Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving
When I was a student, I remember sitting in the front of the class, eager and ready to learn. At the beginning of every school year, I was armed with my No. 2 pencils, pens, and wide-ruled paper.
As a child, I never thought about other kids not having access to the materials needed for class. How can a student be properly engaged without a pen, pencil or paper? Will they be able to participate in the lessons, or will they just daydream? Would they daydream about a prosperous future that’s not achievable without a good education? Would they dream about never being bullied again for being “different” than the other kids who have school supplies?
If you’re hungry, homeless or without life’s essentials, your dreams may be different. I want kids to dream big, and with an education, they can create a path for success. If they have the right tools to succeed in the classroom, their good grades and participation can open the door to infinite possibilities.
In December 2016, the Hunger and Homelessness Survey stated Washington D.C. has 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. Nationwide, the rate of homelessness is about 17 per 10,000 people.
When it comes to school-aged children, there are about 3,551 homeless students in Washington D.C. alone. How can we empower the students in our community? How can we give them the materials they need for success? They are the next generation and they deserve the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and to excel.
Can you join our dream? Feed the Children would like your help to make sure all children in the Washington D.C. area have a backpack to achieve their dreams. Our backpacks are filled with school supplies, hygiene items and healthy snacks – all for the cost of only $20.
On June 8, we will participate in United Way’s campaign called Do More 24. It’s a 24-hour online fundraiser to help the 1,500 homeless kids in DC. Please join us by logging on to make an investment in the life of a child.
Meet Triyzia, a seventeen-year-old who lives in Cebu City, the capital of the Philippines. She likes a lot of the same things many teenage girls do: hanging out with friends, watching TV, and “chilling.” Her days are spent in school, with homework afterward and chores around the house. She would love to see the world, and wants to get a job as an engineer someday. She’s done well in school, even taking advanced science classes.
College costs are a concern for a lot of people—but for Triyzia and other people experiencing poverty, the worry is especially great. Triyzia lives with her mother and two siblings in a communal house with other relatives. Her father died more than a decade ago. Her mother has been raising the kids on her own ever since, without much support from Triyzia’s father’s family. Triyzia’s family doesn’t have its own electricity; instead the family shares it with a neighbor in exchange for paying part of the bill. Water comes from a shared communal tap. It’s crowded and noisy in the neighborhood.
Triyzia’s mother works for a community health center nearby. Sometimes the paycheck is late in coming, so they have to borrow money. Her job may also be in jeopardy because there’s been a change of leadership in the city government, and she supported the opponent of the new mayor. The family’s future is currently hanging in the balance.
Triyzia’s older brother is trying to pass the entrance examination for one of the shipping companies in the Philippines to help with expenses. In the meantime, things are tight, and about to get tighter: it’s not just Triyzia who’s hoping to go to college next year, but also her twin sister.
Thankfully, the family isn’t alone in the struggle. Triyzia is a Feed the Children scholar, which means she receives needed supplies and support. Everything from school supplies to uniforms and backpacks to shoes is provided, so students can focus on what matters: their schoolwork and their future.
Having these items taken care of has eased a huge burden for Triyzia’s family. “Feed the Children has done a lot to help my family,” her mother says. “For me, they have helped my children so much with their studies and especially to me as a single mother. The school supplies that they give to their scholars every school year and the uniforms that they provide are great help to my daughters’ studies.”
It’s August, and families here in the United States are preparing for children to go back to school. Parents across the country will spend August wandering store aisles while clutching school supply lists, or pawing through the bin of kids’ sneakers looking for the right size, or maybe ordering school uniforms online. And while we may grumble about the prices, many of us will be able to provide these items for our children without too much difficulty.
But imagine what it’s like not to be able to purchase the items kids need to be successful in school. That’s the reality for too many families, not only here, but around the world.
Meet Veronica and Ana, two teenagers who live in a large city in the Philippines. Both live in a poor area, with too much crime, drug use and violence. But both have stable homes and families, and their parents work hard to make ends meet. Veronica’s parents wake up early each and every day to cook food and package it for sale in their neighborhood. Ana’s father also works in the food industry, as a fish vendor. He doesn’t have much income left over after paying their bills, not to mention debts they owe to neighbors who loaned them money for their kids’ educational expenses.
Neither of these families has the luxury of extra income for school supplies. Veronica helps her parents with the food sales, but the allowance she receives never goes for fun things a sixteen-year-old might enjoy. Instead she spends the money—when she has some—on basic necessities for school.
