Sponsorship Makes a Difference: A Story from the Philippines

People may wonder whether it’s discouraging to see the amount of hunger and poverty we often see in our work. With chronic malnutrition touching 1 in 4 children around the world, isn’t it easy to lose hope?
Definitely not. In fact, the people we serve are our heroes.
Consider Jennilyn and her family. Jennilyn lives in a cramped concrete house in an urban slum in the Philippines with her five siblings, her mother and father. To get to their house, visitors must travel down a network of dark, crowded  alleys where people sit, sleep, cook, wash clothes, feed their animals, and do domestic chores right in the open.
Jennilyn’s father is the main source of income—he drives a trisikad (bicycle with sidecar) and does odd jobs for their daily sustenance. He tries to make at least 300 pesos a day so there’s food on the table, and so the five school-aged children can attend school. Jennilyn’s parents know education is absolutely essential so their kids can have a better standard of living. “I try my best to provide for my family,” he says. “I want all my children to finish school. So, I do all kinds of work, including cleaning the canals just to earn money for them.”
The whole family finds ways to make life work. In fact, their resourcefulness is amazing. With five daughters—the son is 19 and married, though still living at home—there’s a lot of swapping of clothes and sharing of school supplies. The house is chaotic with so many young ones around, but their parents keep a close eye on them—their neighborhood isn’t the safest. When the children were younger, the parents would rent out the room on the second floor. Now that they’re older, the girls sleep in that room.
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Jennilyn’s mother will sometimes make sweets that Jennilyn sells to classmates for a peso each. If she sells 100 pesos’ worth, she gets to keep 20 pesos for herself. She doesn’t always make the 100-peso mark. But over time, she’s learning the value of money and able to save for herself. She loves computers, and while the family can’t afford one, she uses some of her earnings to rent time on a computer in the neighborhood—5 minutes per peso.
Jennilyn has had a Feed the Children sponsor for about six years. Since that time, she’s been provided with school supplies, school uniforms, shoes, and bags. In the Philippines, we call our sponsored children “scholars,” for that’s what they are—young people who are determined to succeed and make a better life. Thanks to the support of her sponsor, “I feel motivated to go to school,”Jennilyn says.
At a Children’s Month Celebration not long ago, scholars like Jennilyn received special training from employees of the Central Bank in the Philippines, who lectured on “Understanding Money.”We’ve also introduced a community savings program whereby families can pool their resources and learn the value of saving money and investing in their communities.
Jennilyn likes participating in the program, particularly Children’s Month. “Not only did we have fun, we also learned many things. I also like the savings program because it teaches us to make savings so we have something to look forward to. The shoes, school uniform and school supplies also help me a lot.”
For his part, Jennilyn’s father gets a lot out of giving back to his community through Feed the Children, such as repacking relief supplies for distribution following Typhoon Yolanda. “Participating in Feed the Children activities awakens the spirit of volunteerism in me. I like to help in whatever way I can. My wife and I have become community leaders because of the activities that we participate in. Our dream is for all our children to finish school so they will have a better future.”
That’s Jennilyn’s ultimate goal too—she dreams of finishing college and having a career. We have no doubt she can do it—she has a supportive family, a sponsor who’s determined to stand by her, and the motivation and drive to work hard and make it happen.
We’re proud that some 11,500 children are sponsored through Feed the Children. You can join their number today.

Hope Requires Teamwork–A Story from Honduras

At Feed the Children, our mission is to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials. We make that happen by partnering with a variety of organizations to provide food, supplies and medication to the people we serve. But our work involves so much more than a handout.

*01-2016HN0014 Marcia Lendo-5Take Marcia, a seven year old living in a desert community in Honduras. Marcia’s is a small village, dealing with extreme poverty. There are more families here than there are houses for them. Marcia’s family is one of the lucky ones, though. Their modest home is built on concrete and actually has running water, a latrine and electricity.

But life is still tough for the family. Marcia lives with her mother and siblings, including an older brother who works and helps with expenses. Her mother works as a housekeeper. Her father is not in the picture.

