Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We’ve Taken a Giant Step!

After two years of blogging here at blogger.com, it’s time to grow. So 2009 will not only be a new year…it will also mark the beginning of a new phase in our blogging – one we hope you will enjoy.

As of January 1, 2009, we have moved our blog to a new location. From now on, you’ll be able to catch the latest from your favorite bloggers, hear news from the field and leave your comments – all on the new CI blog.

This site will remain active so you can come back and read posts you’ve enjoyed in the past. But we invite you to join us at http://blog.children.org for today’s post.

Thanks…and we’ll see you at our new site!

—The Children International Blog Team

Out with the Old

…Out with the old memories, that is.

2008 has come and gone – and like every year, it has left its indelible imprint on history. A worldwide financial crisis…a presidential election…the collapse of the stock market…these things will not be soon forgotten.

But the year brought its share of happy events as well. Not least among these, for me, was the opportunity to travel to our agency in Zambia, Africa. There I witnessed how a family of orphaned children received new hope for life through sponsorship and saw the joy and optimism your generosity is creating.

How about you? What was the single greatest, most defining moment in your sponsorship experience this past year? Please – post a comment and let us know about it. We’d love to share the memory with you.

And from all of us here at CI…have a safe and happy 2009!

P.S. Be sure to check back tomorrow…a big surprise is on the way!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Chat with Victoria

This is nine year old Victoria from Guatemala City. A member of our field staff caught up with her at one of Children International's community centers and asked her and her mother, Maria, a few questions about sponsorship.

According to Victoria's mother, “When she comes here to get her Christmas gift, she wants everyone to come running here at six in the morning. She tells us 'Hurry, we are going to be last!' Even when we come here for the medicine she feels happy."

Victoria also had a message to share with her sponsor: "I am doing well at school and I like going. I thank my sponsor for supporting me and I appreciate her."

Reporting assistance and photo by Raquel Lacán and Miriam Lemus of Guatemala City.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Wish from CI President Jim Cook

It’s that special time of year…The holidays. Christmas lights, carols and personal thoughts of what it all means to each of us.

At this time of year I’m particularly happy to be part of something that helps so many in so many meaningful ways.

I also particularly enjoy talking to our generous sponsors this time of year. They are all inspiring in their own unique ways.

At the end of this tumultuous year in the world financial markets and the U.S. economy, I’m reminded how relative tough times are…by thinking of those less fortunate that we serve around the world.

This was really emphasized for me recently when I was speaking with my son who was wrapping up the semester at his university. He had been under the weather while trying to write papers and study for exams…he said he was starting to feel sorry for himself when he happened to visit the Children International website and saw some of the children there and read a couple of stories. He remembered the experiences he had when he accompanied me to Honduras and Guatemala in his early teens.

After that, he revised his computer wallpaper to have a sponsored child’s picture on it as a reminder of just how bad he didn’t have it…and to remind him that there are many much more challenged, with far greater difficulties, EVERY day!

That’s a big part of what this season is about, I think.

Merry Christmas!

Jim

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook, president of Children International. Photo by Marelvis Campo.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the 12th Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me…

…12 Months of Friendship

It seems perfect that our last day of Christmas be about something that is so important during the holiday – the connection we have to one another.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to most of your that your sponsored child thinks of you as a friend, a steady, reassuring presence in what can be a fairly chaotic and uncertain life. That’s why your letters are so meaningful. They provide that special boost when it’s needed most. And when your child knows you’re going to be there all year long, well, it helps them believe that his or her life has possibilities.

More than once I’ve had a sponsored child entrust to me a message that I am to spirit back with haste to his or her special friend. “Tell him I love him,” or “Please tell her that I am thankful for her and pray for her every night.” Often, they’ll make me promise. And, often, with a fair amount of luck anyway, I can play the part of happy messenger and deliver the dispatch.

So, in celebration of the friendship that sponsorship helps foster, on this, the 12th day of Christmas, I’d like to share with you what the season is really all about, as told by sponsor Robin Buckley, who was lucky enough to be with his special friends, Roberto and Bianny, so near the holiday.

From his blog, written shortly after his visit, which was just a couple of days ago:
Today was spent visiting with the two boys – Roberto and Bianny – whom I sponsor through Children International. Unlike my visit in June when I was able to see the boys on separate days, this time it was necessary to see them together because of the busy Christmas season. And so, we decided to spend the day at one of the larger shopping malls in Santiago. I had brought several gifts with me from Canada but wanted to give the boys the chance to pick out what they wanted.

Building a lasting friendship: Robin and Bianny exchange a hug.

Since Roberto lives about an hour away from Santiago, he came with his mother and one of the CI Social Workers and they went directly to the mall. Yaseni, the CI field office worker (and my translator) arrived at my hotel together with Bianny, his father and their Social Worker and then we were off to the mall to meet up with Roberto.

We all got together in the cafeteria at the Mall to figure out our plans for the day. This mall is absolutely huge and would rival anything we have back in Canada. I told the boys that they could go shopping and that they had 2500 pesos each to spend (about $75 US).

By the time the boys had finished with what they considered “necessities”, they had purchased some new shoes, jeans and a t-shirt and had a little left over to buy a toy.

By this time, we were all getting hungry and so we returned to the cafeteria for some lunch. The unanimous choice was for pizza from Dominoes.

When it was originally suggested to me that we would have to combine the visits with both kids, I was a little worried because I didn’t know whether or not they would get along. Roberto is 11 and Bianny is 9 and at first they were a little apprehensive together. But there’s a kid’s play area (similar to what you’ll find at McDonald’s back home) and they both headed there after lunch while the “adults chatted.” I think this was the “icebreaker” because when they returned to the table, they were laughing and joking together. It’s absolutely amazing how kids can get along when you leave them alone!

We left the mall to take Roberto, his mom and their social worker to the bus stop for their hour-long ride home at which time I gave Roberto the gifts I had brought from Canada. These mostly consisted of school supplies – notebooks, pens etc that is so lacking in this country as well as a watch that I had gotten for him. Then Bianny, his dad, their social worker, Yaseni and I headed over to Bianny’s house to spend some time there.

While there, it was time to give the gifts I had brought from Canada for Bianny and his adorable little sister. I felt bad about the fact that there were cousins visiting and I didn’t have anything to give them.

And then unfortunately, it was time for me to leave but I did so with the promise that I would be back again sometime next summer. The family wished me a “feliz navidad” and Bianny wanted to give me a hug.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Christmas is all about!

Thanks Robin. And thanks to all of you for being that friend year in and year out. It truly matters. The happiest of holidays to each and every one of you, and our gratitude for making it all possible.

Make sure to come back tomorrow for a special post by Children International president Jim Cook.

Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter. Photo courtesy Robin Buckley.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the 11th Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me...

Eleven Scholars Hoping

My nephew and his wife had a baby about 2 months ago. This means that for the first time in 25 years, we will have a new little human in the family at Christmastime.

One effect Christmas has on me is introspection…not just on holidays past, but on my life in general. So, seeing the new addition of the Denton clan gathered around the sparkling tree and bundled up close (but not too close!) to the crackling fireplace this weekend, I started thinking back 25 years ago.

In 1983, I was still in high school and was earnestly contemplating what I wanted to do with my life…college was looming in another 2 years and there wasn’t much doubt in my (or my parents’) mind that I would be continuing my education after high school.

The reason everyone assumed this was because my parents had worked hard and saved – and they planned to help supplement my cost of attending college. My father had begun working right out of high school, pumping gas. He worked his way from there into a management position with a large, global company.

My mother postponed her educational goals to raise three boys. Shortly after I was born, she began earning a Master’s degree in education. Her thesis involved developing learning strategies…and I was her guinea pig. As a result, I learned to read at a precociously young age. I credit her with instilling a love of reading and a love of language that has remained with me ever since.

