Championing Children in Haiti

Today we bring you a guest post from Jennifer Brandt who blogs over at Perfectly Disheveled about her work with Feed the Children last year and how she brought home the message of gratitude to her kids.

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Exactly two years ago this week, I came home from a 3 day trip to Haiti on a mission with Ladies’ Home Journal, Crocs Cares, and Feed the Children to deliver shoes to school children. It was the best time of my life and the worst time of my life. To travel so far and literally outside my comfort zone to a world I would have never imagined traveling to, and to be in a position to take some part (albeit, small) in helping children in need: The Best.

The worst: To be so far away from home and to know that when I do get home, teaching my child what gratitude really is, in a world where “I’m bored,” “Can I download”,” Can I have” is a part of daily dialogue and ignored because “He’s 7, so…,” or  “If you do X, you can have X,” or “Here, I’m tired…” And the list goes on…

Forget all the “how-to parent/breastfeed/make them sleep” books I’ve read or the “here’s how they should eat” classes I’ve taken. It’s become clear to me that THIS, teaching gratitude will be the biggest challenge I have as a parent. Which even when you think about, is LUCKY.

A woman a traveled to Haiti with from Feed the Children told me about their Sponsor a Child program that they’re working hard to raise awareness of. For $30 a month, a donation will:

-help provide nutritious and hot food for a child

-access to safe, clean water

-education and school supplies

-medical care

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Tonight I shared my goal of gratitude and giving with Jonah. Although I don’t know that he gets the severity of what true need means quite yet, I do feel like something resonated with him when we looked through the pictures of the children from all the different countries and could put names with the faces. He liked the idea of helping a specific child and he liked the idea that through Feed the Children, we can actually correspond with the child and get updates on their well-being. He kept going back to a boy in Malawi, exactly 3 months older than Jonah… he has no running water or electricity in his home but one day he wants to become President.

As I tucked J into bed tonight, he asked me if Malawi has a rich president. “Why?” I asked. “Because if he is rich, he needs to give people jobs. Have them build things. Like pipes and filters. Run the water to their houses. Someone needs to make a better system.”  Yep. They sure do.

To read her full post on Haiti head to her website.

You Don’t Have to Marry at 9 Years Old: Empowering Girls in Kenya

After being with Feed the Children for over two years now, you would think I would go through a day without a surprise.

But two weeks ago while I was traveling through Kenya, I learned something about our work that I didn’t know.

In the NGO world, we know that girls in school equals lasting change to communities.

Yet, for so many communities around the world, girls not in school are the norm.

2014-11-28 13.32.34But, why? We think girls drop out in the Global South because their parents can’t afford the school fees. Or we think that their parents need them to work. Yet for many girls, especially in rural communities, they drop out for other reasons.

In some parts of Kenya a practice called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is what is keeping girls from school.

Wow. I dare say, as an American male, this is something I have rarely thought or even knew much about.

But it’s a right of passage for girls usually aged 9-12 go through to prepare them for marriage. It’s a cultural tradition that can lead to serious infections, loss of pregnancies, and sometimes death. Although the government has banned FGM, some communities still practice it in secret.

So how can we address this problem?

For a while now, Feed the Children Kenya explored this issue. How could we empower girls with knowledge of their bodies, self-confidence and give them invitation to dream big for their future?

This was our answer: Feed the Children Kenya birthed the first ever retreat for 30 girls this past November in partnership with AIC Church, Lumbwa.

The retreat included workshops to help the girls know that the traditional way of life in the village is not the only option for them.

It just so happened that the Friday afternoon graduation ceremony coincided with my trip to Kenya. I couldn’t wait to meet these brave girls!

When we arrived at the church hosting the graduation, sounds of joyous singing by the girls and their mothers filled the space.

Girls laughed with sashes around their bodies, “I am a champion!” Mothers danced alongside them to welcome us. And a father who told me, “Thank you, Feed the Children for helping me empower my girls.”

I learned that often it is the mothers in the community that are most resistant to change. The fathers usually want FGM to stop.

Then, before an audience of 50, one girl spoke boldly on behalf of her graduation class, calling upon the governmentof Kenya and the county leadership to implement the law.

In response, I told the girls how proud I was of them. I told them they were beautiful. It shocked me that the crowd erupted in applause when a staffer translated my words. Maybe they aren’t used to ever hearing such encouragement?

