Category Archives: Education

Sowing Hope While Sewing Clothes

Emily Abajar
Golden Hands has helped Emily Abajar learn not only about sewing, but to have hope in her life.

By Pen Pen Bullo, Extreme Response Asia Staff

In today’s short-cut society, there are “life hacks” that teach us quick and easy ways to fix things. But when it comes to lives broken by poverty, abuse, abandonment, oppression, human trafficking and neglect, there are no short cuts, no simple hacks to make things better.

IMG_6837Faced with huge challenges regarding the plight of women struggling with poverty and lack of hope in the Philippines, the ER Asia staff knew it had to use long-term, sustainable tools to help women and children, who often are marginalized in Filipino society.

About four years ago, a group of mothers and women from a small community of poor informal settlements in Makati City decided to meet on a regular basis. Their purpose is to spend productive time learning more skills rather than hanging out with neighbors playing cards and chatting.

IMG_5668Extreme Response Asia’s Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program took the initiative to train, educate and organize the women, most of whom come from the informal settlements. The aim of the program is to empower and change the lives of women living in extreme and often life-threatening situations.

Last year, program director Anne Benavidez developed a community-based curriculum for the group. They meet once a week for values formation and skills enhancement. They were taught how to do basic sewing and pattern making for skirts, swing bags, double-sided aprons and a whole lot more. During the training, the women developed not only their skills, but also self-confidence and trusted relationships.

Edwina Cautivo
Edwina Cautivo

Edwina Cautivo is one of the members of the group and a single mother of a deaf and mute child. They used to live in a small house with no proper electricity or water supply. During the meetings she was encouraged by the group to find a proper place for her children, a safer home in which to live. With courage and faith, she made the decision to rent an apartment for her family, which we celebrated. She is now an empowered woman with a changed life.

As a group of bonded women, we rejoice when we see that lives are being changed. Lorna Serano (lower right) and Emily Abajar (top of page) are examples of changed lives. Each has experienced abundant blessings and are enjoying the hope of freedom from poverty. Little by little, they are acquiring the skills and talents through the livelihood sewing program which they will use to meet their financial needs.

Lorna Serrano
Lorna Serrano displays one of the bags made by the group.

Emily Abajar is now in the process of launching her own home-based alteration shop She said the skills training received through Golden Hands have given her the opportunity, confidence and knowledge on basic sewing and pattern making. She is excited and looking forward to the culminating ceremony on the April 1. She will be among the first women to graduate from the program.

We at Extreme Response Asia are truly encouraged to see changed lives and empowered women in the community, thriving to overcome poverty, oppression and injustice in the society. Indeed every single day is a blessing, a spark of hope and an avenue for change.

Pen “Pen Pen” Bullo serves at-risk communities in and around Manila as part of her duties with Extreme Response Asia. She also travels to remote villages to help teach disaster preparedness and response.

Learn more about the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program and our work and partners in Asia .

Sisters Fight to Overcome Poverty’s Grip

DSC_0154
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.

la foto
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

12814374_10153475374156864_3726110495893096605_n-1
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.

12801133_10153478370141864_2853622005615816398_n
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.

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.

Youth Mobilization Reaches Out to Families with Love

Mackie Custodio is the Team Leader for Youth Mobilization, one of ER’s partners in the Philippines. Here he shares how his organization was able to respond to a catastrophe in a way that is impacting lives for the long term.

Living conditions are difficult in the community Youth Mobilization serves in Wawa, Taguig, Philippines.
Living conditions are difficult in the community Youth Mobilization serves in Wawa, Taguig, Philippines.

Our organization is based in a poor community in Wawa, Taguig, about an hour away from Manila. Two years ago, families in this community were victims of a fire that left their homes in ashes, a tragedy that still echoes today.

Ninety percent of the families in the community earn below 50 percent of the minimum wage. Most of them are contract construction workers, domestic workers, pedicab drivers, laundry helpers and dump scavengers. Their top – and only – priority in spending is food for their families. They know that housing and education are important as well, but they simply don’t have the funds to spend on these things.

In response to these extreme circumstances, in 2014 we launched a program called Abot Pag-ibig (Reaching Out With Love). This program aims to produce hope-filled children by teaching them strong values, for we know that by forming their values, we can form their future.

Children and adults alike are finding hope through Youth Mobilization’s values formation program.
Children and adults alike are finding hope through Youth Mobilization’s values formation program.

Each week, more than 50 children gather to hear stories and lessons that they can apply in their daily lives – things like how special each of them is, and how they should treat themselves, their families and friends. The program also includes a meal and time for crafts and activities that let the children express themselves.

