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.

Country Spotlight: El Salvador–Hope Is Hatching

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” That’s why our international development work centers around four pillars: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods.

When children are hungry and malnourished, the need is urgent: to fill their bellies and get them the nutrition they need to grow healthy and strong. But we know we can’t stop with the Food & Nutrition pillar:

How can that health be sustained?
Through increased access to clean water and sanitation (Health & Water pillar).

How can children escape poverty?
By going to school and learning the skills needed for a successful life (Education pillar).

And how can an entire village improve their circumstances?
By receiving training and support as they learn a marketable trade (Livelihoods pillar).

Darwin is just one child who will benefit from all four of these pillars. Let’s find out how.

Food & Nutrition

Darwin is five years old and lives with his parents in a rural village in the middle of coffee country in El Salvador. His father works as a bricklayer and earns about $100 a month. It’s enough to get by—they can put food on the table—but it’s not the nutrient-rich food a growing boy needs.

Thankfully Darwin has access to a Feed the Children feeding center, where he receives a nutritious lunch each weekday. Darwin loves both the food and the children he’s met: “I feel happy because I have a lot of friends [at the feeding center], and also the food is delicious, like a restaurant!”

Health & Water

We know that nutritious meals go a long way toward keeping children healthy. And Darwin has gained 10% of his body weight since he’s starting receiving meals from the feeding center. But our involvement in Darwin’s community goes beyond food. Feed the Children also provides children five years of age and older with deworming medicine, helping prevent debilitating diseases. We also arrange for medical personnel to visit Darwin’s community on an annual basis. These personnel provide free medical care to the residents.

Education

At age five, Darwin is not old enough to attend school, but his parents are excited for him to go when it’s time. Darwin’s village has a school that serves some 360 students in twelve classrooms. In El Salvador, uniforms are required, but they are provided by the government. Through assistance from donors and corporate partners, Feed the Children can steps in with backpacks and other necessary items so kids have what they need to learn and succeed in school.

Darwin loves animals and dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
Darwin loves animals and dreams of becoming a veterinarian.

Darwin loves animals and would like to become a vet some day. With Feed the Children’s support of him, plus hard work and luck, these dreams can become a reality.

Livelihoods

El Salvador has a 16.2% rate of unemployment. We’re tackling that statistic in many different ways, but in Darwin’s village, that means fish. About a year ago, we helped develop a tilapia hatchery in the community. We work with the mothers who work at the feeding center, providing training and coursework about how to manage the hatchery for their own food as well as a means of generating income. This project has helped Darwin’s family and many others by providing knowledge and new approaches to improve their quality of life.

We aren’t just teaching one person to fish—we’re providing support to an entire community so that fishing can be the backbone of a sustainable economy. Darwin benefits, but so do many others.

It would be easy to give food to Darwin and children like him and then stop there. But we’re not content with easy answers and half steps. We want to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. And we believe that when we all pitch in, hunger has an expiration date. Get to know more about the four pillars here and how you can get involved here.

 

Country Spotlight: El Salvador–Kenia Dreams of Shoes

For our next installment of this month’s focus on El Salvador, we’d like you to meet Kenia.

Kenia lives with her parents and her six siblings. The children range in age from nineteen to one—and at age nine, Kenia is right in the middle. Her father has a job, but not a steady one—as a bricklayer, he may earn about $75 a month. Kenia’s oldest sister also works cleaning homes, and brings in a little more than that.

It’s not much for a family of nine. But through luck, hard work and resourcefulness, they make it work. They live together in a small adobe, bamboo and plastic house that’s been in their family for fifty years. The house has electricity but no running water, which means Kenia’s mother spends untold hours hauling water for the household each day. Kenia has one pair of shoes, a pair of synthetic leather shoes donated by the government. She only wears them for school—they’ll last longer that way.