Their diet consists of tortillas, beans, rice, cheese, and eggs, plus meat when they can get it. But there have been days when they didn’t have enough food. They’ve sometimes had to beg for food from strangers. Her mother has brought in extra laundry to make more money.

Today, Feed the Children operates a Feeding Center in Marcia’s community, which provides five warm and nutritious meals a week for 130 children. We’ve also worked with government and other entities to make sure kids like Marcia receive deworming medication every six months, plus other vitamin supplementation which keeps kids healthy. We also help provide prenatal care for pregnant women, and follow-up care for six months following the birth.

“There have been many changes,” Marcia says. “Mothers and children get ill less, thanks to the support of the Feeding Center and the vitamins given there.”

We’re proud of our work in villages like Marcia’s. But we’re especially proud of the way the community comes together to take ownership of helping change things for the better. Feed the Children provides more than food and vitamins—we do the community development work necessary to help families lift themselves out of poverty.

For example, our feeding centers are staffed by volunteers working together, usually mothers. These volunteers receive training on a range of topics, including nutrition, so they have the knowledge they need to help their kids thrive. That knowledge is power.

According to Irma Rodriguez, Feed the Children Community Development Coordinator in Honduras, “The mothers’ support is vital and very valuable. They are the ones responsible for the meal preparation five days a week. Besides that, they prepare administrative reports of the expenses from the Feeding Center.”

Rodriguez adds that the mothers have taken it upon themselves to organize into teams so be more effective. “Each group has a coordinator, and all of the groups receive training and education. The mothers have learned teamwork, and are working together for the entire community.”

As a single mother of three, Marcia’s mother has plenty to do already. But she gives her time and energy to the Feeding Center because she knows it will help not only her own children, but others in her community.

That’s what it’s all about—communities working together, with Feed the Children providing resources, support, and encouragement.

You can stand with Marcia’s family and so many like her. Click here to find out more about supporting our work.

 

A Gift for Justus

Justus was born with the odds stacked against him.

His family lives in a very poor community in Kenya. At just one month old, Justus was struck with meningitis which led to cerebral palsy. His mother, Gladys, struggled to care for him and her other children.

When Justus was six years old, his father abandoned the family, making a hard life even more difficult for everyone in the family. Gladys does the best she can, managing to find menial daily jobs to earn a little money. But as a single mother with seven children, including one with debilitating medical issues, it can be overwhelming.

She spent countless hours in hospitals, trying to find doctors who would look at Justus—in those rare times she had the money to afford such care. With an unreliable job and a family to care for, she was constantly stressed and worried about their next meal, let alone paying for medical bills and the family’s ongoing needs.

In the Kibera community where Gladys, Justus and their family live, folks are challenged financially… and in every other way.

Young people find their way toward criminal activities, drugs, and alcohol due to the high poverty levels, according to Purity Wanja, a social worker in Kibera. Sanitation is sorely lacking, with sewage water running freely and garbage strewn about.

At the age of 12, Justus was discovered by community social workers. He was crawling in the mud because he couldn’t walk. The social workers encouraged his mother to admit him to Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC).

Once admitted, Feed the Children staff gave Justus a full examination and began an ongoing regimen of physical and occupational therapy. He was enrolled in the Dagoretti Special School to begin his education – Justus had never attended school before. In class, Justus learned the basics that kids around the world learn. He also received technical training in textiles and sewing.

And because Feed the Children supports keeping children connected to their families and communities wherever possible, Justus visited his family on weekends and during school holidays.

This work is only possible through your gifts–people like you, supporting children like Justus through donations, child sponsorship, or our gift catalog.

While in our care, Justus also began intensive therapy and underwent surgery to improve his mobility. The corrective surgery made his legs more flexible so he is able to walk better. The procedures also eased the pain which came along with his condition and made him more comfortable. In addition, he received a wheelchair, a pair of crutches, and some calipers to help brace himself as he walks.

And for Gladys and other mothers like her, Feed the Children gives professional advice on the care of children with disabilities. The social workers are in constant contact with the children and their guardians.

