TACOMA, Washington — Children International is a humanitarian organization that focuses on alleviating poverty and advocating child sponsorship. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is focusing its resources in 10 countries that are being significantly impacted by COVID-19. The basic protection method from the organization is an online child sponsorship program that prompts people to donate $36 per month to support the medical and education services of one child as a technology to alleviate poverty. Children International helps children and families in four aspects: health, education, employment opportunities and empowerment programs.
One of its main focuses for supporting children is its COVID-19 response as all 67 Children International community centers have closed since the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns. Children International has made an Emergency Community Fund for donors to give poverty-stricken families the necessary food, medical support and hygiene kits amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Various celebrities from Heather Graham to Neil Patrick Harris and Drew Carey have supported the organization in the past.
Children International has also received a donation from Project Management Institute Education Foundation of approximately $1 million over three years starting in July 2020. This collaboration will help approximately 20,000 young adults in Children International empowerment programs by integrating basic project management training and other educational resources to the programs in the near future.
Children International works with programs related to health, education and empowerment initiatives that help get young adults employed and children in school throughout Honduras. While all five community centers have closed during COVID-19, the volunteers in Honduras are helping approximately 13,800 sponsored children by providing education and health programs. Children International healthcare has also been able to continue in Honduras with beneficiaries receiving medical services over the phone.
Partnerships have been vital to Children International’s work in Honduras. Since 2018, a leadership training partnership with United Nations Refugee Agency in San Pedro Sula resulted in necessary food and disinfectant supplies being provided to the town during COVID-19 after the town agreed to shift funds for its COVID-19 response. The alleviation of poverty is also being supported by the Honduras Emergency Community Fund through its partnership with the Walsh Family Foundation.
Despite the closure of the Tierra Nueva Community Center that opened in March 2016, Children International has maintained a presence in Guatemala because of the approximately 44.7% of children under the age of 5 suffering from malnutrition, according to a 2019 UNICEF report. The organization addresses various issues in Guatemala through the Emergency Community Fund, child sponsorships and other donations. The Walsh Family Foundation also helps fund the Into Employment program in Guatemala, which allows young adults to acquire job skill training regardless of COVID-19. Regarding healthcare, Children International health volunteers continue to provide various supplements related to nutrition and ideas of how to stay safe during COVID-19.
The construction of the Chimaltenango community center that was originally scheduled to begin in January 2020 has now been postponed until 2021 at the earliest, according to Children International Storyteller Deron Denton. In November 2019, Children International announced a partnership with the literacy non-profit organization Child Aid to integrate an Education Strengthening Initiative with a school in the department of South-Central Chimaltenango, Guatemala, for four years or eight workshops starting in January 2020. Child Aid CEO Nancy Press informed The Borgen Project that the collaboration aims to aid the Mario Mendez Montenegro elementary school near Tecpan, Guatemala, where approximately “20 to 22% of the students in the school are Children International sponsored children.”
The Child Aid staff is virtually training 26 teachers and 20 Children International tutors to help the students once the school reopens. Press notified The Borgen Project that due to the fact that “20% or fewer” of the 24,000 Child Aid Guatemalan students and their families have internet access, the ministry of education has been developing worksheets to help students learn while schools are closed during COVID-19. Due to the difficulty of the worksheets, Press stated that “the Child Aid staff has been working individually with teachers to help them develop worksheets that cover the same material, but are easier for students to use,” at the elementary school level.
Response Programs and Celebrity Impact
Children International’s social media accounts have explained their response to COVID-19 while promoting child sponsorship. In the past few months, the organization has focused on the relationship between mental health and poverty eradication. A virtual resilience program was enacted by Children International in June 2020 to ensure that mental health initiatives are in place for communities suffering from stress during COVID-19.
The organization also collaborated with Clean the World to give out approximately 240,000 soap bars to Manila, Philippines, in July and October 2020. Books are also being donated to areas where online services are unavailable as part of Children International’s education program. While the impact of celebrity endorsement is unknown, Heather Graham has supported Children International through sponsoring a child from the Philippines for many years as Graham believes child sponsorship to be rewarding.
Children International has taken time to reflect and support children in 10 countries by promoting child sponsorship. As Children International community centers shut down due to COVID-19, the organization has moved forward by bringing school supplies and health support to beneficiaries directly through volunteers and website donations. Children International continues to support children’s education, health and employment opportunities through Hope Scholarships, various telehealth services and the Into Employment program for young adults.
– Evan Winslow