Friday, February 29, 2008

Meet Angelica, from Manila, Philippines

Angelica, who wants to be a nurse when she grows up, says, "I like writing to my sponsor. I want to tell my sponsor about our school and about my family. Because he helps me, I want him to be close to me."

Photo by Joel Abelinde, our Communications Coordinator in Manila.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Straight from the Heart

Posted on behalf of Nivedita Moitra, Communication Coordinator for Children International in Calcutta, India.

A visit to the communities is always exciting, though for this visit I was a little uneasy. I was going to visit a sponsored father in one of our rural communities who had a heart surgery. On that hot and balmy August afternoon, while walking to their house through a sleepy village, a number of doubts assailed me – would the father be willing to talk? Would he be upset about his medical condition, or would he be offended that I wanted to talk about a matter that was not particularly pleasant?

I was surprised on all accounts. When I met Prasanta, the first thing that struck me was his optimism and positive attitude. He is a warm person who talked to me at length about the major heart surgery he underwent with support from Children International. His gratitude toward CI was palpable and it left me feeling proud to be in an organization that meets the different needs of the sponsored families.

Prasanta is a vendor who sells tasty snacks in his food cart outside schools in his community. He pushes his cart from school to school hawking his wares. The first hint of trouble came to him in twinges of pain and shortness of breath. Soon pushing the food cart became an uphill task and the family income plummeted, as he was the sole breadwinner supporting his wife, son and twin daughters. The future looked bleak for the two daughters who were not in the program. The specter of debt and sliding further into poverty loomed on the horizon.

Two months down the line, this scene has changed dramatically. A smiling Prasanta (Soumik’s father) greeted us with wide smiles and told us that he is back on the job that sustains his family after a heart surgery that required VSD closure and Aortic Valve replacement. To quote him, “Life had handed me a raw deal…but I am so fortunate that my son is in a programme that supports not only my son’s need but shares and meets the concerns and needs of the family too. Had it not been for Children International, it would have been impossible for me to undergo this treatment – and as for my family God knows what would have happened to them, especially my daughters.

“To load my van with food used to be a daily struggle that I had come to dread, not to mention the pushing of the cart, but I knew I had no options if I wanted to feed my family. Life for me had become one long tunnel of pain and despair till we got the great news that Children International would be meeting my medical expenses. Then on, I did everything in my power to ensure that I followed all the medical advice to the letter, because I had to become well for my family,” affirmed Prasanta.

When I complimented him on his positive attitude and told him that he was quite a hero in my eyes, Prasanta quietly corrected me and said, “I am not the hero; for me the real hero is my son’s sponsor, without whom Children International would not be in our lives and I would not probably be alive today”.

After sharing with Prasanta his joy and gratitude towards Children International for putting him back on his feet and as I walked back to the main road where transport was waiting to take me back to the city lights, I wondered at the power of sponsorship that is keeping the hopes and aspirations of many families like Prasanta’s in different countries alive and burning bright.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why I Sponsor

I thought I’d kick off this week by asking our readers to weigh in on sponsorship.

Child sponsorship is a unique proposition. It’s a situation where a “buyer” (the sponsor) buys a product he or she will never materially use. In fact, they pay money each month for benefits that someone else enjoys.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense in the business world…but it makes an awful lot of sense in the context of humanity.

My family and I sponsor a little girl in Guatemala. Now, I’d say we’re a pretty average American family – four kids (two of which are teenagers), a dog and a turtle. We live in a 1950s ranch-style home in a 1950s neighborhood in a bedroom community of Kansas City. Both of our cars are four years old.

We’re average, middle-class Americans. And in the eyes of the inhabitants of our sponsored child’s village, we’re fabulously wealthy.

Our sponsored child, Jessica

I don’t sponsor out of guilt. I’m thankful for everything I have – including the opportunity to make a lasting difference in the lives of a family in Guatemala. Because I am an average, middle-class American who works just like anyone else to make ends meet, I’m thankful that opportunity comes at such a reasonable price. And I’m pretty certain Jessica and her family are thankful, too.

How about you? What’s your story? What’s the single most outstanding sponsorship experience you could share with us? What makes you do it? We’d love to hear from you, so click on “Comments” below this story and share away.

Photo by Javier Cárcamo

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Kindergarten in Honduras: More Pictures

Here are a few more photos of the inauguration of the new kindergarten facility in Vida Nueva, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, that was built by Children International thanks to a generous donation from Griswold Industries. This project was a great example of collaboration: the community donated the property, Children International and its donor built the facility and the government of Honduras provided the teacher.

