Friday, August 31, 2007

A Place For The Children...

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook, President of Children International.

It was an emotional, wonderful, stimulating, enriching dedication of the Nina Rae Wesson Center - made possible by a generous contribution from Nancy Richards, the mother of Nina Rae Wesson, who passed away suddenly and all too soon, in order to make an enduring tribute to her memory. Her mother, along with other contributors, attended the wonderful opening ceremony, which was filled with emotional words and tributes as well as festivities that were enjoyed by all. It was really a celebration of her life as well as a dedication, and was complete with traditional dancers, singers, and words of support from members of the community and the mayor’s office.

Newly sponsored children were already playing on the playground of the beautiful new center before the last speech was even completed.

It was wonderful to see how, despite being from different places in the US, the donors immediately shared a rich camaraderie.

We concluded with a tour of the lovely facilities that will serve 5,000 youth through the health and dental clinics, pharmacy, library, and nutrition center.

It was beautiful event, and a good time was shared by all the children, their families, the donors who made it possible, and the Children International staff.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More than a building…

Posted on behalf of Global Expansion Project Manager, Eddie Welsh.

The joy of cutting the ceremonial ribbon and walking through the door of a newly constructed community center does not come without its challenges. The fresh paint serves as a visual cue of accomplishment to those who have invested their precious time and effort. The new building aroma is welcoming and gives way to the finished product. It also has a uniquely artistic way of masking the hours of planning, scheduling and coordinating orchestrated by dozens of laborers, masons and contractors.

The pure delight in the eyes of the children and families entering a community center for the first time is what motivates us to construct a quality building, one that is functional for facilitating the distribution of services provided by Children International and our sponsors.

I remember walking the bare piece of land some 10 months ago that is now home to The Nina Rae Wesson Community Center. I recall thinking construction would be tight. The small terrain, closely surrounded by a heavily trafficked park and a few moderately used neighborhood thoroughfares, was not the ideal construction site.

We began the process of selecting a contractor more than a year ago. After working through some minor design changes we adjusted our model to fit the land and requirements of our programs.

Similar to projects here in the U.S, communication and coordination on a project of this magnitude are essential. We are fortunate to have a solid staff in Jalisco, complemented by a knowledgeable construction supervisor.

As anticipated, the early challenges we experienced were with the steeply sloped and rocky terrain. The solid rock provides an excellent support for the building but required hours of jackhammering to accurately manicure the openings for the foundation.

As the building grew out of the ground and the structure began to take shape, our team continued to finalize touches that would best serve the community. It was a true collaboration between the contractor and Children International. The exterior façade was selected based on durability and local architecture. Interior finishes were chosen considering ease of maintenance and functionality. It seemed logical to have tile throughout as opposed to carpet and drop ceilings as opposed to open trusses to maintain a cool environment.

Not without its challenges, the Nina Rae Wesson center was constructed under the watchful eye of experienced professionals. It is one that the sponsors, donors, CI and most definitely the community can be proud of for many years to come. And this Friday, the 31st, there will be a fantastic celebration for the children and families living in the community of Villa de Guadalupe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

When I Grow Up...

"I want to be a a bus driver because I want to take people everywhere they want to go." – Himutinta, age 8, from Lusaka, Zambia.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Meet Brenda from Chile...

What do you like about visiting the community center?

"I get to play with many kids while waiting for the doctor." – Brenda, age 8, from Valparaíso, Chile.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shadows from the Past

Posted on behalf of David Nebel

There is nothing quite like moving between contiguous yet different worlds.

I would wake up to the incessant clucking of chickens and the occasional bark of a street dog. Morning light filtered through the holes termites had bored into the bedroom’s door over the years, signaling the end of yet another sleepless ninety-degree summer night in the Comayagua Valley, in central Honduras.

Making my way past a narrow dirt courtyard, I would push open the old wooden door that led into my grandmother’s kitchen. Immediately I began searching for breakfast: “pastelitos” (deep-fried, bite-size pastries made with corn dough and stuffed with seasoned ground beef), “enchiladas” (fried tortillas with seasoned ground beef and topped with shredded cabbage, a slice of tomato and Honduran crumbly cheese), and “yuca frita” (fried yucca) – last night’s leftovers from the evening cooking business my grandmother had begun some 60 years ago.