After completion of his technical course that was sponsored by Feed the Children, and once he’d met various milestones set by the rehabilitation team, Justus was reunited with his family in November 2010. But our work doesn’t end there—Wanja stays in contact with Justus and his family. Today, Justus is easy going and social, with a bright smile. He is friendly and polite, wonderful with children, and has a small babysitting business for friends and neighbors.

*7-2015 KE0009 - Justus (13)Now, at 23 years old, Justus just received another live-changing gift, thanks to Feed the Children and our supporters—a sewing machine. With this gift, he can take the textile training and expertise he gained at Dagoretti and use it to increase his livelihood—one of the four pillars of Feed the Children’s work around the world.

“I used to wish for one every day, but could not afford it,” Justus says. And his mother, Gladys, couldn’t be happier. “Everything starts from one step,” she says, “and this [sewing] machine is a step forward for Justus.” 

“The machine will be useful since now I can go ahead and work without waiting for help,” Justus says. “I have skills I can use.” 

And Justus’s new independence and self-sufficiency means Gladys now has more time to pursue her business interests. As we walked out of the house, she couldn’t contain her happiness for Justus in his business pursuits. She also seemed energized in her own quest for more income, despite the harsh conditions of their neighborhood.

Gladys concluded by saying, “I don’t know how I can repay what Feed the Children has done for us.”

We can’t do what we do without your support. Help a child like Justus today through a gift from our gift catalog. For just $75, you can provide care for a child with disabilities so they can move toward self-sufficiency and a bright future. Give today.

 

Merry Christmas from Around the World!

“This is your day, and we are here to celebrate with you.”

That was Rhoda Njue, Child Sponsorship Coordinator for the Feed the Children office in Kenya, speaking to children as she welcomed them to Christmas celebrations. Christmas came early for thousands of kids around the world, thanks to our dedicated staff and donors and supporters like you who made joyful celebrations and parties happen in the communities we serve.

Our mission is to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials. Essentials include necessities like food, clean drinking water, quality education, and a possibility for a good livelihood.

But joy is also essential.
Dignity is essential.
And for children, play is essential.

That’s why events like Christmas celebrations are so important. The children we serve are our heroes. They strive and struggle in ways that are hard for many of us to imagine. Holiday celebrations are a chance to let kids be kids, to set aside the chores, responsibilities and worries of everyday life.

You are an indispensable part of our work. When you make a gift to Feed the Children, you help ensure that we’ll be able to serve even more kids next year, giving them access to nutritious meals, sanitation, and opportunities for joy as well.

Here are just a few highlights of Christmas celebrations in our communities, with reflections written by staff in these regions.

 

HONDURAS

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Many of us spend our Christmas by giving gifts to friends, families and loved ones. Christmas is a time to spread joy and smiles, and Feed the Children does this in our sponsored communities. The celebrations started early this year, because some areas are so remote and hard to access when it rains–the rivers overflow, making it impossible to access some communities.

In the Nueva Esperanza community, some 99 children enjoyed a festive meal of fried chicken, rice, apples and salad.

And at the Community of La Cumbre Palmichal, more than 300 children were given a t-shirt, an apple, a bag of candy, and a healthy meal.

The glow on the childrens’ faces was memorable, as many of them don’t celebrate Christmas this time of year. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our wonderful sponsors and donors. Thank you.

-Mayra Humphrey

 

KENYA

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Christmas came early for over 7,000 school children from 61 schools in Kajiado, Samburu, Turkana and Nairobi Counties. The celebrations were held on different days in November and early December before the close of the academic year, to celebrate kids under the Child Sponsorship program.

Elation was in the air as children performed, played games, and enjoyed specially prepared meals. Participating schools also received presents from Feed the Children, to great excitement from the kids.

And at the Dagoretti Children’s Center and Abandoned Baby Center, holidays are celebrated all month long with a whole calendar of activities, including a bounce castle, face painting, special story time, and BBQ and hot dogs on New Year’s Eve.

-Edna Onchiri

 

GUATEMALA

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Throughout the month of December, the Guatemalan team has been celebrating Christmas with the children in all thirteen of our communities. For some, we received donations of Domino’s Pizza to share with the children. They were so excited—many of the children rarely get to eat pizza!

In other communities, the mothers pitched in some money and with help from Feed the Children, made tamales, which are traditional to eat during Christmas. In a few communities we were accompanied by volunteers who dressed as clowns and helped organize games and do face-painting with the children. All in all we had a lot of fun and hope we helped these children enjoy a special day. More than 1,690 were benefited in our communities.

-Claire Mocha

 

EL SALVADOR

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When we think about celebrating Christmas, we think about what we can do for those we love: the hours spent shopping for gifts for loved ones; the extravagantly-prepared Christmas dinners we will share with our families. But it isn’t the same for people the world over. During these seasons, it is easy to forget that not everyone can take these comforts for granted the way we do. Some people around the world still live without access to reliable electricity and will spend Christmas in the dark. Too many parents are unable to afford a toy for their children.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

So this year in the community of La Lechera, Christmas came early, with people in El Salvador cooking for our 92 registered children on December 14th. These children were able to have a brighter Christmas with a nutritious meal and toys galore. Our field staff joined in the fun by participating in games such as three-legged race and pop-the-balloon.

Child Sponsorship Coordinator Meylin Quan was grateful for the chance to bring a little Christmas to these children on behalf of all of us: “I’m so happy because we were able to sprinkle some joy into these children’s lives.”

-Mayra Humphrey

~

What will Christmas 2016 be like for these children? The answer is largely up to you. Consider sponsoring a child, or consider a gift from our catalog, or make a one-time gift to help alleviate our shortfall.

And Merry Christmas!

 

A Superabundance of Shoes!

We at Feed the Children are grateful for our ongoing partnership with TOMS and excited to share photos and details from our latest shoe distribution event.

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The event took place in Intibucá, Honduras, the mountainous region of the country. Intibucá registers the lowest temperatures in the country, making it ideal for growing all kinds of vegetables. Many women here use hand constructed wooden looms to produce traditional Lenca woven textiles such as ponchos, scarves, and shawls. And many enterprising individuals gather the fallen pine needles from the surrounding forests and weave them into sturdy and decorative baskets, potholders, and vases.

Still, the rates of poverty and child malnutrition in this area remain too high. Over time, Feed the Children has been developing relationships and deepening our capacity in the region. Most of these initiatives have supported our Health pillar. For example, we’ve partnered to provide Vitamin A and deworming treatments for children. We’ve distributed soccer balls (footballs) so that kids have quality equipment with which to play—helping build strong bodies, self-esteem, and positive relationships.

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TOMS shoe distribution is a key component in this ongoing community-building effort. All told, more than 40,000 pairs of good-quality canvas shoes have been distributed in the cities of Intibucá, Jesus de Otoro, Yamaranguila, San Juan and San Francisco de Opalaca. More than 160,000 pairs have been distributed in Honduras as a whole.

“Each delivery in each city is completely different, but the children in mountainous areas of Intibucá face particular hardship,” said Aaron Alonzo, Regional Donations Project Coordinator for Feed the Children Honduras. “The children’s feet were dirty because they have to cross muddy roads, even small creeks to get to school. Once they put on a new pair of shoes, the faces of the children seemed to glow! They were in pure bliss, jumping up and down with joy because they had a new pair of shoes.”

We’re proud to work with TOMS and are grateful for their generosity in Intibucá and so many places around the globe.

Caring for the Whole Child: World Disability Day

At Feed the Children, we are committed to supporting the health of children—it’s a vital key in eliminating hunger around the world and helping kids be kids. As part of this work, the Feed the Children office in Kenya celebrated World Disability Day on December 3. We joined with Nairobi County Government, the Ministry of Health, and other non-governmental organizations to mark the day, held at Nairobi Pentecostal Church.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities began in 1992 to promote awareness and mobilize support for persons with disabilities. Events around the world draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all. The theme for this year’s event was ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’.