2014-11-28 14.03.19Later, my wife, Elizabeth and I passed out certificates to each girl.

I learned that for all of the girls this was the only time they’d ever had a piece of paper with their name on it! Imagine that. Something that happens to me everyday that I take for granted!

As the festivities concluded the girls processed out of the church in song. Joy leapt from the dirt road as their sandals pounded in unity.

2014-11-28 14.28.14A Feed the Children staffer, Duncan who worked alongside the retreat all week leaned over to tell me, “You should have seen the girls on the first day. They were shy and withdrawn. Now, look at them! They’ve got hope.”

I’m so happy to tell you that this retreat is only the first of many to come. Plans are already underway for more gatherings like this in 2015. At Feed the Children, want girls like these to dream of unimaginable futures and to keep having reasons to dance with joy!

Defeating Hunger for Thousands of Kids in Philippines After Typhoon

DSCN6458Imagine you are 8 years old living in Cebu. And your mom tells you that another big storm is about to hit your island, like last year.

You’d wonder about what might happen to your toys.

You’d wonder if the waters would get too high.

You’d wonder if you’d have a house to go home to when the storm passed.

And then the rains start and the winds come. Imagine how scared you’d feel and how worried you’d be about your friends, down the street.

DSCN6441When morning came, what would your street look like? What about your school? And your friends’ houses?

This is the reality for so many kids in the Philippines right now.

No water. No power. Destroyed homes and schools.

Today, the worst may be over for the kids in the Philippines as Typhoon Hagupit (locally name “Ruby”) ravaged central islands for days, but the challenge to feed thousands of children and family members is beginning to hound the country.

In Northern Cebu, though families started returning to their homes Monday, many houses were totally destroyed still remained at evacuation centers needing food and other assistance.

Many families who thought the worse couldn’t happen to them again are now facing their worst fears.

IMG_0721The good news is that thanks to our generous donors, Feed the Children started providing hot meals fortified with VitaMeal in evacuation centers of Bogo, Cebu, while simultaneously conducting rapid disaster needs and assessment to other hit areas of Northern Cebu.

Kids in the streets and at community gathering points are being greeted by loving Feed the Children staff. Working around the clock, our staff is encouraging kids that through the gift of a hot meal they are seen. They are cared for. And together, one step at a time, life will be better.

One thing is for sure: recovery in the Philippines will be a long process.

Few families have back up plans for what to do when the little bit of food they have runs out.

Although most parents and kids in the areas of Tabogon and Daan Bantayan, Cebu were no longer in evacuation centers as of Monday afternoon, there is still the need to distribute emergency food packs.

Most families’ whose livelihood relies on fishing were unable to go out fishing since Thursday and farmers were unable to harvest crops and fruits.

The Philippine government has yet to release official total damage assessments but has declared 7 regions to be under a state of calamity including Metro Manila, the capital City.

IMG_0746Feed the Children has worked in the Philippines for the last 25 years, and we are here to stay. We will continue to distribute emergency aid until it is no longer needed, one child, one mother, one father at a time.

Help us help kids recover from this storm. Join us in the fight to defeat hunger for kids right now in the Philippines.

Giving Tuesday: Give a Gift That Matters

Get some great deals on Black Friday? Wait until you see the gifts you can pick up from our gift catalog.

Today is the third annual ‘Giving Tuesday,’ which is a day reminding us to give back, and the internet is full of causes asking for donations. But do you really know where your money is going when you click ‘donate’?

For Giving Tuesday, we invite you to know your gift matters. Whether it’s a chicken, a book, a water purification system, or a semi-truck full of necessities, these gifts can help children and their families succeed.

We understand that it might be hard to decide with so many options, so here’s five gift suggestions to help you get started:

FEED A CLASS OF 50 CHILDREN ($20)

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Help feed school children with a traditional Githeri meal of corn and kidney beans. In our Kenya programs, Feed the Children serves meals to 140,229 children in 170 schools each school day. Your gift will help children thrive physically and mentally.

WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS FOR 2 FAMILIES FOR 1 YEAR ($29)

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Even clean water can become contaminated while being carried home or stored for later use. These tablets are one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent diarrhea and other waterborne health issues

1 GOAT ($79)

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Goats are great for families trying to overcome poverty – a source of meat, milk and income.