Kenia’s parents are able to put basic meals on the table. But these meals don’t always have the nutrition that Kenia and her siblings need to be healthy in body and mind. Breakfast might be tortillas with beans, or eggs if they’re available. Lunch is often a soup based on seasonal leaves and berries foraged near the home—spinach, blackberries, or chipilin, a legume common in Central America. Dinner is tortillas with salt and lemon, or beans again.

“My mom used to be very sad every day because my sisters, brothers and me didn’t have enough food to eat three times a day,” Kenia says. It made Kenia feel weak not to have enough food in her belly.

Kenia’s story is common in El Salvador. Overall, the national percentage of malnutrition is 19%, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that some areas of El Salvador have malnutrition rates approaching 50%.

Thankfully, Kenia and her school-age siblings benefit from a Feed the Children feeding center at her school. It was ten years ago that this partnership began with a group of mothers whom Feed the Children helped mobilize to provide a nutrient-rich hot meal every school day. Today the mothers continue to be the backbone of the program, coming together to prepare and serve meals to some 100 children.

The community also benefits from a community greenhouse that helps provide vegetables to cook in the feeding center, which saves money. Feed the Children brings in medical personnel to the community each year so people can receive annual checkups. And children older than 6 years of age receive medicine to prevent intestinal parasites.

Kenia with her favorite toy, a teddy bear named Daniel
Kenia with her favorite toy, a teddy bear named Daniel

With the support of Feed the Children, and the community development work Feed the Children has fostered, Kenia and her peers can grow and thrive. Kenia dreams of working in an office someday, perhaps as a secretary. After getting by with one pair of shoes for so long, she wants to have enough money to buy “pretty shoes.” For some, that might see like a modest dream. But for Kenia, it’s a sign of success and a better life.

Thanks to everyone who supports Feed the Children—through your donations, children like Kenia can dream their dreams and work to achieve them. With your help, hunger has an expiration date. Learn more about our work and how you can be involved.

 

Country Spotlight: El Salvador — An Interview with Ricardo Candray

This month we begin a new feature on our blog, Country Spotlight. In addition to our general blog content, each month we will be sharing a series of articles about one of our ten partner countries. We hope our Country Spotlight will give readers a deeper picture of the work we do around the world.

We kick things off with a focus on El Salvador and an interview with Country Director Ricardo Alcides Candray Menendez, who joined Feed the Children in 1991. Special thanks to Mayra Humphrey and Meylin Quan for conducting the interview.

How did you first get into this work? Why focus on children specifically? The opportunity arrived at the right time. I was called for an interview and found out this was my true calling. I decided to focus on children, first of all because I have children of my own. I have never had to see them go through hard times—so the passion started thanks to my children. But I also feel whole when I see the smiles on the faces of the children we serve, because I know that at least they had a decent meal on that day.

What motivates you in your work? Is there a person, story or statistic that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going? What motivates me is being able to help children, mothers, families and communities. There is a child that I met a long time ago. His name is Edwin, from the community of El Refugio. His father suffered from alcoholism, so he looked up to me as a father figure. Edwin is now all grown up, because we gave him an opportunity [to grow and thrive]. So every child I meet in a community reminds me of Edwin.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing children and families in El Salvador, and how does Feed the Children address those challenges? Some of the biggest challenges are poverty, hunger, unemployment and health. Feed the Children’s four-pillar approach helps address these challenges. In fact we do much more than provide food—we teach and empower children, parents, care providers, and their communities to reverse malnutrition and defeat hunger. The four pillars of our child-focused community-development program are Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods.

*IMG_5484Is there a recent story you can share about the work being done in El Salvador on behalf of children? We recently have been receiving donations from Vitamin Angels. Now children below the ages of 5 are receiving Vitamin-A supplementation, and the mothers that are pregnant are also receiving prenatal vitamins, which makes me really happy because this vitamin helps with vision, particularly in low light. Chronic deficiency can cause blindness.

