Monday, September 29, 2008

Overcoming Disaster

Opening a new community center is always a special occasion for Children International, and our new center in Patulul, in rural Guatemala, was no exception.

This center was particularly interesting to me, though, because it will serve the needs of my own sponsored child, Jessica.

Patulul was hit hard by Hurricane Stan in October of 2005. You may recall footage in our video archives showing families who lost their homes and livestock – and in the more tragic cases, even loved ones.

Now the Children International community center stands in Patulul as a beacon of hope – a daily reminder that, just as we were there for them after the storm, we’ll be there to help the community’s children reach for a better life.

Here are some pictures from the inauguration event. Enjoy!

The new Children International community center in Patulul, Guatemala.

Sponsored youth sported traditional garb...

...And sponsored children honored the occasion with a song.

Agency Director Héctor Rivera and sponsored children cut the ribbon while Children International CFO David Houchen looks on.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Time for Action

Blog Action Day is coming soon, and this year’s topic is poverty. We have joined forces with bloggers all over the world to bring attention to poverty and do our own small part to combat it. In the days leading up to October 15th we’ll introduce you to some very special children living in poverty and show you how you can help through Children International’s blog.

Keep checking back for more information as the day approaches. Together we can do great things to alleviate the burden poverty places on children throughout the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joining the Team

Posted on behalf of Garrett Kenyon, Children International's newest writer.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you can probably imagine how I felt when I was asked to join the team at Children International. The job would combine the two things I’m most passionate about in life - writing and helping others. I had volunteered before: fingerprinted children for the Child Protection Agency, canvassed for the Sierra Club, campaigned for politicians I believed in. I even joined an effort to save an old movie theatre in San Francisco and stood out on the sidewalk for weeks, battered by rain and wind, to get a petition signed. But nothing I had done could prepare me for the level of pure dedication and commitment that I would encounter at Children International.

The chance to touch so many young lives; the opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of children lift themselves out of poverty – it’s not something the people here take lightly. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who doesn’t have their office or cubicle lined with pictures of the children they have helped. Out of 250-some employees, it would be hard to find one who doesn’t sponsor at least one child (most, it seems, sponsor 2 or 3), and from every corner of the office photos of sponsored children and framed letters and drawings constantly remind us why we’re here.

One thing that has surprised me thus far is how many of my notions and suspicions have already been put to rest. Like many people, I used to see the commercials on TV and think about sponsoring a child. However, as a registered cynic, a barrage of questions would keep me from taking the final step. For example, I thought, if they show this adorable child on the ad, won’t a lot of people call to sponsor this specific child? Are they all going to be told they’re sponsoring the same kid? How would I know that I’m helping one specific child? They say I’ll receive letters and pictures from my sponsored child – but is this even possible with so many children? How do I know thousands of other people aren’t getting the same picture and letter, with just the name at the top changed? Perhaps most importantly, how much of my money will actually go to help these children? These questions dampened my resolve and kept me from taking the final step towards sponsorship.

Before the end of my first week, all these concerns were put to rest. As I learned more about the way CI operates, I found that sponsored children are served by community centers in their neighborhoods that organize the photographing and letter writing of each child. My research showed that out of each $10 given to Children International, $8 goes to programs that help the children, with the remaining $2 being spent on administration costs. This became particularly impressive when I witnessed the sheer size of the operation. A tour of the premises on my third day left me speechless – the requirements necessary to run an organization like this are immense.

So here I am, ecstatic to be joining an organization that’s making a real impact on world poverty. Soon, I’ll be going into the field, and I’ll take you guys with me, relaying details of my trip through the eyes of a newcomer. I hope you’ll join me. Thanks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

George's Story

My name is George, and I have been a member of Children International for six years now. It has truly been a great experience.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet my sponsored child, Jordana, in Chile. We had a great time spending the day together. But what made it even more special was that it was her birthday, and not just any birthday, but her sweet 15 – a very important milestone in Latin America. I took her shopping, and we shared many stories.

I am so happy that I had the chance to meet the person that I have been helping for so very long face-to-face. I loved every moment I had with Jordana. Of course, the hardest thing of the trip was when I had to say good-bye. I gave her a big hug and said my good-byes to a special girl that will always be close to my heart. It was a wonderful trip.

Because I had such a great experience with Jordana, I decided to sponsor another child – Lesly, in Guatemala. I am looking forward to meeting her and spending the day with her as well. Hopefully I can surprise her on her birthday too!

I would like to thank Children International for reaching out to children in the world who need help. I am happy to be a part of this great organization. My sponsored children have opened my eyes to so much, and I thank them both for letting me be a part of their lives. I am so very grateful. I would encourage anyone to sponsor just one child. You will not regret it.