FISHING GEAR FOR 1 PERSON ($188)

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Teach a man to fish and you give him the tools to provide his family with food for a lifetime. You also provide a family with the means of a stable income when they sell the excess fish at the market.

1 SEMITRUCK LOADED WITH NECESSITIES FOR 400 FAMILIES ($15,000)

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Keep the trucks moving! Your gift helps Feed the Children pick up and deliver food and other essentials to communities across America. Thanks to caring friends like you, our 40 semitrucks will stay on the road to feed hungry families and children throughout our nation.

Whether your holiday shopping list contains a new toy or the hottest new device, be sure to make a difference this Giving Tuesday and help defeat hunger with Feed the Children.

Foundation 4Life Scholarship Helps Students Like Bea Excel

Imagine growing up in a remote village for your entire life, and then boarding an airplane, flying to a different country, and staying in a hotel for the very first time, to give a speech to nearly 3,000 people. That’s what Bea Bianca Flora, a 7th grade student in the Philippines, did last month.

Bea is one of five students identified by Feed the Children to receive a scholarship from Foundation 4Life, one of Feed the Children’s longtime partners in that country. It pays for school and also provides a monthly stipend so she doesn’t have to work and can focus intently on her studies.

Bea Flora has received a school scholarship from Foundation 4Life for two years.  She is a bright girl, having been elected as one of the officers of the Supreme pupil council in her school. Her aspirations are big – she wants to become a civil engineer so she can design and construct houses for poor families like hers and others in her community. Both she and her mother are overwhelmed with gratitude for this gift.

Bea in the conference hotel with her mom Odessa

Bea said, “It is a great opportunity to receive assistance which helps me pursue my education because my family faces financial struggles to send me to school.”

Foundation 4Life flew Bea and her mother, Odessa to their Asia Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia so that she could share her story and meet some of the 4Life family that provides her with her scholarship.  Foundation 4Life donors love these conventions because they get to meet the children whose lives are completely changed by their generous donations. They get to connect with the work that is taking place around the world through the stories they hear from children sponsored by Foundation 4Life’s projects.  And the children get to feel and receive the love and support of these amazing donors.

In addition to creating stronger connections between the children and the 4Life family, 4Life believes that travel is an opportunity for these children to expand their minds and see new possibilities that exist in the world around them.

Bea gives her speech

During the two-day convention, Bea gave her speech on stage, complete with bright lights and a huge audience. She overcame her nerves and shared her touching story with poise and confidence. Afterwards, she and her mother felt like celebrities, but her favorite part was the closing dance party.

Bea enjoying the dance party

4Life looks forward to following Bea’s progress through school. They want to see her reach her goals, and they plan to host her and the other scholarship recipients at future events designed to keep the children motivated and filled with hope.

Should We Feed Americans First? Our Chief Operating Officer Responds

Last month, Feed the Children’s Chief Operating Officer and President of FTC Transportation, Travis Arnold, traveled to Guatemala along with several other staff members to visit communities where we work. When he returned, we asked Travis to tell us about the trip, what he learned, and how it changed him.

TA & Diane Feeding CenterFeed the Children: Tell us about your role at Feed the Children.

Travis Arnold: For the last 13 years, I’ve been a part of this great mission that no child around the world goes hungry. Currently, as Chief Operating Officer, I am responsible for managing daily operations, both in the U.S. and around the world. I also serve as the President of our for-profit arm, FTC Transportation. This subsidiary supports the operational needs of Feed the Children by delivering food and other essentials to children and families across the country.

Feed the Children: You’d never visited, Guatemala, right?

TA: No, I hadn’t.

Feed the Children: What surprised you about this country? 

TA: I’d heard stories from others who had visited about how beautiful the country was, but it was even more beautiful than I imagined. It’s a wonderful place — the lush valleys, the mountainous regions — with so much tourism potential, given the right infrastructure and leadership. And the children are so beautiful

Feed the Children: What stood out to you about our work in Guatemala?

TA: The children, of course. They were so kind and respectful. And though the kids eat the same meal day after day: fortified rice from our partner, 4Life, and beans with a tortilla, I never heard a complaint. In fact, in one community we visited, not one child ate anything until all the kids in the community were served. Then, after a prayer, all the children ate at the same time. We learned this was not a show for the visitors. These kids are just so grateful.

