By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
“I started working with Children Incorporated approximately ten years ago, and I have always been very proud of the quality of work the organization provides. One of our greatest achievements, as far as I am concerned, is our outreach to Richmond Public Schools and the students and children in our own hometown, in our own backyards. I was amazed to discover the extreme poverty that exists right here in Richmond. I never imagined how many children lacked warm clothing and proper nutrition, or how many kids went without adequate school supplies. I discovered that the need for a program like Children Incorporated is huge on a local basis, and it has been an absolute honor for me, as well as the other staff members at Children Incorporated, to offer valued assistance.“
~ Ron Carter, Children Incorporated, President and Chief Executive Officer
We Have Work To Do
Indeed, children are our future. And, we need to make sure every child has the same opportunity. Four years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, poverty rates remain high in the United States and across the world. There is no doubt that with high unemployment and high poverty, companies and non-profits alike felt a hit from this economic downturn. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, the official poverty rate was 15%. There were 46.2 million people in poverty. Unfortunately, this high level of poverty is even present in our own communities.
In 2010, the Richmond Planning District reported that the poverty level for a family of 4 was a yearly income under $22,314. In Richmond City, the rate of those living in poverty increased from 22.1% to 25.8% in 2009-2010. Poverty rates rose 18.2%-25.8% in 2000-2010. Poverty in the city is at an historical high since 1970. Just as important is the fact that the proportion of those living in poverty in surrounding counties increased from 2000 to 2010 by 94% in Henrico and 71% in Chesterfield. Forty six percent of those in poverty in the Richmond area live in the city; 54% of the region’s poor now live in the suburbs. This shift in poverty in the Richmond area reflects a national trend of increasing poverty in suburbs. With staggering numbers as this, it’s hard for children to get ahead and be afforded the same opportunity.
Children Incorporated saw this need in our community and knew something had to be done immediately. Through the wisdom and passion of their visionary, Mrs. Jeanne Clarke Wood, CI was born and helped to make some children’s dreams a reality.
How The Efforts of CI Began
Jeanne Clarke Wood, founder of Children Incorporated, was directly affected by food insecurity after personally witnessing the deprivation of children in Guatemala. After her visit overseas, she started Children Incorporated out of her home in Richmond, Virginia. Ms. Wood began writing letters and seeking assistance for the 95 children she met on her journey to Guatemala. This became the first Children Incorporated project.
Fast forward 48 years, Children Inc. is still focusing their efforts on children and making sure every child has the opportunity to succeed no matter what their situation is. Children Inc. has 18 employees, 3 of which are part-time, and all are located in the city of Richmond. All the work done outside of their home office is by volunteers. They rely on a volunteer network, partnering with volunteer organizations already in place to serve their population in need. The organization functions almost entirely off of donations from businesses and individuals.
Thanks to past and current supporters around the globe, Children Inc. now has over 300 projects in 23 countries which serve over 11,000 children annually through their child sponsorship program and thousands more through various community assistance campaigns. To date, over 250,000 children have been provided opportunities for growth and education and experienced the support and encouragement our programs provide. Children Incorporated has stayed true to Ms. Wood’s vision for almost fifty years: Children Incorporated envisions a world in which each and every child has the education, resources, and opportunity to build a better life.
“Children Inc. meets the basic everyday needs of our children — food, clothing, and school supplies.” comments Carter.
Answering the Need in Richmond
Despite being based in Richmond since the inception of the organization in 1964, Children Incorporated kept a very low profile locally for many years. Work was concentrated in other U.S.A. states and internationally. That changed in the fall of 2005 when Children Incorporated took its child sponsorship program to Swansboro Elementary School in the city. The decision to do so was both strategic and heartfelt. Children Incorporated recognized that there were many children right here in Richmond who needed the type of assistance child sponsorship provides, including but not limited to clothing, school supplies, and food.
The Swansboro program was an immediate success, thanks in large part to the Richmond branch of Communities in Schools (CIS). CIS was already working at Swansboro, and their site coordinator, Cheryl Johnson, willingly added Children Incorporated to the programs she administers within the school to assist children and their families. Working in conjunction with CIS, Children Incorporated then extended its child sponsorship program into eight additional Richmond Public schools, and those affiliations continue to this day. CI assists almost 250-300 children in the Richmond area alone each year.
“Children Incorporated’s partnership with the school is of extreme importance, and we value the relationship. Our children would experience more destitution without the program. We are so appreciative to Children, Incorporated and their support to our many disadvantaged students.” saidCheryl Johnson, Swansboro Elementary School, Communities in Schools of Richmond, Richmond VA.
