Monday, July 28, 2008

A Little Pilot in Training

This is Sergio from Quito, Ecuador. One look at that sweet little face and you’ll know why his sponsor picked him. Makes you want to pinch his little cheeks and give him a big hug, doesn’t he?

He may be small, but Sergio’s got big plans. “I would like to be a pilot to fly a plane. I play with my toy plane toy, and I am the pilot.”

Until then, Sergio is lucky to have a loving sponsor to continue giving him the benefits he needs to reach for the sky.

Photos and reporting assistance by Andrés Barreno, Children International Communications Coordinator in Quito, Ecuador.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Using What She Learned in Her “Foam-ative” Years

Poverty has a long list of trophies hanging on its wall…and Laura was determined not to be one of them.

Despite being born into impoverished conditions, Laura, 17, made up her mind to be a winner. It was obvious that education was the key to a better life; the question was, how do you get an education when your family can barely afford to eat?

Laura’s answer came in an unlikely manner.

Because Laura is sponsored through Children International, her mother had the opportunity to attend vocational training offered by the sponsorship program to mothers of sponsored children, teaching them to use “foamy” (foam rubber craft material) to create various forms of art. Laura tagged along to the classes – and there she discovered the key to her dream.

Instead of hanging around in boredom, waiting for her mom to be done so they could go home, Laura listened attentively to the training. In fact, she was so attentive that she mastered the lessons herself.

Now Laura gives classes to other people, decorates for parties and makes other decorations – all out of “foamy.” Her earnings are about $100 per month…a very respectable figure, considering that the average monthly income for sponsored families in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, is less than $114.

Using the money she earns with “foamy” art, Laura is studying to be a medical and aesthetical cosmetologist. Though her parents pay her tuition, she is able to afford raw materials for her art and textbooks for her school. Her earnings also cover her transportation to and from her classes.

Laura is just one of many outstanding youth who are determined to make it in life. Thanks to the dedicated sponsors of Children International, they’ve got a fighting chance.

Photos and reporting assistance by Patricia Calderón, from our agency in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Reality Check

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton.

The recent heat wave here has been keeping people from getting outdoors as much as they had been earlier this summer. Therefore I hadn’t seen a neighbor for awhile until we touched base this weekend.

I asked him how he’d been.
“We are really hurting,” he said. He can’t afford to keep making payments on his truck because the grocery and electricity bills are starting to really eat into their budget. And they have home repair work that needs to be done but the cost of materials, he said, has gone up considerably.

I had just returned from filling up my car, so I could relate…but only a little. It does seem, though, like we are all tightening our belts and carefully watching the way we spend money. That conversation has reverberated in my mind, causing a bit of (irrational?) panic to set in regarding finances.

For a couple of years now, one of the first thoughts I have when I feel the pangs of financial insecurity is about a friend of mine named Aaron. He began sponsoring a child while going through his own financial woes. Yes, you read that correctly: he BEGAN sponsoring when he was feeling financially insecure. Granted (and he won’t mind me saying this), Aaron is a little different from many – still, that counter-intuitive reaction has stuck with me. Though I don’t want to tout the specific ways it has impacted my actions, his example has – occasionally – guided me.

I decided to send Aaron an email, asking if he’d explain this unusual philosophy. He opened up his reply with a description of something he calls “baglady” syndrome:

“It is that irrational fear probably based upon all the pressures of modern life to keep up our lifestyles with computers, iPods, TV's, cars, gas, mortgage, food, clothes and everything else whereby we fear we will lose our jobs, become homeless, trade aluminum cans for food money and hold up signs on the side of the road hoping for spare change knowing we will never actually ‘work for food.’
“I was having just such fears when I decided to sponsor a child at Children International. I have spent a lot of time in foreign countries where there is real poverty, even volunteering for years at an orphanage in rural Mexico.

“I have a soft spot for children in these countries and have ever since my first visit to Mexico with my Spanish class in 7th grade. My father gave me $100 for souvenirs but I quickly gave it all away to the beggars in Mexico City before we even got to Tasco or Acapulco. My heart ached for them. It was a sight I had never seen in the States and it tore me up then as it does still today.”