Ash would sting my eyes and fill the smoky stillness of the kitchen as I blew into the earthen stove in search of embers. With the help of several slivers of ocote (a resinous type of pine), there would usually be just enough left to rekindle the fire. Happily, I would then spear cold pieces of yucca and pastelitos and place them next to the crackling firewood for a quick reheating – and a quick consumption.

Soon after, my grandmother rose out of bed. As she shuffled her way from behind a plywood partition and into the kitchen, I would rush over to her, bend my head down to her level, and receive her blessing: “Que Dios me lo bendiga, hijito (God bless you, my child)”, she said, softly kissing my forehead. And with a warm smile on her face, she would hobble off into the brightness of the morning sun…

Life in Honduras placed me at the doorstep of poverty. Though not extremely poor, the maternal side of my family was not far from it. And there were plenty of families who were in worse conditions. It was, however, a normal aspect of life. To me, its normalcy made poverty acceptable.

Working with Children International has granted me the opportunity to return to my past and remind myself that there are degrees of poverty that – although commonplace – are not acceptable.

Meeting the sponsored children and their families as part of the team that visited Ecuador just this past week took me back to a previous world. These are the same people of my childhood and adolescence, with whom I lived side by side, with whom I shared food, laughs and sorrows. Yet, to my older eyes, they have changed: they are now more beautiful and important than ever.

They represent the forging elements of my being – the reason why I am able to appreciate the rare but quiet dignity of people at the edge of survival and gratefully acknowledge my own present condition. Their calloused hands, blemished skin, and the torn soles of their feet speak of countless hardships and the crude reality of life for many human beings. A decade later, they represent a reason for my existence.

Photos by David Nebel, from Children International's office in Kansas City.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A City of Hope

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is doubtless one of the most recognizable cities in the United States. Founded in the mid-1700s, Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania and boasts a rich colonial history. The 2000 U.S. census reported that 312,819 people live within the perimeter of its 55.6 square miles.

One publication listed Pittsburgh as America’s most livable city for 2007. But imagine for a moment what life in Pittsburgh would be like if things were not just as they are…

  • Imagine if Pittsburgh had virtually no access to medical services, leaving over 300,000 people to simply stay home and suffer when they are sick because they cannot possibly afford to visit a doctor or pay for medicine.
  • Imagine if practically no one in Pittsburgh earned more than two dollars a day – but had to stretch this income out to pay for food, housing, clothes and any other expenses.
  • Imagine if, instead of over 150 gleaming skyscrapers, Pittsburgh were made up mostly of crumbling, dilapidated shacks thrown together from scraps of lumber, plastic sheeting and rusty tin...
  • Imagine if Pittsburgh were just another poverty-stricken city in just another developing country.
Poverty this stark and this overwhelming is hard to imagine on such a large scale in America. Yet, were you to gather the over 300,000 desperately poor children that Children International reaches out to in eleven countries around the world into a single city, you would have a population that easily rivals or surpasses that of Pittsburgh.

Figure in these children’s relatives and you have a tragedy of epic proportions.

With the help of our sponsors, we are providing reliable – and free – medical and dental care to children who would otherwise have nowhere to turn. We’re helping children trade the fields and the sweatshops for the classroom…fighting parasitic infestations…treating malnutrition…teaching job skills…funding micro-enterprise ventures for income generation…providing safe housing…in short, we’re turning this “city of tragedy” into a city of hope.

The obstacles are sobering and at times it seems like change is frustratingly slow. But while we can’t provide a quick fix for poverty, we are convinced sponsorship can make a significant difference in the long run. So please, get involved. You really can make a difference. You can help build a city of hope.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mother Nature Pays A Visit

Being from the midwest, I'm no stranger to the forces of Mother Nature.

Thankfully, we weren't physically shaken by the devastating earthquake in neighboring Peru, however our communications coordinator, Andres, frantically tried to reach his father via cell phone in Lima. Several hours later we learned that his father was safe and the weight of not knowing was lifted for Andres.

Mother Nature, however, paid another call today. Just shortly after returning from the rural hillsides of Quito, we arrived for a break at a local community center. Clouds shielded us from the intense, but cool, rays of the sun for most of the morning. Suddenly, the skies opened up and rain began to fall. Not in a gentle, picturesque way, but in a deafening roar as the raindrops and then hail pounded the metal roof over our heads.

