Tag Archives: sponsor

Rarely Enough Food on the Weekends

The remote town of Crownpoint, where our affiliated project Mariano Lake Community School is located, is in northwestern New Mexico, near the Arizona border and the vast Navajo Nation. Many of the American Indian families in this area generate income by making and selling jewelry, kachinas (traditional, carved figures that represent deified ancestral spirits), and pottery. Some families maintain small herds of livestock. Others, who can’t find work this region of the United States, where unemployment is high, find themselves having to travel outside of the state for work.

Some parents rely on public assistance for feeding and clothing their children. For this reason, the Mariano Lake Community School is important for the kids who attend, because there, they can receive a good education and have a healthy environment in which to reside during the week – and their experiences there are enriched by compassionate teachers who work hard to build their self-esteem.

The value of dorm life

Mariano Lake Community School is a small boarding school of approximately 150 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. The school consists of small portable buildings, which house the classrooms. The complex also has a cafeteria, a library, administrative offices, and a separate dorm for boys and girls.

For some parents, the relief comes from knowing that their children will eat enough at school during the week.

The dorm on the school’s campus serves many important purposes for both the students and their parents. Although school buses do travel the hour or more to the communities in which the children’s families live, the many dirt roads along the way often become impassable during and after rain and snow. If the buses can’t make it down a road, the children down that road are not picked up, so they miss school that day.

The dorm is also quite valuable for parents who work out of town during the week, because they don’t have to worry about their children’s safety. For some parents, the relief comes from knowing that their children will eat enough at school during the week, when they might otherwise go hungry at home, because there is not enough money to feed them.

Parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children at Mariano Lake Community School are often bus drivers, cooks, or security officers that make very small incomes. When they do receive their paychecks at the beginning of each month, students are sometimes absent from school, because there is food to eat at home, and money to pay for things to do – so they don’t make the trip to school. By the end of the month, however, the students are going hungry again.

Those who live at the dorm receive three meals a day. On the weekends, when they return home, they often go hungry, or they just eat junk food or snack food when money gets low or runs out. Once the weekend is over, these kids arrive to school on Monday mornings very hungry for breakfast. By Monday night, they are exhausted and fall asleep early, because they haven’t had a chance to get their energy back up from eating so little for days in a row.

Feeling unloved and unwanted

On a recent trip to New Mexico, U.S. Projects Specialist Shelley Oxenham met with Barbara, our Volunteer Coordinator at Mariano Lake Community School, who also manages the dorm. Barbara told Shelley that teachers and staff are seeing more and more students coming from difficult home situations. There is alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and drug use at home.

Children sometimes feel unwanted and unloved, which results in negative behavior both at home and at school. The kids sometimes talk back and swear at their parents and teachers in frustration. Unfortunately, because of these behavioral issues, another reason that some parents want their children to be in the dorm during the week is so they don’t have to deal with them – which only makes their situations at home even worse.

Barbara explained to Shelley that even though the children’s behavior can be disruptive, she does what ever she can to help them to have a better life. She says that the Children Incorporated sponsorship program is especially important because not only do the sponsored children really need the clothes, school supplies, and hygiene items they receive, but they also need encouragement and support from a caring adult, too. Barbara hopes that writing to and receiving letters from sponsors help the students know that someone really cares about them.



You can sponsor a child in New Mexico 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.

Visiting Navajo Country

The To’Hajiilee (pronounced “toe-HA-ji-lee”) Community School is located in northern New Mexico in the area around Cañoncito. This school is typical of those that serve Navajo children in the United States and are funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs – except for one thing: it is far removed from the vast Navajo Nation, which spills from Arizona into New Mexico and Utah. Though not a part of the Nation, this area is still considered “Navajo Country,” where a few sheep graze against a landscape of barren desert relieved by occasional flat-topped mesas.

Despite the wealth of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage there, the Navajos who live in and around Cañoncito are desperately poor. There is virtually no employment. Broken homes, alcoholism, and an inadequate amount of food are manifestations of the poverty in which they live. For this reason, the To’Hajiilee Community School serves as a beacon of hope for children. At the school, each child receives nutritious meals, encouragement, and a quality education – giving the students there the opportunity to rise above the difficult economic circumstances from which they come.

The reality of poverty in New Mexico

Katrina does not know what she would do without the Children Incorporated program, which provides warm clothing during winter months, shoes, school supplies, medical supplies, and food items for kids.

According to Poverty USA, an organization that tracks and reports on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico ranks 49th in poverty out of fifty states. The child poverty rate there is 30.1 percent. The U.S. Census reports that the critical poverty rates in New Mexico are concentrated among the American Indian population there. More than half of all adults in the Navajo Nation – 56 percent – are unemployed. While education is often seen as the key to reducing poverty, only 25 percent of Navajo adults have at least the equivalent of a high school education.