Congratulations to all who worked hard to make this happen!

Children and parents gathered to kick off the grand event.

Agency director Blanca Estela Rodríguez (right) cuts the ribbon at the inauguration.

Children and staff pose inside the new center. Jackie (left rear, in yellow) is the Children International volunteer who taught until the new teacher arrived. Jackie continues to help in the center.

Blanca Estela Rodriguez lends a hand to a young patron.

With over 130 students, Pamela, our new teacher, is going to have her hands full!

Photos by Jesús Almendárez, Children International's communications coordinator in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Graduation to Remember

Last Friday was a special day for Vida Nueva, a poor community in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Dozens of children celebrated the grand opening of a brand new kindergarten built by Children International – something the community had been anticipating for months. Concerned for their children’s education, community leaders donated the property with the understanding that Children International would build the facility and the government of Honduras would provide a qualified teacher.

But the community didn’t wait until the building was complete to start working with the children! Although no actual teacher was available, a Children International volunteer named Jackeline Lourdes Valdez began to work with the children, meeting in improvised facilities.

Last November, more than 50 children graduated from the kindergarten program. Their moms and dads had decided that this was a very important milestone in their lives, and in spite of their poverty they decided to make it an event to remember.

Moms began to do fund raisers so they could provide special outfits for their children. Those who could sew made the outfits themselves; others found inexpensive seamstresses to help. Dresses, ruffles, shirts, ties…there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that these children were the apples of their parents’ eyes!

Jesús Almendárez, our communications coordinator in San Pedro Sula, shared some photos of the event.

Now the new building is operational, complete with a teacher provided by the state – although Jackeline (above, right, with the new teacher) is still donating her time and efforts to help out. Over 130 children are enrolled.

I just chatted with Jesús a few moments ago. He’s sending me some pictures of last week’s grand opening. I’ll be posting them later this week, so keep checking back!

Photos by Jesús Almendárez. Reporting assistance by Jesús Almendárez and Leticia López.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Meet Neenee Moitra

Posted on behalf of Kevin Fleming

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are impacted by sponsorship. In order to discover how sponsorship impacts these people and their communities, Children International depends on dedicated communications professionals.

Our communications coordinators are located in all 11 countries where we work. They are our eyes, ears, noses and hands in the field. They peek under the rug of the earth to deliver to you compelling and touching stories, the small miracles that sponsorship makes possible.

These communications coordinators wear many hats. At once they are beat reporters, photographers, documentarians, videographers, a smile of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. Without them our work at Children International headquarters would be far more difficult!

Whenever you read a Journeys article, watch a web video and even read blog posts it’s likely that what you are reading was supported by a communications coordinator.

Nivedita (Neenee) Moitra is our “go-to gal” in Calcutta, India, where she has covered sponsorship for several years. She is a superb photographer who captures a unique view of life in the rural Indian villages where many of our sponsored children live.

Check out her "Snapshot in Time" slideshow on our website, She has provided an audio commentary of the beautiful photos that are presented. The slideshow will be available on Tuesday, February 19.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Meet Victor, from Chile

At 6 years old, Victor's outlook on sponsorship is simple:

"I like to have my photo taken. It's my favorite part!"

But you probably already guessed that, didn't you?

Photo by Priscila O'Shee, the communications coordinator for our agency in Valparaíso, Chile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It’s that time again – soon this month’s eNews will be in your inbox!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Ciro, Bennett and Bernira the past couple of days. In this version of eNews you’ll learn even more about how Bennett has used sponsorship to impact the lives of Ciro and his sister (although Bennett is quick to say that he’s probably the one who’s been impacted the most!).

You’ll also meet a young girl who exemplifies the spirit of giving. Ferlenny is finally experiencing the joy of sponsorship for herself…after unselfishly helping others enjoy its benefits.

The spotlight is warm for Lynyrd Paras. But this rising star in the Philippines is quick to point to the poverty and pain of his youth – and the way out he found through sponsorship – as the source of inspiration for his paintings.

We hope you’ll like what you read. If you do, why not come back and drop us a comment?

If you don’t currently subscribe to eNews but would like to receive it, signing up is as simple as visiting our website!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In the Hope of Changing a Few More Lives - Part 2

This is a continuation of sponsor Bennett Scher's observations about his visit to his sponsored children in the Dominican Republic and about sponsorship in general.

