Having grown up in Ecuador and experiencing ER’s outreach to the poorest of the poor first-hand, Rheanna Cline created the following list to encourage everyone to celebrate 20 years of ER Christmas parties in the Quito Dump.
By Rheanna Lea Cline
Through the work of Extreme Response, thousands of people living in extreme situations are experiencing significant life change. With programs and partners in nine countries, ER provides many opportunities to get involved in our life-changing work with at-risk people. Here are a few of those opportunities:
Tell your friends, coworkers, and family members about us.
Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and learn more about what we’re doing around the world at www.extremeresponse.org/newsletter-signup.
Jason left home at a young age, deciding that Manila street life was preferable to living with an abusive and negligent father.
He scavenged garbage for recyclers and sold illegally acquired tickets to sporting events and concerts. He had not been to school since he was in fifth grade, but deep down, he had a dream to finish his studies.
Three years ago, Jason began a remarkable comeback story when he learned about Support A Child Community Learning Center, a new ER partner in Quezon City, a Manila suburb.
Along with other street children and out-of-school youth, Jason enrolled in Alternative Learning System (ALS), a non-formal education plan operated by Support a Child and other organizations for the local Department of Education.
Jason failed his first ALS exam. But he didn’t learn to survive on the street without a streak of tenacity, and he put that to use in his new studies. He continued his education and ultimately passed the entrance exam for Working Hands, a vocational skills program in which he took up computer literacy training.
Today Jason, 18, is one of SCSF’s junior staff members for serving street children, and is active in the organization’s youth discipleship program. In March he graduated from Working Hands with certification in computer technology. There to witness his accomplishment were his older brother and his mother, Lyn, whom he not seen in some 15 years. She made a 36-hour trip by boat to be with her son for the occasion.
Jason now is embarking on an on-the-job training initiative that will enhance his computer skills and prepare him for a career in computers.
Meanwhile he’ll continue to serve street children, and he has expressed interest in becoming a pastor
Considering the determination he’s exhibited in his young life so far, he’ll achieve that goal too. And he’ll surely be an inspiration to many.
Children are known for their wild imaginations, the stories they create, the way they dream. But for a child growing up in poverty, dreams are a luxury they typically can’t afford.
That’s why the South Africa Dream Centre is so important to children like Kayleen.
This adorable little spitfire from Zimbabwe is a joy to be around. Consider this recent snippet of conversation:
Me: “Do you like school?”
Me: “Why not?”
Kayleen: “It’s a lot of work.”
I think we can all relate. Her honest answers mirror that of the typical 6-year-old, but don’t be fooled: This girl knows how to work.
I have been privileged to watch Kayleen in action, and let me tell you, when she puts her mind to something, she gets it done. For example, one day I watched her, surrounded by the sort of distractions that come with the territory in an after-school children’s program, set laser-like focus on a story she was reading about go-karts; she didn’t look up until she read the final word.
I was impressed. If she can maintain that kind of focus, she’ll go far – despite odds that are stacked against her. Living in South Africa, Kayleen is part of a system that puts the expense of education in the hands of the parents. And many of those hands are occupied with finding work to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads. Education is viewed as a luxury, not a necessity.
South Africa has 11 official languages, but most teaching is done in English. For Kayleen and many other children, English is a second, third or even fourth language, which makes homework a struggle. If the parents haven’t learned English, it can be downright impossible.
That’s where the Dream Centre seeks to fill in the gaps. Run by ER staffers Ron and Amy Townsend (pictured here with their children), the Dream Centre is a safe place for Cape Town-area kids to receive food, love, tutoring and the chance to dream of a future free of poverty.
The Townsends are fully invested in this venture. They desire to live life alongside these kids – to see them through graduation and on to college. Their hope is that by working with and loving on the children, their families also will be positively impacted.
While much of this is a vision toward the future, I have already experienced the impact they’re having on families today. I have seen parents pour out their hearts with gratitude to the Townsends for all they do for their children. Love is a powerful communicator. It needs no translation.
The Townsends – and the rest of the Dream Centre team – want these kids to know, above all else, that they are loved. They’re teaching families that there’s more to life than just survival – that poverty can be overcome and dreams can be realized.
Click here to read more about the Townsends and the Dream Centre.
Alyssa Carrel is native to Michigan. She’s passionate about the written word, children, South Africa and the melodies. Alyssa is native to Michigan. Alyssa visited Extreme Response Africa and spent time working at the Dream Centre, where she worked with at-risk kids in the after-school program.
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.
That 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.
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
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.
“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.”
“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’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.
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
Joel 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.
“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.
Want 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.