The center was full of parents and children who were lined up outside waiting to receive school supplies. As the rain went from a trickle to a torrent, our staff quickly moved them under a small tent. Conversations soon stopped because you could no longer hear the person sitting next to you. Looking out the window, the dirt road we just drove down suddenly became a muddy river. We noticed a steady stream of water entering the third floor where we were. Thinking we were dry from the storm so far up, I quickly discovered that there was a road at third floor level on the opposite side of the center. As water poured in from the road, we scrambled to get our cameras off the floor before they got wet, then realized that along another wall sat dozens of boxes of school supplies. We immediately moved them so they wouldn't be ruined and the children wouldn't have to go without them.

As the storm pounded down on us, all I could think about were the familes on the hillside we just visited. They had little or no protection from the cold wind, rain and hail. How does a mother keep her children dry under a rusty tin roof and walls made of loosely fastened scrap wood? I could only picture them huddled together in a corner, trying to stay dry and wait the storm out.

Twenty minutes later the storm passed and daily activites resumed as if nothing ever happened. Hopefully, the families on the hillside braved the storm without troubles. If they did, luck was definitely on their side. This time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guayaquil to Quito

The mountainous air of Quito feels especially dry, light and unsatisfying after waking up yesterday morning breathing the moist, chewy air of Guayaquil. Extra breaths are common. I’m told my body will adjust soon.

Last evening we had a nice meal with some of our Ecuadorian hosts: Andrés, Pamela, Pedro and María. They are naturals at hospitality. Andrés is our communications coordinator, (meaning he helps us find stories to tell), and Pamela, Pedro and María are in Sponsor Relations. If you sponsor a child in Quito and ever have an opportunity visit you'll more than likely meet at least one of these three.

They explained that when sponsors visit the field, meet their sponsored children and see the programs in action, they are unanimously impressed and more committed than ever to their child and Children International. As this trip is my first to the field to see this movement in action, I can relate.

I have seen with my own eyes the transformative power of what sponsor make possible:
-Sponsored mothers have shed tears of gratitude as they relay how relieved their son or daughter’s sponsorship has made them feel.
-A charismatic dentist made children crack up as he administered a fluoride treatment.
-I’ve met members of Guayaquil’s more than 50-strong Youth Health Corp and sat in on a lecture as three of them taught other youth about important issues they will face.
-I’ve observed children who come from dark and dusty places painting the prettiest scenes full of optimism.
-At one community center the medical clinic was drawing blood samples from some (somewhat distressed!) children to test for diseases and anemia.
-Youth tutors were helping younger children with their studies.

If a child is sponsored in Ecuador, the family affixes a two-foot by two-foot piece of painted wood by their front door. The white sign is carefully painted in blue brushstrokes and features a Children International logo, the child’s name and the service area centers information.

Since addresses and phones are not too common, this sign allows the hundreds of volunteers (who travel on foot), to communicate and reach sponsored children more efficiently. These signs are also a source of tremendous pride for families. They affix them to the left of their front door, to tell all who walk by that they are a part of something -- something important, something valuable and something good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Little Things

Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter

Every trip to the field is a whirlwind of motion. We spend our days meeting sponsored children, talking to concerned parents, jostling down rutted dirt roads in underpowered vans and having lengthy discussions about the sometimes overwhelming sights and sounds we’ve encountered.

The days are long and often emotionally draining, yet I think to a person we’d say it’s well worth it. And two days in Guayaquil have reaffirmed a universal truth – that even though poverty is a big problem, it’s the little things that make a big difference. And I hope a few examples from Monday and Tuesday help convey in some small way how true that really is.

The Old Man and the River

Pedro stood barefoot in the rank, trash-filled mud on the banks of the Guayas river, slowly and meticulously smoothing the edge of a battered fishing boat. He didn’t even take notice as our noisy group picked its way down the suspended walkways that strung the homes together above the dirty brown muck.

Jumping down to watch his work, it wasn’t long before we were captivated by the story of his life. He’d been fishing the Guayas since he was 10, which means he has been on that river for about 60 years. With fish populations dwindling, he said it was harder than ever to find food to eat and have enough left over to sell at the market, which was his sole means of contributing to his extended family’s well being.

When his sponsored grandchildren receive school supplies, he said, it means their parents don’t have to spend what little income they earn on tuition, uniforms or other supplies, helping the family save money for other necessities.

