When Grandparents Become Caregivers

Editor’s Note: The following article was originally posted on the IF:Gathering website. We are thankful for the partnership with IF:Gathering, which will be highlighting the work of Feed the Children on their blog over the next several months.

Many folks have specific images in their minds of what it will be like when they become grandparents. Rocking babies on their knee. Thanksgiving and Christmas with the entire family around the table. Kids visiting in the summer for “grandparent camp.” Sometimes grandparents will admit, “It’s all of the fun of parenting without the stress. I get to give them back to their parents!”But sometimes, tough circumstances change that vision of what grandparenting is like.

Some grandparents end up becoming caregivers for their grandchildren. After raising their own children, they now find themselves going through it all over again. Ada is one of those grandparents. She and her husband watched with increasing alarm as their grown kids, with three children of their own, got into some trouble—trouble that negatively impacted the children. Eventually, the grandparents were awarded custody of the three little ones, bringing them into their Tennessee home.

Soon after, Ada’s husband died.

It’s been three years now, and Ada has sole custody of eight-year-old Benjamin, four-year-old Nathaniel, and three-year-old Raelyn. Ada still works part-time, and that income helps pay the bills and put food on the table. But it’s often not enough.

Ada does her best to cobble together resources for the children—help from the church, food from a food pantry—but it’s a constant source of stress. “It breaks your heart sometimes,” Ada says. “It worries you, being afraid they won’t have enough. I’d like to get to where I wouldn’t have to worry about that. Those little eyes, when they look at you… you want to give them what they want.”Ada also gets by with food stamps—$343 a month. It helps, but with three growing children, it’s not much. Sometimes that money lasts all month, sometimes not.

“It hurts,” she says. Rent takes a large chunk out of her monthly paycheck, along with other bills. She’s careful to make the life insurance payments; as guardian to these kids—and not getting any younger—she has to be thinking about their long-term future.This time of year is especially tough on Ada. With the kids out of school, she has to pay for child care just so she can work. And her grocery receipts go up too—the kids receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school year, but when there’s no school, there’s no breakfast or lunch.

More and more community organizations and congregations are becoming summer feeding sites, helping bridge the gap after the school year ends. Feed the Children has been on the forefront of this movement in Oklahoma and soon to be around the country. But Ada’s little ones don’t have access to such a site. Their family needs more organizations and churches to step up and do what they can during these critical summer months.

Last month we shared Crystal’s story and called all of us pray for compassionate hearts. This month we challenge you to “pray with your eyes open.” When we think of families, we often think immediately of a father, mother and children. But that’s not always the reality. Families like Ada’s are all around us. Let’s all be on the lookout for non-traditional families like Ada’s, and consider what their struggles might be, and how we might be moved to respond.

H.E.L.P. Comes to West Virginia

August is a month in which we focus on back-to-school readiness–making sure kids have what the need to learn, grow and have success in school. Education is one of the four pillars of Feed the Children’s work, and we know kids can’t learn well if they don’t have their basic needs met. That’s why we take a multi-layered approach, providing not just food, but also school supplies and other essentials. We work closely with local organizations to make sure folks are part of a long-term effort to help them get on their feet and out of poverty for good.

Today we share a little more about our Homeless Education and Literacy Program, which provides backpacks and other vital supplies for children who are homeless. Read more about H.E.L.P. at this link.

Homelessness doesn’t just affect the big cities—it’s a problem that plagues small-town America as well. We partnered recently with a school district in West Virginia that has some 156 homeless children in 9 schools.

7-2015 CDR 3063 New HELP Backpack Photos -29-We provided a backpack and supplies for each of these young people, and staff at the schools let us know what a difference they made. On a survey evaluating the program, staff reported increases in attendance and self-esteem, and said the backpack program helped improve communication between school staff and the families.

The staff passed along their profound gratitude for the gifts H.E.L.P. provided: “The items provided in the backpacks are things that families on this level of income would never dream of being able to provide. Without your help in distributing these supplies, these children would simply go without.

Another staff member reported this: “One child couldn’t believe that she was going to have a backpack of her very own. This little girl also attends my church, and she brought the backpack to church with her the following week! She and her mother told me afterward how much they appreciated the gift. She also told me she sleeps with her backpack! Something that most of us take for granted can mean so much in the life of a child.”

During the month of August we’re inviting people to join us in providing hope for those without life’s essentials. Will you sponsor a backpack full of supplies (and a few goodies) so that a child is ready for school? It just takes a few moments. Here’s how.