Veronica and Ana are both outstanding students who deserve to have their dreams nurtured. Veronica doesn’t have a lot of books herself, but devours the ones she can access for free online. She hopes to take up business management if given the chance to go to college. She dreams of buying a restaurant for her parents to help their food preparation business thrive.
For her part, Ana is deemed “a brilliant child” by those who know her. As an honor student, she has received numerous awards and medals through her academic work. She likes art and music and enjoys writing poems.
Both of these young women deserve a good education, free from worry. That’s why Feed the Children helps provide nutritious meals, supplies, backpacks, shoes, and educational workshops to Veronica and Ana and so many young people just like them.
Before, Veronica and Ana’s parents could never get ahead in terms of saving income—every penny went to the basics. Now, with assistance from Feed the Children, and made possible through countless partners and donors, they can start to get ahead. Both of these girls will be looking at college soon.
“Feed the Children has been helpful to us,” says Veronica. “Because of them I am more motivated in going to school, and I am more focused on my studies in order to maintain my scholarship.”
“Feed the Children has done so much to help me,” Ana agrees. “I am so thankful that there is Feed the Children! Because of the support that I have gotten, I have learned to value my studies even more than before, and to work harder and to be even better in my studies.”
Here in the United States, children everywhere are getting ready for the end of school and the upcoming summer vacation. In Nicaragua, however, the school year runs from February to November, which means school is in full swing. And Feed the Children is there to support and encourage these young people and help ensure their success.
Eleven-year-old Aslin is one of these students. She lives in a rural community with just a hundred other families. The village is so remote it’s only accessible by a bus that runs once a day. Most people walk where they need to go.
There’s very little economic opportunity in Aslin’s community. As a result, some one in five adults immigrate to other countries, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and as far away as Spain, looking for work. Aslin lives with her maternal grandparents while her parents earn money in Costa Rica that they send home to support her. Aslin’s mother works in housekeeping and her father works in maintenance. Since moving to Costa Rica, they have since had another daughter, which means Aslin is separated from a sister as well as her parents. “I feel sad because my parents are not with me,” Aslin says.
It’s a hard situation. Aslin misses her mom and dad. Her grandparents do the best they can, but there’s very little money. Her grandfather works in agriculture for meager wages. Aslin’s house is humble; it is made of adobe and pieces of corrugated steel sheets, with a tiled roof and dirt floor. They are fortunate to have electricity and potable water in the house.
The family’s diet is humble. Breakfast may consist of tortillas, beans, coffee, and eggs (if available). Lunch is rice, beans, cheese or eggs, and on rare occasions, chicken with tortilla. Dinner may be fried rice and beans (called gallopinto) with tortilla, cheese, and coffee. Sometimes the family just has beans with tortillas and cheese.
Aslin is a sweet and happy girl. She helps at home by cleaning the house, washing the dishes, cooking, and watering the plants. When she was little, she suffered several common illnesses. But today she is very healthy, thanks in part to the support she’s received through Feed the Children’s the child sponsorship program. For the past several years, she’s received nourishing meals, a bookbag brimming with school supplies, and TOMS shoes twice a year through their giveaway program. She even receives a beloved toy every Christmas.
Aslin’s grandmother is grateful: “Feed the Children has provided so much to my granddaughter. She receives food that we lack sometimes. The school supplies are a great help, too—not just for her, but for everyone in the community who go through a tough situation.”
Aslin’s favorite subject is natural science. She would like to be a medical doctor when she grows up so she can help others children.
This is how the cycle of poverty is broken—through supporting children so they can grow into productive adults. With a little help and a little luck, Aslin can see her dreams become a reality.
Today we take you to a mountain region in the Philippines, where many of the people make ends meet through a combination of menial jobs and loans.
Eleven-year-old Cherry lives there with her family: four brothers; a father who does construction and drives a motorcycle for hire; and a mother who earns money by doing stone crushing, a grueling job but one that’s common for that region. The family lives in a small house with a simple roof and bamboo walls and flooring. They have electricity, but no running water, which means they need to buy bottled water—another expense. They have a latrine and a small vegetable garden.
As the only girl, Cherry can’t use her brothers’ hand-me-down uniforms for school—she needs her own. Her resourceful mother alters the uniform to make it fit a growing girl for an entire year. And as hard as things are sometimes, Cherry’s mother is proud that she’s able to feed her kids each day. Meals are simple though: rice, vegetables and fish.