Thanks to the relationships we have established with these children, we have been able to build good relationships with their families as well. We now facilitate a home group that gives parents the opportunity to hear these same messages of hope, and to share their thoughts on how we can serve the children and the community even more effectively.

Belen Cabacas and her son Paulo
Belen Cabacas and her son Paulo

One such family is Belen Cabacas and her sons, Paulo and JP. The boys not only attend the values formation program every Saturday, they are helpful in setting up the venue and calling the students to come together at the beginning of the class. Meanwhile, Belen has been regularly attending the home group and eagerly receiving the lessons she learns there.

As we look ahead to 2016, our dreams include an educational center and program called Bulilit Life Ministy (Lives of Little Ones Ministry), which will provide basic education to children ages 5-6. We also hope to help students who have been forced by poverty to drop out of school. This program will be called Gabay-Aral (Guide in Their Learning) and will encourage students to continue their studies by sponsoring their material needs, such as backpacks and uniforms.

The YM home group helps build relationships with parents in the community.
The YM home group helps build relationships with parents in the community.

We are thankful for the opportunity to serve this community and build strong relationships with the children and their families. We are confident that, little by little, day by day, we can help bring change among these extreme circumstances.

To learn more about Youth Mobilization, click here and visit their blog at philippinesyouthmobilization.blogspot.com.

Hope Breeds Hope…

NAPACOR VillageA Personal Note From Jerry Carnill, ER President & CEO

Dear Friends,

Have you ever been in a situation that appeared hopeless?

At ER, we intentionally interject ourselves into the lives of people who believe there is no hope for their future. For years, we have been privileged to bring help for today and hope for a better future to kids, moms and dads who couldn’t see any way out of their situations.

IMG_3301When we first stepped into the Quito Dump 18 years ago, we encountered hundreds of people living in the trash. Most were working very hard to provide for their families. But they longed for their children to have a better future.

For many of these parents, this dream has come true. The younger children who have attended our preschool are well prepared for primary school.

Hope breeds hope.

Michelle-1The older children who attend our after-school tutoring program are on their way to finishing high school. Moms are now attending a club designed to help them grow personally and as a parent.

Fathers are stepping up to care for their families with the encouragement of the ER staff. Parents have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by ER and their kids are thriving.

Hope breed hope.

IMG_20150729_134613534This new hope has helped 13 families scrimp and save enough money to buy small plots of land. Then, together with ER volunteers and staff, they built block homes with cement floors and roofs that don’t leak.

The world is full of hurting people who have no hope for their future. We have expanded our impact by placing staff members and outreach programs in Asia and Africa to allow us to bring them the same hope that Ecuadorians now enjoy.

Carnills with Masi kidsMany of you receiving this letter have volunteered with us. You may know Dawn and me or other ER staff members. You may even know some of the children we are reaching.

I’m writing to ask for your help. Many kids in our programs are more highly educated than their parents, but are stuck in poverty.

Imagine a child from the Dump community as an expert welder, working in an office or graduating from college. This is not hopeless fantasy. It is an attainable dream! It’s attainable because, with your help, ER can introduce these kids to opportunities that will fuel their hope and open the world to them.

Hope breeds hope.

8591d4e7-e7b5-4ac5-b029-b802c884b3bbWe need you to help the ER kids around the world break out of their extreme poverty. Would you please consider giving a financial gift before the end of this year as part of our matching funds campaign?

You will be helping us begin 2016 knowing we can bring hope for a better future to the dump families in Quito, the boys in our Children’s Home in Manila the kids in our after-school program in Cape Town, and ER partners working in 10 countries.

Together, we can bring life changing hope!

Jason-6P.S. Please click here to support our year-end matching fund drive.  All gifts received by Dec. 30, 2015,  are being matched dollar-for-dollar up to $145,000 by generous donors* A gift of any size will help! Watch this short video to learn more.

*Please note: Designated donations are applied toward those designated needs. Matching funds are applied to ER’s general fund in order to help meet needs around the world.


Jerry Carnill, Extreme Response

Jerry Carnill is President and CEO of Extreme Response International. He co-founded Extreme Response in 1997 following a visit to the Zambiza Dump in Quito, Ecuador. Today, ER operates humanitarian outreach programs in Quito, Manila and Cape Town, as well as formal relationships with 30 humanitarian partners serving the poor in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Contact Jerry at jcarnill@extremeresponse.org.