H.E.L.P. for the Homeless

Summer is winding down, and children across the country are getting ready for another school year. For lots of kids, that means a new outfit for the first day, fresh unsharpened pencils and a perfect box of crayons, or a new backpack emblazoned with the latest cartoon character or superhero.

But for one population, back-to-school time can be a time of anxiety and stress for the whole family: the population of children in the United States who are homeless. Each year, 1.6 million American children go to sleep without a home of their own—and sadly, that number is rising.

Succeeding in school as a homeless child is tough. Algebra, anatomy and Animal Farm can be challenging enough without the stress of living on the street, jumping from shelter to shelter, or wondering whether your parents will be able find a job or provide for your basic needs. Unfortunately, these kids are three times more likely to drop out of school than kids with homes. Such a tragedy only feeds the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and homelessness when these kids become parents themselves.

That’s why it’s imperative that we do everything we can to keep these kids in school. Education is the key to breaking the cycle and ensuring a better life. 

In fact, we know that if children who are homeless can remain in school, they perform as well as their peers over time. These kids will prove themselves academically and socially if given the chance. And their families want to work and contribute positively to society too.

But they need help. They need H.E.L.P.: Feed the Children’s Homeless Education & Literacy Program (H.E.L.P.).

H.E.L.P. is one of the few programs of its kind in the nation. Since its inception in 2006, the program has focused on providing children who are homeless with backpacks and basic supplies they need in order to be successful in school.

7-2015 CDR 3063 New HELP Backpack Photos -36-We stuff these backpacks with some of life’s essentials as well as a bit of fun: school supplies, ready-to-eat food, hygiene items, and of course, books. We work with homeless liaisons and schools across the country who know the face of homelessness and can help us connect and respond. These local partners deliver the backpacks to the students who need them most. They make this delivery privately to help preserve the dignity of these young people.

The homeless liaisons who hand out the backpacks tell us that children treasure these gifts. In some cases, the backpack is the only thing these kids own. The backpacks aren’t just a leg up on the school year—they’re a tangible expression of hope.

Since the beginning of H.E.L.P. almost ten years ago, we’ve distributed more than 700,000 H.E.L.P. backpacks. In 2013 alone, Feed the Children provided 65,000 backpacks to kids without homes.

Can we deliver even more in 2015? You can help by sponsoring one or more backpacks from our catalog. Click here–it’s fast and easy.

Click a “Like,” Help a Child

Today we bring you a guest post from our friends at Solar Shield, and an easy opportunity to help kids across the U.S.! Read on…

The U.S. is a wealthy and plentiful country, but nearly 16 million American children wouldn’t know it. These kids live without many of life’s essentials, including food.  And it’s not just poor children who are going hungry. There are many families who live paycheck to paycheck or barely above poverty, to whom it only takes a hospital bill, an unexpected home repair or an interruption in utilities service due to late payment to force them to choose between two necessities. Food often loses.

Feed the Children’s vision is to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, and they are committed to providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials. This is easier said than done.  It takes many who are willing to pool their resources and expertise to work together for change.

Over the years, Feed the Children has recognized that the need goes beyond food. Many families also can’t buy other non-food essentials like clothing, soap, detergent, medicines, bedding and other items. This is why Feed the Children distributes essentials along with food, because they know that something as basic as a new toothbrush goes a long way toward keeping a child healthy and happy.

Solar Shield, the original and leading brand of fits overs and clip-on sunglasses, recognizes the importance of helping kids to be healthy and happy kids, without the worry of food or other necessities. As a sunglass company, Solar Shield’s vision is for kids to be able to play outdoors without damaging their eyes and to enable children to grow up with good eye-health habits. Kids get three times the annual sun exposure that adults do, and their young eyes are especially susceptible to UV-related harm. Unlike the mature lens of an adult eye, a child’s ocular lens cannot successfully filter out UV rays and more radiation reaches their retinas. Fortunately, the solution for protecting children’s eyes from UV exposure and damage is an easy one. They can wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection every day.

In an effort to make a difference, Solar Shield has partnered with Feed the Children through the “Like Us to Share a Pair” campaign. For every ‘like’ Solar Shield receives on Facebook during the campaign, they will donate a pair of sunglasses or reading glasses to Feed the Children to include with food donations.

The need is real and urgent. Donate to Feed the Children and “Like” the Solar Shield Facebook page and make a difference in children’s lives.

Child Hunger in America: Aiyden’s Story

“Sometimes I get afraid because there’s nothing in the house to eat.”

That’s what 7-year-old Aiyden told me (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve).

He also said, “When we don’t have food we’ll die and we can’t, we’ll be in the grave.”