There are times when Cherry and her brothers have all had to share a single pencil for their schoolwork, often sharpened down to the nub. They do their work on the back of old papers and other scraps they can find.
But today, Cherry is a Feed the Children scholar at her school. That means she receives supplies, shoes, and encouragement to learn. And she’s a bright girl and diligent student. With a tear in her eye, she says she plans to graduate with honors and become a teacher so her mother never has to crush stones in the river again.
But Feed the Children provides more than just direct aid. We help train and empower parents to save money wisely so they can have a better future.
Like many families in this region who struggle to make ends meet, Cherry’s parents often took out shady loans from local loan sharks. The terms of these loans can often lead to an endless cycle of dependency and debt.
But Feed the Children has been working to end this cycle by creating local savings and loan programs, whereby members of a community come together to pool and save money and create loans that have lower interest rates.
Community people and parents are learning that you don’t have to have a bank book in order to have savings. They have the capacity to save, given the right guidance in managing financial resources. Many are realizing that they can secure their family’s future if they save.
You can be a part of this important work through your gift. To learn more about our work in the Philippines, click here.
A special thanks to Healey Jo S. Rosell for providing the content for today’s story.
At Feed the Children, we’re passionate about the community development work we do around the world. It’s gratifying to partner with leaders within a community, identifying the areas of greatest need and working together to implement solutions.
It’s also tremendously challenging. Helping lift a community out of poverty takes years, and it takes a variety of approaches. It’s a series of small steps.
Take Abdallah, a fourteen year old living in a remote area of Tanzania. We’ve made great progress there since getting involved in 2013—but there’s lots more to do. And with your help, we’re committed to partnering with his village for the long haul.
Abdallah lives with his mother, three siblings, and two cousins in the coastal region of Tanzania. The air is humid, but the sun is scorching hot. The road leading to his home is dusty and lined with long grass as well as coconut and mango trees.
Abdallah’s family lives in a small house, with a roof made of dried coconut tree leaves and walls of locally-made red bricks. There’s no electricity or running water, which is typical for the town. The family has access to a pit latrine not far from the house.
The community depends on subsistence farming for their food, buying household items like sugar and tea in the local shops. Most people in the community are not employed—they do casual jobs like home construction.
Sofia, Abdallah’s mother, was only able to attend school through the second grade. She is now a peasant farmer who grows cassava, vegetable, and peas for the family’s use, and makes money by tilling other people’s farms. She earns about $2.30 US each day.
Sofia is proud that she’s been able to feed the family at least one meal a day, but feels sad that it’s often not more than that. The family meal is typically at night and consists of Ugali (a solid mixture of corn flour & water) with vegetables or beans. Occasionally the harvest is good enough that the family enjoys three meals—but that’s a rare luxury.
Feed the Children’s first entry point to the community was in 2013. We began providing mid-morning porridge to every child in school. The porridge is formulated to be filling and full of vitamins to ensure that kids receive essential nutrients. For children like Abdallah, this may be the first meal they eat that day.
We’ve also helped outfit the kids in the village with shoes provided by TOMS, with school supplies and textbooks, and with a rainwater harvesting system. Before construction of the system, kids like Abdallah would carry a 5-liter container of water to school every day for their use.
According to the head of the school, the transformation has been remarkable. The children now have increased motivation to attend school regularly, and they are concentrating in class, completing school, and moving on to high school.
Abdallah is growing well and it looks like he will be a very tall boy, according to his mother. He likes to study and his favorite subject is science. He also adores football and dreams of becoming a professional football player. “The porridge Abdala gets in school is important,” his mother says, “because I think when he is in class, he can listen to what the teacher is saying. He is also happy and active and plays his football without worrying about hunger.”
Abdallah’s on his way to a better life. But the work isn’t done.
For example, the textbooks we’ve provided are a good start, but there aren’t enough for the kids to take home and study on their own. The rainwater system helps, but the tank only holds 15,000 liters—good for about two months unless the rains are abundant.
Teachers have begun dreaming about a safe, fenced area for the kids to play, and have asked Feed the Children for help with balls, goals and other sports equipment.
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. recently presented a check for $31,373 to Feed the Children as part of its Ninth Annual Feed the Children Charity Day at the company’s Cypress, CA, headquarters.
The money was raised through the ‘hard work and generosity of its employees, according to Yamaha.
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., raises money for Feed the Children through employee donations, special dealer fundraising activities, and direct corporate donations from Yamaha’s customer satisfaction team. The company’s Customer Satisfaction Survey program makes a donation for each survey returned by a Yamaha Motorsports customer.
