Sisters Fight to Overcome Poverty’s Grip

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ER volunteer Louise Carver is flanked by two sisters who are overcoming huge life challenges.

When ER co-founder Jerry Carnill made his first connection at the Quito Dump in 1997, he did not have a grand plan to fight poverty. He simply felt compassion for the people living and working in the trash and wanted to help them. He reached out to a young boy, Victor, who agreed to gather a bunch of his friends for a Saturday morning kids club.

a2That first kids club was a big success and led to what Extreme Response (ER) has become today. Nineteen years later, we can tell countless stories of improved health, housing, childcare, education and hope among the dump community.

The story of Victor and his family, however, provides a dose of reality. The brutal truth is that breaking the grip of poverty can be arduous and painful.

Victor’s journey is most easily told through the lives of his two daughters, Thresa* and Mayta*. By the time the sisters were born, Victor and his wife had fallen into a pit of drugs and alcohol.

We met the sisters when their grandmother brought them to ER’s newly opened daycare (now called the Child Development Center or CDC). They were some of the first children accepted into the CDC. The girls were living in the dump with Victor’s mother, who was caring for the girls as a result of their parents’ substance abuse.

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Teresa and Jose Jimenez have poured into the sisters’ lives since they were infants.

Before long, ER’s Jose and Teresa Jimenez, who ran the CDC, learned that their mother and grandmother had no intentions of sending the sisters to school. The girls would be taught to pick through the trash for recyclables, just like the generations before them.

“We had to work very hard with the family to convince them that the girls needed to be in the daycare and eventually in school,” Jose said.

“While they were in the CDC, the grandmother realized they were learning and they should go to school. When the children left the daycare they went directly into school. The grandmother poured her life into the girls.

“Unfortunately, the grandmother stepped on nail and developed an infection that later turned into cancer in her leg. She died about three years later when the girls were about six and seven years old,” Jose said.

Grandmother’s Death Derails Hope

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The sisters when they were much younger.

When the grandmother died, the girls went to live with Victor and his wife, despite the fact that they were struggling with addictions. Before long, the parents began using the girls to deal drugs. Neighbors reported what the parents were doing with the girls to authorities and the sisters were taken from their parents and put in a home.

During the judgment it was determined the sisters’ parents were drug addicts. Authorities then called the maternal grandmother, who also worked at the Quito Dump, to see if she would take custody of the children. She was given permission to care for the children. She put the girls in a nearby school in Zambiza and ER temporarily lost contact with the girls.

“The maternal grandmother went to work in the morning and came home about 5 p.m. But when the girls came home from school, their parents would be across the street waiting for them and would send them out to distribute drugs or alcohol,” Jose shared.

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The sisters, middle and right, in 2008.

“The grandmother did not know what to do. She spoke with the director at the school and was told about an organization that works with kids. The grandmother realized it was Extreme Response. She initially had looked for us (Jose and Teresa) at the Dump but gave up when someone had told her (erroneously) that we were no longer there. She was very happy to find us,” Teresa said.

“The kids were malnourished, not cared for and had received no affection. The grandmother and the girls were all living in the garbage at the time. She was busy going through the trash, so the girls were unsupervised.

“We were able to get the girls into our after-school program at the Quito Family Resource Center. Initially, the girls needed psychological help, which we were able to provide.”

Hope Restored

“Two months ago the psychologist said they no longer needed to see her. The girls’ self-esteem and overall psychological health had improved very much thanks to the help they received at the Family Center,” Teresa said.

Today the sisters are 11 and 12. They are progressing well in school. Their future is much brighter. The goal is that the girls will finish high school, but more importantly that they remain healthy, break the vices of their parents and not get caught in a downward cycle.

ER-logo-$10QuitoKidsFund-full-color-portraitER’s after-school program provides a lifeline to children and families who are struggling with deep poverty, addictions and a lack of education. By providing tutoring, a nutritious meal and encouragement, ER is giving girls like Thresa and Mayta a chance to stay in school, gain sustainable skills and break free from the grips of poverty.

*Editor’s Note: The sisters names have been changed for their protection and privacy.

Want to help girls like Thresa and Mayta? We’ve developed a program to help these children called $10 Quito Kids. They need supporters! $10 a month provides meals for two weeks; $20 provides meals for a month. Learn more.