Girls eating applesFeed the Children: Do you think we need to do more and reach more people in places like Guatemala? How do you respond  to people who say, “We should feed the American kids first”?

TA: By no means do I want to take anything away from the kids who are empowered through Feed the Children’s work in the U.S. We have so many hungry kids in our own backyard that we need to take care of. It’s our national responsibility. But, what people don’t realize is that poverty in places like rural Guatemala is extreme. Most families are too poor to afford fruits and vegetables. They have no resources to fall back on when those hard times get even worse — a parent falls ill, a child is born with a disability, or a tropical storm destroys their home. Many of the kids I met only eat once a day, and that meal comes from Feed the Children.

 Feed the Children: What is one thing you saw on this trip to Guatemala that you’d most like our donors to know about?

TA: Know that the work in this country has been validated. I saw with my own eyes the kids that are being lifted out of poverty because of your donations. If it weren’t for you, donors and partners, these kids wouldn’t have hope. And it’s lasting hope we’re bringing because we are not just feeding kids. We’re investing in education, giving communities clean water, and helping parents find jobs. I met with one mayor in a town where we’ve hosted a feeding center for years. The mayor showed me pictures and told me over and over again, “You’re changing lives. Kids are coming to school. They’re learning. They’re dreaming big for their future. 

Feed the Children: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

TA: Since I returned to Oklahoma, the faces of the children I met have stayed with me. I do the work I do every day because of them. They are our heroes!Eating Apple

Why We Advocate for Ester

At Feed the Children, we focus our work on things that will help kids be kids. That means all kids. Not just kids in a certain country. Not just kids from a particular faith. Not just kids of a given ethnicity. Not just kids with specific ability.

When we say we have a mission to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials, that’s what we mean. No exclusions.

But that’s easier said than done for kids like Ester.

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Ester is a happy 10-year-old—you’ll often see her with a smile. She lights up when she’s with her friends and cousins, or when she’s watching her family’s ducks waddle and peck, or when she’s listening to a good story.

Ester lives in the economically depressed community of Quezalapa 2, El Salvador, about 16 miles outside of the capital city, San Salvador. The community’s diet is based on rice, beans, vegetables, eggs, and tortillas, but Ester’s family can only afford to eat once a day, and most of their meals are limited to tortillas and beans—hardly the building blocks for a healthy child.

Most of the areas of the community have piped water service at home, but during the summer months, the water shortage reduces the service to only once every six days. But even that would be better than the non-potable water Ester’s family has to work with. They live on the edge of a ravine, where no public services reach.

The family is large and close-knit, 13 of them in all. Ester lives with her parents and little sister in a tiny house on the same land as her cousins and aunt, but they essentially live together—the kids all call each other brother and sister. Their houses are made of adobe and bamboo walls, sheet metal roofs, and dirt floors. They don’t have electricity or toilets—outside of the houses there is a latrine that they share with three neighbors.

But they’re a family, and that means they do everything they possibly can for each other.

Ester’s siblings and cousins learn and eat every school day at the center that Feed the Children runs in their community—but she has to stay home. Ester has cerebral palsy.

She doesn’t have the strength to hold objects in her hands, so she can’t feed herself. She can’t walk, so she’s wheelchair bound. And although her mind is absolutely there, Ester can’t speak. So her disability prevents her from attending a regular school. And unlike the resources available for kids with disabilities in the U.S., there are no accommodations, no special schools, and no affordable therapies for Ester in Quezalapa.

The areas where free therapy is provided for people with disabilities are out of reach for Ester. The main road that leads to San Salvador is inaccessible for her family: They would have to carry her 2.5 miles from the edge of the ravine, up an extremely rocky, twisting path. And even if they made it all that way to the road, they might have a very long wait for the sole bus that serves their community, which could very well be too full to accommodate her wheelchair. Besides, who can really choose bus fare over food?IMG_7970

So while Ester’s dad works as a farmer, earning around $2 a day, her mom and aunt take care of her at home. Ester loves the “home therapy” her mom gives her while she’s getting her dressed each day. She massages Ester’s hands, legs, and feet to relax her always-tensed muscles and to prevent blood clots from forming. She cleans and feeds her, and she’s deeply grateful for the meal that comes for Ester at noon:

“I’m happy because you are a big help for us. It’s very difficult for us to get food for this big family, and before you came we didn’t have a way to provide the nutritious food that you provide to our children.”