Very serious words for one so young. The harsh reality of this family’s situation is stealing Aiyden’s childhood. He knows his mom used to have a good job, but was laid off. He knows she’s trying to find another one, but hasn’t yet.

“When Mommy’s not working, she don’t have a lot of money,” he says. “She told us she’s not able to buy a lot of food.”

“I run out of food lots of times,” says Aiyden’s mom, Shemika. “My children have went to bed hungry before.”

Shemika worries constantly about losing the car, the house — even about losing her boys because she struggles to provide for them.

family

Aiyden has found a way to help fill his empty, aching stomach:

“Sometimes when we run out of food he saves food from school and then he brings it home and he put it under his pillow so whenever we don’t eat at night, he eats it,” says big brother Andre, age 8.

But now the boys are out of school.

“The hardest thing about it is in the summertime…you have to think about having food for them for breakfast, for lunch, then dinnertime,” Shemika says.

Help a child like Aiyden

Children across America are going to bed hungry. Like Aiyden, the summer months are the hardest months — the hungry months — for millions of boys and girls. These children miss out on the free lunches and breakfasts at school.

Your gift today can provide a box of food and a box of essentials for a family in need here in our country. It’s just $38 for both boxes!

Please help today. Give a child like Aiyden a reason to smile.

Ah'Darian

Paul and Zach: A Story of Resilience

In parts of rural Kentucky, the poverty rate is 50% higher than the national average. Here, the average salary for a 50-year-old man is just $12,000 a year. That’s not much, but for people who can’t find a job, that’s a fortune.

One of these folks is Paul – a burly man who seems like a modern day Grizzly Adams. Paul lives way outside of town with his son Zach. In most parts of our country, this house would be condemned. But this crumbling old house is home for this father and son team.

Here, surrounded by lush beauty, Paul is struggling to raise 8-year old Zach alone. He has no job, no steady source of income.  He lives off the land—and by earning money doing whatever he can.

Zach and His Father Paul
Zach and His Father Paul

Paul didn’t realize he even had a son until six years ago when he got a tip that an old girlfriend had a child who looked just like him.  The old girlfriend was a drug addict who was incapable of raising a child.

 

He immediately went to work to find the child who had been placed in foster care. After a full year of court hearings and parenting classes, he received full custody of this handsome boy who is a mix of white, black and Native American.

Paul was living in Ohio at the time he received custody of Zach, with a steady job as a bouncer at a club.  But the crime-ridden neighborhood was no place to raise a child, so he moved back to Kentucky to be in the land he loved, the land of his childhood.

He could never have dreamed that life could be this hard. The only house they can afford is 100 years old. They get their water from a water well that often runs dry. Indoor plumbing is a recent addition – they used an outhouse until a few months ago. An old wash tub is in the bathroom for washing the clothes. An old wood stove will keep the house warm in the winter—there is no indoor heating—but the shelves are lined with books and the house is fairly neat and organized.

The house is surrounded by 192 acres of corn fields and tobacco fields, all belonging to the landlord. Paul’s rent is $200 a month – a fee he works off by working the land.

Paul doesn’t feel sorry for himself and is more than happy to work hard. He’ll do just about anything to make money, from putting up hay to collecting recyclables. And he’s proud to say he’s lost 100 pounds doing hard labor over the past year or two. Still, Paul doesn’t always make enough to pay the rent… or the utilities… or buy food or gas. Thankfully he has a patient landlord who understands how tough times are.

These last few months have been especially hard. There’s been no money to buy food at the market, so Paul and Zach lived off the vegetables from the garden and the fruit on the trees. There was no money for meat, though they are able to hunt for food with Paul’s 50c shotgun. And he’s proud of his boy, who got his first squirrel and possum this summer – with a bow and arrow. But now the bow string is broken—and there’s no money to fix it.

TRIP1114  3When we ask Zach what it feels like when he is hungry, he lowers his eyes. “It makes me feel sad when I’m hungry….when I’m hungry, I get a little dizzy, like I am right now. I wish there was more food in the refrigerator. I wish there was ham or chicken….sometimes it gets really low.”

But Zach is an optimistic boy with a heart full of love for his dad. “We have a really good bond. That’s pretty much why we help each other. He loves me and I love him.”

It was a neighbor, Leroy, who first told us about this father-son family. He sees Zach get off the bus and knows how hungry he is every day.  Although Leroy is feeding eight people—including four grandchildren—Leroy welcomes Zach in and feeds him almost every day.

“That boy back in the holler,” Leroy tells us,  “I give him groceries because he don’t have nothing. He gets off the school bus and I boil hotdogs. I ask him, ‘You hungry honey, you want some hotdogs?’ And he says,‘Hotdogs are my favorite.’ I give him food because I know he don’t have nothing back there to eat.” Zach calls old Leroy his Pappaw.