Without the opportunity to go to college, I have no idea where I’d be today…I’m certain I’d not be sitting here writing for Children International.

Looking at my great-nephew this weekend, I pondered the huge responsibility his parents have shouldered. And, knowing I needed to post an entry on the blog about our HOPE fund, my thoughts turned to college.

Like the cost of healthcare in America, the cost of education beyond high school has skyrocketed in the last 25 years. But in most of the places we work, it is still quite affordable, at least by OUR standards. That’s why our HOPE fund (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) is one of my favorite “ancillary” benefits that Children International makes available.

For very little cost, we can send deserving sponsored youth to college or vocational school, where they learn skills that often helps boost them above and beyond the dire poverty they grew up in. Time and again, we hear about former sponsored children who now have steady, good-paying jobs thanks to a combination of their own hard work and being the recipients of HOPE scholarships.

Most of the time, there is virtually no chance that their parents – unlike mine – will be able to help send them to college.

I hope my great-nephew gets that opportunity.

I also wish that every sponsored child who wants to continue their education had the opportunity to do so. Thankfully, the number of HOPE scholarship recipients has continued expanding over the years.

So, if I get the chance to ask the old, bearded, red-suited saint for one thing next year, this is my wish: a HOPE scholarship for every child who wants one in each of the 11 countries where we serve them.

I already know he makes deliveries there…because all of you are already making so many wishes come true.

Thank you…and have a great holiday!

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the 10th Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me…

Ten Boards for Building

In my last blog post I poked fun at my mom’s compulsion to decorate every last inch of our house for Christmas. Last week, we were all together at my parent’s house and someone brought up the posting. Everybody got a kick out of it – but the one who enjoyed it the most was mom. Of course she tried to say “I’m not as bad as all that,” but it was hard when all around us the house was shedding tinfoil like some great Yuletide dog.

We had gathered to observe our yearly tradition of decorating the tree. When I think back over all those years of Christmas, that day was always one of the highlights. Mom would put on her Sinatra Christmas album, and my dad would call out every few minutes asking us to smile for his camera. As a result, we have hundreds of pictures of me and my siblings hanging decorations, flashing our most cheesy looks of wonder and joy at the camera. We thought it was hilarious. Dad disagreed.

This year, my niece and nephew took our place under the tree. As we sat and watched them, my dad revealed a disturbing family secret. It seems that, late at night after us kids had finished hanging the tree; mom would sneak down and carefully remove all the decorations, re-hanging them in a way that was more aesthetically pleasing. She denied this of course, but even this year, as 6-year old Kaden put a clump of decorations on the same two branches, I saw an uncomfortable twitch in her eye. I wondered how long she would wait after we were gone to make it right.

As much as I enjoy poking fun at my parents’ Christmas idiosyncrasies – I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For years I lived in different states, but I never missed Christmas at home. I remember driving from the airport, recognizing that familiar sickly glow over the distant horizon, and feeling a rush of sublime anticipation. I was going home! If there’s a better feeling, I don’t know what it is.

This year it occurs to me how lucky I was to have a home to return to. A home that protected us from the elements. A home we could decorate for the holidays beyond all bounds of normalcy. What an important part of growing up! When I was young I knew kids who lived in mansions, but as much as I admired their swimming pools and “rumpus rooms”, I wouldn’t have traded our home for a million comic books. It was ours. Some instinctual part of me knew that, and was proud.

When I got older, I had the chance to meet people without homes. It’s always tragic – but the children affected me the most. I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up never knowing where you were going to sleep at night. To have nowhere to go to escape the world and just be safe.

That’s why I’m so proud that some of our sponsors have helped their children’s families build homes. The impact it has on the child and their family is immeasurable. The home will guard them for generations to come. Everyone in the family will have the physical and psychological advantage of knowing they have a safe haven. Each of them will feel a little extra pride knowing they have a place to call their own.

What a wonderful gift. What wonderful sponsors we have! Maybe it’s something we should all consider doing some day. If that’s not possible, we should all take a few minutes this holiday season to recognize how lucky we are to have homes. Those of us who have never been homeless are truly blessed. May we all stay that way for many years to come. Merry Christmas!

Posted on behalf of Garrett Kenyon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, My Sponsor Gave to Me…

Nine Sponsor Letters

“Dear Santa…”

How many millions of letters are written with those opening words each year? From Barbies to Xboxes to “I wish my parents were back together,” letters to Santa reveal the deepest longings in the hearts of our children.

I used to adore writing letters to Santa; in fact, they were a tradition in my household. As a budding writer, I’d spend Christmas Eve penning my masterpieces, which were left on the hearth of our big stone fireplace. And Santa always wrote back, with a funny quip or cute rhyme. Here’s one from 1978: “I’m hungry and sleepy and weary and tired, but if I don’t hurry back to Mrs. Claus, I’ll likely be fired!”

Even after I knew the truth about Santa, the letter writing didn’t stop. Each year it became a contest between my father and me to top each other’s letters. I’d try to come up with some clever premise – sort of like a game of “Stump the Santa.” One year I’d write in the voice of a jaded socialite waiting for a manicure and a facial, the next as an immigrant who didn’t understand who this “Scanty Claws” person was.

On Christmas morning, before I even looked in my stocking, I’d hunt for “Santa’s” reply. There it would be, in my father’s neat, all-caps penmanship. That special communication between my father and me remains one of my most treasured Christmas memories.

Sponsored children are just as excited about receiving letters from their sponsors. I can’t tell you how many sponsored families I’ve visited where a child would pull out a stack of carefully preserved letters to proudly show me.

The children yearn to know their sponsors and truly want to enjoy a personal relationship with them. They’ll crowd around me and ask, “Do you know my sponsor? Can you tell him I said hello?” If you’ve ever worried that the children don’t understand the connection between the benefits they receive and the sponsor who is providing them, have no fear. They know…and they care.

So if you’re wanting to do something special for your child without spending any money, the answer is simple: write him or her a letter. You’ll find more information and writing tips here. I guess it will make your child's day (or month...or year!) to hear from you.

Posted on behalf of Gretchen Dellett.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, My Sponsor Gave to Me…

Eight Teachers Teaching

Growing up in Arkansas, where summers were hot and humid and mosquitoes swarmed the streets like a plague, I longed for the cold snap that accompanied Christmas. It was the ’70s, and we could always count on downy seasonal snowfalls.

Every year, my friends and I would pray for snow days, when we could forget about school and go sledding, build igloos and launch all-out snowball wars. We lived to suit up in our overstuffed coats, bib pants and moon boots and wander the snow-packed streets like a roving band of misguided Eskimos. Who needs school, we scoffed, when we could make our homes in snowdrifts and live off snow ice cream?

Even now, as fresh powder blankets Kansas City, I long for those carefree days when school was cancelled. But then, I grew up in middle-class America. I had the luxury of blowing off school to pretend I was an arctic explorer trudging through a desolate landscape.

Now I realize how shortsighted I was. Each day I’m reminded that sponsored children don’t have the “privilege” of brushing off school to indulge in make-believe. Many are truly trapped in inhospitable environments, where they’re lucky to attend school rather than skip it. And education is often their only means of escape.

Even in my home state of Arkansas, where Children International has a sponsorship program in Little Rock, simply getting to – and staying in – school can be an arduous journey for boys and girls from impoverished households. But, thankfully, our education program stands out like a shining star that guides children in the direction of academic progress.

Little Rock is a particularly bright spot because we work in partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and six public schools. That unique relationship connects sponsored children with college students and certified teachers who provide tutoring and other constructive activities during our after-school program, or Kids’ Club. Sponsored kids who would probably be home alone or out on the streets have the opportunity to participate in literacy workshops, computer classes, a chess club, art and dance activities.