Posted on behalf of sponsor, George Petri.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kidding Around

Whether rich or poor, urban or rural, kids know how to have a good time. Take a look at some of the fun moments caught on camera by our Communications Coordinators.

Alejandro in Barranquilla, Colombia enjoys an afternoon of kite-flying.

Look out below! Children in Legazpi, Philippines take a little break from school to play on the slide.

Drumming up some fun in Lusaka, Zambia.

One blue bucket makes one cool hat for this boy in Rural Guatemala.

What better way to spend the day than with your friends at the beach in the Dominican Republic?

Photos from top to bottom by Patricia Calderón, Anthony Lorcha, Clementina Chapusha, Javier Cárcamo and Erenia Mesa.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Handing Out Hugs

Today is Special Hug Day, the day we set aside each year to honor the families of our sponsored children. Each family receives practical items to make their daily lives easier and more comfortable.

Take a moment to view this slideshow of last year’s Special Hug celebration. And please accept our heartfelt thanks for helping us send our sponsored children and their families a useful token of our appreciation for them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Official!

After some really great ‘lifting,’ we’ve drawn the winner for the Lift One Project Sweepstakes. Head to our homepage to watch a video of the drawing. Our CI staff members had a great time and we hope you did too.

Thanks to everyone who participated in helping lift more children out of poverty.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gaining Independence, Again

September in Honduras…

March would’ve made a more appropriate ninth month, if you ask me, for during its first two weeks marching up and down is all I can remember doing. Surrounded by rows of classmates, there I was, stomping in unison the hot ground. We might as well been snuffing out hordes of invisible ants.

Why were we taken out of class to march around for an hour or so a day? The answer is simple: Independence Day. All over the country, students – from elementary to high school – hone their marching skills several weeks prior so that on September 15th they can flood the streets in civic celebration. Diverse school uniforms and banners add color to the slowly advancing wall of youngsters, who sway rhythmically to the sound of drums and trumpets. One, two, one, two…like a giant caterpillar they push on through the city.

Giant caterpillars? Drums and trumpets? Are these connected to sponsorship?

Not really.

But the occasion reminds me of how – thanks to the generosity and effort of our sponsors and donors – our sponsored children are also celebrating a second independence, and this celebration is not limited to any day of any month of the year. As far as I know, these kids could very well be marching up and down their homes everyday of the year from the mere joy of knowing that sponsorship has granted each of them an opportunity to gain independence from the virtually inescapable shackles of extreme poverty.

Posted on behalf of David Nebel. Photos courtesy of and

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Special Delivery: eNews

Running low on reading material? Don’t despair! eNews is rolling off our virtual presses as I write. Here’s a sneak preview at what you’ll find in the September edition:

• Learn how sponsorship helped a young teen rise above a dysfunctional home life and receive the counseling she needed to get back on track in “Coming Out of a Tailspin.”
• Only 106 shopping days until Christmas! But why wait? Read “Shopping for Charity” to find out how you can shop smart to get the deals you want…and help Children International keep helping children.
• Ever wonder what makes other sponsors tick? Meet an outstanding Children International sponsor and discover why she does what she does in “Mack’s Story.”

If you’re a subscriber to Children International’s eNews, check your inbox later today for these great stories and more. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, it’s as easy as visiting our website and signing up. Enjoy the read!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Meet a Blogger: Sarah

I’ve been blogging for Children International for a while now, but I’ve never really introduced myself. While a little mystery is always nice, I’d like to share a bit about the name behind some of the blogs you read.

I got my first taste of real poverty when I spent a summer studying in Mexico. When I wasn’t in class, I volunteered at an elementary school for inner-city kids and at a federal orphanage. Those little faces stuck with me. After I graduated from college, I moved back to Mexico and taught English to pre-school children - a challenge to say the least. I taught them English; they taught me patience and humility. Although the school was somewhat prestigious, poverty was still all around me: in the poor neighborhood surrounding the school, on the street corners where children sold gum to help their families, in the zócalo or plaza where mothers begged for money with their children at their feet. It’s amazing how easily one becomes accustomed to seeing it.

When I moved back to the States I knew I wanted to continue working with children and above all, use my Spanish to help people. I took a job as a translator for immigrant families at a public school, and I even taught a bilingual 2nd grade class in Dallas for a while. When I was ready to go back home to Kansas City, I stumbled across Children International. Serendipitously they were looking for someone with my skills. You know the rest of the story - I got the job.