What’s one misconception people in the United States might have about El Salvador? What would you want us to know about this country? The most common misconception is that only delinquents and gangs live in this country. We would like for people to know Salvadorians are nice, responsible and hardworking people. Not all the population are wrongdoers. Millions of Salvadorians love their country and believe in God.

Just for fun:

Interests and hobbies: Soccer

Favorite vacation destination: United States

Favorite restaurant: “Mariscos Beto” ( Beto’s Shrimp)

Favorite scripture: Philippians 4:13

Favorite American city: Pasadena

Favorite song/artist: Marcos Witt

What did you want to be when you were 6 years old?: Teacher

Top 3 on your bucket list: Go to Africa; Get involved in a mission to help evangelize people; That all of my family is converted to believing in God and Jesus Christ.

Your favorite day at Feed the Children so far? In October 2013 when we received a donation to build our new feeding center in the community of La Labor.

 

Education is the Key: Jaqueline’s Story

Imagine having to choose which of your children will be the one to go to school. For too many parents around the world, this is the agonizing choice they must make.

Jaqueline is the lucky student in her household. Jaqueline, age 10, lives with her mother and two sisters in a small village in Nicaragua. Her older sister stays home with the younger one so their mother can work and Jaqueline can go to school. Each day between February and November Jaqueline joins almost 70 other students in a small school with three classrooms.

Jaqueline loves to play with dolls and toy kitchen sets. But she’s bright and imaginative enough to play with just about anything. During one recent visit she was seen amusing herself with a piece of plastic and a bunch of bottle caps. She enjoys her schoolwork too, and her favorite subject is literature. She loves to read, and even though she doesn’t own a book herself, she gobbles up the books her teacher brings to the classroom. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and she wants to teach the children in her community, in her words, “so they can study a lot.”

A decent education is one of the key elements in bringing kids out of poverty; in fact, it’s one the four pillars we focus on when engaging in community development. Education will give Jaqueline a fighting chance at a better life. But it’s a tough road. The unemployment rate is 90% where she lives, and her single mother ekes out a living working in tobacco, tomato and cucumber fields near their village. During harvesting season, Jaqueline’s mother earns about a hundred cordobas a day—that’s less than $4.

A wage like that is barely enough to keep the family’s pantry stocked with tortillas, rice and beans. A backpack full of school supplies would be unthinkable.

Unthinkable… except that individuals just like you have decided to stand with Jaqueline and help give her a future. Thanks to Feed the Children donors, partners, dedicated staff, and the engagement of the residents themselves, the unthinkable is now possible for Jaqueline and countless others.

*3-2015 NI0002 Jaqueline Morales  (1)Today, Jaqueline, her sisters, and other children in the village get a good nutritious meal five days a week. They receive shoes and other basics. And at the beginning of every school year, Jaqueline receives a backpack filled with school supplies that has allowed her to keep studying and help that dream of being a teacher to become a reality.

We know that helping lift children out of poverty is a multi-faceted process. For Jaqueline, a good meal means she’s able to focus on her studies without a grumbling belly. But the backpack gives her the supplies she needs to thrive in her studies. It’s also a tangible sign that we believe in her—that you believe in her.

Even at her young age, Jaqueline can see what this support has meant to her family: “Before, my mom was very sad when she could not pay for my school supplies, and she told me I would not be able to go to school. Now, I am happy, and she is happy, because I go to school.”

Jaqueline’s school year will be winding down soon—typically in Nicaragua, the children attend school between February and November. Here in the United States, however, the school year is well underway. Learn more about how our programs support education and how you can be a part of it.

Ending Child Marriages in Africa: Sian’s Story

Sian is a hardworking, talented and beautiful 13-year old girl. A student in Kajiado County, Kenya, she devotes herself to her studies and her family and thinks about her future.