Tim Fausch manages communications for Extreme Response.

The Nine-Year-Old Who Didn’t Know the Alphabet

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Teresa, Joel and Jose

Joel Loja’s parents spend much of their lives in the garbage digging out recyclables in order to eke out a living. It’s a tough life that requires families to focus on surviving each day.

Joel was one of the first babies to enter the Quito Dump Daycare, now called the Child Development Center (CDC), where he received nutritious meals, snacks and love. But when it came time for him to leave the CDC and go to school, it became clear Joel was very behind educationally. So when we opened the after-school program to help kids, Joel’s parents asked for help.

Joel’s challenges are typical for the children of Dump families. He had psychological problems in addition to being behind in school. When he got home from school, there was no one there to help him with his homework or encourage him.

“Joel’s grades were very low when we took him into the after-school program,” said Jose Jimenez, who along with his wife Teresa oversee ER’s Quito programming. “At that time Joel couldn’t write and it was very difficult for him to learn. He was about nine years old and did not even know his alphabet. So we started working with him.”

ER’s After-School Program Comes to the Rescue

QFRC GirlJoel was one of the first kids to receive help at the Quito Family Resource Center (QFRC), which opened to serve Dump Community families. The Center focuses on education and nutrition.

“His mother shared what was going on with Joel,” Teresa Jimenez said. “She told us she just wanted help to get him through grade school because the family would not be able to help him attend school after that. Her goal was for Joel to work with her in the garbage after he got through grade school. She did not think there was any value to study further.”

There were 10 students enrolled when the QFRC first opened. Jose worked with nine of them. Teresa worked just with Joel because he was so far behind. She started by helping him to just write his letters. After about two months, they were able to integrate him in with the other kids. He learned how to write by copying verses from the Bible.

12745958_1402774036415580_3121029424519496714_n“We worked with him to read, write and learn the alphabet,” Teresa said. “Now he is one of the best students. His handwriting is very good. He is reading very well. And his self-esteem is very high. His desire is to finish grade school and go into high school. His dream is to be someone important in life.

“When he came into Family Center, he would go into a corner to read,” Teresa said “After a while he would say, ‘I can read’. One day he said his teacher told him, ‘You are improving so much’. He was very proud of that.

“Joel realizes that his parents have endured a very hard life by working in the dump, Teresa added. “His father has osteoporosis and can no longer work. His mother has to work in the garbage to get food and meet the needs of the family.”

Joel’s family is suffering a lot and his desire is to learn and be able to work in a healthy environment so his parents will not have to work in the garbage.

“The desire of his heart is to help his parents,” Jose said. “Our work at the QFRC is to help him to realize his goals. Every day we have been motivating him to keep going.”

Today Joel is 12 and is doing well physically and emotionally. Joel has several years to go before he will graduate high school, so his continued involvement in the after-school program is crucial if he is to accomplish his goals.

ER-logo-$10QuitoKidsFund-full-color-portraitWant to help a kid like Joel? ER has created a fund for these kids. Our goal is to help 50 kids graduate high school and go on to lead fulfilling lives. $10/week will feed a kid in the program for two weeks. $20/week will provide nutritious meals for a month. Learn more.

Tim Fausch manages communications for Extreme Response.

Belwop Kids Wreck the Hearts of California Team

“Every human should be able to sleep on a mattress.” – Travis Clark

unspecified-2Would you travel 9,500 miles – each way – at your own expense – to have your heart wrecked by some orphans? That’s what happened to eight volunteers from Canvas, a San Francisco-area church, when a team led by lead pastor Travis Clark and his wife Jena visited Belwop Rescue Centre.

And get this…they want to go back.

When the Canvas team traveled to Nyeri, Kenya, to visit the kids a Belwop, they intended to do some projects and spend time with the kids. But they got way more than they bargained for.

unspecified-14“We definitely saw the lives of our team changed,” Travis said. “Their lives were impacted in a way that only hands-on missions can do. When you get a hug from one of these kids, it’s not just a ding; it wrecks your heart.