A Birthday Surprise

Shortly after meeting Pedro, we stopped by the community center in Durán, a community on the edge of Guayaquil. Those of you who’ve been to one of our community centers understand when I say this is where the rubber really meets the road. It was absolute chaos…in a good way.

Children were lining up to receive new shoes and we saw many of them bolting from the fitting room with a grin from ear to ear. There was also a birthday celebration at the center, complete with balloons, streamers and singing. Again, it’s a small thing, but I believe the children really appreciate being made to feel special.

One mother remarked that if not for the gifts her children received from Children International, they’d receive nothing at all.

Gang Signs

Of course, a big concern many of the children in Durán and elsewhere face in urban Ecuador is gangs. That’s why we weren’t surprised to find someone at one of our community centers with some inside knowledge.

Luis, 20, was once a sponsored child but left the program when he got involved in a gang. His tattoos tell a story that contradicts the cheerful young man who now volunteers at the community center, teaching others about doing something positive with their lives.

In hushed tones, Luis talks about the things he saw on the street, most of it far too awful to discuss in detail. It was, he said, a sponsored youth’s words that changed the direction of his life. And a youth group activity that helped him finally leave the gang life behind.

A little thing, sure, but it had a lasting impact on Luis. And that’s something he’s passing along to as many others as he can.

A Sponsor’s Gift

One of our last visits in Guayaquil was to Carolina’s house. The 11-year-old is at first quiet and polite, but get her talking about her sponsor and her eyes light up and the shyness dissolves.

Carolina’s sponsor has been to visit her twice and he has always been very generous, helping to improve her home, providing her with furniture and taking her shopping. But it’s not what he can buy for her or the family that Carolina is most interested in. No, when discussing his next visit, which is planned for April 2008, she is most excited about the opportunity to tell him and his family what she has been doing in school.

The other sponsored children living nearby tell her she’s lucky to have a sponsor who comes to visit. And she agrees with a smile.

If you haven’t visited your sponsored child, we urge you to give it some thought. It was clear when we met Carolina that it holds a special place in her heart…as it does for every sponsored child we meet. If you have visited your sponsored child, please think about leaving us a brief comment here about what that meeting was like.

We’re off to Quito now, and tomorrow we hope to bring you more glimpses into the lives of the children and their families that sponsorship helps. And we'll do our best to show you some photos too! Needless to say, we experienced some technological difficulties as we tried to post photos this morning.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Once Again to Ecuador

Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter.

Even though this is my third trip to Ecuador, I don’t think I could ever tire of it. It’s a great place that always has the power to surprise – and shock – me.

The two cities we’re visiting this week are Guayaquil and Quito. And they couldn’t be more different. Guayaquil sits at sea level and is typically quite hot and humid. But August is the coolest month here so the temps will be in the mid eighties, which is actually a brief respite from the near 100-degree heat we’ve been having in Kansas City.

The people in Guayaquil are as warm as the temps that bake this port city. Even the poorest of the poor have an inescapable enthusiasm and grace. Meeting them I’m often saddened and fascinated at the same time.

Quito is near 10,000 feet and much cooler. Sweaters will be a necessity as we head out to the slums every morning. On our way, we’ll have a view of the Pichincha volcano and dense forests that surround the beautiful city. The people are friendly, but they are quiet and reserved compared to those in Guayaquil.

In sharp contrasts to the beautiful colonial architecture and green mountainsides of Quito, or the colorful adobe houses and bustling shopping districts of Guayaquil, the slums that dot the outskirts of each city are as bad as any we’ve ever visited.

We hope to share some of what we see, hear and learn with you while we’re here. So please join me, Kevin, David and Jennifer as we post updates this week from the field. Until next time…

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Journeys to Your Mailbox

Three times a year, Children International’s Journeys magazine is delivered to the doorsteps of our sponsors and donors. We are very proud of this summer’s edition. We believe it demonstrates how sponsorship is like the summer sun that encourages the tomato plants, grape vines and corn stalks to reach their full potential. In fact, we believe the overall theme for this edition could be “the fruits of sponsorship.”

Here’s a peek into some of this edition’s featured stories.

Three of a Kind
The cover story by Scott Cotter introduces us to Adolfo, Dalis, and Remberto… three young adults from Cartagena who are following their dreams.
“…But more and more, with a little help and guidance, the sounds of change are ringing out loud and clear, and children who once would have been lost are learning the potential that lives within them.”