“Everybody wants to be in it,” Renee Herd, one of our site coordinators, told me when I had a chance to see the Kids’ Club in action at Little Rock’s Bale Elementary School last year. That was great news considering that I had once heard the chancellor of UALR, Joel Anderson, say that 73 percent of the students in the after-school program showed improved performance in their schoolwork.



There are other highlights, too, like the college prep course we offer to graduating youth, the year-round GED, nutrition and computer classes for the parents of sponsored children, and educational summer camps to name a few.

Sponsorship really does provide so much more than school uniforms, supplies, access to scholarships and library resources…it gives underprivileged kids the perseverance to forge ahead, no matter what obstacles may come, and the power to believe that something more promising, maybe even dreamlike, lies just over the horizon.

Getting an education is the greatest adventure of their lives, and you’re the ones who are making it possible.

Posted on behalf of Damon Guinn.

Just added: Children International hosts a Christmas coat drive for underprivileged families in Little Rock.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the Seventh Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me...

Seven Doctor Visits

Well, maybe not exactly seven, but sponsored children are fortunate to be able to see the doctor every time they get sick and for their yearly check-ups. From treatment for a sore throat or skin rash to a more serious illness or injuries, medical care is something that all sponsored children can rely on. Mothers of sponsored children count this as among one of the most valuable benefits we offer. An appointment at a private clinic and medicines can cost well over half of their monthly incomes, but at Children International’s clinics, health and peace of mind are free of charge.

“It felt as if we won the jackpot prize in a lottery,” remarked Glena Hular after her sponsored daughter, Gellian, received the heart surgery she needed.

Children enjoy going to our clinics and recognize the value of healthcare as well. Nine-year-old Cazel, from Manila, Philippines tells us about a time when she needed Children International’s help: "Last year, I was not feeling well. My mother brought me to a doctor. He said I was just fine. But when I came to see the doctor at CI she said I had dengue. I was very weak, feeling dizzy and my body ached. I was rushed to the hospital. We always remember that help. I do not know what would have happened to me if the CI doctor was not there."



And Children International will continue to be there for needy children. Medical care is a gift that sponsored children can enjoy year round. So here’s to a joyful and healthy holiday season, to you and your sponsored child.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On the 6th Day of Christmas, My Sponsor Gave to Me…

Six Dental Fillings

The dentist. Eek. Just the thought of it instills sheer terror in me. The sound of dental tools scraping the plaque off my teeth is like fingernails running down a chalkboard. It literally sends chills down my spine.

Needless to say, visiting the dentist is one of my least favorite chores. But it’s something I take for granted. I have the luxury of pulling out my insurance card to receive regular dental cleanings and keep my teeth healthy. I don’t think twice about it.

But I should. Because so many others around the world aren’t as fortunate as I am. Some families literally live each and every day uncertain of what the next will bring. Will they be able to find any work for the day? Will they earn enough to buy food to feed their children? Can they afford to take their daughter to the doctor if she gets sick?

Families facing extreme poverty can’t afford to purchase toothbrushes and toothpaste. They might even struggle to access clean running water needed to rinse out their mouths. They often don’t understand the importance of keeping their teeth clean because they’ve never had the luxury of visiting a dentist. Some children have never even been to a doctor.

Something as small as a toothbrush can make a big impact on a child’s health.

Children International recognizes the impact of oral hygiene on health, and we provide dental care to a number of impoverished children in our program. Our community centers with dental clinics are kid-friendly environments, with age-appropriate educational materials. We help make it possible for children to receive hygiene supplies like toothbrushes. And we teach families how to brush their teeth.

Given my own fear of the dentist, I’m always surprised to meet sponsored children who actually look forward to their dental checkups. Even if they need six fillings or extractions, they appreciate the care and attention they receive. They know if it weren’t for Children International and their sponsors, their teeth might go unbrushed and their toothaches untreated.

Visiting the dentist might not be quite as good as opening a gift come Christmas morning. But for impoverished children, it’s definitely more of a treat than a chore. Now if only I could learn to appreciate the dentist as much as they do….

Posted on behalf of Erin Anderson. Photo by Joel Abelinde of our Manila, Philippines, agency.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the 5th Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me...

5 Supplemental Meals

A Christmas wish worth writing down.

I remember Christmas as a time of anticipation. After Thanksgiving, mom would go to work with a military efficiency that would make any drill sergeant proud. Soon our house would look like a Christmas grenade had been thrown through the living room window. Fragile porcelain reindeer perched on every surface, creating a minefield for young knees and elbows. Shutting a door would dislodge a plateau of holly or bring a clump of mistletoe down on your head. Passing airplanes could calibrate their instruments by the multi-colored glow of our front lawn. Clark Griswold had nothing on my mom.

The rest of us stalked warily through the house, knowing that a simple “can you help for a minute?” would translate to hours of grueling holiday labor. After the initial onslaught, mom would slow down enough for us to resurface. If she was disappointed that we didn’t share her zeal for decoration – she rarely let on. I would have been too busy to notice anyway. By then I was engaged in the serious endeavor of creating my Christmas wish list.

In few areas of my life did I display the attention to detail that I gave my yearly wish list. It all seemed so important. How was I supposed to pay attention in school when at home my one-armed Spiderman figure was facing down a gang of super-villains without the new Spidey-mobile? How could my army of battered stormtroopers be expected to mount a credible defense against the Rebel Alliance without an Imperial Walker or at least a couple of T-Wing fighters to ride in? Didn’t anybody realize that the fate of the entire universe could hinge upon a single item on that list!

I tried to be reasonable. After all, we were a middle class family. My parents could hardly be expected to take out a second mortgage or forego buying presents for my siblings in order to properly outfit my Batcave. In an attempt to placate Santa, I was forced to limit the list to only my absolute Needs. It was tough, but I soldiered on.

As the big day approached, I prepared to confront reality. It was rarely a match for my imagination. But no matter how many toys were left off my list, when the gifts had all been opened and the living room floor reduced to a paper-strewn battlefield – I always felt something very near contentment.

Looking back on those days, I can’t help being a little embarrassed. Like the majority of us, I went through life with no concept of the difference between a “need” and a “want”. I never had to struggle through the day with an empty stomach or fall asleep wondering where I would find my next meal. Food, shelter and clothing were provided for me with such little fanfare they barely warranted consideration.

I’ve done some growing up since then. I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of poverty and seen the face of true need. Accordingly, my values and priorities have matured. I’ve found that more pleasure can be derived from helping others than from helping myself. That’s what led me to Children International.

It’s comforting to know that once a child is sponsored through CI, they can receive supplemental meals from their community center up to three times a week. I love imagining the weight lifted off the shoulders of a mother or father when they realize their child doesn’t have to face malnourishment and starvation. Knowing that sponsorship keeps these kids from slipping through the cracks warms my heart in ways extravagant gifts never could. And then there are the other ways CI helps these kids – with things like clothing, healthcare and education that benefit them far beyond their next meal.

I still have a lot of growing up to do. It’s impossible to go from taking food and shelter for granted to understanding the plight of the impoverished overnight. But I can take comfort in the knowledge that the day my wants became about fulfilling others’ needs, I came a long way.

Here’s to hoping you get everything on your list this year.

Posted on behalf of Garrett Kenyon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On the fourth day of Christmas, my sponsor gave to me...

Four gifts throughout the year

I remember it like it was yesterday...

The Sears catalog would arrive in the mail, and my brothers and I – in an act of unusual solidarity – would spend day after day researching the toy section, dog-earing pages and itemizing must-haves. Lists were drawn up, meticulously revised and then narrowed down by the process of elimination.

Our excitement could hardly be contained when we finally reached the wee hours of Christmas morning. The record player would start to skip through its fourth rotation of “Silent Night,” and we would lie wide-eyed in bed listening to the sound of scissors slicing through wrapping paper, trying to visualize how large our gifts were.