When Ester’s cousins come home from the feeding center, they bring her meal back with them. Because we fortify food at our center with vitamins and nutrients that kids need to grow healthy and strong, Ester’s mom has help in battling her daughter’s malnutrition.

“Thank you, Feed the Children, for the food—this is a blessing from you and from God, and I hope you can keep helping us with our children.”IMG_7986

We want to keep helping Ester until she doesn’t need help anymore, but with the limitations of her disability, that could mean her whole life. So that’s why we do more than just provide food.

At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that get us closer to our vision to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We are a global family, and that means we do everything we possibly can for each other.

One of our recent advocacy campaigns is the Disability Treaty. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the gold standard for the non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and inclusion for children and adults with disabilities, and the Disability Treaty is a 130-country-strong push to get those same protections for people worldwide.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “The challenge now is to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Treaty for the benefit of the world’s one billion disabled people.”

As our staff has written about the Disability Treaty here in greater depth, the U.S.’s ratification of the treaty would provide greater accommodations for those with special needs around the world. So Feed the Children speaks up in Washington, and we urge you to do the same, wherever you are.

We are advocates for Ester. We are advocates for all kids. And they need you to be an advocate too. Click here to learn more about how you can use your voice to help kids be kids!

Youth Group Defeats Hunger for 400 Families

We all say that we want no child to go to bed hungry. But what if you believed it could be true?

Consider this: the youth group of Henryetta Church of the Nazarene in Henryetta, Oklahoma believes that they can change the status quo of hunger in their town.

At the beginning of this school year, Henryetta’s youth pastor, Jeff Williamson, started a conversation with his students about the fact that every day 1 in 5 kids is at risk of going to bed hungry in the United States. He told his students: “How can this be here in America? There’s a need in our own city. We need to do something about it.”

His students agreed.

On October 11-12, Pastor Jeff and the students selected Feed the Children as their partner and planned a “fast” to raise money for hungry kids in their town.

Students asked church members, teachers and friends to sponsor them for every hour that they thought the student could go without food. Each student had to find 20 sponsors to donate $10 each. When the kids doubted they could find 20 sponsors, Pastor Jeff told them to count how many Facebook friends they had. That made the project seem easier.

Then they considered how the students would spend the hours of their fast. Pastor Jeff encouraged the group to gather at a local park and sleep outside for the night, like the homeless often have to. They agreed to sleep out, and not in tents or on air mattresses either. They slept in cardboard boxes. Even though it was colder than usual that night in the park, 25 students and 7 adults outlasted the night.

We asked Pastor Jeff how he got his students to sleep outside in the cold for a night. He said:  “I challenged them to experience something new. I told them about all the people I’ve met in our town who camp out in the woods on a regular basis.”

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Over and over, the students said the same thing about the experience: “I never knew how it felt to be homeless.”

In the end, their efforts raised over $10,000, which they have designated to bring one Feed the Children truck, filled with boxes of food and everyday essentials, to their community. The truck will arrive with a week’s supply of food, along with personal hygiene and household items, for 400 families in need. It is scheduled to arrive before the Thanksgiving holiday.

They’ve also approached several major grocery stores in their community asking them to donate turkeys. They hope to enhance the Feed the Children boxes with a free turkey and loaf of bread.

On October 20, members of the church visited with Feed the Children staff in Oklahoma City and presented the check for the funds they raised to Feed the Children President and CEO, Kevin Hagan.

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Pastor Jeff said, “We want the community to know that we see them. They don’t have to be hungry over the holidays. God never intended the church to sit still while people are hungry in this world.”

When asked how families will be chosen to receive the food boxes, Pastor Jeff said they’re already working with school administrators in their town to select those who will receive the help.

We’re so proud of their efforts and what this group is doing to defeat hunger where they live!

Would you like to organize a similar project in your community? Contact us– we’d be glad to support you! 

Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life

By November 2, American kids have stuffed their costumes—worn for one thrilling night—down into their dress-up boxes. They’ve sorted and traded their treats and have eaten their favorites first. But as kids in America wind down from their Halloween highs, kids in Nicaragua are just starting their fun. Today, they celebrate life on Day of the Dead.