The Kids Count Data Center for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, another organization that tracks poverty levels, reports that intervening during childhood is key in breaking the cycle of poverty. The center’s data indicates that collaborative efforts are more likely to bear fruit – and New Mexico has begun an initiative to tackle childhood hunger.

The National School Lunch Program, which ensures that children eat a nutritional meal during the school day, is a big help; but still many children go home to inadequate food supplies on nights, weekends, and holidays. Experts say that another way to combat poverty is to improve educational opportunities for children. Children who pertain to minority groups are often hit the hardest by poverty, and New Mexico’s American Indian population is heavily impacted by it.

Drawing Water from a Well

The To’Hajiilee Community School serves pre-kindergarten students up to adult education. Built in the 1960s, it consists of several buildings and a gym. The school has an enrollment of over 300 students. It is approximately one hour west of Albuquerque. “To’Hajiilee” translates to “Drawing Water from a Well” in English. The well to which the name refers is located in a canyon just west of the school.

U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, recently met with our Volunteer Coordinator Katrina at the To’Hajiilee Community School. Katrina is the Director of Family Engagement at the school, and this past year was her first full year of managing the Children Incorporated program. She is supported by the staff of the school and Elayne, her supervisor.

At the beginning of the school year, Katrina sent a survey to students’ parents that requested shoe and clothing sizes for their kids, as well as a list of needs with check boxes to select next to them. Katrina used the completed surveys to shop for the students based on the answers, and she had their parents pick her purchases up. She tries to be discreet; she doesn’t want the kids to be labeled as the poorest in the school, causing them to feel embarrassed or ostracized. She said that most every family at the school needs the program, but she tries to enroll the children whose families she knows to be the neediest.

Katrina does not know what she would do without the Children Incorporated program, which provides warm clothing during winter months, shoes, school supplies, medical supplies, and food items for kids. She says that the sponsored children benefit very much, and that she loves it when sponsors are even more involved, and write letters and send packages to their sponsored kids.

As we continue our partnership with Katrina and the To’Hajiilee Community School, according to Shelley, we see our programs supporting the children’s health and education beyond our sponsorship program. After visiting the school, Shelley considered the opportunity for our Hope In Action Fund to contribute to school gardens and markets, which will tackle some food scarcity issues for both sponsored and unsponsored kids.



You can sponsor a child in New Mexico 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.

Going Above and Beyond for Kids in Need

Summers can be rather boring for children. While kids usually love the thought of being out of school and free from homework assignments, they often have a difficult time staying occupied and active. One woman from Warfield, Kentucky found a way to change that this summer. Denise Stepp, who serves jointly as the coordinator for the Warfield Elementary School Family Resource Center and as a volunteer coordinator for Children Incorporated’s child sponsorship program, established a gardening program at her school. As a result, not only do the children keep busy and have fun, but Denise has also provided a service to many families in the community.

Denise, who loves gardening, decided to share her green thumb skills with the students that she serves. She went to the school principal and asked for permission to begin a food-to-table gardening program that the students, out on their summer break, would oversee. He gave his blessing for a large plot of land behind the school, and he wrote a grant for a small greenhouse and gardening supplies. Denise rounded up the children and got them excited about planting, caring for, and harvesting the food they would grow. Children Incorporated then provided funds so that Denise could purchase a compost barrel in order to help the children learn how compost enriches garden soil.

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services.

Denise’s summer gardening camp ran every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, and she and her helpers worked with the kids on gardening techniques. Funds from Children Incorporated allowed Denise to buy supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags to preserve the garden food. The children have loved participating in the summer gardening camp! They have taken part in many hands-on learning activities, from baking muffins with zucchini they themselves have grown to making sauerkraut from their cabbage harvest – and they’ve taken jars and bags full of freshly-picked vegetables home to be shared with their families.

A long-time volunteer

Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services. The Warfield community was once a coal-producing area; however, as a result of a decline in the coal business, there is now a high unemployment there. The community now has a 93 percent poverty rate. There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and there are many single-parent families. The children endure great poverty, and some come from rather unstable homes. Denise cares deeply about the students she serves, and she goes the extra mile to show them love and support. Her job does not end at 3:00 p.m. with the close of the school day. She takes the job home with her; it is consistently on her mind.

Denise doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks the walk. Thanks to the child sponsorship program at the school and additional contributions from Children Incorporated, Denise is able to ensure that many children receive basic needs that support their well-being and health, such as clothing and shoes, and also school supplies, books, and backpacks. Under her guidance, the school system also held a summer feeding program, which transported breakfasts and lunches to 600 children Monday through Friday all summer long.