A few unbearable hours later, we’d throw back the sheets, go rouse our parents from a brief night’s slumber, and beg our dad to go downstairs and make sure Santa had remembered to stop by. Finally, we’d hear the words we’d waited for all year long…“Okay, it’s all clear!”

Tumbling down the stairs and into the living room, we’d discover a picture-perfect Christmas setting full of shiny new toys and packages glimmering in the golden haze of Christmas lights. It was every child’s dream come true.

Seeing sponsored children receive gifts during our four annual gift distributions is like being a child at Christmas all over again. I see the same excitement and sense of wonder that I myself experienced as a child.

Blessings Changwe couldn’t stop smiling when she received her Christmas gift last year. “I want to tell my sponsor thank you very much and that I hope she had a happy Christmas,” Blessings said. “This gift means that I now have something to keep me warm at night.”

Weeks before a gift distribution takes place – no matter if it’s Christmas, Easter, Birthdays or Special Hug Day – sponsored children start begging their parents to tell them what they’re going to receive. That’s because their parents, like Secret Santas, help us choose what gifts their children need and want most.

And boys and girls are usually so excited they can barely sleep the night before. They even wake up earlier than normal so they can be first in line. Running to the center, their eyes light up the moment they see their friends and neighbors clutching packages that contain gifts like colorful new clothes or shoes, backpacks, books and art kits.

The gifts children receive may not be as lavish as what I was fortunate to find waiting for me on Christmas morning, but they are just as excited about what they receive – and far more grateful.

On those special days when we host gift distributions, sponsored children are the center of attention – and unlike so many other days filled with poverty and hardship – everything seems right with the world.

Posted on behalf of Damon Guinn

Friday, December 5, 2008

On the Third Day of Christmas, Children International gave to me...

Three sponsor visits (and maybe more)

I can recall more than once hearing my mother’s tired words during the holidays.

Worn from working six days a week, taking care of three boys and making sure my dad rose every morning at four so he could make it to work on time, she’d slump down in a rickety kitchen chair at the end of a long day and caution us about our Christmas expectations.

By then the cat was out of the bag on Mr. Claus so she’d shoot it to us straight. “It’s been a tough year,” she’d start. “Your father and I want you boys to have a wonderful Christmas but we don’t have a lot of money. There just won’t be many gifts under the tree this year.”

The thing is, I don’t recall ever being disappointed. There were always gifts to enjoy but, more importantly, I was thrilled to have special visitors whom we would see only during the holidays. People like my uncle Richard, who always had a tan, drove a big shiny car and laughed so loudly the windows would rattle. Or my cousin Lori, who sounded like an alien with her sweet Georgia drawl and East Coast staccato mixed together.

What they brought to our rural Missouri lives was a view of the world we never got to experience, which made the holidays all the more wonderful.

Of course, that’s also what a visit from you brings to your sponsored child. Not only do they get to meet a special friend they cherish, they get a glimpse of the world outside the walls of poverty that surround them. And it truly doesn’t matter what time of year it is. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that with you there, it’ll feel like Christmas whether it’s December or July.

So, in honor of the holiday, and all those people (you!), who bring joy, support and a different view of the world to sponsored kids all year long, I hope you’ll share with us your own thoughts on a visit you paid to your child.

Since this is the third day of Christmas, we’re shooting for three. But we’d be overjoyed to have many, many more.


Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On the 2nd Day of Christmas My Sponsor Gave to Me...

Two Leather Shoes

I love shoes, and I have a closet full of them to prove it. I bet if I really wanted to I could wear a different pair each day for a month. Winter boots, tennis shoes, leather Mary Jane heels, pointy-toed stilettos, Grecian-style sandals. My choices are endless.

Sponsored children love shoes too. But they usually only have a pair or two. And if it weren’t for their sponsors and Children International, they might not own any at all.

When we drive through impoverished neighborhoods, we often spot children running around barefoot, exposed to the rocky, dirt terrain of their neighborhoods. When you think about the fact that it’s not unusual to find raw sewage in these areas, it’s enough to make you cringe. It’s easy to understand how children can pick up parasites, which can lead to a host of health problems.

Then we visit Children International’s community centers and watch children being fitted for new shoes – a gift for their birthday, Christmas or Easter. These shoes are often sturdy leather footwear or athletic shoes that can be worn for school activities or at home. They are designed to stand up against wear and tear and offer their feet vital protection.

Luz Fandiño from Barranquilla, Colombia tries on her new shoes.

I’m the first to admit that I take basic necessities like shoes for granted. But since I started sponsoring a child a few years ago, I’ve learned to appreciate everything I have, including my dozens of shoes.

Each morning as I select my pair of shoes for the day, I think of my sponsored child and am grateful he has shoes from Children International. Sponsorship benefits give him – and all the other children in our program – a foot up in the fight against poverty.

Posted on behalf of Erin Anderson.

Monday, December 1, 2008

On the first day of Christmas, Children International gave to me…

A Sponsor Who Really Cares for Me

Like you, I remember being a child at Christmastime…the excitement and anticipation that would start to build after Thanksgiving until it reached a crescendo on Christmas Eve and I would toss and fidget most of the night. (I even remember trying to stay up all night to “catch” Santa, but I never did succeed!)

For the poor children we help, becoming sponsored is a lot like those childhood Christmas mornings.

It’s not uncommon for children (or their mothers) to weep with joy when told they have officially become a part of the Children International family. For the child, it can be one of the most thrilling moments of his or her young life.

They know what it means to become sponsored because they usually have friends or even siblings who’ve been in the program for years. And they have watched as others received new clothes and gifts on holidays and other special occasions. They have seen others who are able to visit a dentist when their tooth hurts…a doctor when they are ill.

And often, they have seen other children happily pouring out of the community center; clutching letters from someone they haven’t met…someone who makes all these benefits possible.

When children learn that they have been enrolled in the sponsorship program and that they have a sponsor – a real-life Santa – they are filled with hope and joy.

They know there is someone else in the world that cares for them.

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton. Please be sure to watch for an upcoming article Deron wrote for the next issue of Journeys, arriving in mailboxes around Christmastime, titled, “A Year of Firsts.” It’s about a boy named John Darren, recounting his first year of sponsorship.

John Darren’s mother, Eden, wept with joy when she learned of her boy’s sponsorship.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Matters Most

Posted on behalf of Gretchen Dellett, writer for Children International.

The day was uncomfortably hot and my eyeballs felt like they were coated in dust. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”

It was 1993. Employed at Children International for barely two months, I was trekking down a smelly, trash-strewn path in Cartagena, Colombia, on my way to conduct my very first interview on behalf of the organization. I was terrified. Suddenly my former job as an insurance copywriter didn’t sound so bad.

I was ushered into a tiny shack with a dirt floor. The air was thick with humidity. Bugs crawled on the makeshift walls. I perched on a cracked plastic chair as I got to know Marlene, a mother of three who had learned to read and write with the help of the program. She had also learned to make handicrafts, which she sold to supplement the family’s income. The more I learned, the more I was humbled by Marlene’s gentle spirit and the way, despite her horrible circumstances, she still had hope for her children’s future.

As I turned to leave, she took one of her handicraft pictures off the wall and thrust it toward me, an eager smile on her face. “Oh no, I couldn’t,” I told her through the translator, knowing she could sell the item.

“I want you to have it,” Marlene replied. “Today is my 29th birthday, and because you were here, it was the best day of my entire life.”

Wow. I didn’t understand how I could make such an impact on someone’s life by my mere presence. But upon reflection, I realized that by simply being there and listening to her story, I made Marlene feel – perhaps for the first time in her life – like she mattered.

That’s exactly what sponsorship is all about. One person…making an impact…letting someone know that they matter. What more can we ask for as human beings?