Do you plan to continue your involvement in Ciro's life even though he's already graduated from our program? If so, what do you hope to see him accomplish?
Ciro is now a young man. I sponsored him for 7 years, and I have sent him to vocational school so he can hopefully get a better job and move up from there. I'm providing an item, the motor scooter, something that costs about 1/2 of the total annual family income and that he could never afford himself, as a tool for earning more income, and helping the family. Hopefully I've given his life a jumpstart and he will be able to make his way.

At this point, my main focus is his sister, Bernira, who is only 14, is a great student, and has a lot of potential. There is a chance that I might be able to send her to college as well, which only costs about $1000 a year in the Dominican Republic. I’ve donated for English classes, which she is taking, and if she expresses interest, the college thing is a viable option. I'm committed to staying with her as long as she is in the program, and longer, if she opts for continuing her education. Of course, if the family or Ciro are in dire need of something, I will do my best to help them with my own money or with other drives like the motorcycle fundraiser.

Tell me a little bit about your band…I own, lead, and play guitar in a 9-piece dance band called NIGHTSONG. We play exclusively at high-end corporate events and private functions, mainly in the larger hotels/facilities in the Greater Washington DC/Baltimore area. Hopefully one day we will be able to perform at a Children International fundraiser if the need ever arises!

Would you recommend sponsorship to others?
Yes, I would recommend it to anyone. The cost is minimal – less than 75 cents a day – so it’s a no-brainer. I've seen the way the organization works from the inside out. That $22 a month buys so much more than you could, backpacks, school supplies, regular dental and medical checkups, access to a community center, library, and even if a child's sponsor stops sponsoring them, they stay in the program. You can write the children, visit them, send extra gifts that go directly to them, and so much more.

To sum up, I'd say that the program exceeded my expectations greatly, and the experience of visiting the children has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. As much of a gift as it is for them to be helped by me, it's at least as much or more of a gift to me to be able to help them! I've already got a few friends interested in getting involved, and intend to share my story with everyone I meet, in the hope of changing a few more lives!

Monday, February 11, 2008

In the Hope of Changing a Few More Lives - Part 1

I hope you enjoyed Erin Fitzgerald’s video, Children at Work, that’s currently featured on our website. (Haven’t seen it yet? Click here to check it out!)

Bennett Scher is a long-time Children International sponsor – to be exact, the sponsor of Ciro, the young man who is featured in the video. I was with Bennett a few months ago in the Dominican Republic, and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me. I thought I’d share them with you…

How long were you Ciro's sponsor? What led you to sponsor him in the first place?
About 7 years, and I can't remember if it was a TV ad, or an email, or some type of Internet ad. People always ask me this, and unfortunately, I can't recall. I do remember what led me to sponsor his sister, and that was simply when I met her, I knew within a few minutes that I wanted to sponsor her too.

What was your impression when you walked into Ciro's home for the first time?
It was similar to how I imagined it in its size and construction. A wood house with a metal roof. I wasn't surprised since I had done a lot of reading and was as prepared as I could have been. It was different in that I was impressed with how nicely they had it fixed up inside, with little decorations, furniture, a small TV, and a very homey feel. I was impressed with how little they had, yet how much pride they had in their home.

Did visiting Ciro's home make him more real and more human to you?
Yes, of course it did. I saw how he lived, how little he grew up with, and how grateful they are for so little. It was a wake-up call for me since we have so much here and always seem to focus on what we don't have. I got to look him in the face and hear him speak, and see how humble and shy he is, and see how hard it must be for him to relate to me and for him to comprehend how I would come all the way down there just to visit him.

What led you to start a project to buy Ciro a motorcycle, and how is the project coming along?
On the second visit in October of this year, I found out that Ciro had major transportation issues, with getting to and from his job. He had to ride a beat up bicycle (which he said was very difficult to pedal) to and from work, at least 45 minutes each way, before starting his long day on the banana farm. He said that some nights when he got home from work, he was so tired that he would just fall into bed without even eating dinner.

I was upset to hear this because I had thought that he had a little motorcycle which I had seen on the first visit, but apparently that was his dad’s and wasn’t always available. I immediately asked Franklin (a Children International employee) how much a decent used motorcycle would cost, and we eventually came up with a goal of $725. I mentioned that I wished I could buy it for him but it was a lot for me, in addition to my other contributions. He suggested that I try to raise the money, and I said “I don’t think I can.” But then he contributed $75 to get me started. I hadn’t thought of it like that…and I said, “Well, I can give $50.”