“Feed the Children is proud to partner with Yamaha Motor Corporation,” said Travis Arnold, Feed the Children Interim CEO/President and COO. “We know that, when we combine our efforts, we will have a greater impact on the lives of families who need us most–right here in America.”
Star Touring And Riding (S.T.A.R.) volunteers were on hand at the event to help deliver donated food and supplies to the local Feed the Children office at the end of the day.
Feed the Children Headquarters Provides Hands-on Help
“We were going to only have sandwiches on Christmas day…” “This food is saving our lives…” “I walked 4 miles to get here…” “We live in this car…”
These are just a few personal stories we heard at our distribution event in Oklahoma City.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Elizabeth Stevens estate, we were able to distribute a semitruck full of food and essentials to help over 400 Oklahoma families in need earlier this month. And, a very special thanks to Mid First Bank for providing warm hats and a helping hand in the cold.
Families from Hilldale Elementary School were the recipients of the food and supplies, which included a 25-pound food box; a 10-pound box of basic essentials like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and personal-care items; a box of assorted Avon products, as well as blankets, backpacks, Disney books, and hats from MidFirst Bank.
“One hundred percent of our students come from poverty,” said Hilldale Elementary Principal Price Brown. “We’re always looking for opportunities that make sure our students are able to enjoy holidays and feel like other kids.”
A Very Special Graduation
The Dorina Kal Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Uganda held a graduation ceremony for eleven kids moving on from kindergarten to Class 1.
The event, held last month, was attended by parents, teachers and community members, all of whom were as excited as the kids themselves. The little ones dressed up in convocation gowns and wore happy faces as they strode in confidence. Each child received a certificate of kindergarten completion that would allow them admission to class one. Feed the Children gave the kids books and pencils.
During their speeches, community leaders counseled parents on the importance of education. Feed the Children’s representative, Acire Mugisha, also spoke, urging parents to continue nurturing their kids so they can realize and achieve their dreams.
Feed the Children’s partnership with Dorina Kal ECDC goes back to early 2013, when we first engaged with the community. We later constructed classrooms to host kindergarten children in Pabbo Sub County in Northern Uganda, then began providing mid-morning porridge and lunch. The meals are crucial, since a majority of the children do not have breakfast at home—the meals also attract kids to attend school.
In helping kids to be kids, and in an effort to create a conducive learning environment for young learners, Feed the Children also supported the center with playing equipment like seesaws, swings, and slides. We also drilled a shallow well (borehole) in the kindergarten compound, which serves the kids in school as well as the surrounding community to provide for clean water when the seasonal streams dry up during the dry season.
Feed the Children also promotes health practices like washing hands with soap, and we constructed a drainable latrine at the center to promote good hygiene practices. We worked closely with the local government, who inspected the facility to ensure quality standards were adhered to before kids used the latrines.
Feed the Children also promotes kitchen gardens; the school grows vegetable which are used to supplement meals provided by Feed the Children. kids now have a balanced diet sourced from the garden.
Congratulations to the children and their families—may the good work in this community continue!
Food and Fun in Phoenix… and Beyond
PepsiCo celebrated its third annual Feeding Phoenix Event earlier this month, bringing food, hygiene, and Avon products to 800 families in the area. PepsiCo employees served as volunteers for the event, working with partner agencies Phoenix Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.
Additional partners brought holiday cheer to the kids in attendance. JAKKS Toys provided toys for the children, and First Book made sure kids left the event with a book to call their own.
But the generosity doesn’t stop in Phoenix. We’ve had a busy month ensuring families have a happy holidays, with food distribution events in Nashville; Jamaica, NY; and Blytheville, AR.
And in Unadilla, GA, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan joined the effort, helping provide some 400 families with food and supplies. Ragan was the highest bidder for a hauler full of food at the Waltrip Brothers Charity Championship event last month.
“I am excited to partner with Feed the Children and The Lord’s Pantry to help provide meals for 400 families in my hometown of Unadilla and Dooly County,” Ragan said. “During the Waltrip Brothers Charity Championship event, I met the Feed the Children group and learned how they can impact a community like mine. During this Christmas season, it will be a blessing to provide help for families in need.”
You are an indispensable part of this work. Donate now so we can continue helping kids be kids, and creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
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.
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.
After being with Feed the Children for over two years now, you would think I would go through a day without a surprise.
But two weeks ago while I was traveling through Kenya, I learned something about our work that I didn’t know.
In the NGO world, we know that girls in school equals lasting change to communities.