There may be a shortage of food and money in this Kentucky community, but there’s no shortage of love and compassion.

In a country where many 8-year-old boys are demanding the latest tech toys and video games, this bright, articulate boy with so little has one big wish: “If I had more food, I’d feel great.  I’d be happy.  I’d have all the food I need.  All I need is more food.”

There are so many children like Zach in America—way too many. Can you help their wishes come true? On this Father’s Day, stand with Zach’s father Paul—and the parents all across the country who just want their kids to have the opportunity to be kids.

When the Waters Rise… Feed the Children Responds

At Feed the Children, we work day in and day out to help create a world in which no child is hungry. But when disaster strikes, we also mobilize quickly to provide immediate aid.

Recent severe storms across the southern regions of the U.S. have caused widespread flash floods extending nearly 800 miles from southern Texas to central Missouri. According to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth Texas, more than 35 trillion gallons of water fell in May over the Texas alone—enough to cover the Lone Star State with eight inches of water. This flooding has devastated communities, destroyed homes, and taken the lives of some 24 people.

Because we work in partnership with local organizations, we are ideally positioned to provide aid when disaster strikes. Following last week’s floods, Feed the Children has allocated supplies through our existing partner network and in collaboration with National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster. Supplies were delivered to the Wimberley area in the Texas Hill Country, including clean-up kits, personal care items, Rubbermaid products, and beverages.

We have allocated two truckloads of supplies to be delivered within the next day or so, and we’re making plans for more. Can you help? Please visit our donations page and help us provide relief and hope in this vital effort.

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Photo By: Alberto Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Hope Arrives in a Semi Truck

At Feed the Children, we believe we can create a world in which no child goes to bed hungry. It takes all of us working together: Feed the Children staff, local community organizations, volunteers, donors, state and federal governments, corporate partners… and truck drivers.

Drivers are the backbone of our community events around the country. They transport food and needed supplies to people who need them, when they need them. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, we’re able to serve more than ten million hungry people each year.

It’s the American driver on our nation’s highways and backroads who sees better than anyone that behind every hill, and around every turn, families can be found who are still struggling with poverty and hunger.

That’s why the drivers of FTC Transportation, banner carriers of Feed the Children, proudly deliver the food and supplies that struggling American families so desperately need.

A problem as complex as hunger needs complex solutions. Feed the Children is committed to finding these solutions, with everyone at the table. But we also believe in meeting immediate needs—for food, for supplies, and for hope. Our fleet of drivers helps make this happen.

We invite you to check out our new video that heralds these unsung heroes! Share it with a friend.

 

“Thank You 4Life!” Twelve-Year-Old Mercy Brings Greetings and Inspiration to Foundation 4Life Convention

Imagine flying on an airplane for the first time, bound for a foreign country you’ve never visited, to give a speech to 7,000 people who speak eight different languages.

Now imagine doing that at the age of twelve.

Last month, twelve-year-old Mercy was selected to represent Honduras and her community at the 4Life International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Foundation 4Life has been a partner with Feed the Children since 2010 and has supported our Food & Nutrition programs in several countries. In addition, Foundation 4Life has adopted two communities to provide everything from school supplies and new classrooms to projects supporting livelihood development.

Mercy’s adventure began on the airplane, her first ever, during which she peered out the window at cities, rivers and even rooftop swimming pools—a very different vantage point from her usual one from a car, bicycle or on foot in her community.

During her layover in Miami, Florida, Mercy experienced firsthand the cultural melting pot of hair and skin color, wardrobe, tattoos and body piercings that exists in the United States—sights and experiences she had only imagined or seen on TV.

B4SeZhVBdY7u4XdAdAnj8WKJYCWjc-SJ77uCqSE5GgsOnce in Salt Lake City, Utah, the host city for Bring Dreams Home: 4Life International Convention, Mercy was given the royal treatment—a hotel room with a view, meals from restaurants and many exciting adventures. Her favorite experience was seeing penguins, sea otters and other sea creatures at the Living Planet Aquarium. Although she missed the comfortable heat of her native Honduras, she was very excited to feel the fresh snow that fell during her visit and covered the ground like a “white carpet.” Like so many girls her age, she captured the experience with lots of photos and selfies, and she made fast friends with Bea, another teen ambassador who was bringing greetings and thanks to 4Life on behalf of her community in the Philippines.