Aaron concluded his answer with this:

“So in my heart and head I knew in this land of plenty I would never be homeless unless I chose to be. And part of overcoming this fear for me was to sponsor a child through Children International. Last year, I called the field officer to see what her family most needed and was able to provide them with a monetary gift to buy these items.

“The letter I received after that tore me up. Genesis relayed to me that at 14-years old, it was the first time in her life she had a bed of her own. They sent me photos of all the new items they were able to buy and told me how much it changed their lives.

“I am still unsure about my future and my job and what life may bring my way, but I do know that as long as I help others I always seem to be provided for myself.”

I probably wouldn’t make such a suggestion to my neighbor who is feeling financially squeezed. But it is good to be reminded of my reality: I have everything I need – I lack nothing essential.
As our blog audience knows, that places me in a very fortunate position, indeed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Lighter Side of Sponsorship

Each month our hard-working Communication Coordinators choose three sponsored children and interview them to see what’s on their minds. Their answers remind us that no matter where a child lives or what their economic situation may be, they are sweet, funny…or just plain silly. And, thankfully, sponsorship is allowing them to hold on to their innocence.

Abegail Bonalos, Manila, Philippines
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of the pink dinosaur peeking in our windows. It is fat, and it looked at me and then I went to my parents and slept on their bed, because I was afraid of it!

Yamileth Galarza from Guayaquil, Ecuador
What do you want to be when you grow up and why?
I still don’t know, but I don’t want to be a doctor or a model.

Kelly Hernandez, Barranquilla, Colombia
What would you give your sponsor if you could give him/her anything?
Something pretty that would make him happy - like a picture of me.

John Torres, Valparaíso, Chile
What would you like to say to your sponsor?
I would tell her I am a mischievous and loved boy. I get a little cranky sometimes.

Jonathan Aguierre, Guatemala City, Guatemala
What do you like to do for fun? What makes you happy?
Play with friends. I feel happy when I play with them and we tickle our tummies, because we laugh.

Teddy Nyirongo, Lusaka, Zambia
What would you like to say to your sponsor?
I want to give you a big hug.

Another boy who is waiting for his chance to just be a kid is Richard. If you know someone who would like to help out, please email us at

Friday, July 18, 2008

Adding to a Youth’s Potential

Posted on behalf of Sarah Jane Velasco, Communications Coordinator in Tabaco, Philippines.

Julie Panganiban may have come from a poor family in Tabaco, but she doesn’t let poverty get in the way of her dreams.

At the age of 13, Julie is already in her third year of high school. As a child she skipped pre-school and was accelerated to first grade. An all-around whiz kid, she excels both in the arts and sciences, but she is particularly gifted in mathematics. She is proudest of being part of the Mathematics Trainers Guild where selected students across the country undergo advanced math clinics and take qualifying exams for international math competitions. She also represents her school during division science meets and press conferences.

Julie (in red) with her sponsored friends during a youth workshop.

But even though she is excelling academically, Julie admits that she is quite shy when it comes to dealing with her peers. “It was difficult for me to adjust especially during my first year in high school. I was really very shy then,” she shares. But through the exposure she gets from Children International’s different activities, she was able to overcome her shyness. “The leadership trainings helped me to become more confident in sharing my ideas with others. Mingling with other sponsored kids in various activities helped me develop my social skills more,” she adds.

But all of that progress almost came to an end when her family suffered a serious financial crisis during her first year of high school. Julie almost had to quit school. But instead of giving in to the problem, she took it as a challenge and even got the highest grades in her class that academic year. According to Julie, “More opportunities are open to those who are educated. That’s why I’m fortunate to have a sponsor who helps me to continue with my studies.”

With the support of her sponsor, this bright young lady is well on her way to breaking through the barriers of poverty.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bloggers on a Mission: Richard Needs Your Help

Last week we introduced you to Richard, a young man from Tabaco, Philippines (read the original post here).

