Kevin Grooms, otherwise known to Q-Notes readers as our “Drag Rag” columnist Miss Della, is just one of hundreds of thousands of people who regularly donate to Children International, a worldwide child poverty and humanitarian aid organization based in Kansas City, Mo.
He jokingly says that the agency “pulled a dirty trick” on him when they sent information about a needy child and a picture of “the most adorable child in the world” seven years ago this month.
“I saw a commercial on TV around Christmastime,” Grooms said. “They asked if they could just send some information about a child and then you could consider sponsoring him. I got the packet and December makes seven years I’ve sponsored him.”
Gerardo, who lives with his mother and stepfather in San Padro Sula, Honduras, has just finished all the primary education that can be offered in his small, poverty-stricken community. Although his stepfather works as a day-laborer, Gerardo’s family has a monthly income equivalent to about $129 (U.S.). In Honduras, currency exchanges for about 19 Limperas for one U.S. dollar, Grooms said. “The communities that Children International work in are some of the poorest communities in some of the poorest countries.”
The money Grooms sends each month and for special occasions and holidays like birthdays and Christmas go to buy Gerardo’s shoes, new clothes, school supplies or other needs. While a $25 gift each month seems like so little in America, it’s built up a foundation for a lifetime of gifts for Gerardo, including basic needs like education, proper clothing, food and healthcare.
Groomes says he’s currently working with Children International to research further options for Gerardo’s education, which ended shortly after he turned 16 in mid-September. “I know I don’t have the money to send him to college or university,” he says, “but I’d at least like to see if there are any trade or skills courses he could take.”
Dolores Quinn Kitchin, Children International’s director of public relations, says the organization serves more than 320,000 children in 11 countries, focusing on humanitarian relief such as healthcare, education, nutritional survival and poverty. The organization’s succeeds in its mission of helping youth “break the cycle of poverty and grow into healthy, educated and self-reliant adults” by matching one-to-one adult-child sponsorships across the globe. Eight of every 10 dollars go directly to programming and aid needs.
She says the organization’s mission also relies heavily on community development. “We don’t just give money, we try to stay relevant to the communities where we are,” she said.
In countries like Honduras and Africa’s Zambia, the organization has had to respond to the growing HIV/AIDS crisis. “Especially in Zambia, we definitely are [responding to AIDS],” she said. “A huge majority of our children there are orphans who have lost at least one parent, if not both, and being raised by a grandmother, an aunt or another family member.”
Kitchin says that in places like Honduras, where HIV/AIDS and other STD rates continue to skyrocket, the organization has taken seriously youth concerns about sexuality and safety. “We have a youth program of over 130,000 teens ages 12-19 and one of the things we’ve done is establish a youth corps to teach children in traditional and poor communities about healthy lifestyle choices,” she said.
They don’t offer judgment either way, she adds, but rather they help to keep teens safe and offer space to talk about issues they face everyday, including sexuality.
Grooms says sponsoring Gerardo has felt like adoption as much as anything. “It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made my entire life because I know I’ve changed his,” he says. “It’s the one thing that keeps me going when I have a really bad day. I get a picture of him every year and when I’m feeling down I just look over at that picture and think, ‘He needs me. I’ve got to stick it out.’”
— Children International is always looking for caring community members who are interested in sponsoring a child in need. Get more information at www.children.org.