds for impoverished children at Whitley Elementary School,” explained Renée.

“The next project gave personalized sneakers to kids at the school. The third outreach was at the start of this school year when the growing B Squad partnered with J.C. Penney to provide back-to-school supplies for children in need.”

Renée pictured with a few of the sponsored children in our program.

“Because of her partnership with the B Squad, Sherry can use all Children Incorporated sponsorship donations to go towards providing brand new clothes for children in our program, which they so desperately need,” exclaimed Renée. 

The inspiring Edna Sydow

Before Renée left the school, Sherry told her a heart-warming story about one of our late sponsors, Ms. Edda Sydow.

“Ms. Sydow loved to knit, and years ago, she had telephoned the Children Incorporated office and asked if she could mail knitted caps to one of our affiliated projects. I suggested Whitley County Elementary School, and Ms. Sydow agreed,” said Renée.

“The first year, Sherry received almost enough hats for both the school’s kindergarten classes, and the two teachers made up the difference. The next year, more hats arrived, and more faculty came together and donated money to purchase mittens to go with the caps.”

“This went on for many winters, up until Ms. Sydow passed away. Because her gifts of time and talent had meant so much to the school, the teachers set up the “Warm Heads for Little Hearts at Whitley North  — The Edda Sydow Project” which raises money from the community to continue to buy warm clothes for children every year,” said Renée.

“It is inspiring that Ms. Sydow’s kindness is living on in Whitley County.”

***

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.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Getting Tablets into the Hands of Students

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, children in our program often lacked access to technology outside of the classroom. Whether living in a remote area on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, in villages where the internet is not available, or living in poverty in Eastern Kentucky where power and water bills are prioritized over technology, impoverished children lag behind their fellow students when they can’t keep up with classwork at home.

Thanks to our incredible donors, over the last few months, we have been coordinating with our program partners so that tablets can be purchased and provided to children in our sponsorship program.

The recent pandemic exacerbated all of these problems for families that relied on school and in-person learning. With school closures, children were told to stay at home, and teachers scrambled to find ways to make sure students received their course work regularly — often times driving workbooks or flash drives to the homes of kids who otherwise had no way to keep up with their workload.

Transitioning to virtual learning

“Teachers are attempting to successfully implement virtual learning by presenting lessons however possible and providing paper copies where necessary. This has been especially challenging in Central America, where schools typically lack teaching platform options; many children do not have internet access at home, nor an effective means through which to access it, such as a tablet or computer,” said Children Incorporated Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet.

Tablets allow children to do coursework remotely — and once they return to school, they can continue to learn from home!

Our projects in Africa are experiencing similar difficulties; in fact, children are struggling so much there that a recent Kenyan government mandate required many students return to school to finish out the current academic year, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases. In South America, the number of COVID-19 infections and related deaths is staggering, making it one of the most affected areas in which we work. Children in India have also been tremendously affected, as the country comprises the greatest number of people affected by the virus in all of Asia — second in the world only to the U.S.”

Tablets for children all over the world

“Children Incorporated has devised a way of helping children and schools by providing tablets to children, which will allow them to access classes via the public platforms that schools are currently utilizing for learning. This will facilitate virtual attendance of classes as well as daily access to homework assignments. These tools will also offer academic support to teachers and students once in-person classes resume,” explained Luis.

Thanks to our incredible donors, over the last few months, we have been coordinating with our program partners so that tablets can be purchased and provided to children in our sponsorship program. To date, we have provided 630 tablets and counting. We are so grateful for all the support to continue to provide children in need with an education!

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD with children incorporated?

You can sponsor a child 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 that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD