Tag Archives: sponsorship

What Tourists in Guatemala Don’t See

Historic Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala, and it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Situated in the Central Highlands region, the town is surrounded by three volcanoes. It is known for its many renovated – and some beautifully deteriorating – colonial relics and civic and community structures, such as museums and libraries.

Antigua is a quaint scenic town that attracts tourists from all over the world, welcoming them to enjoy Guatemalan culture and food, or to learn Spanish at one of the dozens of language schools in the area. What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

Feeding families in need

On a recent trip to Guatemala, our President and CEO, Ron Carter; our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet; and I visited our affiliated project Sagrada Familia in Antigua. This community center is located among many fancy restaurants, hotels, and private residences in the middle of town, close to the public schools that the children enrolled in our program at Sagrada Familia attend.

The Sisters that run the center provide kids in need with educational, nutritional, and medical support – in large part thanks to their Children Incorporated sponsors. In the afternoons, children visit Sagrada Familia, where they receive help with their homework, have a place to play and study, and are given bags of food to take home once a month.

When we arrived at the center, our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Isabel let us in through two large wooden doors, which open up to a concrete play area surrounded by classrooms, a kitchen, and administrative offices. Sister Isabel explained to us that beyond the help the children are receiving through sponsorship at Sagrada Familia, the center is also able to provide a great deal of support to the local community.

Three times a week, the Sisters feed nearly 200 families that would otherwise go without meals. They also offer vocational programs such as dressmaking and cooking, so that the parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children may have the opportunity to learn skills that can help them gain employment or obtain higher-paying jobs to better support their families.

Learning English for the future

Carlos is learning English in school so he can have better opportunities for employment upon graduation.

After visiting with our sponsored children and their parents, Mr. Carter, Luis, and I went with Sister Isabel to visit Carlos*, who is enrolled in our program, and his family. Carlos is fifteen years old and in high school. He lives with his mother and sister in a three-room home made of tin and concrete, perched high up on a hill in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Antigua, where many of the impoverished residents in the town live.

There, away from the city, utilities such as electricity and running water are inconsistent. When I entered the home, I noticed that there were holes in the living room floor that exposed the dirt below. I wondered – knowing that inclement weather can be very dangerous for houses like theirs that are damaged or deteriorating – if this family feels safe during the rainy seasons.

While speaking with Carlos’ mother, we learned how she struggles to make ends meet as a single mom, and that our program is a huge help in ensuring that her family has enough to eat, and that Carlos stays in school instead of dropping out to work. Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Carlos is able to attend school, where he is also studying English. He and his mom both feel that this will help him to have more opportunities for employment after he graduates – possibly even in the tourism industry, which is a bustling one in his hometown. Mr. Carter, Luis, and I agree with them, and feel that even though Carlos faces a great deal of adversity living in poverty now, he is on the right track to having a brighter future in Antigua.

*Named changed for child’s protection.

***

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 and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.

Overcoming the Limitations of Poverty

In the city of Tecpan, located some sixty miles west of Guatemala City, the majority of the roughly 50,000 inhabitants claims direct descent from the Mayas. Despite their rich cultural heritage, however, indigenous people often find themselves marginalized, left to endure the brunt of poverty and its associated effects, which are common in Guatemala.

On a recent visit to Guatemala with Ron Carter, our President and Chief Executive Officer, and Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, we went to the Tecpan School, our affiliated project where we support about one-third of the children in attendance. Run by nuns of the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity) Order, the school strives to aid the impoverished children of this region by offering them a well-rounded education.

“I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today.”

– José

The school itself is located on beautifully-kept grounds; well-manicured playgrounds and soccer fields inside the school’s compound are surrounded by brightly-painted classrooms where 570 students between the ages of five and fifteen attend classes daily. The children come from small villages in and around Tecpan. In addition to offering regular primary and middle school classes for the children, 200 young adult students from the community also study at the school on the weekends so that they may receive a diploma – but still work to support their families in the process.

Indigenous families struggling to survive

When we arrived at the school, we were taken on a tour by our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Virginia. Sister Virginia told us that many of our sponsored and unsponsored children come from indigenous families that are very poor because they work in agriculture on rented land where they make very little money. She explained that this year has been especially hard on families because the rainy season in Guatemala wiped out valuable crops, which kept families from earning the income they had expected.

As a result, Sister Virginia continued, our program is extremely important to the Tecpan School and the families we help to support. Children primarily receive school supplies and tuition payments through sponsorship funds, as well as uniforms and shoes. Also, their families receive bags of food every two to three months, which helps them immensely.

 Meeting José

José’s sponsor supported him through school, and he is now a teacher helping other children at the Tecpan School.

After we finished our tour, Sister Virginia introduced us to a former sponsored child, now in his early thirties, named José. José’s mother worked at the Tecpan School when he was a young boy; he would even sometimes go to work with her on the weekends. While he was growing up, his mother struggled financially; so our volunteer coordinator at the time offered to enroll José in our program so that he could receive the support he needed to attend the Tecpan School, which is much less crowded than typical public schools in Guatemala and is, therefore, better equipped to give children the attention they need in order to succeed. From kindergarten through high school, José’s sponsor helped to support him. Thanks to his academic achievements, he was able to enroll in college, where he studied environmental engineering and mathematics. After graduating, José returned to the Tecpan School, where he is now a math teacher. José had this to say about his sponsor and Children Incorporated:

“It was Children Incorporated who helped me through sponsorship so my mom didn’t have to pay for all my school expenses, clothes, and food by herself. I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today. There are other children from this community that have had the same limitations that I had growing up. I know that this program helps a lot of children in the community.”

***

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

Promise for Kids in a Desperate Landscape

It is quite rare that our international volunteer coordinators have the opportunity to visit the Children Incorporated headquarters in North Chesterfield, Virginia – but when they do, it is such a treat for the staff. An exceptional guest dropped by recently – our Volunteer Coordinator and the Manager of St. John’s Community Center in Nairobi, Kenya: Mr. Njuguna. The stories that he recounted about the community center, the people it serves, and the multi-faceted work that it carries out daily were a testament to the practical and holistic approach that St. John’s employs in ensuring that its attendees are truly afforded a chance at a better life – a chance to break free from the piecemeal landscape of the slums.

Nairobi’s most destitute and crime-ridden neighborhood is the slums of Pumwani – and St. John’s Community Center serves its inhabitants, who live in absolutely deplorable conditions.

Nairobi’s most destitute and crime-ridden neighborhood is the slums of Pumwani – and St. John’s Community Center serves its inhabitants, who live in absolutely deplorable conditions. The community center serves children of all ages, as well as the community as a whole. It is comprised of a series of buildings that include a primary school, a childcare clinic, a counseling clinic, a library, administrative offices, and a church.

Mr. Njuguna began his presentation for the Children Incorporated staff with the context of the Mau Mau Uprising, which plagued the better part of the 1950s in Kenya. Also known as the “Kenya Emergency,” the revolt was the result of African resistance to colonialism – and it ultimately yielded Kenya’s independence from British colonization. This was the turning point that set the bloodstained tone for the country’s arduous ongoing struggle towards recovery – a healing that served as the mission of St. John’s Community Center, established to address the immediate needs and concerns of some of Kenya’s most destitute and hopeless at a time when promise was obscured by utter desperation.

No life left unchanged

Mr. Njuguna further explained that about sixty percent of the city of Nairobi’s official population lives in slums. He made reference to an “official” population, because a significant portion of the community is unaccounted for as a result of births occurring in the slums themselves rather than in hospitals, where babies are always registered upon birth. Many of the infants born in slums are never registered with the government due to a lack of resources and knowledge about the complicated process. Unregistered residents, to further complicate things, are unable to obtain employment, which renders them unable to support themselves – much less provide adequate care for their children. This is but one component of the extensive catalog of critical issues that St. John’s Community Center is currently addressing.

Mr. Njuguna spoke with Children Incorporated’s staff about the St. John’s Community Center in Nairobi, Kenya on a recent visit to the office.

With the help of several partnering organizations, St. John’s Community Center boasts one primary focus to which all aspects of its work leads: instilling self-esteem and self-worth in those in attendance so that they may rise above hopelessness. Not only does the community center address poverty, child abuse and neglect, unemployment, and civil ignorance, but it also houses programs for the economic empowerment of women, group meetings in which parents and guardians may share tips and concerns – and youth programs in which all Children Incorporated kids participate. St. John’s even trains its teachers in counseling so that they are better-equipped to address the emotional needs of the community.

Perhaps one of the most essential ways in which Children Incorporated sponsors and donors contribute to the center is through our Mosquito Net Fund, which provides children enrolled in our program with an integral tool in combatting mosquito-borne illnesses, which are prevalent in Kenya. Mr. Njuguna explained during his presentation at our headquarters that these mosquito nets also serve our kids and their families in a less tangible way: because mosquito nets are considered a luxury in the community, those that receive them experience a confidence that only ownership can bring.

St. John’s Community Center strives to address any and all concerns that arise for the community, optimizing the utilization of on-hand resources all the while. When an urgent need for a sanitary bathhouse in a nearby slum presented itself, the community center sought and acquired funding for the construction of one. A question soon arose: Who will maintain the bathhouse? St. John’s implemented a program through which it employs its older youth so that they may learn about responsibility on the job while also earning money to contribute to their households.

When student tardiness became a legitimate worry at St. John’s Community Center, possible resources were investigated for the provision of morning meals in order to ensure a more timely arrival for students. The community center partnered with an organization that provides support for morning porridge, and tardiness has been eliminated almost completely.

A holistic approach in which Children Incorporated plays a meaningful role

The list of programs and interventions realized by St. John’s Community Center goes on: HIV/AIDS prevention programs; life education and pregnancy prevention programs for young girls; skills training programs in handicrafts, carpentry, etc. for adolescents; and civic duties and human rights education for all. Children Incorporated has helped to fund the construction of new classrooms in which these courses are administered, and your contributions help to finance vocational and apprenticeship training.

Children Incorporated’s presence at St. John’s Community Center, in effect, promotes a high retention rate for students.

Our sponsors help to ensure that kids receive the school supplies they need to do their very best; and malaria prevention medications are dispensed to them so that they may be healthy enough to attend classes. Funds from our donors and sponsors currently help to provide lunch to 187 students in attendance at St. John’s Community Center, which has drastically reduced absenteeism among all age groups. No longer hungry during the day, these youth do not need to beg in the streets during the school day – or steal – just to get some food in their bellies. Nourished and full, these kids are afforded the chance to concentrate in an environment where they feel safe and protected, so that they may participate, learn, and perform well.

Of utmost importance, Mr. Njuguna explained, the sponsored kids at St. John’s Community Center know that they’re not at risk of the embarrassment of overdue school fees. Children who attend other schools often learn about overdue fees upon arriving, and they are turned away. Sometimes they even find out in front of their peers, which can be humiliating. With school fees paid by sponsorship funds, parents and guardians are able to provide the children in their care with other basic needs, like food; a great burden is lifted. If it weren’t for the payment of school fees, after all, many kids would not have the opportunity to obtain an education – and therefore never have the chance to break the cycle of poverty.

Children Incorporated’s presence at St. John’s Community Center, in effect, promotes a high retention rate for students. Knowing that they will receive primary and secondary support to nourish both their bodies and minds during the school week, children are motivated to attend the community center. Through this integrated nurturing, hope becomes tangible, and feeling it motivates kids to seize the opportunities that are presented to them today in order to have the best tomorrow possible.

A common passion

Mr. Njuguna’s work is heartfelt; while growing up, he himself witnessed the routine struggles of his impoverished parents. As a result, his drive is to incite change – not only in his own life, but also for those in his community. Our mission at Children Incorporated is also to foment change, because we passionately believe that children everywhere deserve education, hope, and opportunity. Contributions encourage change, because our work – and Mr. Njuguna’s work – would not be possible without our donors and sponsors.

Gratitude reverberated in each word that Mr. Njuguna spoke the day that he visited – with each program and benefit that he eagerly described in his presentation. That gratitude is for our supporters; it is for the ones who make our work and his a reality – the ones who are ultimately responsible for the promise that shines brightly in a dark corner of the Pumwani slums in Nairobi.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENYA?

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 sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Kenya that is available for sponsorship.

Returning to Guatemala

Guatemala is a country that is known for its beautiful lakes, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and brightly-painted buses; unfortunately, however, its residents struggle with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Even though the country boasts the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala faces many social problems, and it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The income distribution is highly unequal, with more than half of its population living below the national poverty line. Guatemala City, the nation’s capital and home of our affiliated project the Juan Apostol School, is no exception to these conditions.

An incredibly proud moment

When our President and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Carter, first visited the Juan Apostol School in 2014, he didn’t know what to expect; he knew little more than what he had been told about the project from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet. Founded in 1964, the Juan Apostol School serves children living in the surrounding impoverished area, ensuring that they receive a well-rounded education. The school also offers skills training courses so that students may have increased employment opportunities after graduation.

Mr. Carter and Tita with students at the Juan Apostol School in 2014

Luis had explained to Mr. Carter that the school serves elementary to high school-aged children in two different buildings. There, they receive instruction in core academic subjects, including English. Additional courses in drama, arts, and music are offered, too. Luis also explained to Mr. Carter that many of the children in our program there come from single-parent homes, and that many suffer from neglect and malnutrition – and some, even abuse.

When Mr. Carter arrived at the project, he was greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator Tita, who gave him a tour of the school. She further explained that the Juan Apostol School and the Children Incorporated program are enriching the lives of more than 500 children. Mr. Carter wrote this about his first visit:

“I had an absolutely wonderful visit to the Juan Apostol School; I honestly cannot say enough about Tita and the incredible warmth and hospitality I was offered. It was much more than I had expected. When I arrived at the school, a group of the kids had cooked for me, and they were so proud to show off their cooking skills. It was a real spread, too – salad, spiced shrimp, steak with a spicy chili pepper sauce, and cheesecake. I tried all of the food, then took a nice tour of the school – only to be told that another group of students had prepared more food! This time it was a chicken dish in delicious mole sauce, traditional rice, and tamales!

“I also had the opportunity to meet some of the young people in our program. One young man, Hugo*, is a senior this year. He has been in the Children Incorporated program since he was very young, and he has really excelled academically. He is the band director for the school, and they have won many trophies as a result of his skills. Furthermore, this same young man had a serious dental problem a while back; his front teeth had been badly damaged, and he was ashamed to look at people face-to-face and to smile. Children Incorporated paid to have his teeth fixed, and now he has a wonderful smile. Seeing this made me so incredibly proud of the work we do!”

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

More impressed than ever

Upon Mr. Carter’s return to Guatemala with me and Luis this past June, Tita and the school director, Mr. Morales, greeted us warmly at the school entrance. As we toured the school, Tita explained that in the last four years, the school has grown exponentially. Now, more than 1,300 children are in attendance between the two campuses, and the Juan Apostol School ranks top in the area.

Tita and Mr. Morales feel that the school is successful as a result of high parent – as well as student – participation. Not only do parents attend regular meetings at the school, but they also help with fundraising; and some even take skills training courses like cooking, sewing, and cosmetology alongside students, so that they may have an upper hand in the job market, and thereby better support their families.

As we visited with Children Incorporated kids in their classrooms, Tita expressed to Mr. Carter her gratitude not only for our sponsorship program, but also for the additional support that we provide to all the students. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, Children Incorporated has been able to purchase instruments for the school’s award-winning band, so that students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so could participate.

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

As we continued our walk between beautiful open-air school buildings and playgrounds, I could tell that Mr. Carter was more impressed than ever with the Juan Apostol School and everything it is doing to help children in need. While discussing with Tita how happy he was to see the school expanding their programs each year, Mr. Carter also spoke of his desire to find more sponsors for the unsponsored children on our waiting list, so that even more kids could benefit from the amazing efforts of this impressive school that continues to have a huge impact on the community year after year.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

***

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.

Emergency Relief After a Volcanic Eruption

In early June, the eruption of the Volcano of Fire near Antigua, Guatemala caught residents living nearby by surprise. By the time the eruption was over, more than one million people had been affected; approximately 3,000 people had been displaced from their homes, and about 250 people were missing. The eruption caused direct damage to five villages in the area surrounding the volcano, including the town of Antigua, where our affiliated project Sagrada Familia is located. The aftermath of the eruption engulfed the neighboring towns not only in thick smoke, but also in heavy ash and hot gases. In addition, huge rocks tumbled down the volcano, blocking roads and destroying homes along their paths.

The eruption caused direct damage to five villages in the area surrounding the volcano, including the town of Antigua, where our affiliated project Sagrada Familia is located.

The Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres (CONRED), a Guatemalan government agency for disaster reduction, quickly set up fifteen shelters after the catastrophe to help displaced residents who were in need of food, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, and bedding during this time of crisis. As soon as we heard news of the volcanic eruption, Children Incorporated asked our amazing supporters to donate emergency relief funds that we could send directly to Sagrada Familia, where our volunteer coordinators were working hard to provide daily support for families who had lost their homes and were living in shelters.

A huge thank-you to all of our donors who have contributed to our Guatemala Relief Fund to help those affected by this natural disaster. Funds are being utilized for the purchase of cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice, beans, nutritional drinks, salt, canned vegetables, soups, baby food, filtered water, and canned and bagged fruit juices to feed families; mops and brooms, bleach and disinfectants, rags, latex gloves, and buckets for water and sanitation; and toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, towels, and diapers. We are so grateful for your support!

 ***

HOW DO I DONATE TO THE GUATEMALA RELIEF FUND?

You can contribute to our Guatemala Relief Fund in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to our Guatemala Relief Fund.

Staying Safe on the Field

Many poor families living in the city of Lages in south Brazil have migrated there from the countryside in search of employment to better their lives. Due to limited job opportunities among the ever-growing population there, however, families instead find themselves continuing to live in poverty, and having to move into impoverished urban developments such as Novo Milênio, which lacks electricity, drinking water, and even sewage service. Within this slum community, public schools are ill-equipped to provide a quality education to an increasing number of students.

Along with the soccer program, a volunteer psychologist at the center has been helping the community for several years now. He provides individual and group therapy, which are essential to recovery for children and families after experiencing violence and abuse.

Children roam the streets – sad, neglected, and vulnerable to the threats of crime. Thankfully, the CARITAS-Novo Milênio Center, a nonprofit organization run by the Catholic Church of Brazil, was established to help support these children and their families so that they may break the cycle of poverty in which they live. Formed in Germany in 1897, CARITAS works around the world to help alleviate the suffering of the poor, while also giving them the tools they need to transform their own lives.

Sports helping kids

While visiting our affiliated projects in Brazil, our International Projects Specialist, Andreia Beraldo, arrived at CARITAS-Novo Milênio during their annual Pinhao Festival, which is a national celebration. During these festivities, the center sells wines and foods made of pinhao, a pine nut harvested in the southern region of the country. The center holds the largest festival of this type in the country, and has gained national attention as a result, bringing in famous artists and visitors from all over the country every year. The administrators there prepare for the festival all year long. It lasts ten days total, is the main source of funding for the center, and it provides salaries for the staff.

After attending the festival, Andreia met with our new Volunteer Coordinator, Yara, to discuss the programs that the center offers to the children and their parents. The center supports about fifty children on a regular basis, many of whom are sponsored through our program. In addition to receiving clothes, food, school supplies, and hygiene items, thanks to sponsors and donors, the kids are also kept safe at the center. One of the ways in which it does this is through a soccer club. The club not only ensures that children get the exercise they need to stay healthy, but it also keeps them busy after school, so that they do not become involved with drugs or violence, which are prevalent in the impoverished community in which they live.

Yara told Andreia that she wished there were more support for the soccer club; she would love for the children to have new uniforms and soccer cleats – and the field is in need of renovation. Yara mentioned that with a new soccer field, the center could rent it for use by other teams, and generate even more income – which would be a big help in supporting even more children in the future.

A variety of other programs

Along with the soccer program, a volunteer psychologist at the center has been helping the community for several years now. He provides individual and group therapy, which are essential to recovery for children and families after experiencing violence and abuse. The center also provides support to pregnant women and newborns in the community. The administration regularly provides classes on abuse prevention and being a good citizen. The center also has a program called “Mesa Brasil,” in which groceries and fresh produce are distributed to families two to three times a week.

Before her visit ended, Andreia was also able to see a community bakery that is run by CARITAS. The bakery was started about six years ago with the help of donated funds from Children Incorporated, and it allows mothers of our sponsored and unsponsored kids to generate extra income. The mothers often get together when they are not baking to share ideas and recipes, and to discuss how they can work together to increase their incomes through baking – thereby supporting their families so that they may have the opportunity to escape poverty.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

You can sponsor a child in Brazil 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 Brazil that is available for sponsorship.