Now here I am, 15 years later, and still dedicated to my work at Children International. I’ve been many places and met many memorable people since that first trip to Colombia – but I’ve never forgotten Marlene. To me, she’ll always represent the spirit of the sponsorship program. And yes, I still have that picture she took off her wall to give to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sponsors Give Thanks

At Children International we love to hear from grateful sponsored children and youth about how sponsorship is helping to create positive change their lives. We also recognize that sponsorship is an experience that offers so much to the sponsor as well. In honor of Thanksgiving in the United States, I asked some of our sponsors around the world to help me express the joys of sponsorship by completing the sentences below. Their answers are heartfelt and personal and make me feel even more thankful for the work that I do. It’s wonderful to help needy children, but it is also great to have something in common with great people like our sponsors.

I am thankful for sponsorship because...

-it gives me the chance to love and care for children, even though I don't have children of my own. – Efrain

-it completely changed my life and the way I look at it. Sponsorship made me a better person. - Susana

-it has given me a chance to help someone who needs it (there is no way I could stretch a dollar as far as CI can!) and has taught me to appreciate what I have instead of crying about what I don't. I am thankful for sponsorship because it has given me a chance to show unconditional love for my girls and show them that someone does care in this oftentimes harsh world. - Katie

-it has brought peace into my heart. – Stephanie

-[it makes] me realize how we worry about insignificant things, when there are so many that can benefit from our help. – Guasponsor


I am thankful for my sponsored child/children because...

-they keep me humble, and thankful for all the benefits and opportunities I am so lucky to have in my life! – Amalia

-they remind me how fortunate I am to live a life free from poverty. By giving some of
what I've earned to those in need, they give back with their kind thoughts and warm wishes. Their gratitude is more valuable than the few dollars I send their way. It's a win-win relationship!
– Steve

-they continually help me to put my own life into perspective. – Dana

To see more of these great responses or to contribute your own, please visit our Children International Google Groups page. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Children International!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Grins

David Nebel brings us yet another cartoon - this time from the point of view of a Thanksgiving turkey.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Talk About Changing Lives...

I wish I could see his face.

When René hears what’s getting ready to happen, there’s no telling how he and his family will react.

A couple of days ago, Sarah posted about the tragic loss of René’s dad, and how the family has struggled since they lost him. What is just amazing is what has happened in these two short days.

Less than an hour after Sarah posted his story, René had a sponsor! But the story doesn’t end there. Several of you began to contact us, asking how you could help. Within a few hours enough had been donated to pay off the family’s property – a debt they really had no hope of catching up with because of the interest.

Others donated as well. I’m excited to report that we are only about $200 away from being able to place René and his family in a new house with a concrete floor!

We’re not talking anything fancy – it will be a simple structure with tin walls and roof…but if you saw the photo of what they’re living in now, you’ll understand that anything is a drastic improvement for them!

So a great big thanks to all of you for your generosity. And if you’d like to help us reach our goal of $200 dollars more, any amount you can contribute will be greatly appreciated. Just drop us a note at blog@children.org and we’ll put you in touch with someone who can help you with your donation.

And of course we’ll be posting some photos of René and his family when they get the news!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on René

Thanks to our great readers, we are excited to report that René now has a sponsor! We’ve also received several donations that are sure to be well-received. However, the family still needs a lot of help. If you would like to help René and his family through this difficult time in their lives, our field staff in Guatemala has suggested some items that the family needs:

Clothing and groceries for the entire family: $300
A gas stove, cabinet for clothing, table and chairs: $300
Tin walls, a new roof and concrete flooring: $500

We know times are tough and any small amount you can donate will add up to huge relief for this family. Your help is sincerely appreciated.

Please email us at blog@children.org or call 1-800-888-3089 to donate.

René needs a hug

Lea la versión en español abajo.

A couple of weeks ago Javier Cárcamo, our Communications Coordinator in Rural Guatemala, visited a family that left a lasting impression on his heart. This is the sad story that he shared with us in hopes of making a difference.

René Corvera is a seven-year-old boy whose childhood was following its normal course in a humble home made of wood and laminate sheets in rural Guatemala. He was surrounded by his siblings and under the care of his parents, Doña Emiliana and Don Manuel, a hard-working man who earned a living buying and selling scrap metal.


This tough work consisted of going from house to house asking for old tin, batteries, cans or containers to sell by the pound at the recycling plants, an exhausting job at which he could make around $5.00 a day.

Sometimes his work meant making long journeys to other areas. When he had to travel, their father would lovingly leave what food that he could, money for unforeseen expenses, and kind goodbyes for his children and wife. Distance was no obstacle for Don Manuel, who constantly called his wife on a neighbor’s phone to tell her that he was fine and to send his best wishes to his children, especially to René, the child he was closest to. René would run to the neighbor’s house to just hear his father’s voice on the phone.

An irresistible opportunity to get a better price for the scrap metal he had accumulated motivated Don Manuel to leave one morning before dawn. He packed a hat and his favorite shirt, and before leaving his house, he hugged and kissed his children, except for René, who was fast asleep. It was perhaps four a.m., and the sun had not yet begun to light up the corn stalks they lived among. Don Manuel set off with an unknown course as his tired figure disappeared into the cornfields on the horizon.

The first day came and went, and there was no call. The children waited in vain for a message from the neighbor.

By the second day, Doña Emiliana was tormented with worry. René was sad because his brothers and sister thought that their father had abandoned them.

The third day destiny had its sights on René. Somehow the day’s newspaper found its way into René’s little hands. Not knowing how to read, and curious about the pictures, he began looking through the paper, page by page until a picture of a piece of clothing caught his eye. In his innocence, René was filled with happiness and he went running to find his mother excitedly shouting “My daddy! My daddy!” but when Doña Emilia saw the photo, she collapsed in an attack of nerves. There was Don Manuel on the page of the newspaper with a headline that read “Man Found Dead.”

Doña Emiliana’s painful cry was all the explanation that René received, and he took off running into the cornfield crying and screaming “Daddy! Daddy!” René’s sister ran after him until she caught up with him by the side of the road. René was suffering from a torrent of sadness.

How can I explain in words the sad cry of a child when it only comes out as a painful moan? René wasn’t able to tell me much. His smiling face changes when he talks about his father. “I loved him so much,” he tells me and he bursts into tears that he dries with his dirty sleeves.

Things have become very difficult for this family since that day. Three months have passed. Doña Emiliana’s work as a tortilla maker doesn’t bring in enough money to support their precarious home. They only owed just a little more to have the land that they live on paid off; slightly more than $100 which they still haven’t been able to scrape together as the interest on the loan keeps building.


Sadness, uncertainty, hunger and grief are destroying the family. The two sponsored children dropped out of school. The house is falling down, and the money that they make from selling their hens isn’t enough to pay for water or to put food on the table.

My eyes are about to spill over with tears as Doña Emiliana tells me her story and I look at that house. The heartfelt cry of the little boy is tearing at my head. As I put myself in René’s place, I feel undecipherable pain. The pain of losing the one you love the most, without having had the chance to say goodbye...And tomorrow? What will become of this little boy tomorrow? When I asked little René what he wished for the most, sobbing, he told me, “I want my daddy to come and give me a hug, like I dreamed last night.”

Rene needs a hug and the love of a caring sponsor. Javier tells us that the youth group and local university have been providing a few supplies and items of clothing when possible, but the family’s situation is extremely bleak. If you cannot commit to sponsorship, even a small donation could make such a difference in his life. Thank you for reading Rene’s story.

Email us at blog@children.org or call 1-800-888-3089 to contribute.
********************************************************************************** René necesita un abrazo

Hace un par de semanas Javier Cárcamo, nuestro coordinador de comunicaciones en Guatemala rural, visitó a una familia que dejó una impresión duradera en su corazón. Ésta es la triste historia que compartió con nosotros con la esperanza de hacer una diferencia.

