Interview by Erin Nicholson, ChildFund Staff Writer
Jeff Miller joined ChildFund two years ago to manage our then brand-new LIVE! Artists program. Jeff recruits musical performers to partner with ChildFund, allowing us (along with volunteers) to promote sponsorship at concerts around the United States. (Find out how you can volunteer.) We asked him a few questions about his love of music and helping children.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’m an Iowa boy who somehow escaped the alluring clutches of the Midwest. I’ve lived in five states, including Pennsylvania, where I currently reside with my wife and my poodle, Ozzy.
Have you always worked in music?
This is my 25th year actually earning a living from some aspect of the music industry. However, there have been a few respites along the way where I have veered off the path, working in book publishing and serving on the senior staff as communications director for a U.S. congressman.
What brought you to ChildFund, and when?
I’ve been with ChildFund almost two years now. Prior to ChildFund, I worked at a similar organization – Food for the Hungry in Phoenix. About three years ago, my former boss had come to ChildFund. He dropped me a line asking if I’d be interested in helping launch LIVE! It took almost a year for everything to fall into place, but voila, here we are.
I signed up to sponsor my first child at a concert some 33 years ago when I was in high school. I’ve been sponsoring kids ever since. I’ve seen firsthand how sponsorship can impact the lives of the children and families in developing nations. It’s my passion. I’m a complete music nerd. To be able to combine my passion about sponsoring children with my interest and experience in music is truly a dream gig for me.
What’s your favorite artist and/or the best concert you’ve ever been to?
Oh, now you’re hitting the music nerd side of me on all cylinders! Paul McCartney, Dec. 3, 1989, at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. He hadn’t toured the United States since 1976, and my mom wouldn’t let me go see him that year, given that I was 12. I’ve never forgiven her. During the ’76 tour he mostly avoided his Beatles’ roots, attempting to establish his own identity as an artist. But when he returned in ’89, he embraced his heritage full on. The Beatles quit touring in 1966, so a good 50 percent of their catalog was never performed live by the band. So I sat in the stands with goose bumps hearing songs like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the closing medley from Abbey Road being performed live for the first time ever. It was like watching my generation’s Mozart perform live. Yup…I’m definitely a music nerd.
What has been your proudest accomplishment working for ChildFund so far?
3,098 children sponsored from July 2013 through June 2014! Bands are fun. Concerts are fun. Music is fun. But bringing hope and opportunities to the lives of children and their families is the true meaning behind all the fun. It’s the motivation and purpose of the work that we do. In the end the music fades, but these children will have impact on their communities for generations to come.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
ChildFund’s latest LIVE! artist, the Christian musician Carman, has inspired more than 500 people to sponsor children in programs around the world in just the past month — an amazing feat. We had the opportunity to speak with him last week just before his concert near Houston, a stop on his No Plan B tour.
Carman has performed his pop music for more than 30 years to audiences around the world while delivering a Christian message. “I feel like we have a lot of ministry and a lot of artistry, and ChildFund is included in that,” he says. “Always in my concerts, I give the audience the opportunity to give.”
During this tour supporting his latest album No Plan B, Carman is encouraging his fans to become sponsors through ChildFund. He says that he was impressed by the fact that our organization doesn’t simply deliver food and supplies to families in need; we help empower communities to create brighter futures for children.
Carman’s tour is going very well, he says, and his health is getting stronger daily; he was diagnosed with cancer in February 2013 but announced after a year of treatment that tests have shown no trace of multiple myeloma, a rare and often deadly form of cancer.
Carman has performed in several countries, including a stadium show in Johannesburg, South Africa, which broke attendance records at the time. Nelson Mandela even attended the show, he adds. “You hope that what you do affects people, not just immediately in front of you but around the world.”
By Jennifer Hughes, Volunteer Program Senior Specialist
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop, “The Lion and the Mouse”
We’re in the midst of National Volunteer Week (April 6-12), a time to honor people who graciously give of their time, skills and energy. We at ChildFund feel lucky to have volunteers who appreciate the joy that comes from contributing their time to children in need.
Volunteering with ChildFund is not a new concept, but today we have more opportunities than ever before to volunteer. One way is through our LIVE! Artists series, which offers people the chance to talk to concert attendees about sponsoring children, often drawing on their own experiences. The 2013 Donny & Marie Osmond Christmas Tour drew in more than 1,000 volunteers across the United States, who shared stories about sponsorship and even found sponsors for children in countries where ChildFund serves.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to volunteer for ChildFund at an event! I actually helped to get children sponsored,” said Tiffany of Greensboro, N.C.
Another avenue for volunteering is to “Paint Your Town ChildFund Green.” Have you tried it? It doesn’t take any real painting: just the willingness to put up posters in your town, creating awareness of how ChildFund helps children. Volunteers have posted more than 300 signs all over the U.S. If you’d like to participate, email me.
If you walk into our International Office in Richmond, Va., you might run into one of our volunteers. You will easily recognize them, because they are always smiling and lending a helpful hand. Having volunteers working in the office (who write thank-you notes and call new donors, among other duties) has been fun; they get to see the entire organization from the ground up, and we get to know them as well.
“As a volunteer with ChildFund International, I am intrinsically rewarded beyond my expectations,” said Patricia, a retired educator and volunteer in our International Office. “I feel fulfilled when I leave, having contributed in a unique way to the children that ChildFund serves. It has enhanced the rewarding feeling that I have as a sponsor. Providing for children is a global challenge, and I am amazed at all of the initiatives of ChildFund and pleased to be a part of this major altruistic endeavor.”
If you would like information about volunteering with ChildFund, please contact me at Jhughes@childfund.org, or if you are in the Richmond area, please give us a call at (804) 756-2772.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
At ChildFund, we often talk about children and youth finding their voices and making their needs known to their families and other adults. That’s something new LIVE! artist Fernando Varela knows about.
“I always sang as a child, but nothing too serious,” he says. When he was about 20, he decided to pursue opera singing, an ambitious goal. Hailing from Puerto Rico, Fernando was considered a late starter in the world of classical singing, but he’s achieved great success in just a few years. He and his tenor singing group Forte (who met in person only days before performing together) were finalists on the show America’s Got Talent in 2013 and are now on a major North America tour.
On the NBC talent show, Fernando and his fellow singers, Sean Panikkar and Josh Page, performed for about 12 million TV viewers each week, which Fernando describes as “an insane number of people.” They sang at Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall, two of the most storied theaters in the country, and were signed by Columbia Records minutes after the show ended. Forte now has a new album, featuring opera classics as well as pop ballads, following their classical crossover approach to music.
In April, Fernando will be supporting ChildFund as a LIVE! artist during four dates in Hot Springs, Ark. Helping children is a major passion in his life; Fernando and his wife started a scholarship fund in their home state of Florida to help children in music, providing others with the help he received as a young man. Early in his career, some friends helped pay for his voice lessons, and others purchased plane tickets so he could fly to auditions.
If I can share with the audience the change that ChildFund creates in children’s lives, I’m not just entertaining. I’m making a difference.
“I had so many people that supported me, especially in the early stages of my development,” Fernando recalls — so working with ChildFund was a natural fit. He found out about our organization through a friend who attends some of his shows, and her brother is a sponsor.
“I think music is such a powerful tool,” Fernando says. “It’s a universal language. People really get to go on a journey and feel a lot of things. I always wanted to have a foundation, to have a cause. We just started now instead of waiting. If I can share with the audience the change that ChildFund creates in children’s lives — through fulfilling basic needs that we take for granted — now I’m not just entertaining, I’m making a difference.”
The holiday season is all about family. It’s a time when families come together, slow down and enjoy each other.
The Donny & Marie Christmas Tour will be an experience — not just a show, but a holiday experience. The brother-and-sister duo has previously performed Christmas events on Broadway, in Chicago and in Los Angeles. This year, the tour is taking them to cities such as Tulsa, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Greensboro, Chicago, Pittsburgh and nine others!
And we’re excited to announce two opportunities for supporters and friends of ChildFund to celebrate the holiday season and help children around the world who have never received a single gift in their entire lives.
Through a special arrangement with Donny & Marie, friends of ChildFund are eligible for a $5 discount on the ticket price, and for every ticket purchased through this offer, Donny and Marie will donate $5 to ChildFund.
Another way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas is to volunteer at a Donny & Marie concert. Volunteers are needed at each city on the tour!
As a volunteer, you’ll meet new people who share a love of fun and helping children. At shows like this, dozens of volunteers help bring in hundreds of new sponsors. It will be a huge help to ChildFund and, more importantly, to children in need around the world. Anyone can do it — all you need is a big heart for children in need and a few hours of time.
To learn more about volunteering at this event, please contact Jennifer Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 804-756-2772.
To obtain the ticket discount and support ChildFund, choose the date and city where you want to attend the concert, and you’ll be linked to a page where you can purchase tickets. On the “Select Ticket Type” menu, be sure to choose “Children’s Charity – ChildFund.” Then type in “ChildFund” in the pop-up box to obtain the $5 discount per ticket.
Enjoy the show, and thank you for helping support ChildFund and our work with children in 30 countries around the world.
By Tassia Duarte, ChildFund Brazil
Fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter Gracie Schram, along with the team from ChildFund LIVE! partner Girls of Grace, made a visit this month to visit ChildFund’s programs in Brazil, where Gracie sponsors a 1-year-old girl.
Gracie and representatives from Girls of Grace, which holds conferences across the United States aimed at teen girls, went to our programs in Vale do Jequitinhonha and Belo Horizonte in mid-June. They captured footage for a video to use at their conferences to promote sponsorship through ChildFund, which supports the events.
In Medina, children welcomed their visitors with posters and songs, and everyone participated in a traditional round dance. Gracie played with the children and then met Jovelina, her sponsored child.
“I was actually happy, even though it’s such a hard thing to see,” says Gracie. “But it’s really cool that I’m going to be able to be a part of her future and allow her to have a better life that she wouldn’t have without sponsorship.”
In Medina, while visiting ASCOMED, ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Gracieand a few Brazilian teenage girls made crafts, and she also sang for the children. The visiting team learned more about the activities children participate in that help them develop socially, and they saw a room specially designed for the children to write letters to sponsors.
In the rural outskirts of Medina, the team learned about conditions that were disturbing: families struggling to survive in houses with no bathroom or running water, living far from the closest bus station and with poor access to education and health care. “Being so close to the poverty makes it really real, and it forces you to really think about where and who you are,” Gracie says. “And to think that people need so many things like clean water and health care, it’s really hard to see that.”
In the region of Comercinho, the team met families that have benefited from ChildFund’s assistance. Water is scarce there because of drought conditions, and the little water available has not been healthy to drink.
ChildFund has worked to protect the nearby river, so animals don’t have access to the springs, which leads to pollution. Families are now able to channel clean water to their homes. Trained “water watchers” monitor the water quality and act to preserve it, a sustainable practice that will help their children’s futures, as will sponsors like Gracie.
By Kate Nare, ChildFund Marketing Specialist
This week is National Volunteer Week and we would like to thank ALL of ChildFund’s amazing volunteers! Whether it’s participating at our LIVE! concert events, sharing our organization’s mission through social media, speaking at a local Rotary club or attending fundraising luncheons, ChildFund volunteers are getting the word out about children who live in poverty and are in desperate need of a sponsor.
Every day ChildFund supporters make a difference in the lives of the children they sponsor. Through monthly sponsorship donations and staying in touch through cards, photos and letters, ChildFund sponsors provide support, encouragement and empowerment to a child. Some sponsors go one step further by also giving their time to find other sponsors for children who are struggling to survive.
Christine Lin and Marilyn Warner are good friends and ChildFund sponsors who go above and beyond to help children. Recently, the duo volunteered at an event in Newport Beach, Calif. This luncheon and fan mixer, billed as “The Sounds of David,” honored recording artist and American Idol Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta by raising funds for his favorite charities.
Archuleta sponsors a child and kicked off ChildFund’s LIVE! concert series in December 2011, garnering child sponsorships during his “My Kind of Christmas Tour.” He was unable to attend the event since he is currently on a mission trip in South America. However, 85 of his biggest fans were there to participate in silent and live auctions to raise money for ChildFund and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Marilyn and Christine greeted guests who stopped by the ChildFund table, providing information about sponsorship and ChildFund’s mission. They brought letters and photos from their own sponsored children, bringing their sponsorship experience to life and sharing how much it has meant to them. The display featured child packets, photos of Archuleta during his visit to ChildFund’s programs in the Philippines, as well as an iPad with rotating images of children.