For Sian and other children her age, especially girls, that future can be uncertain and full of anxiety. Child marriages are still a common practice in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. Currently more than 700 million women living around the world were married before their 18th birthday. More than a third of those were married before age 15. The most dire statistics come from South Asia, with 41% of girls marrying before age 18, but West and Central Africa follow closely behind.

According to a 2014 report from UNICEF, girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women above 20; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.

Sian with her mother
Sian with her mother

As a talented and hardworking girl, Sian would be an attractive focus for suitors. Once married, she would likely not see a classroom again, instead focusing her energies on taking care of a household. By the time she is 20, she could have 3 children or more. Hypothetically, when those children reach the same age as Sian, the cycle would continue.

The issue of child marriage is further complicated by the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a custom that has been banned in many countries but is still practiced covertly in many communities. In early 2014, Sian’s mother started to prepare her for “Emurata,” a Maasai word for the practice. Once Sian went through the practice, her community would see her branded as a ‘mature woman,’ ready for marriage.

Research shows that FGM and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential. These customs are detrimental to the girls themselves, their families and the society at large. There can also be profound long-term medical complications from the practice.

Tuesday, June 16 is the Day of the African Child, an annual event to bring awareness to issues facing young people on the continent. This year’s focus is on child marriage—on children just like Sian. The African Union has addressed the practice of child marriage and sees it as a hindrance to the development of the continent, not to mention the affect on individual girls and families. Child marriage is a complex issue that is driven by a number of factors in different societies. To turn the statistics around will take the power of many—government, communities, churches, leaders and other experts.

Supporting girls as they reach full adulthood is one of our missions at Feed the Children. One month before Sian was due to undergo Female Genital Mutilation, Sian’s mother attended a community event sponsored by Feed the Children. During this session, community members came together to discuss the effects of FGM and also to promote Alternatives Rites of Passage (ARP). This training was designed and planned in conversation with parents, community members, and local leaders to gain their confidence and enhance ownership around changing this cultural practice.

Armed and equipped with the right information, Sian’s mother sent her daughter for a one week training organized by Feed the Children on ARP. During the training, Sian and 40 other girls were empowered with information on life skills, sexual health, child rights and responsibilities, and mechanisms for reporting in case of violation. The girls developed a strong bond within the ‘ARP-movement’ as they shared their fears for the future, but rejoiced in their new knowledge and empowerment—especially once they saw the support from parents and community leaders who want to see them thrive. Through our work and the partnership of many others, Sian and her peers will be allowed to be children for a few years longer and dream big dreams for themselves.

This year’s Day of the African Child is themed “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa.” To mark this important day, let us take a moment to reflect on areas of improvement in order to save the young from getting into marriage at a time that they are barely teenagers. To end child marriages is not easy given that culture is complex. To end child marriages comes with a call for different organizations to work together as a bloc. It calls for an open discussion by stakeholders at the community, national, regional and continental levels, and coordination between them in order to accelerate the end to this practice.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 8.29.24 PM

Following the one-week training, the girls went through a graduation ceremony. There was a great turnout by the parents, community leaders and government representatives. Here the girls rejoice and dance at the ceremony, champions indeed—and they can thrive even more with you in their corner. Learn more about our international development work, or browse our gift catalog for education-related items to help make the difference in the life of a child like Sian.

–Reporting by Seintje Veldhuis of Feed the Children Kenya

TOMS Shares Shoes, Friendship in Nicaragua

In the Palo Verde community in Nicaragua, kids are growing and thriving… and so is fresh produce, thanks to a new garden that was recently planted as a result of a generous donation from an individual who visited the community recently.

With this gift, Feed the Children personnel were able to purchase tools, soil, compost, recycling bottles, hoses and pipes to create a small irrigation system. Students from the local school are tending the garden, which currently features onions and tomatoes, with plans to grow cassava. Children as young as seven are weeding, harvesting, and learning sustainable livelihoods—and are able to eat the fruits of their labor as well!