As the new school year begins, corn and potatoes will be harvested from the summer garden, and used to prepare food for the students and families on Kentucky Heritage Day. On October 13 of this year, Denise will host a pig roast, and the children will experience the rewards of their hard work by enjoying foods prepared with vegetables they’ve grown. . The school garden has given the children responsibility and a sense of ownership of their school. They take pride in the building, and vandalism is at an all-time low. They are also learning to eat more vegetables in order to be healthy and fight obesity. Much of this is due to the dedication and love displayed by Denise Stepp.



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.

From Sponsored Child to Doctor

Our Higher Education Fund has helped hundreds of children over the years to receive an education beyond high school. Without the support of this special fund, many sponsored children who graduate from high school in the United States or abroad would not have the opportunity to pursue a higher education, whether through vocational training, college or certification courses, or in some cases, master’s or doctoral programs.

Avi is receiving support, thanks to our Higher Education Fund.

Avi* is a young man from India who had a wonderful sponsor from elementary to high school through Children Incorporated. After he graduated, Avi was no longer supported by our sponsorship program; but he expressed to our volunteer coordinator that he wanted to continue on to higher education studies, and pursue a degree in pharmacy. His coordinator then asked Children Incorporated to continue supporting Avi, because he was a good student with great potential; and we agreed that his enthusiasm and interest in furthering his education were valuable.

A chance at a brighter future

Children Incorporated provided support to Avi through our Higher Education Fund, and he enrolled in a college in Guntur, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, near the village where he grew up. He is now in his fifth year of university, and will finish his practicum this year. Avi has not yet finished his classes, but he has already been offered a position at a local hospital, thanks to his high academic marks.

As you can imagine, we are very proud of Avi and all his accomplishments. Without the support of his sponsor or donations from our dedicated contributors to our Higher Education Fund, Avi might never have had the chance to establish a career path through higher education, nor would he have had this chance at an even brighter future.

*Name changed for child’s protection.



You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.

Together, We Are Feeding the Hungry

Last year, Kenya suffered from a disastrous drought, which killed much livestock and caused widespread crop failure, creating food shortages throughout the country. As a result, the cost of grain increased tremendously. 2.7 million people were affected by the drought, causing many families to worry that they wouldn’t be able to afford to feed their children.

Some of the families that felt the effects of the drought included those of our sponsored children at the Materi Girls’ School in Kenya. When Brother John Konzka founded the school in a village called Taraka many years ago, he had envisioned a place in which young Kenyan girls would be given the opportunity to access the world outside their households.

As an American missionary and teacher in Kenya, Brother John had seen firsthand the leadership roles that Kenyan women were starting to embrace in their families, and he knew that more opportunities for girls to receive an education would present more opportunities in general for Kenyan families. Brother John has since passed away, and the school continues to help hundreds of girls every year.

Many of the students who attend the Materi Girls’ School come from families in villages close by; and because of the drought, not only were their families going without food, but the school was also struggling to feed the girls during the school days as well. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund and our wonderful donors, however, we were able to send funds to the school for the purchase of enough food to last the remainder of the year, so that the children wouldn’t go hungry, and to help the families of the children that attend the school.

We are endlessly grateful for your support in making sure these girls and their families had enough food to eat!



 You can sponsor a child in Kenya in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Kenya who is available for sponsorship.

Our Back to School Fund in Action

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many children who attend our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky to not have proper clothes and shoes, let alone school supplies, throughout the school year. In a part of the U.S. where poverty is rampant, oftentimes, parents don’t have enough money to pay the bills or to buy their children new, necessary items when needed. Thankfully, some children living in Kentucky have the Children Incorporated program and our volunteer coordinators, along with our Back to School Fund, to rely on to provide for them when they need help the most.

Kevin desperately needed new shoes.

Last year, one of our volunteer coordinators in Kentucky, Gloria, noticed in a school hallway that seven-year-old Kevin’s* shoes were falling apart. Kevin, who at the time was enrolled in our program but waiting for a sponsor, wore shoes that were covered in duct tape – they were so covered that Gloria could barely see the shoes themselves. When she asked Kevin about his shoes, he said that his mom had tried to fix them when the soles came unglued, but duct tape was all she had, and she couldn’t afford to buy him a new pair.

New shoes for Kevin

Gloria was able to find Kevin a gently-used replacement pair of shoes at the Resource Center at the school, and then she contacted our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, to see if Children Incorporated could help Kevin to get a new pair quickly. Thanks to our Back to School Fund, Renée was able to send funds to Gloria to get Kevin brand new shoes and a new school outfit, as well as some school supplies.

Today, Kevin has a sponsor who ensures each and every month that he is provided with the things he needs to be able to go to school without worry and to concentrate on doing well in his studies.

We are incredibly grateful for our sponsors and donors who contribute to our Back to School Fund to ensure that our sponsored and unsponsored children are being supported throughout the year. Without you, we couldn’t help children in need.

*Name changed for child’s protection.



You can donate to our Back to School 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 and make a donation on our website.