Meet Jennifer

Twelve-year-old Jennifer lives in El Crucero, an urban area of Nicaragua. She earns a scholarship to attend seventh grade at a private school by helping out at a community preschool. After school, she goes to the Feed the Children facilities in her community, where she takes computer, music, English, and piano classes. Computer class is her favorite—she’s very tech savvy, and she wants to become a business administrator when she grows up because she’d like to work in an office and have her own employees. Jennifer has aspirations and drive—all she needs is opportunity. So that’s what we offer.

Unlike so many of the kids Feed the Children works with around the world, Jennifer has actually seen enough of what life can be to know what it should be.

Jennifer’s mom has a bachelor’s degree in marketing, but jobs are incredibly difficult to come by where they live, even for educated people, so right now she stays at home taking care of Jennifer’s 5-year-old twin sisters and the family’s small house. Jennifer’s dad went to school through sixth grade, and he works as a driver for a private company, earning about $152 a month to support their family of 5.

Jennifer’s family is Catholic, so Day of the Dead, commemorated on November 2 every year, is always a special religious holiday for them—but this year, it really hits close to home.

Jennifer has found her smileiagain

Celebrating Day of the Dead in Jennifer’s Community

In El Crucero, Day of the Dead is a big deal to everyone—the government and private companies usually give employees a half- or full-day off. Contrary to what the name may conjure for Americans, Day of the Dead isn’t a sad day for Nicaraguans—it’s a day to remember and celebrate the good moments spent with loved ones who have passed away.

At the entrance to the cemetery in El Crucero stands a white statue of Jesus, his arms wide open as if to welcome the people who arrive there. Almost all of the headstones are very humble and modest, but on Day of the Dead, the cemetery is full of color and life.

Vendors set up stalls just outside the cemetery to sell hydrangeas—which you can see growing wild throughout El Crucero— lilies, daisies, and other local flowers for people to adorn the graves with.

Improvised food stands appear, too, as people are always looking for a way to make extra income amidst the difficult economic situation. The stands are full of Nicaraguan cuisine: vigoron (a cabbage salad), chicharrones (fried pork skin wrapped in banana leaf), and chancho con yucca (fried pork with boiled yucca, topped with tomato, onions, cabbage, and chili marinade). And some families bring as tradition their own sweets, like buñuelos (sweet yucca fritters) or sopas borrachas (“drunken soup,” a rum-laced simple syrup cake), to enjoy during the day.

Families freshen the graves, removing weeds, setting out new flowers, lighting candles, and repainting the headstones. Some families will spend the day in the cemetery, filling it with the sounds of music from their guitars or radios—or, if the family can afford it, Mariachis will play the favorite songs of the one who has passed—laughter, and stories of the memories they hold dear. And if families request it, priests will conduct masses, and the sound of prayers floats heavenward.

Jennifer at her home in El Crucero

Jennifer Remembers Her Aunt

The public transportation in El Crucero is officially named Inter-local, but people have nicknamed it Inter-mortales (“Inter-lethal”) because high speeds and reckless drivers cause such frequent traffic accidents. This year, a dear aunt of Jennifer’s passed away in a terrible accident on the main road of El Crucero.

Dora Graciela and her 5-year-old son were passengers on the motorcycle that her husband was driving. They stopped for a moment and parked on the side of the road, when suddenly they were hit by a truck driven by a drunk man who had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Both her husband and son survived, but Dora Graciela did not.

Jennifer’s aunt was only 33 years old. She was a lawyer, a mommy, a wife, and, to Jennifer, the best aunt a girl could have. Jennifer was Dora’s favorite niece, and Dora liked to treat her by buying her clothes and spending time together, like the day they went window-shopping at the malls in Managua.

Jennifer says, “On Day of the Dead we remember our loved ones and miss them. In my family we pray the rosary and pray for our relatives that have passed away. It was very difficult for us this year—we felt a deep grief for the death of my aunt Dora Graciela. The death of a loved one is very painful because you wish this would never happen to any family member.”

