By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer, with photos by Carlos Gonzalez, ChildFund Guatemala
Last month, ChildFund’s Board of Directors and members of our executive team traveled to Guatemala, where they spent time in the field visiting ChildFund-supported projects and sponsored children, many of whom live in tiny homes carved into the sides of steep mountains.
“It’s part of the journey, finding out how everybody lives,” said Scott Lemler, ChildFund’s vice president of information technology. “They literally are farming on the side of a mountain.”
Scott joined other members of ChildFund’s executive team this week to report back on the trip to Guatemala at our International Office in Richmond, Va., for a Lunch & Learn session. Every couple of years, the board travels to a different country to see our work firsthand. Some of the most interesting stories this time came from the group’s visits to youth projects, which promote job training, entrepreneurship and an understanding of their rights.
Jim Tuite, vice president of finance and operations/CFO, met Gerber, who is attending school and supporting his five younger siblings by making and selling doughnuts. Gerber, whom Jim called the “Doughnut King,” is part of the ChildFund-supported My Chance program, which helps youth — many of whom have recently graduated from high school — create business plans and build their skills to run successful enterprises.
“One girl sells handicrafts,” Jim said. “One guy was developing modern Guatemalan linens for women.” Still others have started a bakery, an organic taco stand and an imported skin cream business. Many of the families the team met rely on multiple jobs to make a livelihood, much as economists encourage investors to diversify their portfolios, Jim noted. That way, if one income stream ends, a family has a backup source of money.
Cheri Dahl, interim vice president of global philanthropy and communications, met Alex, a young man who has been sponsored since 2003. He’s also a participant in My Chance, and he sells traditional medicinal herbs, a hot commodity in the region, where it’s difficult to get health care. Along with Cheri were board members who work in marketing and lead businesses in the United States, and one asked if Alex had a printed business plan.
“He brought out a business plan that would rival anything any of us have ever done,” Cheri told the Lunch & Learn group. Aside from his herbal business, Alex teaches middle school and is getting ready to attend college.
ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard noted that despite the successes the group saw in Guatemala, extreme poverty still keeps many people from achieving their full potential and provides a powerful reason to emigrate, a risky proposition. In October 2014, about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product came from immigrants sending money home, often from the United States.
“The immigrant is somebody who is admired,” Anne said; she even saw a statue honoring immigrants during the trip. Aside from financial issues, violence in the home and streets is a major reason many Guatemalans wish to leave the country, she added.
Despite such challenges, the Guatemalans who met the board members and executives often expressed pride in their communities and wished to make life better there. A mother of three children, two of whom are sponsored through ChildFund, asked Cheri to deliver a message to our U.S. audience: “Can you get more sponsors?”
Learn more about Guatemala, and consider sponsoring a child there.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
The first board meeting of China’s Children Fund (the precursor to Christian Children’s Fund and ChildFund International) took place on Dec. 9, 1938, at a private dining room in the Occidental Restaurant, in downtown Richmond, Va. At the time, CCF already had an office on Main Street.
In attendance were a group of distinguished Virginians, including CCF’s first board president, Eudora Ramsay Richardson, and its secretary, T. Nelson Parker. Richardson served as president until 1944, when she was replaced on the board by future CEO Verbon Kemp. Parker was board president for nearly 30 years.
The first year of CCF’s existence was phenomenally successful. At the second board meeting in February 1939, our founder, Dr. Calvitt Clarke, recommended an initial contribution of $2,000 to Chinese orphans’ relief. This goal was quickly eclipsed, with $13,000 going to the KuKong Orphanage and other funds sent directly to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who also was assisting orphans.
ChildFund’s board of directors now meets several times a year to discuss the direction of our organization. During their last meeting, in October, we celebrated ChildFund’s 75th anniversary with a luncheon.