It is a job that I kind of just fell into, but it is also a job seemingly tailor-made for me. While I spent most of my time in the main office proofreading and translating, I do occasionally get to travel to our agencies as a staff interpreter. Meeting the needy families that we help and chatting with their children are certainly the highlights of what I do. Whenever someone asks, I feel proud to tell people I work for Children International. If I have to spend my time working, knowing that in my own small way I’m helping children feels like a pretty great option to me.

Sarah and writer Damon Guinn interview a sponsored boy in Honduras.

Photo by Jennifer Spaw.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It Doesn’t Take Much

Posted on behalf of Erin Fitzgerald.

Some of the happiest people I've met have next to nothing. They live in tiny cramped shacks, some sleeping on mats covering the bare dirt floor. They cook over an open fire and have to walk down the street just to obtain running water. They have few possessions – some clothing, a few kitchen items, and perhaps a few chairs. They get by on so little.

Despite all the obstacles they face, impoverished families manage to find the most indescribable joy in the smallest everyday occurrences, from their child’s smiles or flowers planted in a rusty old tin to a handwritten letter from their child’s sponsor.

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places in impoverished communities, and neighborhoods in Chile are no exception.

While some parents living in poverty can barely read or write, the wisdom they possess transcends books and diplomas. They understand what’s truly important in life, and that’s appreciating what they do have – their children.

When it comes down to it, it doesn’t take much to be happy. And it really doesn’t take much to make life easier for an impoverished child. Some school supplies….cold medicine…a new pair of shoes. I’m proud to work for an organization like Children International that makes each day just a little easier – and happier – for people who are among the poorest in the world. And it’s exciting to know we have so many dedicated sponsors who are always willing to pitch in and help.

Sponsorship gifts like a warm new blanket give impoverished children a reason to hope.

Every time I find myself upset over something insignificant, I recall the families in our program. Thinking of them keeps me grounded and reminds me each and every day how fortunate I am and how to find happiness in the smallest things.

Photos by David Nebel and Clementina Chapusha.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Evelyn from Quito

Sponsored child Evelyn is a girl who knows exactly what she likes and what she wants to be:

"I have fun doing my homework, especially when I have to do drawings. I like school. I would like to be a teacher. I could be a good teacher, because I used to help my friends with their homework. School is very important."

Photo and reporting assistance by Andrés Barreno, Communications Coordinator in Quito, Ecuador.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Through Hard Work and Hope

He started his working life in a bakery.

Up at 3 A.M. to have the bread made on time. What little money he made went mostly to feed his siblings and keep them clothed and healthy. It was the best an uneducated young man could hope for at the time.

Tired, dusted head to toe in flour, I envision him dragging his body home every day, willingly handing over his day’s earnings with a loaf of bread.

Soon, another opportunity happened along and he was quick to take it. It meant more money, better hours and there was a little room for growth. To start, all it required was pumping gas, checking tires and oil, and scrubbing a lot of windows. It was called full service – and that’s exactly what it was too.

It was a good opportunity for an uneducated rural Missouri boy still dealing with the difficult and not-too-distant memories of WWII. People would come by the gas station and shout to Little Oz, a handle he earned early on because of his father, Oswald.

But I knew him simply as Dad.

While working at the gas station, Dad got an opportunity to apply at the Chevy plant in Kansas City. It meant a 50-plus mile trip by bus every day but the pay was decent and there was real potential for him there. With that kind of job, he must have thought, he could start building a foundation that would allow him to eventually support a family. And there he stayed…for the next 45 years.

While I’m not quite sure what my father ever thought about his job, his hard work and dedication gave my brothers and me opportunities he never had.

The thing is, as hard as Dad worked on that factory line, he was no more dedicated than a good deal of the fathers – or mothers for that matter – who toil day in and day out in slums around the world in hopes that their children will someday have opportunities they never did.

I’ve met them myself in the villages of India, the shanty towns of Honduras and slums of Colombia. Some work in banana plantations for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Others ferry passengers on beaten and broken bicycle taxis. They work cutting sugar cane, hauling bricks, selling fruits and vegetables on street corners in the searing heat; most are willing to do whatever it takes so their families survive.

A decent wage is hard to come by for most of them. Like my father, many of them have never completed a basic education, yet they face circumstances where hard work and dedication don’t often amount to much.

It’s good to know that some do get ahead. Sheer force of will or ingenuity does it sometimes. Others take advantage of small loans and business training provided by Children International. They learn a skill, are trained to run a business and then given the opportunity to make something of it. Not surprisingly, many of them do.

Today, Labor Day, is for all the parents, here and elsewhere, who work themselves to the bone in the hopes that their children can eat, stay healthy and maybe, just maybe, have it just a little better than they did.

My hat is off to them. And to Dad…thanks.

Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter.