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.
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Summer for the impoverished children of Quito, Ecuador often signifies empty homes, endless hours unsupervised, or scavenging for money in the streets through recycling, begging, and selling.
Not for the children who attend Extreme Response’s after-school program this summer! Robbie Murdoch, our program coordinator, and his team created a safe, fun, and educational program as a refuge for the children of recycling families, including many parents who work in the Quito Dump.
Games, stories, passage memory, crafts and a hot, nutritious meal greeted 25 children for five solid weeks. What a joy to watch children enjoy the freedom to be young, romping around and filling the Family Resource Center with laughter!
As summer wraps up, anxious families try to figure out how to send their children back to school with the required supplies and uniforms. Imagine earning $0.50-$1.00/hour and finding an extra $150 for each child to attend school by September.
Frankly, it is a daunting prospect and is why Extreme Response is committed to assisting our after-school families with their goal of creating a new future for their children through education. This is a goal we fight for every day when home finances scream a different message; a message lobbying that it is better to send kids to the streets to help support their families than to send them to school.
Let’s make our message loud and clear. School is where change sprouts and blooms. Join us and help send children to school! $1,600 will help cover the costs of dozens of families that cannot afford to buy the pencils, paper and uniforms required to attend free public school. Can you help meet this need? $25 would be big; $100 would be huge.
If you would like to donate to the school supply/uniform drive, click here. Please designate your gift: “Quito School Supplies”.
Robyn Wallace has been serving in Quito, Ecuador, since 2014. Robyn oversees Children’s Programming for ER’s Quito Dump Program. She has been instrumental in identifying curriculum and testing so the kids in the Dump Child Development Center (Dump Daycare) can enter preschool and kindergarten at levels on par with other kids. She recently added middle and high school kids to her responsibilities.
ER’s Robbie Murdock shares this story about how one boy’s life will be changed forever because of the work that takes in the After-School Program at the Quito Family Resource Center.
Sebastian has been part of our after school program since September of 2014 when he started first grade. This year we started to notice that he was behind. While the other kids in his grade were reading and writing by themselves, Sebastian couldn’t recognize even the letters that made up the words he was trying to read. Writing was not even an option. The result of being behind meant he was constantly frustrated during homework time. He was regularly acting out and causing problems. It was also nearly impossible for him to do his homework without one of our teachers sitting down next to him and writing out his answers for him to copy.
When we got his grades from school we realized that the problem was worse than we thought. His teacher was ignoring how behind he was and giving him passing grades in every course. For Sebastian to finish this year and go on to the third grade without the ability to read and write would spell disaster, so we decided to take action.
We began a lesson plan to work on his letter recognition and his reading skills immediately. Our teacher Erika would spend about a half hour before our program working hard with Sebastian, and it was amazing how quickly the results came. Within a month of working with him one-on-one, Sebastian was able to write words that we said to him.
He still has a long way to go. He struggles with reading comprehension and still needs to work at spelling independently, but we are confident that he is going to move on to the third grade and succeed.
Click here to learn more about the kids of Dump families, and how we are providing them with help and hope.
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.
Canadian Aimee Hurtubise is helping to change lives through Ignite South Africa. Extreme Response Canada is pleased to be the sending organization for Aimee.
The first time I drove into Qwa Qwa, South Africa, I knew I was home. I still feel that way 10 years later. Although I have spent half of the last decade living in Canada, the moment I moved back to Qwa Qwa last year I knew I had returned to a place that will always be my home away from home.
Qwa Qwa is a place filled with challenges, endless potential, cold winters and the warmest people. It is where I get to make a difference in the lives of orphaned and at-risk youth while being surrounded by my African family, and I can’t imagine doing life any other way.
I am able to do this work through Ignite South Africa. This organization is dedicated to developing leaders of all ages and empowering them to impact their schools, communities, country and homes.
Many young women in Qwa Qwa struggle with unplanned pregnancies. The girls typically range in age from 13-18, although I’ve seen them as young as 12. Most will keep their babies because adoption is seen in a very negative light in our community, although we will walk with the girls through either parenting or adoption.
Statistically, 25% will be HIV positive and suffer from hunger and poor nutrition. Those who will be staying with us have no where else to live. They are afraid, alone and overwhelmed. If they are orphaned or have been kicked out of their home for being pregnant, they also may be dealing with abandonment issues.
While there are no accurate statistics on teenage pregnancies in our area, we believe they are on the rise. There are flyers advertising “safe” illegal abortions on every pole, board or free space in our community. So many girls choose abortion because there is no support for them should they decide to become a parent or gift their child through adoption. We want to provide an alternative and make parenting a viable option for these girls.
House of Refuge
The Ntlo ya Setshabelo (House of Refuge) is a maternity home for orphaned or at-risk pregnant teens that we are in the process of developing. Our vision is to offer a place of safety, mentoring and encouragement to provide a solid foundation.
The girls who enter our program will be in intermediate or high school, have limited or no support from their families and must agree to fully participate in the home’s practices. This means they want to learn how to be a good mom and are willing to put in the effort.
The girls will be expected to continue their education and attend classes designed to help their development, including budgeting and life/parenting/small business skills needed to help support their families. We try to offer everything they will need to parent on their own. Our goal is to see them graduate as capable and confident mothers who will positively impact their children and their communities.
Our mentoring program will connect each girl with an older female from the community who can guide and support them. Each girl will begin this relationship while living in the home with the hope it will continue throughout her lifetime.
Ignites’ Executive Director June Blanshan shares this background on why we are introducing the the home.
“We decided to move forward with the home when we discovered that the girls were experiencing abuse and manipulation by providing sex in exchange for food, toiletries and other items. Their situations already appeared hopeless, but adding pregnancy into the mix made these girls feel trapped. Often they choose ‘safe, pain-free abortions’, which translates into illegal abortions. We believe the death rate, sterility and other complications from these unregulated clinics to be astronomically high.”
The Story of Mpho
Blanshan also shares this story about a girl who Ignite helped.
Mpho (named changed to protect her privacy) was planning to end her pregnancy as she was already was struggling to support her three-year-old child. It was difficult for her to even to put food on their table and most days they did not have electricity. She was HIV positive and the father refused to be involved. She was alone and scared.
“One of our Ignite leaders knew her and shared about adoption. I was called in to talk with Mpho because I had gifted a child for adoption. Mpho was excited about this opportunity and decided adoption would be a good choice for her. We promised to walk alongside her and help her connect with services in the community.
“Unfortunately, Mpho’s delivered her baby the next week, prior to contacting social workers. She informed the nurses and a hospital social worker of her intent to place her child for adoption and therefore she did not want to see the baby. The response was…I’m sure you can guess.
“Mpho was basically ignored, or when spoken to, demeaned. The social worker and nurses were downright cruel. Finally, the social worker informed Mpho she would be in the hospital for six months if she wanted to adopt her baby because that was how long court time would take. Mpho already had a child at home who needed to be cared for, so this was not an option. The social worker sat down with us and shared a ‘secret’. If Mpho said she would keep her baby, they would discharge her. What she did with the child after that was completely up to her.
“Mpho chose that option and we cared for her baby as she thought through what she wanted to do. After a week she decided to keep and raise her baby. We remain involved with the family and help as we can. All three are doing well.”
Based on this experience, we decided to provide the support systems and identify other community support for the young mothers. Currently, my efforts are focused on building a solid foundation for the home. This includes applying for grants and fundraising to allow us to purchase and furnish the actual dwelling. Our goal is to open our doors to our first pregnant teens by the end of 2016.
Interested in helping Aimee? Contact her via email, follow her on Facebook or click here to partner with Ignite South Africa.
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.
My 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.
In 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?
“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.
Jim 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.
In 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.
Knowing 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!
In 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.
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.
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.
Sponsorship Program Rescues Filipino Youngster from a Life of Begging on the Streets
In the suburbs just south of Manila, Philippines, lies Napacor, a community of shanties with no electricity or running water. Ironically, Napacor is built around an electricity tower and is named for the power company that owns it.
ER partner IT Tender (http://tender.iteams.ca) runs a “drop-in” community center adjacent to Napacor and serves the community’s approximately 70 families with the goal of empowering children to become educated and responsible leaders.
One of those children, Jericho, has been part of IT Tender’s weekly Night Life program since it was launched in 2013. Night Life allows children living in local squatter communities to visit the drop-in center, bathe and enjoy a hot, healthy meal.
IT Tender staffers were aware that Jericho wasn’t attending school. They also knew he was begging on jeepneys, the ubiquitous buses of Manila’s public transportation system, and using a lovely singing voice to boost his cause. (This YouTube video, posted by a jeepney passenger, has garnered more than 200,000 views: http://youtu.be/awMQm4Fp9PA) IT Tender discourages children from begging, but couldn’t help being impressed by Jericho’s resourcefulness – he begged, he explained, so he could buy clothes that his family couldn’t otherwise afford.
IT Tender uses Night Life to refer children on to another one of its programs, Sponsor-A-Child Now (SACN). SACN helps children like Jericho return to school by covering the costs of uniforms, supplies, transportation and lunches, and providing extracurricular activities such as educational field trips and family retreats.
This year, thanks to a new sponsor, Jericho was able to enter the SACN program and enroll in grade 6. He graduated from elementary school in April, is no longer begging and dreams of becoming a doctor. As long as he remains committed to the program, his sponsorship is expected to continue through his high school years.
“I am grateful because I was chosen to be a sponsored child,” Jericho recently told IT Tender staff. “I hope I will learn so much from you and the program. May God bless you.”