In addition to the hundreds of children aided through the Children Incorporated child sponsorship program, many others have been helped through partnerships with various businesses and child assistance agencies for special projects. Children Incorporated worked with the YMCA on their Bright Beginnings program for five years, providing new clothing to hundreds of children, and the organization has been the beneficiary of Saxon Shoes’ generosity for the last two years, as hundreds more children have been fitted with new sneakers and school shoes. The Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) has conducted toy and clothing drives annually, and numerous other companies have donated food, clothing, school supplies, books, and toys to Children Incorporated for distribution in the schools wherein we work. Children Incorporated has twice partnered with OneSight in bringing vision clinics to the Richmond area. In 2011 alone, nearly 700 children received comprehensive eye exams, and approximately 450 of them received new eyeglasses. The scope of Children Incorporated’s outreach in the Richmond area is immeasurable.
“To see a child’s face light up and give them a new perspective and renewed confidence about themselves with new shoes and clothes for school is a feeling that is indescribable and irreplaceable.” comments Ron Carter.
Children Incorporated’s work in Richmond, VA was a springboard for the organization to begin more work in several other large urban areas. A child sponsorship program was established in Detroit in 2006, where three programs are currently operating. Also in 2006, a CI child sponsorship program was initiated in New Orleans, where seven schools currently receive assistance from Children Incorporated. Work began in Washington, DC in 2008 and currently has a presence in three schools there. All of these affiliations are managed through arrangements with local branches of Communities in Schools. Children Incorporated has extensive work in the Appalachian region and among American Indian projects in the United States, as well as work throughout Latin America, parts of Asia, and select countries in Africa.
Rebuilding & Strengthening
How does it work?
Children Incorporated relies on its donors and individual sponsors to provide opportunities to children around the world. Sponsorship provides an underprivileged child with basic necessities such as food, clothing, healthcare and education. For just $28 a month, one can help to break the cycle of poverty and give a child hope for a brighter tomorrow. CI receives no government funding.
Their status as an international non-profit allows them to partner with other organizations that already have structure in areas of need. They affiliate with established orphanages, schools and childcare centers that have the staff to manage their programs on a volunteer basis. By partnering with these organizations, they are able to reduce administrative needs and stay true to the vision. Over 300 volunteer coordinators drive the programs throughout the United States and 23 additional countries.
Sponsor a Child
Over one billion children live in poverty today. It sounds overwhelming and disheartening, but you can make a profound impact on breaking the cycle of need by changing the life of just one child. A special bond exists between a sponsor and a child. As a sponsor, your support does more than feed and clothe a child; it changes lives, it gives them renewed confidence, it makes a true difference. Your sponsorship does more than just help during tragedy; it is an investment in a child’s future. Your monthly sponsorship provides a child with food, clothing, medicines, and access to education. With a monthly gift of $28, you can help to break the cycle of poverty and give a child hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Honor Roll Society
Contributions to the Honor Roll Society provide needed tuition, books and fee assistance to worthy young adults who have completed our sponsorship program and graduated from primary school. Families can apply for grants that will be used for college or trade education, offering the opportunity for a better future.
It is Your Turn to Help, Become a Sponsor
CI adds new children to their programs daily, and attracting enough sponsors for all of them is one of their greatest challenges. The global need is so profound that some children wait months, and in some extreme cases years, for a sponsor. CI needs your help now.
Their most immediate need is for sponsors to assist the children on the Children Incorporated rosters. At any given time, there are thousands of children who are awaiting sponsors, and there are many other children that CI could enroll in their programs, if only they had individuals and groups who would sponsor them.
CI encourages churches, civic and student groups, and businesses to consider sponsoring a child through Children Incorporated.
If sponsorship is not an option, there are other ways individuals and groups may help needy children.
Contributions to the Shared Hope Fund will provide immediate assistance to individual children based on the greatest immediate needs of the children, urgent and extreme circumstances, and the length of time children have been enrolled in the CI program, yet are still awaiting sponsors.
No amount is too small to offer hope to a child. CI welcomes and accepts all financial contributions, for every dollar collected allows the agency to offer more assistance to youngsters.
General contributions to Children Incorporated are also sought as they strive to find new ways to help children and their families. When you contribute to their Hope in Action Fund, you are supporting grass-roots programs in the areas of health, education, and livelihood. In order to truly impact the lives of our children, they must first have a supportive environment and community in which to grow. Hope in Action funds much needed programs and services that lead to improved health, access to education, livelihood opportunities and ultimately, stronger communities.
“In our environment, many of the children’s parents are either unemployed or seriously under-employed. They often have multiple kids in their homes. Without Children Incorporated, these parents would not be able to provide clothing and hygiene items for their kids. Children Incorporated is very important to us, and we depend on the program.” said Marilyn Council-Ziegler, Summer Hill Elementary School, Communities in Schools of Richmond, Richmond VA
Be an instrument of hope andsupport Children Inc. today. Bring a smile to a child’s face.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” ~ Mother Teresa
“This Earth is Your Earth,” sung by little ones from Swansboro Elementary in celebration of Earth Day
Children, Incorporated recently hosted a pajama party for children at Swansboro Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. At the party, the children received sleepwear, books, and stuffed animals. Children, Incorporated partnered with the Pajama Program to distribute these items, which were donated by the Oprah Winfrey Show.