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 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 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 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,, 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

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.