“The trip really filled our tanks with compassion and generosity. It helped us meet physical needs and love our neighbors in another country. It allowed us to connect personally to Belwop and its mission of rescuing kids.”

unspecified-9The Clarks first encountered Belwop while Travis was serving as a young adults pastor in Arizona. He joined a team that traveled to visit Belwop in 2012. During that first visit, Travis learned that building relationships could be more powerful than meeting physical needs.

“I was personally impacted by a little boy named Peter. I met him the first time I was at Belwop when he was in second grade. He’s now in sixth grade and we picked up where we left off. He’s my guy there.

unspecified-12“We had so many good moments. I asked Peter if he could go anywhere in the world, where would he choose to go. He said he wanted to visit me in my home.

“Saying goodbye was another special moment. Peter tried to act tough. He stared at the ground. But then I bear-hugged him and the floodgates opened. We experienced a deep love for each other. It was the second time I said goodbye to Peter and it was definitely harder because our relationship was deeper.”

unspecified-15Travis also shared a special relationship between a Canvas team member, Angelique, and a Belwop girl named Judy.

“Angelique really connected with Judy because they shared some of the same things. Judy was struggling with loneliness and isolation and Angelique was able to identify with that and speak into her life. Judy was very quiet when we first arrived, but not when we left.

“Kids like Peter and Judy break your heart in a good way.”

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Travis Veronica and Jena

The January 2016 Canvas trip to Belwop was the fulfillment of a passion the Clarks have carried since their first trip where they met Veronica Mumbi, who oversees the children’s home. Travis started sharing Belwop’s story soon after joining Canvas in 2013.

Travis said the team had goals that went beyond doing good works.

“First, we wanted to accomplish the practical by meeting tangible needs, those we knew about and those we didn’t. We wanted to leave Belwop better than we found it.

“Second, we wanted to build relationships. Our approach is to support a few key relationships but with deeper impact. So we brought Veronica to Canvas for some pre-trip meetings to build rapport.

“Our team now has faces to associate with names. We can tell stories about the kids by name. Most of our team had never traveled outside the U.S., except maybe to Mexico for vacation. It created a bit of shock when they saw how the kids at Belwop live. It brought about the realities.

“The kids a Belwop don’t have much, but their joy is rich,” Travis added. “It was convicting to the team and caused us to re-evaluate our priorities.”

unspecified-6One particular situation created a wonderful opportunity for the Canvas team to be generous.

“We did not know about the need for beds before getting to Belwop. While we were there Nick Carnill (ER Africa Team Leader) asked Veronica to name a big need at Belwop. She mentioned the kids’ mattresses. The kids were sleeping on one-inch-thick foam and cardboard. Once we saw that, we knew we wanted to supply not just the mattresses, but new sheets, blankets and bedframes too.”

The sight of new beds and bedding sent the kids into a frenzy of joy.

Belwop Bed Surprise

Last week the Canvas family came together and provided new beds, mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows for over 30 kids at the Belwop Children's Home in Kenya. For those of you who were a part of making this happen, here's a quick peek at the their reactions! Thanks for leading the way in generosity Canvas!

Posted by Canvas on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

unspecified-7“It was a huge win for the kids,” Travis said.
“They share everything, but their beds are special, something they can call their own and be proud of. Every human should be able to sleep on a mattress.”

The Clarks and the Canvas community hope to return to Belwop, perhaps as early as this summer.

“People definitely came back from the trip on fire. We pitched a second trip for August and more than 20 people said they want to go.

unspecified-13“We’d love to do two trips a year, one that is more relationship-focused and another that is more work-focused like a building project. We’d like to find a way to get both men and women engaged.”

Learn more about Belwop and Canvas. Interested in sending a volunteer team to a place like Belwop? Visit our Extreme Teams page on the ER Website.

Tim Fausch manages communications for Extreme Response. Contact him at tfausch@extremeresponse.org.

 

Safe “Nightlife” Trumps Risky Street Life for Filipino Boy

By John Coffey
IT Tender Director

Karin Jose (left) and Jam Coffey (right) have aided William’s transformation from “caterpillar to beautiful butterfly."
Karin Jose (left) and Jam Coffey (right) have played key roles in William’s transformation from “a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly.”

William, an 11-year old boy living in a squatter community in the Manila suburb of Putatan, initially came to IT Tender through a nutrition program called Food For Life.