Heidy Mejia, Regional Communications Specialist in Honduras for Feed the Children, accompanied Mercy to Salt Lake City. In her account of the trip, Heidy wrote, “Seeing Mercy enjoy experiences that many people consider normal—boarding a train, an airplane, an elevator; opening the room of the hotel with a card instead of a key; automatic water faucets, a nice bed, a bathroom with warm water in the mornings; cornflakes with chocolate milk, a good piece of cake—you realize how great these simple pleasures can be when you aren’t used to them.” Heidy also marveled at the ways Mercy and Bea became immediate friends and could communicate with one another despite not speaking a common language.

FUnYZfX-8lAQ0pDatTkpSK1fdwjMQ1aykLr4AeGInOI-NL9mzJEtUiztCUWa5LGp5n1Otvp2leWaFjQqR9UNqjYWhen it came time for Mercy to speak during the convention, she stood on the stage with Bianca Lisonbee, 4Life Co-Founder and Vice Chairwoman of the Board, and Cynthia Gerlinger, winner of the “At the Heart of it” service award. The theme of the 4Life convention was “Bring Dreams Home,” and Mercy brought that message to life as she thanked the gathering for supporting her community through development projects, education and food:

Good afternoon 4Life! My name is Mercy and I’m from Honduras.

Thanks to your donations, the school in my community has a feeding center, a vegetable garden, a recycle center, new bathrooms, an incinerator and two new classrooms!

There are a lot of children, mothers and families who benefit from the donations that you make to Foundation 4Life.

You are the answers to our prayers. Your donations are the progress of my community.

I dream of becoming a doctor someday and, like you, help other people. Thank you for everything you do… THANK YOU 4LIFE!

WSfJNkLWXmZESiTY2jhtN7ZyIQK7ZF2HJofSWjvfmTo-1rwlQj20Q5y1w0OnH9nUycqBVRxtSeuSjJqRAy6GXV8“From the moment of her speech, she was an instant celebrity,” wrote Heidy. “People wanted to take pictures with her and talk to her. People gave her a lot of advice, asked her many questions about her experience with Foundation 4Life, and told her to reach for her dreams to help others.”

“All these memories and experiences were possible thanks to the support of Foundation 4Life, the people who donate to the foundation, and Feed the Children,” said Heidy. “People think that they are helping a hungry child with food, but it’s more than that. More than they can imagine.”

 

Nepal Earthquake Relief: Update and a Word of Thanks

It’s been almost two weeks since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and parts of India. Villages were flattened, homes destroyed, and casualties number in the thousands. From the highest peaks of Everest to the most remote villages, the loss is widespread and hard to comprehend. We’ve also seen tales of courage and triumph, as ordinary people come together in extraordinary ways—as babies are carefully pulled from the rubble, precious and alive; as neighbors work with neighbors to meet basic needs for food and shelter. The stories continue to pour in.

Donations are also pouring in—tangible signs of concern and support for our brothers and sisters in Nepal. We’d like to thank you, our donors, who have given generously to assist with relief efforts. Whether it’s a donation of $10 or a corporate gift in the thousands, every dollar is making a difference.

The funds our donors provide for earthquake relief are being used by our implementing partner, World Neighbors, that’s been active in Nepal since 1973. Our international leadership has identified World Neighbors as having the necessary connections and expertise to be a part of lasting recovery and development in the region, and Feed the Children is proud to work with them in this effort.

“When disaster strikes, it takes the help of many to provide relief for those affected,” said Matt Panos, Feed the Children Chief Development Officer. “Here at Feed the Children, we know we could not provide a glimpse of hope in a time of despair without the help of donors and partners.”

Dr. Kate Schecter, President and CEO of World Neighbors, is keeping us informed on progress since the disaster through Srijana Thapa, World Neighbors Regional Director for South Asia. According to the latest update, buildings and homes have been reduced to rubble in many communities where World Neighbors is active. Others have lost roofs or walls and are in states of near-collapse. Some basic forms of aid are beginning to arrive into these communities, but it’s been a slow process and provisions are few. In many places, people are receiving food from local stores on credit, but there is distrust and fear that supplies will soon run short, or stores will stop allowing these purchases. Aftershocks are becoming less frequent, but have measured 4-5 on the Richter scale.

World Neighbors is addressing the immediate need for shelter, medical aid, and clean water within several rural, remote Nepali communities. World Neighbors has procured and distributed tarps, medications, rice, and oil to last for fifteen days. But the work continues, and the rebuilding process will take years.

Nepal is already starting to fade from the headlines, but the recovery and relief effort is far from over—in fact it is only beginning. Thank you to all of our donors who will be part of this effort through your generous gifts.

To give to the Nepal earthquake relief effort, click here.