René Corvera es un niño de 7 años cuya infancia transcurría normal, en una humilde vivienda de madera y lámina, rodeado de sus hermanos y al cuidado de sus padres, Doña Emiliana y Don Manuel, un hombre muy trabajador que se dedicaba a la compra y venta de chatarra.

Ese duro trabajo consistía en caminar de casa en casa pidiendo restos de hojalata, baterías, láminas, latas o botes, para luego venderlo por libra en las plantas recicladoras, agotadora labor con la podía reunir unos $5.00 diarios.

Esta labor implicaba en ocasiones realizar largos viajes a otros departamentos, ocasiones en las que el padre amorosamente dejaba los alimentos que podía, dinero para imprevistos y afectuosos gestos para sus hijos y esposa. La distancia no era obstáculo para que don Manuel llamara constantemente a su esposa, al teléfono de un vecino, avisando que se encontraba bien y enviando saludos para los niños, en especial para René, el más cercano de sus hijos, quien corría a la casa del vecino para escuchar la voz de su padre.

La irresistible oportunidad de obtener un mejor precio por la chatarra acumulada, motivó a don Manuel a salir una mañana de madrugada. Empacó una gorra y su camisa preferida, y sin más que dejar en su casa, dejó un beso y un abrazo para cada niño, menos para René, quien dormía profundamente. Eran quizá las 4 de la mañana, y el sol aún no alumbraba los sembradíos de maíz entre los que viven. Don Manuel partió con rumbo desconocido, hasta que su figura cansada se confundió con las milpas del horizonte.

Pasó el primer día y no hubo llamada. Los niños esperaron en vano un aviso del vecino. El segundo día, y ya la angustia atormentaba a doña Emiliana. René estaba triste porque sus hermanos pensaban que su padre los había abandonado.

Al tercer día, el destino quiso marcar la vida de René. De alguna forma llegó a sus manos el periódico del día. Sin saber leer, y curioso por las ilustraciones empezó a pasar hoja por hoja hasta que una vestimenta conocida lo detuvo. En su inocencia, René se llenó de alegría y fue corriendo en busca de su madre gritando –Mi papá, mi papá, pero cuando doña Emiliana vio la foto un ataque de nervios la desplomó. En la hoja del periódico estaba Don Manuel y el titular de la noticia era “Hombre aparece muerto”.

El amargo llanto de doña Emiliana fue toda la explicación que recibió René, quien salió corriendo entre la milpa llorando y gritando –¡papá!, ¡papá! La hermana mayor de René corrió tras él hasta alcanzarlo a orilla de la carretera. René estaba sufriendo una tomentosa tristeza.

¿Cómo puedo explicar con palabras el triste llanto de un niño, cuando es un doloroso quejido? René no alcanza a decirme mucho. Su sonriente carita cambia cuando habla de su papá. –Yo lo quería mucho, me dice y estallan en llanto que seca con sus bracitos sucios.

La situación se ha tornado muy difícil para esta familia desde ese suceso, del cual han pasado ya dos meses. El trabajo como tortillera que realiza doña Emiliana, no genera los suficientes ingresos para sostener su precaria vivienda. Una cuota apenas hacía falta para terminar de pagar el terreno en el que vivían. Una cuota de poco más de $100 que aún no ha logrado reunir y cuyos intereses siguen creciendo.

La tristeza, la incertidumbre, el hambre y el desconsuelo están destruyendo esta familia, los dos hermanos apadrinados dejaron de ir a la escuela; la casa se está cayendo también, y la venta de sus gallinas no es suficiente para pagar el agua ni para dejar alimentos en la mesa.

Yo, tengo los ojos a punto de explotar mientras doña Emiliana me cuenta su historia y veo esa casa. El sentimental llanto del niño me está desgarrando la cabeza porque al ponerme en el lugar de René siento su indescifrable dolor. El dolor de perder a su ser más querido sin haberle dicho adiós ¿Y mañana? ¿Qué será de este niño mañana? Cuando le pregunté qué es lo que más quisiera, y me dijo sollozante: -Que venga mi papá a darme mi abrazo, como lo soñé ayer...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Operation YPENCIL

Posted on behalf of Joel Abelinde, Communications Coordinator in Children International's Manila, Philippines agency.

Ever thought of children helping other children to communicate better with their sponsors? This is what YPENCIL (Young People Enhancing Children to Improve their Letters), a group of youth volunteers, is doing.

Junalyn Ban-eg, a Field Officer in Manila, Philippines noticed that while many children write very good letters to their sponsors, some children still have difficulty. She thought that the older sponsored children who write well could help others to improve their writing skills.

Wasting no time to set her idea into motion, Junalyn found three youths from each area with a knack for writing. She conducted a training on letter writing, highlighting ideas for what children may write about in their letters, the format of the letter and what kinds of paper to use, among other things. “They were very willing to learn and to assist other children,” Junalyn noted. “We encourage children to write about themselves more to their sponsors,” she added.

“The initiative has had some noticeable results,” Junalyn observes. “There was a noticeable improvement in content and neatness in the letters younger children write. They are also able to share more personal information about themselves. Because there is not much difference in age, the younger children are more comfortable in their company,” Junalyn happily states. The initiative also helped Junalyn to achieve her goal of getting 100% of the children who were due to write letters to complete them each month.


Sponsored youth, Cheryl Ann Barcelon studies hotel and restaurant management at a nearby college. She is among the 19 members of the group. Two days a week, she comes to the field office to help younger children write to their sponsors. “I initially thought that it is difficult to help children write their letters. I am very happy that I am a part of this group. I am happy helping children write to their sponsors. I am also learning and improving my English,” she said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seizing the Moment: Meet Jacob Randol

Jacob Randol is the epitome of carpe diem.

As Children International’s audiovisual technician, Jacob spends his time seizing the moment…and sharing it with thousands of sponsors.

Jacob joined CI over nine years ago; since then, he’s produced between two and three hundred videos. If you’ve ever visited our homepage, www.children.org, and watched a video in our feature window or browsed the videos in our archive, you’ve seen Jacob’s handiwork.

Jacob is one b-a-a-a-a-a-d dude with a video camera!

Like the rest of us who work here, Jacob feels Children International is no ordinary job. As he commented to me just yesterday, “Seriously…the atmosphere is wonderful here. The people, they’re great! CI is just an awesome place to work.”

Although Jacob is right – CI is a fun place to work – his travels have also taken him to places where the grim realities of life are starkly evident. He’s visited Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic…but it was a community in the latter called La Mosca (“The Fly”) that made the greatest impact on him.

“It’s actually a garbage dump in the Dominican Republic. Talk about a horrible place….And people really work there (or should I say scrounge) to make a living. I had watched video from other trips, but even that didn’t prepare me for the smells and slop we’d have to walk through. Visiting this place really made me appreciative of what I have,” reflects Jacob. (Check out the video Jacob shot by visiting our video archive and selecting Life in the Dump.)

By helping bring to life the stories of the children and families we help around the world, Jacob plays a vital role in helping raise awareness and encourage people to get involved.

“Our writers do a great job of writing the scripts and I really enjoy putting the visuals to their thoughts,” shares Jacob. “I hope our viewers enjoy watching them. Write and let me know what you think of our videos. You might even give us a suggestion of a video or two that you would like to see. I can’t guarantee it will be produced, but your ideas would be great.”

Have some ideas for Jacob? Send them to blog@children.org.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Unconditional Friendship

If you’re a pet lover like I am, then you know that pets just make life a little nicer. It’s a shared human experience to care for other animals, and whether you live in a large comfortable home or one made out of discarded materials like many of the families we help, pets offer loyal companionship that can’t be bought. A stray dog or cat, a fish or even a turtle can be the perfect thing to bring a little bit of happiness to a poor child; a friend and playmate who loves them for who they are, regardless of the poverty they live in. Their situation doesn’t diminish their ability to love and care for a pet in the least. Just take a look at these children and the pets they adore.

Fausto in Quito, Ecuador carries his puppies everywhere.


Antony, Juan and Julieth in Barranquilla, Colombia play with turtles in their neighborhood.


Brothers Vincent and Charlie show off boy’s best friend in Tabaco, Philippines.


Wilmer in Rural Guatemala takes great care of his cat - even if the cat will never admit it. (Wilmer is also waiting for a sponsor to care for him. Hint. Hint.)

A big thanks to our Communications Coordinators for capturing these playful moments. Photos from top to bottom by Andrés Barreno, Patricia Calderón, Sarah Jane Velasco and Javier Cárcamo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sponsored Children Express their Dreams through Art

Each year our sponsored children participate in Children International’s art contest and express themselves with paint, crayons, pencils and color pastels. Sarah Jane Velasco, Communications Coordinator in Tabaco, Philippines shares just what these drawings and paintings mean to needy children.

Dreams are limitless…even the harsh realities of poverty cannot stop a child from dreaming of a better future. The artwork from this year’s workshop clearly proves this.

Children International’s annual art contest provides an opportunity to sponsored children and youth with a knack for the arts to further develop their potential. It gives them an avenue for artistic expression through drawing and painting. With “dreams” as the theme, colorful sketches of pilots, policemen, teachers, engineers, doctors, and performers in thought bubbles and other abstract representations were drawn.


For these children, the drawings are reminders of things to hope for and a promise of better days ahead. It challenges them to strive hard so that someday their dreams will be realized. Knowing that education is the key to achieving their dreams, these drawings motivate them to continue their studies and do well in school. It also gets the message across other poor children “to continue dreaming and to discover their talents” said Tisha Mae Sanchez, one of the winners in the art contest.


But it is noteworthy that at their age, these children dream not only for themselves but for their families as well. They want to become somebody someday so that they will be able to help younger siblings finish their studies and likewise chase their own dreams.

In the borderless world of dreams, using only oil pastels and canvass as their tool, these children are given the freedom to choose whoever they want to be. And if their paintings are any indicator, a bright and colorful future awaits them.


Jayson Beloso, one of our featured waiting children, found a sponsor through the blog and won 3rd place for his age group in Tabaco. Way to go Jayson!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Meet Karla, from Legazpi, Philippines

Karla, 8, had these thoughts to share:

About her dreams…
“I dream to be a successful teacher in the future because I want to teach kids in school. I have a great interest in sharing my knowledge to others.”

About being sponsored…
“My friends think that I am a lucky girl to be a sponsored child of Children International because it helps thousands of families in poor communities. My sponsored friends like receiving gifts on special days like Birthday and Christmas.”

About the benefits of sponsorship…
“I love so much going to the center for a regular medical check up. I also enjoy writing a letter to my sponsor. My favorite gift is my pair of shoes.”

About the Children International community center…
“I love to walk around in the community center because it’s very beautiful and so spacious. I just love the good environment and I feel safe visiting to the center.”

About her sponsor…
“You are a blessing to our family and I will cherish forever the many good things that you have shared with us. I just want you to know that I’m doing well in school and that’s because of you.”

Photos and reporting assistance by Anthony Lorcha, from our agency in Legazpi, Philippines.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meet Yet Another Blogger...

The tension at the intersection was palpable. All traffic had come to a halt in the sweltering heat of early November summer as stern-faced policemen prepared the way for the president and his motorcade to pass.

The year was 1970, the location was Lima, Peru, and urgency seemed to emanate from a gold-colored International Harvester Travelall station wagon that sat marooned in the traffic jam. Inside the car sat an American couple, and the tension seemed to elevate with each gasp from the woman…who was in the advanced stages of labor.

It’s a good thing the Americans were missionaries, because the situation certainly called for someone who knew how to pray. And pray they did…until finally the motorcade was gone, the road opened up, and they set new speed records to the Anglo-American Clinic in the San Isidro neighborhood of the city. The American lady was rushed to the delivery room, where moments later I arrived on the scene – blissfully unaware of the drama I had helped cause.

That was 38 years ago today. Since that time, I’ve lived in Peru, Costa Rica, the United States, Brazil and the United States all over again. Having grown up as the son of missionaries and later served as a missionary myself, I feel a real connection to people in developing countries who struggle daily against overwhelming poverty. After all, they were my playmates when I was growing up.

Today I’m blessed with four healthy children (two teenagers, a “tween” and a right handsome young man who just turned 9). I’m constantly reminded of just how privileged we are to live in a comfortable home where our worst weather-related fear is whether or not the cars will get dings from the hail traditionally dropped by our famous Midwest storms – so unlike the fear that grips poor families’ hearts when it rains…a fear born from the knowledge that, when the rains are over, their houses and belongings may not be there any more.

I’ve worked for Children International for the past five years. What we do with the help of our sponsors is truly incredible. In an era when few employees stay with a company more than five years, I’m looking forward to many more fruitful years of working with CI – and with you – as we continue to bring real change to people’s lives around the world.


Helping families can sometimes lead you to be in unusual places at unusual times. This photo was taken while visiting a sponsored family in Santiago, Dominican Republic, during Tropical Storm Noel. The hillside was steep and the rain had turned the ground to slick, soupy mud. One misstep and I would have had a long, fast trip down the hill!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Building Health through Proper Nutrition

Posted on Behalf of Kathryn Osborn

While the classic picture of a bony, too-thin child or adult comes to mind when many think of malnutrition, the condition actually has three very different faces: those of the under-nourished, the over-nourished, and the micronutrient deficient.

Under-nutrition, affecting 25% of children world-wide under the age of 5, is related to under consumption of adequate calories. Conversely, over-nutrition is often related to over consumption of daily calories, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Today, 155 million school age children around the world are severely overweight.

The third and final “face” of malnutrition is that of the micronutrient deficient – a condition related to inadequate intake (or absorption) of the right vitamins and minerals needed by the body’s organs to work properly. Such deficiencies are the cause of goiter, scurvy, and some forms of blindness.

Frequently, under-nutrition stems from a lack of money to purchase food of adequate quantity or quality, frequent illnesses (especially HIV and TB) and poor nutritional practices (menu planning).

Poor nutrition of any type is the catalyst for many different health problems. It reduces an individual’s ability to fight diseases and support proper organ function. Unfortunately, each of these also further reduces the ability to absorb essential nutrients – leading to poor nutritional status.

Children International focuses primarily on the issue of under-nutrition within our population. Our agencies address short- and long-term needs of families through 1) supplementary feeding of undernourished children, helping them to gain adequate weight and 2) nutrition education for parents of sponsored children, sharing local recipes which are low cost and highly nutritious.

Kathy Osborn is a Health Officer who works in nutrition and health programs for Children International. She holds a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from George Washington University, with a concentration in global health, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Marine Science from the University of Miami. Prior to joining Children International, Kathy worked in major sustainable livelihood, nutrition, health and education initiatives in Uganda and in Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Hoarse Drum

This is the fourth and final legend from the field in our series of Halloween stories. Andrés Barreno, Communications Coordinator brings us a tale from Quito, Ecuador.

In the dark of night the drum produces a hoarse, distant sound, usually accompanied by the melancholic sound of a small flute. It announces the beginning and the end of the procession of doomed souls and demons who travel south through small Andean towns to the highlands of Ecuador. Two ghosts dressed in red play the drum as a coffin and packs of howling dogs follow.

Sounds of the drum can be heard from far away, warning those who wander the night to beware and return to their homes as quickly as possible. If they fail to heed the warning, they could be taken by the souls of those who have risen from their graves. Some people even say that the devil himself plays the hoarse drum...