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The Feed the Children office in Kenya has been providing care and protection for children living with disabilities since 1993.  Through the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, the organization provides thorough care to special needs children living at Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) and also to those living with their families in Nairobi, and Kajiado Counties.  The children living with disabilities and developmental delays have access to free occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and orthopedic services.

A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.
A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.

Through the generous support of Feed the Children sponsors, the project provides assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, calipers, and special seating aids, along with maintenance and repairs of those devices. We help put together forums to increase awareness of issues facing persons with disabilities and partner to prevent and treat various disabilities facing our communities. The project also partners with local hospitals to help children with the greatest needs undergo corrective surgeries, enabling them to live a decent and independent life.

Feed the Children also holds monthly workshops for parents who have children living with disabilities.  The workshops educate and equip parents with skills so they can help their children achieve optimal independence in activities of daily living.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a child, click here.

Update From #AroundTheWorldIn30Days

Despite meeting MANY amazing children and families on my travels for Feed the Children, there’s always that “one” who sticks with you forever. Just one week into my #aroundtheworldin30days tour, I met the “one” in a remote village in Uganda. His name is Daniel. And he is the embodiment of why the work of Feed the Children must continue!

Sick and severely malnourished, this hurting child would seemingly have hated being passed from person to person.

But not little Daniel! He just nuzzled in closer to me, despite his physical pain. That’s because he’s as starved for love and affection as he is for food.

In his short two-and-a-half years of life, Daniel has experienced more loss and suffering than most of us will in a lifetime.

Abandoned months ago by his mother – and with his father incarcerated – he and his six-year-old sister were left in the care of a sick, aged grandmother who did not have the means or physical strength to care for these children.

And so they starved.

Daniel is puffy, with chubby cheeks – but not because he’s a healthy baby. This is a common “look” for children who are malnourished – caused by edema, a condition where the body swells. But Daniel is actually way below where he should be physically for a two-and-a-half year old, which is another result of hunger known as stunting. This little boy was also extremely lethargic from his weakened state. Healthy toddlers are typically all over the place, jumping, getting into things, playing. Not Daniel. He just wanted to rest his weary body in the arms of someone willing to show him love.

Although I can’t produce a “statistic” to prove it, I’m convinced abandoned and orphaned children die as much from a lack of love and the resulting heartache as they do from malnutrition and sickness. It’s a heartbreaking reality that the ravages of HIV, extreme poverty, and many other social and economic circumstances oftentimes force parents to abandon their children.

I was glad, however, to learn that Daniel’s future is looking brighter. Thankfully, an aunt and uncle were willing to take in Daniel and his sister. And he is now receiving nutritional support from a local health clinic, which is helping him get stronger. Plus, Feed the Children Uganda has been working hard in Daniel’s community to start feeding and other livelihoods projects – which will dramatically change the lives of thousands of children.

So the good news is, even though he still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, there is hope for my new little friend.

But the need is URGENT for the work of Feed the Children to reach Daniel’s community as soon as possible. SO many children and families are in dire need of food, clean water, education, and livelihoods development. Without these essentials of life, children like Daniel can die from malnutrition. Or, if they’re fortunate enough to live, they face a bleak future because of the oppressive cycle of poverty they are trapped in. BUT with help, there is HOPE for people in struggling communities like this to turn things around and become self-sustaining.

I’ll never forget this beautiful little boy. And I pray that with the continued support of our partners, one day I can return to Daniel’s village and see him healthy, in school, laughing, playing – and facing a brighter future!

This is the reason I’m sent on these trips – to capture the stories of the children whom we are serving, and to let our partners know that YOU are the reason lives are being saved and changed. Let’s not forget little Daniel. And let’s keep moving forward in this important work!

 

 

Spotlight on Tanzania: The Power of Sports

Study after study shows the benefit of sports for children’s development. Kids who play sports learn important social skills like teamwork and cooperation. They develop confidence and self-esteem, and generally perform better in school. And of course, sports help kids’ bodies grow stronger and healthier.