South Africa Dream Centre Is No Longer a Dream

DSC_0478By Amy Townsend, ER South Africa

When you visit a squatter settlement in South Africa, you immediately realize how devastatingly unfair the world can be, especially for kids. These communities can stretch on for miles and contain thousands of children — all of them at risk for HIV/AIDS, TB, abuse, malnutrition, poverty and hopelessness.

GLL BoyIt would be easy for ER’s South Africa staff, volunteers and partners to be overwhelmed by the scale of the need. Yet the size of the challenge has instead driven our team to think more creatively and strategically.

Could we give these kids a real chance to break out of the vicious cycle in which they tumble? Could we provide enough nutrition, security and structured early- and after-school learning opportunities to allow them to prosper? Do we dare dream that their lives will be filled with hope and tangible opportunities for a better life?

Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Townsend girls and GLL kidsWe are pleased to announced that our dreams are turning into reality with the launch of the ER South Africa Dream Centre near Cape Town. The Dream Centre will serve alongside God’s Little Lighthouse (GLL), with support from ER partner ATAIM, to provide a safe early and primary learning environment for children at risk for falling behind academically. We want to help children learn to dream big dreams and reach their potential.

“The Dream Centre is a dream come true for ER as well, as for the parents and kids we serve,” said ER President and CEO Jerry Carnill. Although the need is great,  we have the right staff in place and a strong legacy to follow. This will be life changing for everyone involved.”

Currently, kids fall behind as they leave GLL to attend a local public school. Now the Dream Centre will provide a safe after-school tutoring and homework help program to enable these kids to succeed academically. The Dream Centre also will partner with schools and parents to ensure the children remain on course with his or her academic studies and provide opportunities for them to develop their talents.

The Little Things Matter

DSC_0408Take the example of Mbali* a very quiet and shy little girl. The youngest of four children, her parents have struggled recently with the loss of a job and had to move into Masiphumelele. At the beginning of the school year, it was obvious that Mbali needed glasses. During story time, she would squint and eventually lose interest in the story. She could not color in the lines or print her name. Teachers sent several notes home, but there just wasn’t money to have her eyes checked.

That’s when ATAIM, GLLH teachers and ER worked together to get her an eye exam. Now Mbali has some wonderful glasses that help her see things more clearly. Her school work improved immediately and she no longer struggles to see. Caring teamwork gave Mabil a chance for a better future.

To get started, the Dream Center will focus on meeting the needs of 15 children from the nearby settlement of Masiphumelele. The kids are mostly older children who attended God’s Little Lighthouse, so they are familiar with ER staff and volunteers. They are primed and ready to learn.

Funding the Dream Centre After-School Program
DSC_0743A new report from researchers at the University of San Francisco reveals that sponsored children are more likely to graduate both secondary school and college, have salaried employment and be leaders in their communities. Sponsorship makes children 27%-40% more likely to complete secondary school and 50%-80% more likely to complete a university education.

This is why The Dream Centre name is so appropriate. You see, poverty causes children to have low self-esteem and aspirations. But a scholarship helps expand children’s views about their own possibilities. With education, we help each child realize he or she is a special gift that can benefit their community, and we encourage them to develop aspirations for their future.

Child sponsorship appears to be the great equalizer in education. In areas where outcomes are worse, such as sub-Saharan Africa, impacts are greater. So we’re pleased to announce the introduction of the Extreme Kids South Africa Scholarship Fund. The fund allows donors to personally impact the future of an at-risk child by providing a scholarship by requiring only small monthly donations.

DSC_1316For just $20 per month, you can provide a scholarship for the children at The Dream Centre or God’s Little Lighthouse. These funds primarily provide school supplies, a safe after-school environment and nutritious snacks. You’ll find complete details on the Scholarship program here, including a helpful FAQ.

Would you consider funding a scholarship for one of these children? Your gift will impact a child for a lifetime, and possibly generations beyond. Click here to donate to the Extreme Kids South Africa Scholarship Fund.

Click here to see a short video of the Dream Centre’s foundation being poured in February 2016.

*Mbali’s name was changed in this article as a matter of privacy.

970299_614864335190262_1175523254_nAmy and Ron Townsend work at God’s Little Lighthouse on loan from Extreme Response. The Townsends and their three daughters, Emily, Hannah and Sarah, recently moved to South Africa to help Extreme Response establish a regional presence. Click here to learn more about Extreme Response’s vision helping people in Africa.

Teenager Turnaround: Michelle’s Story

Michelle-2

By Robyn Wallace

Sorting trash for recycling has long been a meager source of income for residents at the Quito Dump. ER’s Quito After School Program is trying to break that cycle by improving kids’ chances to complete their education and, ultimately, earn a better living.