For the Greater Good
Damon Guinn tells the story of Dr. Mariela Castillo Pires of El Progreso, Honduras. She is one of Children International’s 152 staff doctors.
“…Suddenly, a woman burst through the front doors of the clinic, clutching the limp body of a young girl and crying out for help. Dr. Castillo sprang into action.”

A Lesson From Lucas
Children International’s communications coordinator in Chile, Leopoldo Montecinos, receives a gift from an unlikely source.
“If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you never stop learning…”

Journeys is a great way for us to share with you the cause and effects of sponsorship. If you enjoyed this edition of Journeys, make sure to pass your copy on to someone else who has yet to sponsor a child. They may find it a journey worth joining.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Getting Down to Business…And Having Some Fun!

Dolores Kitchin and Sheila Mahony, from our headquarters in Kansas City, have now met up with all three sponsored youth – Leslie Mae, Vakeyia and Telma – in New York City. The International Youth Day is August 12, but there will be special activities at the UN today for the young people. Click here to see a program of today’s events.

Meanwhile, we thought you might enjoy sharing one of the girls’ first impressions of the Big Apple. For Telma, from rural Guatemala, the contrast couldn’t be more marked. Here are a few excerpts from her travel diary as she has taken in the sights and sounds of New York City in preparation for today’s activities at the United Nations:


August 8, 2007

One afternoon I was thinking how nice it would be to travel once again be with the people I spent time with at last year’s nice it would be to visit another country…but above all, how wonderful it would be if God would give me the opportunity to have new experiences that would enrich my knowledge so I could help other people – especially young people – who need it.

Since God knows everything, He gave me a new opportunity to expand my knowledge; just a few days after the thoughts I just described, I received a call from Rosa Joo [from Children International’s office in Guatemala City] telling me I was invited to represent Children International at a youth event at the United Nations, in New York. When we heard this news, my mother and I were filled with a great happiness I can’t explain; all I could say was, “Thank you, God!”

Time flies, and the wait doesn’t seem so long because now I’m here. I had a lot of experiences and felt a lot of emotions on the trip (I call them my “adventures”); the flight was one of them – or, better said, my arrival at the airport in Miami. We were in a big hurry and sometimes I didn’t have the faintest idea what to do, but thanks to Rosa (who is with me on the trip) everything was easier.

We started a new experience in New York: the drive through the city to the hotel. I was so impressed at the immense buildings!!! I’m amazed at all this – the view from the hotel is magnificent. You can see part of the city, and you can see the Hudson River. I felt a bit homesick when I saw it because I remembered my little brother. He always talks about this river, and now, thank God, I’ve had the privilege of seeing it – not in a book or a magazine, but in person.

Rosa and I had a very busy day. It was tiring, in part, but all in all it was a day of privilege and happiness, wonder and admiration, learning and experiences…everything you can imagine!

The day is over and we have to rest so tomorrow we can have more adventures like today’s…

Leslie Mae (left) and Telma in front of the United Nations building.

August 9, 2007

It’s a beautiful day. We went to meet the people from the United Nations. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know them, but thank God I got over that quickly. I felt uncomfortable during the interview because I was the only one who couldn’t speak English; Rosa helped me a lot because she interpreted for me. Without her I’d have been on the moon, not knowing what was going on!

Not everything was that hard, though. And seeing the United Nations building and all the flags from around the world fills you with happiness.

The afternoon was fabulous, too. Vakeyia finally got here and we were able to spend time together. We went and took some pictures and then we went to eat at an Italian restaurant.

Well, another great day has ended – one of the best. I’m sure tomorrow will be even more fun…!


Wish these young people well as they attend today’s meetings with the anticipation of broadening their horizons and returning to their home countries with new vision and determination to make a difference in their communities.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Chance in a Lifetime

Youth Hit the Ground in New York

Every August, the United Nations welcomes youth from around the world to celebrate International Youth Day. The day is the culmination of a focus on activities to further the United Nations’ World Programme of Action for Youth.

The day’s events help encourage and empower young people to work with governments, non-governmental agencies, schools, and businesses to make a difference in their world.

This year, three Children International sponsored youth are invited observers at the United Nations program in New York City. Read below as Shelia Mahony, CI program officer for youth and education, accompanies the youth on their special journey.

