College-Bound and Full of Hope

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.

08-2016-ph0045-7_triyzia_philippinesCollege 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.”

We see ourselves as partners with Triyzia, her family, and countless other scholars and families in the Philippines as well as in the other countries we serve. Together, we can build bodies, minds and futures for children everywhere. Join the partnership! Learn more about our international work in education and see how you can get involved

Top image is Triyzia (right) with her sister and mother.

Feeding Bodies, Minds and Futures… in the Philippines

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.

Ana
Ana

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.”

This work is only possible because of support from people like you. Help children build bodies, minds and futures. Learn more about our educational initiatives and give what you can today.

 

Education Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

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.

8As 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.

 

 

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.
*10-2015-PH0017 Photo (17)
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.

“We Want to Make It Happen”: A Conversation with Scott Killough

Editor’s Note: We continue our series of posts highlighting some of the people who make up the Feed the Children team. Here is an interview with Scott Killough, Feed the Children’s Senior Vice President of International Operations. Other blogs in this series can be found here and here.

Tell us about your role at Feed the Children.

I’ve been at Feed the Children just over two years, and am currently the senior vice president for international operations. I coordinate and oversee all our international program activities around the world, as well as our program staff in the three regional offices and all ten of our country programs.

What’s your background?

My background is in international development. I’ve been living and working overseas for non-profit organizations for most of the last 30 years. My particular area of expertise is in international agriculture and rural development, and I spent many years living and working in the Philippines and Central America.

Last time we heard from you on the blog was after Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. You visited the Philippines this past fall. Can you give us an update on the recovery and rebuilding that’s happening there? And what role is Feed the Children playing?

Unfortunately, typhoons are an annual occurrence in the Philippines, although Haiyan was a particularly bad one. I visited in November and had a chance to visit some of the communities and talk with families that had been affected.

Our response is twofold. Typically, our team will mobilize for an immediate relief response to communities that were affected, whether we are working in those parts of the country or not. Our staff and volunteers and partners were out quickly, providing food and supporting communities that were in the path of the storm.

The second phase of our response is to sit down with communities and identify ways we can support rebuilding and recovery efforts. And that’s where we invest more time and effort. As an example, we’ve been working with one community in Cebu province to help them rebuild their school.

We also helped develop a psycho-social counseling session for children and parents whose lives had been devastated. We worked with staff and volunteers from San Carlos University in Cebu to walk people through a process to better deal with their grief. In many cases their homes had been destroyed; they’d lost all their belongings.

Talk about the four pillars of Feed the Children: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods. Talk about how those four pillars work together to help impoverished communities, with maybe a story to illustrate.

Improving livelihoods is one of the four pillars of our work.
Improving livelihoods is one of the four pillars of our work.

The four pillars for me represent the priorities that are universal to communities and families who face poverty in their lives every day. Everyone needs food and water, a decent education, and a chance to improve their livelihood.

As an organization though, the four pillars also provide Feed the Children with a concrete program framework around which we can plan our activities.

We typically start our programs with the first pillar: food and nutrition interventions. We may work with mothers to organize a school feeding program, or help parents introduce home gardens as a way to address food security at the household level. We bring the community together, and the social capital that’s built in the early work of the food and nutrition pillar becomes a platform for launching other activities— addressing health concerns, improving access to drinking water, improving education, and working with communities to support livelihoods.

One example of the four-pillar framework comes from the Philippines, where our four-pillar program framework was originally developed (although we’ve modified it, over time). What you see there are a number of communities working in partnership with schools, which have established school feeding activities. We’ve made investments in water systems both at the school and made drinking water more accessible to the wider community.

Tiyamike VSL group (3)
A village savings and loan group in Tiyamike

And we’ve had great success with the village savings and loan approach. We work with those same volunteer mothers and parents as we did in the beginning. The village savings and loan becomes a concrete mechanism for organizing small groups and getting them to build their own capital fund through savings. This happens not through an external infusion of capital from Feed the Children or our donors, but through their own group savings. Then, we work to support the community as they begin making small loans to the members of the group.

On the family level, the funds enable them to generate income by opening a small store, for example. Maybe it’s a “buy and sell” initiative in which they buy sweet potatoes, do some food processing/preparation and then sell the product at a higher value. There’s a lot of flexibility for individual families or groups to figure out the best way to improve their own household income. But that whole process often starts with meeting basic needs of food and nutrition.

What’s one misconception about international development work—something you wish people better understood?

Two points. One, in order to really bring about social change in communities we support, it is a process that takes time. It’s not something that you can map out in a two-year plan or a four-year plan. Development doesn’t follow a straight timeline: “We’ll do this, then this will happen.”

Second, many of us in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world think it’s our job to be on the ground doing the work. I don’t minimize the contribution and role that Feed the Children staff play, but when we see change, it’s because local people—mothers and fathers, community leaders—are stepping up and saying, “This is what we want for ourselves. We want to bring about these changes, not because you are giving us resources and training and support, but because this is our vision for our community and family. We want to make it happen.”

It sounds like community development work is very contextual, like there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Or are there certain best practices or universal principles in play everywhere?

Well, it’s both. So much of what we do is location-specific. At the same time, there are certain attitudes and behaviors that we have as outsiders, that have been proven and time tested. We also know, from practice and learning, that there are certain ways of supporting ‘development’ – certain interventions – that will bring about better results or outcomes, and that are more cost-effective. We see those in a number of Feed the Children values: recognizing and respecting the dignity of individuals, working to develop local leaders, and understanding cultural diversity.

What motivates you in this work and keeps you going?

Right out of university many years ago, I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. That’s when I became involved in community development programs, with a focus on engaging men and woman at the community level.

That experience motivates me even today. How can we support men and women as they develop leadership and practical skills to make a difference for themselves, their families and their communities?  How can we support local communities to take a stake in their own well-being, in their own hopes and dreams for a better life? Those questions inspire me to work with colleagues in my own organization and other partner organizations to help make change at the community level. They really drive the work I do.

Top photo: Scott Killough visits with program coordinators and school faculty in Cebu City, Philippines.

 

 

Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds. Communication lines and electricity have been damanged and roads are impassable around the affected areas of Dolores and Cataingan. The extent of the typhoon’s impact remains unclear.

Before the typhoon made landfall, some 717,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated. An estimated 133,000 families are staying in 1,758 evacuation centers across the affected regions.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Masbate, Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.

Typhoon Hagupit puts Feed the Children Philippines on alert

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds.

Feed the Children is preparing for a potential worst case scenario. Here are some important pieces of information about how we will respond.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.

 

Foundation 4Life Scholarship Helps Students Like Bea Excel

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

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

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

Bea in the conference hotel with her mom Odessa

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

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

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

Bea gives her speech

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

Bea enjoying the dance party

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