Michelle is one teenager who has benefitted from the program. Her mother approached Jose and Teresa Jimenez, the program’s directors, in early 2014 when she realized she could no longer adequately feed Michelle and her three other children. She was considering taking Michelle out of school so she could help recycle trash and help feed the family.

Michelle-3Michelle is 17 and her siblings are 14, 10 and 7.  Michelle first connected with ER as a young child when she attended a kids’ club at the Zambiza Garbage Transfer Station (previously the Quito Dump). Her grandmother continues to sort trash there. She and her 10-year-old brother were admitted to the After School program and now receive a hot, nutritious meal five days a week, as well as tutoring and homework support. Her 14- and 7-year-old siblings are still home with their mom.

Michelle is on track to graduate from high school next summer and hopes to receive a scholarship to the government university. There are several government universities here in Quito.  The government will review Michelle’s grades in March and decide is they will allow her to attend a university on scholarship. If granted, Michelle would start college in the fall of 2016.

To top it off, Michelle hopes to be our very first person in the Quito Dump Program to return with her degree to help with the children at the Family Resource Center.  The changes in her life all began because ER said “yes” to helping hungry children.

Educational Is Now A Priority

Michelle-1ER began to focus on supporting children through education in September 2013 and we now serve 34 kids in the After School Program. Our goal is to break in cyclical pattern of not finishing elementary school and joining the family sifting through trash to earn their living. We want children to have options.

To get into the program, families approach our directors, Jose and Teresa Jimenez. They do a general interview with the family and follow up with a house visit and a socio-economic survey to evaluate each situation.

Finally, the Jose and Teresa conduct an interview with the child to determine if we should bring a child into our program. Currently, there is a waiting list.

8591d4e7-e7b5-4ac5-b029-b802c884b3bbMost of the children go to school half days in Ecuador.  After school, children arrive for a hot meal around 1 p.m., which is often their only meal of the day.  It consists of either a hearty soup or a rice/meat dish. Then they start on homework and receive tutoring as needed. Kids work in teams to encourage each other to finish in a timely manner and do quality work.  When finished, they do chores and then enjoy free play time.

We also provide hour-long workshops at the end of the day, including English, Music, Art, and ecological type classes. The day ends at 5 p.m. This school year we have begun to support five children in the mornings and send them off to school at noon.

Creating More “Michelles”

ER recently introduced the $10 Quito Kids Fund to help kids such as Michelle and her brother participate in the After School Program. Our vision is to create more success stories like Michelle’s. You can help a child like Michelle get a hot meal, help with homework and learn life skills for just $10 a month. Visit extremeresponse.org/take-action/extreme-kids/10-dollar-lunch and become one of our $10 Quito Kids Fund partners!

Robyn WIMG_5534allace and her husband Brian have been serving in Quito, Ecuador,  since 2014. They work at the Zambiza Garbage Transfer Station, also known as the Quito Dump, where they help care for the nearly 300 families who work as recyclers. Robyn has been instrumental in identifying curriculum and testing so the kids in the Dump Daycare can enter preschool and kindergarten at levels on par with other kids. Brian oversees the medical and dental clinics, which address families’ physical needs.

Setting Students on a Path to Success

Path Project 4Jim Hollandsworth is the founder and executive director of The Path Project, an ER partner based in suburban Atlanta that seeks to help at-risk children close the achievement gap, graduate from high school, become productive members of society and “find the right path for their lives” through academic, social and spiritual development. Here Jim shares some encouraging success stories from The Path Project’s work in Atlanta and beyond.

One of our main goals for students who are part of the Path Project is that they would graduate high school with a plan for their future. For six years we’ve been focused on this goal. We’ve seen many of our students improve their grades at school, but we’ve also continued to see students struggle in middle and high school.

Through conversations with local and state education leaders, and families in the communities we serve, we’ve realized that a student’s likelihood of graduating from high school depends on their ability to read in elementary school. In fact, students who are reading on or above grade level by 3rd grade are 400 percent more likely to graduate high school than students who are reading below grade level.

In Georgia, Latino students have a 57 percent graduation rate, the lowest of any demographic in the state. The Mexican students in the communities we serve have an even lower graduation rate because of factors including poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and parents who didn’t complete high school.

Path Project 1In response to this research, we have partnered with an initiative by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal called “Get Georgia Reading,” the goal of which is to get low-income students in the state reading on or above grade level by 3rd grade. (Pictured at left are my wife, Melinda, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, state Board of Education representative Mike Royal and me at the statewide launch of this campaign.)