For most of us, a visit to the United Nations is a once in a lifetime experience. For three girls from different ends of the earth who have fought every day to overcome poverty, the thought was only a dream. Today that dream became a reality when two of the three sponsored youths landed in New York City.

Telma, from Guatemala, was the first girl to land at LaGuardia Airport. Normally, her vista on life is filled with shacks and dirt roads. The smile stretching across this normally shy and quiet teen’s face told us that she knew she wasn’t in Guatemala anymore.

I picked up Leslie, from the Philippines, next. Leslie is the youngest of the three girls and couldn’t hide the excitement of having another chance to travel to the United States even after finishing a 24-hour airplane trip.

The girls are thrilled to have a chance to see each other again. They hugged and shrieked as only teenage girls can do. This is a miracle meeting since they met at last year’s International Youth Conference in Kansas City, and, because of their families' lack of funds, never thought they would meet again.

And now another dream comes true as they are reunited with the third member of their dynamic trio when Vakeyia, from Little Rock, touches down in the Big Apple. We are on our way downstairs for our first whole day together in New York City. We’re going to have a real New York breakfast – bagels and cream cheese!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Growing Gold in Guatemala: Soybeans Join the Fight Against Malnutrition

Soy is a food that has been known and used for a long time. It is considered by some to be one of the most complete nutrients, and some call it the “wonder bean,” the “golden bean” or “meat without bones.”

One pound of soybeans is the equivalent of five liters of cow milk and 2.5 pounds of meat; besides this, it contains a lot of protein.

In light of the soybean’s properties, Children International’s agency in rural Guatemala taught a course recently on the use of soy as part of a nutrition strategy coordinated by the agency’s health program. The course was taught to mothers of sponsored children who are underweight and who could fall prey to malnourishment if they do not receive the help they need in time.

In these classes, they heard an introductory lecture to teach them how they can benefit and save money by using soy in food preparation, as a pound of soy costs only about $.39.

The mothers who participated learned how to carry out the process of extracting milk from the soybeans and make atole (a hot drink usually made with cornstarch), meat patties, hotcakes and typical food using only a few condiments and soy instead of beef, which is very hard for our families to get because it is so expensive – about $2.35 per pound.

At the end of the course the ladies and their children were able to savor the dishes they had prepared, and they remarked about the delicious flavor of the soy. Additionally, each of the course attendees received two pounds of soy so they could begin to experiment with making these dishes for their families.

Story by Lily Mariel García, with reporting assistance by Javier Cárcamo; photos by Lily Mariel García and Gilbert Carmona. All are from Children International's agency in Rural Guatemala.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Hope in Zambia

This past Friday marked the opening of our latest Children International community center, located in the impoverished neighborhood of Chibolya, in Lusaka, Zambia. A number of distinguished guests attended the festivities, including the Patrick Olson family, Jodie Emmett and various Zambian dignitaries -- including the vice president of Zambia, Rupiah Banda. Clementina Chapusha, our communications coordinator in Lusaka, wrote the following account of the inauguration ceremony:

"The newly built David Emmett Community Centre in Zambia’s Chibolya compound was a hive of activity on Friday when people from all walks of life met to witness the official opening of the centre.

Among those in attendance were children, parents/volunteers, sponsors, government officials, heads of departments and institutions, the mayor of Lusaka City, the area member of parliament, CI staff and the vice president of Zambia, Rupiah Banda.

As a way of showing their appreciation, the children performed a lot of dances and recited poems, much to the amazement of the crowd. The children highlighted the need for government and its cooperating partners to work together in the fight against diseases such as AIDS which had left most of them orphaned.

The sponsors were also taken by surprise as they did not expect to see what they were seeing during the inauguration. Guest of honor Patrick Olson was visibly touched by the performance from the children and their plea to the public about their rights.

The sponsors then joined the children in their dance to show the children that they were loved and therefore were not alone.

Zambia’s vice president, Rupiah Banda, could not hide his joy.

‘There is something very unique about Children International and I think it is important to acknowledge this publicly. The funds this non-profit organization uses for such programmes, including the construction of this centre we are opening today, come from ordinary people in America who give willingly without wanting anything in return.”

The vice president then asked the sponsors to stand and be recognized for their benevolence.