That’s why the Feed the Children office in Tanzania has been providing sports equipment and uniforms to children at primary schools we serve. Recently, the football and netball teams of Kauzeni Primary School in the Kisarawe District received new sports supplies that their families might not have been able to afford. Each player received a set of two uniforms, and each team received two balls—footballs (soccer balls) for the boys’ football team and two netballs for the girls’ netball team. The supplies were presented by Matt Panos, Feed the Children Chief Development Officer; Scott Killough, Senior Vice President of International Operations; Seintje Veldhuis, Regional Director, Africa; and Silvia Andena, Country Director, Tanzania.

Matt Panos and Scott Killough with Kauzeni students
Matt Panos and Scott Killough with Kauzeni students

For the kids we serve, team and individual sports aren’t frivolous activities. They are vital ways of promoting physical, emotional and mental health. And it also provides a means of fun and friendship, not to mention joy. Just look at these smiles:

*Kauzeni Primary School kids with balls received from Feed the Children

Our partnership with Kauzeni Primary School goes back to 2010, when we started engaging parents and teachers of the school through forums to discuss how Feed the Children could partner in the community. In time, Feed the Children constructed a kitchen and provided the school with cooking equipment. Children then began receiving mid-morning porridge. The school also benefits from TOMS shoes (since 2013), and pupils are trained in hygiene practices such as proper handwashing methods to prevent disease and how to properly clean latrines. Feed the Children has also provided the school with cleaning tools like brushes and brooms to improve sanitation and reduce the incidence of disease.

Mtongani Primary School students received new equipment this summer.
Mtongani Primary School students received new equipment this summer.

The Feed the Children office in Tanzania also provided sports supplies to children at Mtongani Primary School at Mlandizi in Kibaha, Tanzania. More than 1,500 children, teachers and community leaders attended the presentation of equipment in July, including the village chairperson, Mr. Dunia Said, who was the chief guest. Juaji Abdalla Juaji has a daughter at the school and is also a professional football coach. He volunteered to take part in coaching the school. He said, “Today has been a special day for me, I am really happy. [On behalf of the parents,] we thank Feed the Children for remembering our children and continuing to support us.”

Learn more about Tanzania here—including how you can be a part of what we’re doing.

Country Spotlight: Introducing Tanzania

This month our Country Spotlight moves to Tanzania! In addition to our regular blog content, we’ll be sharing more about this country to give you a deeper picture of what’s going on there.

Tanzania Country Director Silvia Andena is welcomed to a site visit of a local school.
Tanzania Country Director Silvia Andena (right) is welcomed to a site visit of a local school.

Tanzania is home of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Desert. Although it’s rich in natural resources, it’s also home to a 28.2% poverty rate and a 42% rate of malnutrition for children under 5. Thankfully, it’s also home to numerous Feed the Children programs, managed by capable staff and dedicated community members.

Right now in this beautiful East African country:

  • We provide mid-morning breakfast to 37,000 of the most at-risk children each school day.
  • We’ve built or repaired rainwater harvesting systems in more than two dozen communities, providing thousands of kids with clean water that won’t make them sick.
  • We give schoolchildren new shoes twice a year so they can grow and play in sturdy, comfortable footwear.
  • We’ve helped students in 30 primary schools learn to plant and tend two acres of mangoes and cassava plants. The schools planted a total of 30 acres of cassava and 30 acres of mangoes. And we ask every school to raise a reasonable income from each harvest to keep their programs going.
  • We also help Tanzanians organize Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) to encourage a culture of saving to invest in children’s futures.
Scott Killough at a recent workshop on child sponsorship, hosted by Feed the Children Tanzania.
Scott Killough at a recent workshop on child sponsorship, hosted by Feed the Children Tanzania.

Feed the Children Tanzania is also an important partner in the region at large. Just last week, the Tanzania office in Dar es Salaam hosted Feed the Children personnel from Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda for a training on child sponsorship. Scott Killough, our Senior Vice President of International Operations, and Matt Panos, Chief Development Officer, joined the gathering from the head office in Oklahoma City. Seintje Veldhuis, Regional Director for Africa was present on the last day.

