SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Children International is a humanitarian organization that focuses on alleviating poverty and advocating child sponsorship. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization focuses 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. The organization also helps children and their families with their health, education, employment opportunities and empowerment programs.
Supporting Children Amid COVID-19
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 the 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 into the programs in the near future.
Children International in Honduras
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 Honduras Emergency Community Fund is also supporting the alleviation of poverty through its partnership with the Walsh Family Foundation.
Children International in Guatemala
Despite the closure of the Tierra Nueva Community Center due to COVID-19, Children International has maintained a presence in Guatemala because it wants to address the issues of poverty and childhood malnutrition in Guatemala. According to UNICEF, in 2019, approximately 44.7% of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.
Children International 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, allowing young adults to acquire job skill training regardless of COVID-19 through virtual training. Regarding healthcare, Children International health volunteers continue to provide nutritional supplements and education on how to stay safe during COVID-19.
Postponing the Chimaltenango Community Center and Virtual Training
Children International Storyteller Deron Denton told The Borgen Project that the Chimaltenango Community center’s construction that was originally scheduled to begin in January 2020 has now been postponed until 2021 at the earliest.
In November 2019, Children International announced a partnership with the literacy non-profit Child Aid to integrate an Educational Strengthening Initiative with a school in South-Central Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The initiative was scheduled to run for four years or eight workshops starting in January 2020. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Child Aid CEO Nancy Press said the collaboration is working to help the Mario Mendez Montenegro elementary school near Tecpan, Guatemala, where approximately “20% to 22% of the students in that 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.
Additionally, since “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 the 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. The humanitarian organization enacted a virtual resilience program 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.
The humanitarian organization 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