By the end of that day, back at my hotel in Santiago, I had raised almost $300. Some was from two strangers that I had just met, who thought it was a wonderful idea and offered to help without me even asking, as well as another sponsor, etc. Within a couple of weeks, when I was back home, I had met my goal thanks to the help of good friends here in the U.S.

When I returned to the Dominican Republic two weeks later, I was able to tell Ciro that he would be receiving a call from a C.I. representative shortly, to go out and buy him the transportation he so desperately needs!!! He will be able to get to and from jobs and school now more easily and with more self esteem, as well as be able to help his family with chores and also perhaps with getting other family members to work too!

This photo turned out a bit blurry, but it captures a once-in-a-lifetime moment...Bennett had just broken the news to Ciro that he would be getting a motorcycle -- and had given him a toy bike to represent what was coming!

Check back tomorrow for the rest of Bennett's observations on sponsorship and his visit to the Dominican Republic.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Measuring Hope: Children International's 2007 Annual Report is Here

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook

Greetings, CI Bloggers!

I hope your new year is off to a great start and that you’re enjoying the blog entries and comments from sponsors and our well-traveled CI staff! The really nice part of this is that all of you are participating in making the world a better place…and for the sponsored children you’re helping, a world that is a little easier and much more hopeful!

Before we get too far into the new year, we’re announcing the publication of our annual report from last year. It’s available by clicking here (or by visiting In the report you can see what you and the rest of the sponsorship family have done over the past year…and it’s considerable!

So enjoy the report and then join us for another fun, satisfying year helping children and reading the interesting blog posts that uniquely document that experience!

Jim Cook is the president and CEO of Children International.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Meet the Writer and...Go Bananas!

Posted on behalf of Erin Fitzgerald

Ever wonder where your bananas are grown?

Find out more beginning Tuesday, February 5, on Children International’s website, where we’ll feature a short video about Ciro, a sponsorship graduate who is working on a banana farm to help support his family.

Like most people, I never gave a second thought about the origin of my bananas. But in May, I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to meet some of the families in our sponsorship program. I had the privilege of visiting Ciro, who sadly dropped out of school early to help support his family. Fortunately, a generous donation from his sponsor is now allowing him to continue his education.

We visited Ciro on the job at a banana farm to watch him in action. Working quickly and methodically, he boxed up bananas and prepared them to be exported so people like you and me can enjoy them.

And if you’re anything like me, the monotony of boxing up fruit might just drive you…bananas. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

But poor families are just grateful to have any type of employment that brings in money. They work in labor-intensive jobs, doing whatever it takes to keep their families afloat.

Next time you peel open a banana, think of the hard-working folks who cut them down and boxed them up so you could enjoy a delicious snack. And in the meantime, check out the video of Ciro, called “Children at Work” starting Tuesday, February 5. Feel free to come back and post your comments.

Erin is a staff writer for Children International. Her video about Ciro will be posted on our website,, on Tuesday. Don't miss it!

Photo by Jennifer Spaw

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Sad Reality

Our mission as a humanitarian organization is to help lift children out of poverty by meeting their basic needs through sponsorship. However, you might be surprised to learn that we have children who have been waiting for two years or more just to get into the sponsorship program. In business-world lingo, we have more product (children) than we do buyers (sponsors).

This has happened for a couple of reasons: Just two years ago, we were experiencing rapid growth only to be hit by a sudden shift in the economy. Children we were going to move into the program quickly have been placed on the waiting list where they’ve now remained for far longer than we could imagine or want. And while we would like to move them up the list, we first have to honor our commitment to the children who, for one reason or another, lose their sponsors. Because, once a child officially enters the sponsorship program they continue to receive benefits…whether they have a contributing sponsor or not.

The blog gives us a way to provide you with insider and extra information on sponsorship and what goes on behind the scenes. This is a particularly hard situation for us to wrestle with. It just kills us to know there are so many children who are so close to receiving the life changing help they need, yet they desperately wait.

So we’re going to introduce a few of these children to you over the next several weeks. If you were already thinking about sponsoring another child, maybe one of these will appeal to you or even someone you know. If you’re already maxed out, and many of us are, feel free to give us your thoughts or ideas.

And now we’d like to introduce you to Amilkar, from Rural Guatemala. He’s 4-years-old and will turn 5 in May. Click on the family record to read more about him. Can you help find him a sponsor? If so, email us at We’ll personally handle the arrangements and make sure he starts receiving benefits immediately.

I know we ask a lot from you, but I hope you, or someone you know, can help.