The four-day workshop covered the past, present and future of child sponsorship. Participants reflected on the successes and challenges of the past year, reviewed the child sponsorship manual, and considered processes and procedures to make the program even stronger. On day three, they also visited one of the schools under child sponsorship – Kiluvya B. Primary School.

We’ll be sharing more about Tanzania’s remarkable work over the next few weeks. Watch this space for more updates, or you can read our recent interview with Tanzania Country Director Silvia Andena. Learn more about Tanzania here—including how you can be a part of what we’re doing.

A Heart for the Orphan: Providing Help and Healing Around the World and Here at Home

Feed the Children began in 1979 with a simple mission: to stand with hungry and vulnerable children and to work for a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Our mission is rooted in Christian values and the belief that, like Jesus, we are called to care for “the least of these.” Whether we’re providing a box of food and essentials for a family of four in Kentucky or feeding an entire school in the Philippines, we believe we are serving Christ himself: “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” (Matthew 25:34).

Most of what we do supports children right where they are—in the families and communities that know them best. We build feeding centers to supplement the meals kids receive from their families. We construct latrines and hand-washing stations in villages and provide preventive medication to slow the spread of disease. We give parents the training and support they need to make good health decisions for their children and increase their own livelihoods. We call this the four-pillar strategy—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—and it’s working to transform communities and lift them out of poverty, one family at a time.

But some of the children we serve have no family. Around the world and here at home, children are abandoned every day by the ones closest to them. It’s a desperate decision with life-long consequences. But there is hope: “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted… you are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14).

You Can Help Foster Hope

Here in the United States, we are a “helper to the fatherless” in a variety of ways, but we’re especially excited about our new Foster Hope backpack program that serves children in foster care. When children are removed from their home and placed with a foster family, they often come with nothing but the clothes they’re wearing. And many of them are young—half of all children in foster care in the U.S. are five or younger, and 85% of them are ages 10 and younger. We’re partnering with churches across the country to provide backpacks to these children, filled with the things they need, plus a little love too.

Congregations get involved with Foster Hope by giving both financial resources and time. It costs just $20 to sponsor each backpack, which contains a coloring book and crayons, a spiral notebook, shampoo, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste and a teddy bear. We ship the supplies directly to churches, so members of your congregation can roll up their sleeves and fill the backpacks, pray for the children who will receive them, and deliver them to a local foster-care agency. For an additional $5, you can also provide a 50” x 60” fleece blanket for each child.

Foster Hope launches in conjunction with Orphan Sunday, November 8, at churches around the country. But the program is ongoing throughout the year. Our work continues, because the needs continue. Learn more about Foster Hope by emailing church@feedthechildren.org or check out our informational video about the program.

Hope for the Orphans

At Feed the Children, we believe our work is urgent. It’s Kingdom work—building a world where kids can be kids and dream of a better future for themselves. Through our network agencies, Feed the Children distributed over $344 million in food, other necessities, educational supplies, and medicine, impacting close to 9 million individuals in the U.S. and over 4.9 million individuals globally in fiscal year 2014.

Casa del Niño, Honduras
Casa del Niño, Honduras

Feed the Children currently has two facilities specifically for orphans, Casa del Niño in La Ceiba, Honduras, and the Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Casa del Niño first opened its doors in 1996 and currently houses some 40 boys ages 7 to 18 years. The boys receive three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for sports and art activities. All children attend school and classes may include computers and English. All told, we’ve provided a stable home, love and care for more than 500 Honduran youth over the years.

But too many children still struggle. And who’s more vulnerable than a child without a parent in their corner?

But the children we serve are also our heroes. Their zest for life, their curiosity, and their courage in the midst of tremendous struggle are what keep us going. God has not forgotten these children. And neither have we.

We’d like to introduce you to some of the heroes we’ve gotten to know through our work with orphans around the world. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these young people—but their stories are all real.