The community is also benefiting from a new submersible water pump to access fresh water. Up to this point the school has had to rely on the kindness of a local family, who granted access to their well, but were only able to do so for certain hours of the day. Now the school can rely on its own source of water, 365 days a year.

Last month a group from TOMS traveled to Nicaragua for a Giving Trip. The TOMS family includes a network of Shoe Giving Partners around the world and they host these trips to give their team members an opportunity to see the impact they are making and distribute shoes, learn about a Giving Partner, and experience the countries and communities they serve. The TOMS team was able to see Palo Verde firsthand, and we asked one of them to share her experiences in her own words.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.53.06 AMTell us about an experience or encounter that will stick with you.

Every encounter with every child, teacher, employee, or volunteer was so heartwarming and humbling, and genuinely contributed to an experience that I will forever hold close to my heart. Each person—big, small and teeny tiny—greeted us with either a smile, a timid look, or excitement at our presence, and gratitude for what we, at TOMS, do for them with the help of our Giving Partners like Feed the Children. But little did they know that they had an even greater impact on my soul than I feel I could have on them. 

I remember one particular boy, about 8 years old. After measuring his feet and trying on his shoes, he refused to keep his shoes on. He asked me to take them off and put his old, broken shoes back on. I was sad. I was sad that it seemed he was not as excited about his shoes as I was giving them to him. So with a heart full of sadness I watched him return to his seat. He didn’t know that I was watching him, but I saw him quietly return to his seat and sit down. Suddenly he hugged his shoes tightly with both arms and kissed them over and over again. My heart lifted. He was so happy and proud of his new shoes, and it warmed my heart that he hadn’t rejected the shoes, he had simply wanted to have a special moment with them first.  

What surprised you most about what you saw while there?

I was astonished by the amount of work, support and thoughtfulness behind each program that Feed the Children takes on to drive toward a better tomorrow. I was absolutely amazed by how much Feed the Children does and how immersed they are in the communities. They know these kids by name—they know their parents, their family history, and see each child as the most important gem on earth. It was incredibly beautiful to see, and I will forever be a lifetime advocate and fan of Feed the Children.

What did you take away from this experience?

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This experience was inspiring… the people, the work, the effort it takes… everywhere I turned I saw and learned something new. It truly takes a community of people who are hopeful about the future and want a brighter future to lift a community out of poverty. And the reality is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, hard work, and unwavering commitment from a whole lot of people. 

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Here at Feed the Children, we appreciate the commitment of TOMS and all of our partners! Through their support, we are making a difference in the lives of children in Nicaragua and around the world. To learn more about our international work, click here

A Well in Malawi: In Celebration of #WorldWaterDay

“Water is life. Children are the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you Feed the Children for investing in our future generation.” -Josophat

Around the world, more than 780 million people lack ready access to clean, safe water. For some, this means traveling many miles for hours each day to fetch water from a remote well. For the people in one village in Malawi, it meant encountering contaminated water once they got there.

While the village had a deep, machine-dug well not far from the community, for more than ten years this well had no cover. People would throw items into the well. Dirt and sand would blow in. People were getting sick.

“My children were greatly affected with the unclean water,” said Irene, mother of two young children. “I would spend weeks in hospital with my first born son because of diarrhea. It was a sorry situation.” At times the women would resort to drawing water from hand-dug wells, but the effects were worse.

The women of the village also came to see the well as a hazard in their midst. It was harrowing just to stand beside it and peer down into it. Children could easily fall in.

For years the people of the village tried makeshift remedies for the exposed well—wood planks, sheets of iron—but they were no match for the fierce wind and elements.

Things are different today.

Last June, Feed the Children helped install a well cover to enable community access to clean and safe water. It was a true partnership—the community provided bricks, a contractor offered expertise, and Feed the Children furnished materials and coordination. Malawi’s Ministry of Water was also involved, offering technical support.