Last year we launched our own Literacy Program for K-2nd graders in the Gwinnett Estates mobile home park, aimed at increasing their exposure to reading and language every day after school. We began tracking the Kindergarteners who were part of that program last year and who were part of our preschool programs before that. By the end of last school year, 15 of 16 students were reading on or above grade level.

Path Project 2Knowing how important this is to long-term academic success, we are thrilled with these results! Our staff and volunteers have done an amazing job in leading this program at Gwinnett Estates, and now we’re expanding our model to other communities. One of the biggest challenges in Mexican immigrant communities is overcoming high dropout rates. Our goal is to change this trend, one community at a time, in Georgia and beyond.

In fact, we’re even starting to export this model internationally. Working with Ron and Amy Townsend in the ER South Africa office, we’ve been able to share some of these ideas for an after-school literacy program they are launching in January. It’s encouraging to see multiple ER partners work together to help at-risk kids learn to read!

Path Project 3In addition to the Literacy Program’s success, we’re excited about several more initiatives, programs and success stories from our communities:

  • Middle/High Leadership Academy: We’ve launched a pilot program in our largest community for students in grades 6 through 12 to help with academics, career exposure, college awareness, driver’s licenses and other life skills. Thirty students are part of this program.
  • Soccer League: In partnership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, we are helping kids get professional soccer instruction, and more importantly, character training and relationship building with a coach each week. We’re seeing boys respond to this who have never been part of our programs before!
  • Summer Camps: We helped more than 200 students attend camps this past summer, including FCA Soccer Camp (120 students) and our own Path Project Big Camp (140 students).
  • High School Graduates: This year we’ll see four of our students from the Gwinnett Estates community graduate from high school. This is significant because historically the dropout rate in these communities has been really low. In fact, over the past six years, we know of only four students total from Gwinnett Estates who have graduated high school. We’ve known each of these current seniors since they were in 6th grade, and it’s been a joy to walk with them as they purse this goal of graduation.

To learn more about The Path Project, visit www.path-project.org.

Det Det’s Journey: First Step, First Grade

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Det Det is flanked by his mother and Erwin, an elder from his church.

Illiteracy is a big problem in the Philippines, especially among the indigent people and those living in remote areas. John Coffey, director of ER partner IT Tender, shares the story of a teenage boy who is working hard to overcome that deficiency in his own life.

By John Coffee, Director, IT Tender

Like many teenage boys, Det Det has big hopes and dreams for his future. Perhaps it’s fitting that his unusual name evokes the word “determination,” for this shy 17-year-old is overcoming bigger challenges than most of us can imagine.

When our staff at IT Tender first met him, Det Det had not completed grade

1 and was unable to even write his own name. Instead of attending school, he spent his days searching through trash piles, looking for recyclable and sellable items, and putting the money he earned toward food for his large family.

Det Det has been part of IT Tender’s Night Life youth program since 2013. Night Life allows children living in local squatter communities to visit a drop-in center, bathe and enjoy a hot, healthy meal.

But we recognized that Det Det needed more help, so in August 2014 we helped him get into Honest Hands, a program run by our partners at Action International.

Every week Det Det travelled to a campus just outside Manila to attend studies and one-on-one tutorials, and be part of a family environment alongside seven other students. Each weekend, he would return to his home along the railway to maintain family relationships in his own home, and attend a local church with staff from IT Tender.

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Det Det proudly holds his certificates at the graduation ceremony for Honest Hands’ basic education program.

Despite many struggles, Det Det completed the course. He now knows the alphabet, is able to write, and has even shown an aptitude for memorizing Bible verses. At his graduation from Honest Hands, Det Det received two awards: One for his commitment in the tutorial sessions, and another for his hard work and commitment to helping others throughout the eight-month program – especially for completing his chores so faithfully and without complaining.

Our staff also recognized Det Det’s perseverance and commitment to learning: We recommended him to be part of IT Tender’s Sponsor-A-Child program. We are pleased to report that Det Det already has a sponsor and is enrolled in grade 1 at a local elementary school near his home. And while he is enrolled in grade 1, he will be sitting in a grade 4 class taught by an IT Tender volunteer, Ana, who has a passion for teaching youth who have previously dropped out of school.

IT Tender is immensely proud of this young man, and we know he will continue to press on with his learning, faith and commitment to living a transformed life.

John Coffey oversees IT Tender, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Manila-area families struggling with deep poverty.  Learn more about IT Tender. The organization focuses heavily on early education, with the goal of giving at-risk kids the opportunity to succeed early in their school years to encourage them to complete their educations.