Heroes Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Our Abandoned Baby Center, part of Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, is filled with pint-sized heroes who inspire us every day. Samuel, for example, was brought to the ABC about a year ago as a toddler. A woman whom we believe was Samuel’s mother asked another woman to hold him while she used the public restroom in a busy commercial area of town. She never returned.

samuel
Samuel at Dagoretti Children’s Center

Our staff has been caring for Samuel, ensuring his physical, emotional and social needs are met. They are also conducting the necessary searches and documentation to see whether kin can be found for Samuel. In the meantime, Samuel delights and charms the staff of Dagoretti. He’s an enthusiastic eater, he plays in the sand, and his favorite toy is a toy phone. He willingly shares with the other children. “Samuel loves attention,” said one Feed the Children staff member. “When you show him that you care, he will not let you go.”

Nathaniel is another one of our heroes. Nathaniel came to us after his mother passed away and his aunt could no longer adequately care for him and his siblings. Nathaniel had a twin sister, but she was so poorly nourished that she had to be admitted to the hospital rather than Dagoretti. Tragically, she died in the hospital.

When Nathaniel was admitted to Dagoretti, he showed classic signs of malnutrition: pale, swollen face, discolored hair, a white tongue from lack of blood, and a distended stomach. Most heartbreaking of all was his vacant, moody expression. And at 2 1/2 years, he could sit on his own but could not crawl or stand.

After only a month in Dagoretti, Nathaniel was transformed, able to stand with support and grasp items on his own. After six months, he seems like a completely new child. He is now in good health, he walks steadily, his speech has greatly improved, and he has hope and a future. “Feed the Children saved Nathaniel’s life,” says Purity Nyamu, one of our social workers. “If we hadn’t admitted him [at the Center], I doubt he would be alive today.”

Meanwhile we’re working with Nathaniel’s aunt to get her the support she needs so she can care for Nathaniel long term. Our ultimate goal is to reunite Nathaniel with his family—but we’ll be in his corner no matter what happens.

Or consider eleven year old Agatha, who was brought to Dagoretti Children’s Center when she was six years old. She was malnourished, hardly ate, was a slow learner in social settings, and could not stand or walk without support. At the DCC, she was provided with a nutritious diet that enabled her body to grow and develop. She also attended continuous rehabilitation exercises as part of a treatment plan to build strength and coordination in her leg muscles. As a part of the Dagoretti community, she spent time with other kids at the early learning center, which helped improve her coordination, cognitive and social skills.

agatha
Look out world–she walks!

Agatha has made great progress, but in her five years with us, she’s never been able to walk on her own—until a few months ago. Agatha brought the Dagoretti Children’s Center to a standstill in July, when she took her first unassisted steps at age eleven. It’s a miracle that wouldn’t have been possible without the teamwork of dedicated staff at the DCC, staff at our headquarters in Oklahoma City who support the field work, and generous donors around the world, including corporate partners and congregations like yours.

Our final hero is the one who’s captured our hearts most recently. When Sarah was about a year old, there was a fire in her home, resulting in a six-month hospitalization. She was eventually discharged, but is an amputee. Home life continued to be chaotic, and Sarah found her way to Dagoretti Children’s Centre when she was 2 years old.

Dagoretti became a place of healing, including physical therapy, fittings for prosthetics, and continued rehabilitation. Sarah was ultimately reunited with a grandmother, whom she visited during holidays. And she began attending school, where she proved herself to be bright and curious.

Sarah at high school graduation
Sherlyn at her high school graduation

Today, Sherlyn is 19 and is attending college in the United States, where she is studying biology and chemistry. On her way to the airport, she was escorted by a busload of fellow children and friends, Feed the Children staff representatives, her grandmother, and an auntie (see photo at the top of this post). There were tears of joy and sadness, laughter and hugs. It was a bittersweet experience for Sarah, who said, “I am blessed, and intend to pass the feeling along to others too.”

We know the feeling, Sherlyn. We at Feed the Children are humbled to be Christ’s hands, feet and hearts around the world, and we invite congregations and groups around the country to stand with children like Sherlyn, Agatha, Nathaniel and Samuel right here at home. To find out more about the Foster Hope backpack program, or any of our programs, email church@feedthechildren.org.