Today the community is enjoying unlimited access to clean and safe water. More than a hundred families fetch water from this well. The well is located close to the Community Based Child Care Centre (CBCC) which hosts 61 children who are also accessing water from the same well. Hospital visits have decreased. Children can learn, grow and be kids.

Parents now have greater peace of mind and the time to focus on other initiatives to improve the community. These programs include Village Savings and Loan groups, helping improve community members’ financial status. A care group program promotes behavior changes at the household level in hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and breastfeeding.

Eunice Maxwell draws water from an unsafe well
Eunice draws water from an unsafe well

“My life has greatly improved, thanks to Feed the Children,” said Eunice, a mother of four. “Because of Feed the Children, my family drinks clean and safe water, and going to fetch water is not a burden for me anymore. I have enough time to do my house chores and also rest. Before, I used to spend long hours at the well just to fetch water.”

This Sunday is World Water Day, and we’re inviting you to celebrate the this community’s success and make that same change possible in other places around the world. Our gift catalog makes it easy to donate.

For the cost of a bottle of water a day, you can provide a water filter kit for a entire family. Does your office have a water cooler? For the same price, you and your co-workers can come together and provide a hand-washing station for a community to help prevent disease. Give today.

Championing One Child at a Time: Gerardo in El Salvador

At Feed the Children, we feed 350,000 kids every school day internationally. And on paper, it’s a large number. But in the midst of all the numbers we never want to forget the one child.’

In our logo, the “i” in the word “children” is lower case while the rest of the word is uppercase. It’s a great reminder for us all of us that we’re championing one child at a time.

Today, we want to tell you about one child named Gerardo from El Salvador.

ApgH1NxbYR-U3tGac0oR2U6mK8GMqbNIqUJl61BKq0QTen year old Gerardo lives with his aunt because his mother migrated to Guatemala to look for a job opportunity.

Gerardo lives in a small house located in the middle of a large plot of land. His house is made of cinder block the roof of zinc and the floors of bricks and tin doors.

Inside of Gerardo’s house, there’s a small living room, two bedrooms (one for Gerardo and one for his aunt, they sleep on a small and old mattress). They cook their meals over a firewood oven made of adobe. Their curtains over the windows are made of plastic bags.

Gerardo has electricity in his home but has to go outside to find a toilet.

Gerardo’s family income is around $80.00 US per month. This income mostly comes from his aunt’s work of selling eggs and tilapia to her neighbors.

Gerardo says, “Sometimes there is nothing to eat at home.”

But his story changes when he comes to school. At school, he receives a hot meal every day at the Feed the Children feeding center. His favorite foods to eat are: soy meat, beans with cheese and eggs.

When asked to explain more, Gerardo told a Feed the Children staffer: “I enjoy all the food that the Feeding Center gives me every day, it is delicious. I am so happy for that and when I am at the feeding center I feel that I am with my family.”

After lunch, he plays and laughs with his friends. He’s excited about learning. His favorite subject is Language and he loves reading.

His aunt says Gerardo now dreams about his future.

rU_7_wIkCQaGyyCxupnHXsCjjhv-6MH9H7DMMRpF6hkWhen he grows up, he wants to be a policeman because he does not like injustice. He wants to make a difference in his community. He wants to keep people safe.

Besides receiving food at school, his community now has a greenhouse and tilapia project, which teaches mothers in the community, like Gerardo’s aunt, about how to feed their families more nutritious food. Gerardo’s aunt says these Feed the Children projects have unified the community. Together, they are now pulling all of their resources together to make a better life for all of the children.

We asked Gerardo what he would like to say to his child sponsor and other Feed the Children donors, “Thank you Feed the Children for all the help you gave to me and my aunt. All the food is delicious.”

We are encouraged by the stories of kids like Gerardo and are reminded by the words of Mother Teresa who said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

We can all help one child. We can all help champion kids like Gerardo.

To learn more about child sponsorship in El Salvador, click here.