“Christine did an awesome job handling all the paperwork and creating receipts for the sponsorships and donations,” Marilyn noted.
Christine added, “Marilyn did an excellent job making people feel welcome to our table, encouraging others about sponsorship and explaining to them what ChildFund is all about and showing her folders of her kids, so people can see the blessings from it.”
The two friends made a great team, raising several hundred dollars for ChildFund and signing up two new sponsors.
But Marilyn and Christine didn’t stop there. They divided the remaining child packets from the event and are now asking their friends and co-workers to sponsor these children.
Thank you Christine and Marilyn for giving your time to ensure a successful event! Because of your efforts, and the work of other volunteers like you, children living in poverty will have new opportunities to reach their full potential.
If you would like to volunteer with ChildFund at a LIVE! event, or in another way, please email volunteers@ChildFund.org or call our toll-free number at 800-458-0555, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.
By Kate Andrews
ChildFund is getting a shot of adrenaline — Audio Adrenaline, that is. The upbeat Christian rock band, which has two Grammys and multiple Dove awards under its belt, is ChildFund’s newest LIVE! partner.
The band is coming off a seven-year hiatus with a new lead singer and starts its latest tour March 1 in Morganton, N.C. The tour is in support of the band’s new album, Kings & Queens, which features former dc Talk member Kevin Max on lead vocals.
At each Audio Adrenaline concert, ChildFund will have booths staffed with volunteers. That’s where you come in; we’d like your help to answer questions about how child sponsorship works and help people sign up to begin their sponsorships. A ChildFund representative will be on hand to answer questions and give direction to volunteers. Check the tour schedule to see if Audio Adrenaline is playing near you.
Come rock out — and along the way, help children in need.
By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Country music duo Thompson Square visited Honduras last week to meet Emerson, a 4-year-old boy they recently sponsored through ChildFund International. Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who also are husband and wife, say that they are “totally changed” by the visit, which allowed them to see how children and their families survive on few resources and yet have much love and joy to give.
The pair, who promote ChildFund’s child development work through ChildFund’s LIVE! artist program, traveled to Honduras to meet Emerson and his family and also took the opportunity to shoot a video for their recent hit single, “Glass.”
After almost two hours of bumpy back-road travel through the beautiful green mountains, Keifer and Shawna reached Emerson’s house near the town of Lepaterique in the central Honduran province of Francisco Morazán.
Shawna and Keifer, joined by a film crew and ChildFund staff members, received a warm greeting from Emerson’s family. Soon, they were playing soccer with Emerson and his brother, Christian; learning how to make corn tortillas with the mother, Ana; and singing songs for the family. The children proudly showed their visitors a little playhouse they had built in their backyard with sticks and stones.
“You honor us with your visit to our humble home,” said the great-grandfather of the family, 93-year-old Maximino. “We are poor, and your coming here means a lot to us. May God bless you in your way.”
“There’s no feeling in the world like this,” Shawna said after meeting Emerson and his family. The experience, she added, “definitely makes you realize what is important in life, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s family.”
“This has been one of the most amazing days we have ever had,” Keifer added.
In addition to visiting Emerson, Keifer and Shawna had the opportunity to see ChildFund programs in action while visiting the local school. There they observed children, ages 8 to 10, tutoring their peers and sharing stories and drawings. The duo’s acoustic performance of “Glass” delighted the students.
After visiting other families in the community and handing out toys and candy to children along the way, Shawna and Keifer received a Honduran farewell on the edge of a beautiful lake. Following a meal of traditional food, it was the couple’s turn to be entertained with music and dance performed by children and youth participating in ChildFund programs that focus on strengthening self-esteem, leadership skills and cultural identity.
The reigning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year is now back on tour, with a schedule that includes concerts in more than 100 U.S. cities. They will continue sharing with their fans the life-changing experience of sponsoring a child through ChildFund, inviting them to say “yes” to a child like Emerson.