After the inauguration ceremony, the mayor of the City of Lusaka, Stephen Chilatu, invited the sponsors and CI's vice president for development and marketing, Brian Anderson, to his office to sign the visitors’ book.

Brian Anderson took this opportunity to appeal to the mayor to assist CI with acquisition of land for the third centre."

The Children International David C. Emmett Center is bringing new hope to thousands of poor children in Zambia. We extend our sincere thanks to all who have worked and contributed to make this and other centers like it around the world possible.

Zambian Vice President Rupiah Banda cuts the ribbon.

Vice President Banda (center) poses with the children and the guests of honor.

The children presented some typical Zambian dances, and some of the guests joined right in.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Making Every Penny Count

The value of financial integrity and a culture of transparency can’t be overstated in today’s business climate. We thought you would enjoy learning more about Children International’s financial practices and meeting David Houchen, who has been with CI for 10 years and serves as our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

What was your background before joining CI?

As an auditor for a large CPA firm in KC I worked on and managed many audits of organizations like CI.

What interested you in the accounting/finance field, particularly in the non-profit sector?

I have always enjoyed working with numbers and finances. While working in public accounting, I had the opportunity to work with many organizations, for profit and not-for-profit. When I interviewed at CI and learned more about their extensive financial policies and practices, I was impressed by their thoroughness and how well these were understood throughout the organization.

What do your duties here at CI involve?

I oversee the Accounting and Information Technology areas -- plus the overall finances of CI. We have a really good staff, both at headquarters and at the field locations, that make sure all contributions are spent wisely.

Kelly: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding thing is knowing that at the end of the day, all of our efforts go to provide assistance to needy children and their families. There is no better cause to work for than helping children.

Have you had any memorable experiences in the field or with sponsored children?

I am fortunate to get to travel regularly to program locations to check on financial controls first-hand and to interact with children we assist and their families. I remember visiting Zambia when CI began working there. One of the first things we did was to build a community center in the middle of an urban slum where many of our sponsored children live. On the day before the grand opening of the center, there was much work still to be done. When I saw the volunteer mothers digging in and helping with many tasks, including scrubbing floors, I knew that not only would the grand opening be a success, but more importantly, the program would be a success too.

In a nutshell, what safeguards does CI have in place to ensure sponsors’ donations are used appropriately?

I'm proud to say we have a well-developed system of financial controls at headquarters and at field locations. In KC, we employ 3 CPAs in the Accounting department. Each year we undergo a thorough budgeting process that is approved by our Board of Directors. We monitor variances every month and report on them to the Board. Contributions are received via a bank lockbox. We undergo an external audit annually, and we comply with the standards of the major charity oversight agencies. Another important aspect is that we have a worldwide culture of accountability that influences all of our decision-making at CI.

From an ethical standpoint, what is CI’s obligation to its sponsored population and to its sponsors?

Our obligation is to do the best job we can with every contribution we receive. While a few hundred sponsors annually choose to visit their sponsored child, most sponsors are not able to do so. They put their trust in us to use their contributions in a way that will benefit their sponsored child as they intended. CI hires qualified employees and puts good accounting systems in place to ensure those contributions are indeed used as intended by the sponsors. The sponsored children and their families put the same level of trust in us.

Any particular message you’d like to share with our readers?

Don't get discouraged when you read about millions of children and families who need help all over the world. As much as we would like to do so, we can't improve the lives of all of them. However, we can make a difference in the lives of those we are able to work with, and each sponsor who signs on with CI means there is one more child we can help. At last count, we are helping over 325,000 needy children around the world. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to serve them, and with the assistance of our dedicated sponsors, we help a few more every day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


You may be an advocate and not even realize it. If you sponsor a child, you are an advocate. You lend your voice and give your support to a child who previously had lacked both. If you have ever had a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee about sponsorship, you are an advocate.

Children International advocates believe in the transformative power of sponsorship. There is no better person to engage others in the cause than you!

While an informal chat is still a great mode of communication, many sponsors have asked for supporting materials to help make their chats more dynamic.

Filled with downloadable power point presentations, speeches, videos, posters and brochures, our new Advocate Center allows the Children International community access to valuable outreach tools.

You have the power to arrange for the sponsorships of more children. Your place of worship, bridge club, parent teacher association, family reunion and any community organization would be a great place to spread the word.

We hope you enjoy it and find it useful. We designed it for you, so…

…Dive into the Advocacy Center.