Yet, for so many communities around the world, girls not in school are the norm.
But, why? We think girls drop out in the Global South because their parents can’t afford the school fees. Or we think that their parents need them to work. Yet for many girls, especially in rural communities, they drop out for other reasons.
In some parts of Kenya a practice called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is what is keeping girls from school.
Wow. I dare say, as an American male, this is something I have rarely thought or even knew much about.
But it’s a right of passage for girls usually aged 9-12 go through to prepare them for marriage. It’s a cultural tradition that can lead to serious infections, loss of pregnancies, and sometimes death. Although the government has banned FGM, some communities still practice it in secret.
So how can we address this problem?
For a while now, Feed the Children Kenya explored this issue. How could we empower girls with knowledge of their bodies, self-confidence and give them invitation to dream big for their future?
This was our answer: Feed the Children Kenya birthed the first ever retreat for 30 girls this past November in partnership with AIC Church, Lumbwa.
The retreat included workshops to help the girls know that the traditional way of life in the village is not the only option for them.
It just so happened that the Friday afternoon graduation ceremony coincided with my trip to Kenya. I couldn’t wait to meet these brave girls!
When we arrived at the church hosting the graduation, sounds of joyous singing by the girls and their mothers filled the space.
Girls laughed with sashes around their bodies, “I am a champion!” Mothers danced alongside them to welcome us. And a father who told me, “Thank you, Feed the Children for helping me empower my girls.”
I learned that often it is the mothers in the community that are most resistant to change. The fathers usually want FGM to stop.
Then, before an audience of 50, one girl spoke boldly on behalf of her graduation class, calling upon the governmentof Kenya and the county leadership to implement the law.
In response, I told the girls how proud I was of them. I told them they were beautiful. It shocked me that the crowd erupted in applause when a staffer translated my words. Maybe they aren’t used to ever hearing such encouragement?
Later, my wife, Elizabeth and I passed out certificates to each girl.
I learned that for all of the girls this was the only time they’d ever had a piece of paper with their name on it! Imagine that. Something that happens to me everyday that I take for granted!
As the festivities concluded the girls processed out of the church in song. Joy leapt from the dirt road as their sandals pounded in unity.
A Feed the Children staffer, Duncan who worked alongside the retreat all week leaned over to tell me, “You should have seen the girls on the first day. They were shy and withdrawn. Now, look at them! They’ve got hope.”
I’m so happy to tell you that this retreat is only the first of many to come. Plans are already underway for more gatherings like this in 2015. At Feed the Children, want girls like these to dream of unimaginable futures and to keep having reasons to dance with joy!
Imagine growing up in a remote village for your entire life, and then boarding an airplane, flying to a different country, and staying in a hotel for the very first time, to give a speech to nearly 3,000 people. That’s what Bea Bianca Flora, a 7th grade student in the Philippines, did last month.
Bea is one of five students identified by Feed the Children to receive a scholarship from Foundation 4Life, one of Feed the Children’s longtime partners in that country. It pays for school and also provides a monthly stipend so she doesn’t have to work and can focus intently on her studies.
Bea Flora has received a school scholarship from Foundation 4Life for two years. She is a bright girl, having been elected as one of the officers of the Supreme pupil council in her school. Her aspirations are big – she wants to become a civil engineer so she can design and construct houses for poor families like hers and others in her community. Both she and her mother are overwhelmed with gratitude for this gift.
Bea said, “It is a great opportunity to receive assistance which helps me pursue my education because my family faces financial struggles to send me to school.”
Foundation 4Life flew Bea and her mother, Odessa to their Asia Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia so that she could share her story and meet some of the 4Life family that provides her with her scholarship. Foundation 4Life donors love these conventions because they get to meet the children whose lives are completely changed by their generous donations. They get to connect with the work that is taking place around the world through the stories they hear from children sponsored by Foundation 4Life’s projects. And the children get to feel and receive the love and support of these amazing donors.
In addition to creating stronger connections between the children and the 4Life family, 4Life believes that travel is an opportunity for these children to expand their minds and see new possibilities that exist in the world around them.
During the two-day convention, Bea gave her speech on stage, complete with bright lights and a huge audience. She overcame her nerves and shared her touching story with poise and confidence. Afterwards, she and her mother felt like celebrities, but her favorite part was the closing dance party.
4Life looks forward to following Bea’s progress through school. They want to see her reach her goals, and they plan to host her and the other scholarship recipients at future events designed to keep the children motivated and filled with hope.