As you may recall, Richard’s situation is desperate. His family generates only about $30 of income each month, causing them to live under unimaginable circumstances.

Richard still needs a sponsor…and we’re looking for a champion. Will you be the one to help us find him a sponsor?

Let your family…your coworkers…your friends know that the situation is urgent. Tell them how simple and gratifying sponsorship is – and how great a difference it can really make in the life of a poor child and his or her family.

And if you have a Lift One Project, once you find someone to sponsor Richard, drop us a line at We’ll not only set up the sponsorship personally, but we’ll also make sure Richard’s new sponsor gets credited to your Lift One Project.

We’re standing by to hear from you!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peter from Zambia

Peter loves being a sponsored child. He's especially happy about the opportunity to have an education. "I like the library because I have learned a lot of things, and I am doing better at school. I was very excited the day I received things for school. I was given everything I needed for school."

When asked what he would like to share with his sponsor, he knew just what to say. "I would like my sponsor to see how happy I am because of the things I received from him through Children International." Just looking at that smile, there is no doubt in my mind that he means it.

Photo by Clementina Chapusha.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chat with Jim Cook

July 15 is just around the corner! We still have a few seats remaining in our online live chat with Jim Cook, president of Children International.

If you'd like a chance to visit with Jim online, just drop us a line at We'll let you know if there are still seats available.

The chat will be held July 15 at 11:00 a.m. CST. So don't delay! Email us now for your reservation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Have you had your eNews today?

Right on schedule, another edition of eNews is making its way to your email inbox. If you can’t wait until then, here’s a little taste of what July eNews has to offer:

- If you’ve ever wondered just what happens when a child goes to the community center to pick up a sponsorship gift, then The Boy of Eternal Smiles has a video (and a smile) to share with you.

-Mayra’s Life after Sponsorship is looking bright thanks to the support she received from her sponsor. Be sure to read what she said about her favorite sponsorship memory - it truly shows how important even the most common item can be to a needy child. (To read more about youth like Mayra, take a look at our Youth Report Card.)

-A powerful story from Mexico about one mother’s struggle with drugs and alcohol and how Children International helped her to sober up so she could be the mother her children always needed.

-In keeping with the Fourth-of-July spirit, Freedom from Poverty is a photo feature about a Guatemalan field officer who worked in a fireworks factory as a child to support himself and his family.

Did this pique your interest? If so, then read on!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bloggers On A Mission: Meet Richard

Our featured child this week is Richard, from Tabaco, Philippines, who has been waiting for a sponsor for two years. Richard is 11 years old, and lives with his mom, dad and three of his five siblings (the other two are grown) in a single room. His bed is a woven mat on the floor.

Richard’s dad works hard as a laborer, and his mom works just as hard doing laundry – but between the two of them they are barely able to bring home about $30 each month. His older brother is sponsored.

You can imagine what an incredible relief it will be for the family when Richard is sponsored and gains the security of reliable medical and dental care, as well as help with his education.

Richard’s favorite pastime is playing basketball. How about we get some teamwork going and try to score a 3-pointer for this young man? You know the drill…print out this story…share it with your coworkers, friends and family…let them know that helping Richard’s future can be as inexpensive as a cheap cup of coffee (less than 75 cents a day!)…and before you know it, he will be connected to a caring sponsor.

If you or someone you know would like to become Richard’s sponsor, just write us at We’ll handle your request personally.

P.S. Do you know someone who would like to sponsor but can’t quite afford it on their own? Why not suggest they share their sponsorship with a friend or relative?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

The Blog Team and all of Children International wish you a safe and happy Independence Day weekend!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Meet CI President Jim Cook

You’ve read about his travels on the blog, and now you have the opportunity to chat with him live. At 11:00 a.m. CST on July 15th Mr. Cook will take to the web in an instant-messenger-style chat to answer sponsors’ questions.