One day, William stopped attending Food For Life and instead began spending time with a gang of older youth. Karin Jose, the nutrition program’s coordinator, repeatedly visited and followed up with William, doing her best to encourage him to return to the program, but he seemed more interested in hanging out in the streets.

The nutrition program ended after a year, but IT Tender staff wanted to maintain the relationships with children who had been a part of it. They decided to establish an evening drop-in program called Nightlife in which kids could continue enjoying healthy meals and also be tutored in their studies.

Jam Coffey, who began at IT Tender as a volunteer teacher in Food For Life, become the head teacher of Nightlife in the Putatan and Alabang communities. Jam attended an extensive training course at the Institute for Foundational Learning to help develop her teaching skills. Incorporating what she learned at the Institute, she introduced a curriculum at Nightlife called SSRW (Sing, Spell, Read and Write), and she also began sharing stories with moral lessons.

Upon conducting an enrollment and diagnostic test for the Nightlife children, Jam was surprised to see William among the enrollees. In her conversations with him, she found him shy and clearly ashamed about his past behavior, but she welcomed him with open arms and quickly made him feel comfortable being part of IT Tender’s programs again.

William has become a model student in the IT Tender Nightlife program.

Now William is one of the early birds at each Nightlife session, holds a perfect attendance record, is active in lessons and achieves high scores in the exams. Most importantly, he is proving to be a good listener, and is kind to others. The IT Tender staff also recently discovered he has a talent in singing and dancing; the excitement he brings from that is contagious to the other children.

It has been a joy to witness William’s new journey. In just a short time back at IT Tender, he is transforming from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly!

ER partner IT Tender seeks to empower children to become educated and responsible leaders in their community. Learn more here.

How One Boy’s Success Helped Inspire Edukids20

Toto soloMy name is Toto. I am 12 years old Grade 2 student. Today I live at the Manila Children’s Home and my life has changed a lot.

I was a failure in my education. I failed three times during my childhood years; once in Kindergarden and twice in Grade 1. I failed in school because I spent more time focused on my peers rather than myself and my studies. I also struggled because my parents failed to guide and support me. I did not have any school allowances. Before going to school, I ate as much food as I could so I would not get hungry until classes ended. I didn’t even have a decent school uniform. During that time, I was sad.

When I was brought to Extreme Response’s Manila Children’s Home, there was a time that I attempted to run away. “I don’t want to be here” I said to myself. Then the staff talked to me. They made me realize what life awaits me if ER was allowed to help me. My decision was right.

First, I enrolled as Grade 2 student, knowing that I finished my Grade 1. During validation, my social worker discovered that I din’t have any existing school records. The school decided to transfer me back to Grade 1. I was disappointed and became lazy, but during those times the staff supported me and did not forsake me.

Now I am in Grade 2. I also took the acceleration test, the Philippine Educational Placement (PEP) Test. I am one of the students who was given an opportunity to accelerate to higher grade and I feel glad about it. Though I was nervous that time, I know, the staff and my fellow children were supporting me.

My family is my inspiration. I want to help them and to make it happen, I need to continue and finish my education. My dream is to be a sea captain someday. Why sea captain? It’s because it pays a lot and more than enough to help my family. This time is the best time of my life and my dream would be possible through education.

Kids who come from broken families, like Toto, often wind up as street kids. Their futures are pretty bleak. That’s why ER launched the Manila Children’s Home. Our ER Asia staff care for these kids in every way – nutrition, healthcare, education/tutoring and a loving family environment.

EDUkids logoIn order to meet the needs of all the kids in the MCH, we launched Edukids20. Edukids20 allows sponsors to come alongside these kids to provide for their schooling, supplies, lunch and tutoring. We’re in need of sponsors at just $20 per month. Would you be willing to sponsor a kid like Toto?

Learn more about the Manila Children’s HomeExtreme Kids and Edukids20.

“Education can help you to read better, speak better and gain valuable skills needed to find a good job. Education can provide you with information necessary for being a good citizen in a globalized world by giving you a better understanding of the beliefs and customs of other cultures. Thanks to education, you will be less likely to believe myths and superstitions and more likely to make intelligent decisions.” – Donna Halper

Editor’s note: Toto’s name has been changed in order to safeguard his identity.