Let this be a warning to all those sponsors who wish to visit their sponsored children in Ecuador. Enjoy your time with your child in the daylight, but when darkness falls and the faint sound of drumming can be heard in the distance, make haste back to your hotel room and lock the door behind you. The hoarse drum is calling, and the doomed souls have come out to play.

Have a safe and happy Halloween from all of us at Children International!

The picture (courtesy of Nicolás Herrera at nicolasherrera.com) depicts the funeral procession of the hoarse drum.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Unexpected Visitor

You may know by now that in preparation for Halloween, we asked all of our Communications Coordinators to send us scary tales from their countries. Our Communications Coordinator in Quezon City, Philippines, Margaret Tadeja-Cruz didn’t have a story to share, but she did send us two very interesting photos.

Margaret tells us that a couple of months ago she went to one of Children International's community centers in Quezon City to take photos of Rovelyn, a young sponsored girl who dances. It was about 7 o’clock at night and there was no one around except the guard and two other people who were sitting down outside. The community center was closed, and the children you see inside the community center in the second picture are actually statues. She began snapping pictures of Rovelyn standing in front of the door of the center, and she ended up capturing something she cannot explain...



Who’s the girl standing behind Rovelyn in the first picture? (Click the photos to enlarge.) Was it just someone walking by that Margaret didn’t notice or is the community center haunted? You be the judge.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Veiled Lady

A legend submitted by Communications Coordinator, Patricia Huerta.

Circa 1700, Guayaquil, Ecuador: She is never seen before midnight. Where did she come from? Nobody knows, but any man wandering around at night is sure to see her walking just six feet ahead of him, close, but unattainable. Although her face is always wrapped in a veil or shawl, anyone can tell she is beautiful, and as she walks, the soft scent of flowers follows.

Every Casanova, old or young, feels irresistibly attracted to her and inspired to tell her some flattering words. Yet she walks ahead, as he follows her footsteps… walking and walking, she never changes her pace, walking in a steady rhythm. No matter how fast he walks, he can never reach her. Under the influence of her charm, he pursues her. Expertly traversing alleyways and crossing streets, the starched fabric of her skirt swooshes in the darkness. She invites him to follow her by simply nodding her lovely head.

A vision only for her pursuer, no one else sees her. He follows her, hypnotized, not knowing where they are going. Then suddenly, the veiled lady stops, and with military precision, she turns around and uncovers her face. The beautiful face with its porcelain complexion and sparkling eyes stare back at the man. But in an instant the magnificent features melt into a cadaverous skull and her flowery perfume is replaced with the smell of decay. “Now that you can see what I am, follow me if you will,” she tells him.

She quickly turns around and vanishes into an old abandoned house. Paralyzed and trembling, her pursuer stands in the darkness, terrified and confused.

Legend has it that this lost soul was once a beautiful woman who gave into the sins of the flesh. In her death she walks the streets at night searching for an eligible suitor.

Portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy of ibiblio.com.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Scary Legends from the Field

In honor of Halloween, we’ve asked our Communications Coordinators to send us spooky legends from their countries that have been scaring generation after generation. Javier Cárcamo, Communications Coordinator in Rural Guatemala, brings you the first in a series of frightening and mysterious tales:

Manuelita

Hundreds of years ago in colonial times, a beautiful woman came to the quiet streets of Antigua Guatemala. Her long black hair and big eyes caught the attention of all the neighbors, but nobody knew her or why she was living alone in that old house.

Shortly thereafter she introduced herself as Manuelita, and her reputation as a witch and healer grew. Her remedies were very effective and the people would see her gathering herbs and colored candles to carry out her rituals.

Despite her success as a healer, one of her clients went to the Governor and accused her of witchcraft and casting curses. Because of this accusation, she was put on trial in the Court of the Holy Inquisition, and sentenced to burn alive in the town’s central square. She was taken to the jail as she waited for her punishment, but as Christmas was nearing, her execution was postponed until the first week of January.

Despite her imprisonment the beautiful woman did not show any signs of anxiety, and on the night of December 24, Manuelita humbly begged the prison guard for one last favor. She asked for a piece of coal. Touched by the sadness in the woman’s eyes, the prison guard could not refuse her request, and he handed her a small lump of coal.

As legend goes, Manuelita took the coal and, murmuring secret conjurations, she drew a ship on the wall. Mysteriously, she boarded the ship and sailed between the bars of her cell, leaving nothing behind except the drawing of the ship on the wall...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hope for Wilmer

You may remember reading about Wilmer in the blog post “Sixteen to Life.” While his mother was in jail, Wilmer was forced to quit school and struggled to take care of his younger sisters.

I remember interviewing this family in Honduras. In a small, resigned voice Wilmer told us about the days they went hungry and how alone they felt while their mother was away. As the interview came to an end, I urged Wilmer to go to the Children International community center just five minutes away from his home and enroll for sponsorship. He took that to mean that his sisters could be sponsored. When I explained that he could be sponsored too and might have the possibility of returning to school, his sad eyes lit up a little. But then he said something that broke my heart. “I’ll have to ask my mother.” I knew what those words meant. My eyes welled with tears and I had to excuse myself for a moment. I was losing hope for him or his sisters ever enjoying the benefits of sponsorship that could ease some of their hardships. We thanked them for their time, and I slowly walked away from their home feeling sad and defeated.

I still think about Wilmer and his sisters. A story like theirs is not easily forgotten. I looked up his record the other day just to see if he’d taken that one crucial step, and there it was, staring at me on the computer screen. At the urging of our field staff, Wilmer finally made his way to the community center and enrolled himself for sponsorship.

It may have taken Wilmer a while to go to the community center and enroll, but it didn’t take long for Wilmer and his little sisters to find sponsors. In fact, when I told our new writer, Garrett Kenyon, about Wilmer's story, he immediately decided to make Wilmer his very first sponsored child. I’m sure things will still be difficult for Wilmer and his siblings, but knowing that they are sponsored renews my hope that their lives might just be a little bit better.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Second Chances

Posted on behalf of Vong Hamilton, proofreader for Children International.

I don’t remember much of anything of that time or place as I was only 3. However, one scene stays in my mind and I recall it often – not sure if it is a real memory or a byproduct of storytelling.

But I am leaving a village through a thick cloud of dust…I drag along behind my parents and brothers as part of a large migration out of a refugee camp. Lining the road are grass huts with people everywhere; some clothed, others naked – exiled by the Vietnam War.

Despite the excitement of those hustling to leave, melancholy saturates the air and settles heavily on the shoulders of those left behind. I look back and see an elderly man sitting on the ground with a haunting look on his face, sadness and hopelessness emanating from the black beads of his eyes. And I suddenly feel overwhelmed with sorrow because I know his life will probably end in the loneliness of the camp...his joy taken from him to accept, in his last days, grief that only a refugee can experience.

And I think about where I am today and how fortunate I am for my parents’ love, sacrifice and courage. Not yet 30 with four kids (and my mother pregnant!), they were stripped of the only home they’d known and ushered into a foreign land with a different culture and a mammoth language barrier.

But they lived one day at a time, looking to the future, yet also honoring the past, and slowly acquired new dreams. They were lucky enough to get a second chance. And today, it is because of that second chance, for which I am appreciative every day, that I could give something back to the world by playing a part, albeit minor, in bringing someone else hope.

The children and their families from our sponsorship program epitomize the strength, determination and hopefulness exhibited by my parents and other survivors (from any war in history) who try to make each day count.

I believe in the work of Children International and the hope it brings to the children and families around the world who didn’t choose to live a life of poverty but are all holding out for that second chance. And with the continuous help of our devoted supporters, we all can contribute to helping give someone a second chance at life.