Is there something you’ve always wondered about? Want a behind the scenes perspective on sponsorship? Or would you just like to meet the man in charge? If so, this is your chance. The first 15 people to post a comment on the “Meet President Jim Cook” discussion thread on our Google Group’s page will be invited to join our live chat. Once you have posted your chat request to the thread, please email us at with your email address and contact information so we can send you all of the chat details.

Why only 15 people? We use free technology, and, well, there are limitations. So hurry to our Google Group and claim your “seat” in the chat! We apologize to those who are not among the first 15, but don’t despair. There certainly will be more chances to participate in live chats of this nature.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Still going strong

- Our Google Group, that is. Children International’s Google Group is a great place for sponsors to mingle with other sponsors and chat about their experiences. Group members are asking questions about special donations and visits, making suggestions on how to better improve the sponsorship experience, sharing personal stories and giving tips on fun items to include in letters to their sponsored children. Proud sponsors are even sharing their children’s pictures.

It’s your own little space on the web dedicated specifically to what interests you - helping children through Children International. And the best thing is you run the show. (We just chime in occasionally to answer your questions.) If you’d like to see what the buzz is all about and become a group member, just click on “Join this group” on the right column of our Google Groups homepage. If you need help, drop us a line at Until then, happy browsing!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Fighting Chance

Does the name “Marcia Brady” ring a bell in your mind? You might be interested to know that the woman millions of people remember as Marcia Brady of “The Brady Bunch” fame traveled to Africa recently on behalf of Children International.

CI team members Gretchen Dellett, Scott Cotter and I were in Africa with “Marcia” (Maureen McCormick) and her husband, Michael. They were gracious traveling companions who truly connected with the needy children of Lusaka, Zambia. In this piece, Gretchen reflects on Maureen’s visit.


A Fighting Chance
Posted on behalf of Gretchen Dellett

“I think about that hug every day.”

You can hear the emotion in Maureen McCormick’s voice as she recalls an emotional embrace with Mary, a 14-year-old orphan she met on her recent trip to Zambia, Africa. It’s evident as you speak to her that the journey – and the people she met – profoundly impacted her life.

The well-known actress and television personality spent ten days in Zambia on behalf of the nonprofit humanitarian organization Children International.

Maureen visits with Mary (left) and her sister, Manase.

Maureen met many children during her visit, but Mary, in particular, touched her heart. Although Mary is only 14, she has known a lifetime’s worth of pain and loss. Three years ago, Mary’s parents died of AIDS, leaving her in charge of her four younger siblings.

Each day, Mary wanders the nearby neighborhoods, looking for household work that may bring a little money for food. Her siblings also seek work. When that fails, as it often does, they beg on the streets. There are days when they eat nothing.

As Maureen took a tour of Mary’s barren home, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. The five children live in a cramped room with only a tattered, foam mattress and dirty blankets to sleep on. “Wow,” she said. “They could really, really benefit from Children International.”

Through an interpreter, Mary told Maureen of the difficulties they face. “I feel more like a mother than a sister,” she admits. “It’s been really difficult. I can’t afford food for them, or to send them to school.”

As she listened, Maureen shook her head in disbelief. “I have a daughter, and I just can’t even imagine her, you know, at this age, doing what Mary’s doing,” she said. Impulsively, she reached out to Mary and hugged her. Mary’s eyes filled with tears as she felt what had been missing in her life for three long years: a mother’s touch. “It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Maureen said.

When Maureen departed Zambia, she left Mary with far more than just a warm embrace: she and her husband, Michael, gave Mary the gift of their sponsorship.

Sponsors have also been found for Mary’s siblings. Now, as sponsored children, all five have access to Children International’s nearby community center, where they can receive medical and dental care, educational assistance, emergency food, vocational assistance and perhaps most importantly for these young orphans… attention and support from caring adults.

Maureen and Michael have already helped put new beds in Mary’s household, and they look forward to being a part of her life – and giving her a fighting chance to rise above the poverty and sorrow that has marked her young, difficult life.

If you’d like to discuss this post with other Children International sponsors, why not join the Children International Google Group?

Read more about Maureen McCormick and Children International.