Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A View of Barranquilla

Greetings from Barranquilla, Colombia! We’ve arrived safe and sound at our first destination, but the journey has just begun. Barranquilla is home to over 20,000 sponsored children and, in the next few days, we’ll be sharing with you some of our experiences as we visit their homes and learn about their lives.

The road from the airport is not unlike the images of any Hollywood film depicting a developing country. No fancy, bustling terminals, no chaotic city surrounding it…just colorless, cinderblock houses, tire repair stands dotting the road and screeching, multicolored public buses to dodge on the drive. Motorbikes and their drivers carrying passengers stream in and out of traffic, causing numerous narrow misses.

As the ribbon of pavement unfolds, the old begins to blend with the new, revealing a melting pot of diversity. Spanish and Carribean influences mix, while architecture, music and restaurants reflect a lively vibe of a city known in South American for its unique annual celebration, Carnaval (Carnival).

While central Barranquilla represents the big city where lie the hopes and dreams of the good life, the children who exist on the urban fringe...await our visit.

We hope that you’ll visit us again on Friday for an update from Barranquilla.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Looking Forward...

When I started working for Children International, I didn’t know much about poverty in Colombia. But here are a couple of sobering statistics that I now know.

In Barranquilla, we work to provide over 21,000 children with benefits. The average income for a sponsored child’s family is only $111 USD a month. And while that is horrible, for almost 20,000 sponsored children in Cartagena, their family income averages about $66 USD a month. Sadly, a little more than a third of our sponsored children in Cartagena and their hardworking families sustain themselves on less than $2 a day.

Humbling statistics indeed, but there is hope.

For the next 10 days, a few of my colleagues and I will be visiting the slums of Barranquilla and Cartagena. We’re looking forward to meeting many of the sponsored children and their families whose lives have been changed through sponsorship. These trips are very intense and personal experiences for us and we want to share our journey with you.

Visit the blog over the next couple of weeks as we share the stories and photos of these incredible children and their families in Colombia.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What I Wish For...

Sponsored child Marcos, 7, from Rural Guatemala

Marcos, if you could have one wish come true, what would you wish for?

“I would like to have a shoe factory to be able to give shoes to the children that lack of these. I am going to learn how to manufacture shoes, boots and belts one day.”

Photo by Javier Carcamo of our Rural Guatemala agency.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Swamped by Poverty

Photo: Josefina and her daughter, Dayana, gaze out the doorway of their humble home in the Swamp of the Virgin.

There’s nothing easy about a life of poverty. But for people like Josefina Masa Julio, who lives in the CiĆ©naga de la Virgen (Swamp of the Virgin) in Cartagena, Colombia, the difficulties are compounded. Winter here is warm and rainy – a fearsome time for these swamp dwellers, most of whom are people who have been displaced from their former homes in other areas of the country due to violence; now they find themselves living in flimsy shacks of cardboard and plastic sheeting, surrounded by the stagnant waters of one of Cartagena’s poorest – and wettest – neighborhoods.

Dangers abound in the Swamp. Each winter rain brings horrors with it: snakes and other creatures are driven out by the rising waters, diseases are rampant and homeowners spend sleepless nights watching over their household goods for fear of losing their meager possessions to nature in an unguarded moment. But the greatest tragedy is counted in human lives. Just a few years ago, Josefina lost her four-year-old son to the floodwaters.

This photo was snapped shortly after I visited Cartagena some months ago. Marelvis Campo, the Children International Communication Coordinator in Cartagena who took the picture, tells me that not much has changed for Josefina and her remaining three children, except that her oldest son has now moved out and is living on his own. She still depends on the few odd jobs she manages to round up each week. But by helping Josefina’s family with school supplies, providing free medical care for the children and helping them obtain a nutritionally balanced diet, Children International is bringing stability and hope to their otherwise precarious lives.

Monday, January 22, 2007

We're Glad You're Here!

Welcome to the blog...

Here at Children International, we’ve been making life a little easier for children who live in poverty since 1936.

Because of our wonderful and dedicated sponsors, we are able to provide over 324,000 children with medical and dental services, educational and nutritional assistance and even the most basic of needs – like clothing or a pair of shoes. Most people take for granted the luxury of owning a pair of shoes, but for a poor child who has never had a pair of shoes, it can be a life-changing moment!

We have started this blog because we know that you want to learn more about the children and their families who endure the daily struggles of living in poverty. And even more important, you want to know how you can help end poverty!

The first thing you can do is visit this blog often. Come back so you can see for yourself firsthand the difference you can make in a child’s life. And the second thing you can do is submit your own comments, experiences or even ask questions. And of course, we believe the real value you can bring is to , is share this site with your friends and family!

We’ll be posting information about the countries where we work, videos, photos, and much, much more! See you soon.