Jennifer is continuing with her life by playing music

Jennifer Keeps on Living

Feed the Children’s programs are all designed to help kids be kids. That means we look out for their total well-being from physical, to educational, to emotional. So when her teachers noticed Jennifer was really affected by her aunt’s death, Jairo Garcia, a psychologist who is a specialist in childhood and youth psychopathology, began working with her to help her overcome her grief.

Dr. Garcia says, “Feed the Children has been concerned about the mental state of children that attend our program, so I worked with Jennifer regarding the mourning she faced in the first weeks after the death of her family member, expressing to her that people we love never die, that they stay alive forever in our hearts. And we have had good results because now her smile, which was gone in the beginning, has come back.”

Despite her loss, Jennifer has kept up her good grades at school, she enjoys going to her afterschool classes at Feed the Children, and she is focused on studying hard to achieve her dreams. She misses her aunt but she knows Dora would want her to get the very best out of life.

“There are so many needs here—there are no jobs, the economic situation is difficult, some houses don’t have electricity or piped water, and that is an issue in this community. There are some small kids that don’t go to school, so I am going to study harder and to prepare myself better in order to achieve my dream to become a business administrator so my parents and my aunt Dora, who is in heaven now, can be proud of me.”

On Day of the Dead, Jennifer celebrates Dora’s life. And every day, with the help of Feed the Children’s partners and donors, she works hard to build her own.

New Feeding Center Opens in Honduras Thanks to the Band Sister Hazel and Their Fans

We have long been partners with the band Sister Hazel. They make a unique kind of music that blends country and rock’n’roll harmonies with Southern pop. They’ve dubbed their fans “Hazelnuts” and for several years now, the guys in the band and their fans have sponsored children in Honduras.

Children Living In a Dump

Three years ago, Sister Hazel visited the community where their sponsored children live. Los Laureles is situated at the base of a huge dump which young and old alike scour for plastic and metal items to sell to recycling. Most of the homes are built out of garbage: nylon, cardboard, tin sheets and any other material they can find. Very few houses are built with cement blocks. Some of the houses are built high up on a plateau of the community, and because of the uneven and steep terrain, are very difficult to get to. None of these homes have indoor plumbing.

rough uneven terrain

Before Feed the Children arrived here, food supplies were very irregular. A church would provide 2 meals a week, and the government distributed some basic staples like rice, corn, and beans, but done in very basic conditions. The kids were malnourished, anemic, and riddled with parasites.

We asked a mom about what those days were like. Gennis is the mother of 5, including a first-grader named Kimberly. Gennis explained, “My children many times attended classes with only one cup of coffee in their stomach because I didn’t have anything else to give.”

Feed the Children’s Work with Los Laureles

Before Sister Hazel adopted the community in 2012, Feed the Children had worked for several years with help from generous partners, including TOMSVitamin Angels, and others, to provide nourishing food, medical care, vitamins, backpacks and school supplies, clothes and shoes, and improvements to the school facilities.

When Sister Hazel visited, they connected with the people of Los Laureles in such a profound way that the guys returned to the USA fired up about doing something BIG to help the community become independent.

Two years ago, Sister Hazel challenged the Hazelnuts to do two things: sponsor every one of the 221 children in Los Laureles, a goal they reached in December 2013, and raise the $75,000 needed to build a real feedingcenter for the community. This new facility will be a sturdy and permanent building with a steady supply of safe drinking water, a real kitchen, and soap and water for basic hygiene.

The Hazelnuts came through in a BIG way. Within a year, they’d raised the money!

In December 2013, our president and CEO Kevin Hagan, along with his wife Elizabeth, visited Los Laureles for the groundbreaking of the new feeding center.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that the new center is open! Sister Hazel returned to the community to witness the transformation there and to celebrate the feeding center’s grand opening.

Grand Opening Festivities

ribbon cutting at the feeding center

sister hazel tshirt frontthanks sister hazel and donors

 

 

karen sees a camera

moms in the new kitchen

water purifier in feeding center

kids in the new feeding center

If you’re familiar with Sister Hazel, or if you want to get to know their music, they’re releasing a special anniversary collection to celebrate 20 years of award-winning music. The album, 20 STAGES, includes live recordings, videos culled from 20 of the band’s favorite venues, and 3 brand new, never released tracks. 20 Stages is available now on iTunes & Amazon, in select Best Buy stores as well as Sister Hazel’s official online merch store