Readers’ Theater Opening Night

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAmanda Kohn

Sponsorship Director

Save the Children U.S. Programs

October 13, 2017

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, I remember that I left my Dramamine in the suitcase.  There is no cellphone signal on these winding roads taking me down and around sharp curves. As such, I’m not able to search my iPhone for a Walgreens. And come to think of it, I haven’t really seen any kind of store in the last twenty minutes. Did I mention that I’m in America? This road I’m navigating (and stomaching) is taking me to an elementary school nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, in one of the poorest counties in the United States.

To be clear, this community is poor in resources, but certainly not in spirit.

As we pull into the parking lot, we see a “Welcome Save the Children” message on the school’s billboard. The lot is already full of cars, and little ones are tugging at the hands of their grown-ups to get through the doors. It’s now dark, and Thursday. Oh to have that much enthusiasm at the end of the week! We stroll in behind them, our arms loaded down with boxes of books donated from Scholastic, who partners with U.S. Programs to get more books into the hands of the children we serve. The closer we get to the library, the louder the conversational hum gets. I thought this was going to be a small family night for first graders.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.

We are greeted by a woman wearing a Save the Children shirt. She presents an air of leadership, so I assume she is the Principal. “Welcome to our school! We are so glad y’uns could make it out. The kids are so excited to do their Readers’ Theater. Everybody’s here,” she smiled and added with a Southern twang.

The library is packed. Parents, grandparents, babies, children convincingly dressed as animals, other non-animal children… We found a corner of the room, and the woman who greeted us turned her attention to addressing the crowd. She introduces the Save the Children visitors, and proceeds to enthusiastically share the school’s sponsorship program plan with the community.

She remembers to introduce herself, “Oh, and I’m Belinda, the Sponsorship Community Liaison.”  She’s not the Principal, but an extremely motivated and proud community member who works with sponsorship. I’m floored. And thrilled!

This was the first Literacy Family Engagement night for the school, paid for by Save the Children sponsorship, of many more planned for the rest of the year. This school joined us as a new partner, trying out this new program seeking to reach more children, and empower more communities to come together to help kids be successful at school. This night was the culmination of months of planning between the school, parents, members of the community and Save the Children. For me, it felt like the culmination of four years of my life as the Director of Sponsorship in the United States. Seeing this program play out before my very eyes was more gratifying than I can explain. But I’ll try.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater.

You see, we’ve always been a little different here in the U.S. Poverty looks very dissimilar internationally, and the needs of children overseas are certainly more obvious at a glance. This is not the case in rural America. Addressing the impact poverty makes on children here is not always providing basic needs, installing running water, or building a school. Here, it’s more subtle. The road out of poverty is more winding and curved, but after what I’ve seen tonight, I think we’ve found some capable navigators. Right there they stood, packed into a library wearing tails, whiskers and duck feet, reading aloud to their families and community while acting out the story.

These first graders will be navigating their way right out of the hills of have-not, around the twists and turns of grade-level reading, and upward to the peaks of their own success. In the U.S. a child’s chances of breaking the cycle of poverty are only as good as the quality of their education. Similar to my car-sick journey to the school, the road out of poverty is long and daunting when you’re not equipped with the things you need for the journey. But these kids have something special – this community, and more than 21,000 sponsors in the U.S. providing support along the way. Thanks to sponsors, these students have new books to read and activities like the Readers’ Theater to participate in, getting both kids and parents excited about education and the future.

Despite the darkness peaking behind those smoky mountains, the future is looking really bright for kids in this small, rural town.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Why Help American Children?

Nicole

Nicole Smith

Sponsorship Team

Fairfield, USA

April 27, 2015

 

Having recently joined the US sponsorship team at Save the Children (STC), I have been afforded a privileged perspective of the mechanisms behind US humanitarianism as well as an understanding of its real-world challenges. From building program evaluation tools and data analysis that shape the future of US programming to reviewing thousands of photos of sponsored children, my time with STC sponsorship enables the necessary marriage of lofty goals with knowledge of what supporting children day-to-day in schools across the country takes.

But why children? Why American children?
My time with STC prompts me to reflect on the fruit of our work. As a cultural anthropology Ph.D. student researching humanitarian aid, I perpetually ask why help goes to one and not another person, cause, or place. Through my studies, I know that American children face unique developmental, environmental, and health-related challenges. Few places in the world do we see children experiencing simultaneous malnutrition and obesity or illiteracy amidst free education. My studies also tell me that, despite the challenges, targeting US youth can result in significant and sustainable impacts.

For my colleagues and I, the answer to “Why help American children?” is because STC successfully addresses the unique challenges US children face by making local impact for the next generation. I know this from the program results STC tirelessly tracks, but also as a sponsorship team member, I get to hear from the children themselves. The Lexington, KY office reviews thousands of letters from children to their sponsors. It is common to read “Now I know I’m a smart boy”, or “I’m good at reading” in a child’s scribbly handwriting. While STC tracks program results, hearing first-hand that a child isn’t “afraid to read out loud in class” breathes life to statistics behind sponsorship and the programs it funds.

Knowing that work done by the STC sponsorship team ultimately contributes to benefitting children in local communities and across the states is not only personally gratifying, it substantiates humanitarianism for the many American children facing unique challenges today.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

A Recipe for Readiness

 Sarah Thompson head shotSarah Thompson, Communications Manager

Save the Children, USA

November 26, 2013

Basting turkeys, mashing potatoes, tossing salads…. Hours and hours go into that one delectable Thanksgiving meal shared with family and friends. Yet, when it comes to protecting the people we cherish most, can we say we’ve taken the same time to prepare?

Luckily, the holiday season provides great opportunities to take on emergency planning.  Take some time while the family’s all together to make a family emergency plan. You’ll be thankful you did.

6 Reasons Why the Holidays Make Emergency Planning Easy

1)    Family Time: Finally, a holiday break from crazy work and school schedules.  What better time to talk over different emergency scenarios, contacts and meeting locations with your kids. It will help them understand what to do and feel safe. Having trouble squeezing it in? Talk during the car ride to Grandma’s or during meal preparation, while every family member is present.

2)    The Big Game: If you’re watching the big football game you’re already in game-plan mode. Build off that team spirit and make planning fun. Give each child a nickname and create codenames for different parts of your emergency plan.  Then write it down and post it where all family members can find it, just like a playbook.

3)    Greeting Cards: We send friends holiday cards filled with well wishes and photos showing just how much the little ones have sprouted.  While you’re at it, create or update an ID card for each child. Include medication and allergy information, a current photo and emergency contact numbers and emails. Then share the cards with teachers and child care providers.

4)    Visitors: Whether your family is traveling or inviting company to your home turf, the holidays are the perfect time to identify your out-of-town emergency contact. This person can serve as a satellite if an emergency shuts down local communications and help your family reunite.  Have kids practice calling out-of-town contacts to wish them a happy holiday.

5)    Holiday Shopping:  Whether you’re buying a turkey and all the fixings or trying to hunt down that perfect gift for your kid, chances are you’ll be doing some shopping. While you’re out, stock up on key emergency supplies, including water and food for each family member, flashlights, batteries and a radio. Don’t forget kid-friendly items like diapers, fruit snacks and child-strength medications.

6)    An Annual Reminder: The best part about the holidays is that they happen every year! If you start associating emergency preparedness with the season you’ll be reminded to update and practice your plan every year.  Make emergency preparedness a family tradition.

Planning for emergencies doesn’t have to be overwhelming or rushed.  A little planning now can go a long way in protecting your family if disaster ever strikes.    Save the Children’s family emergency checklist can help you every step of the way.

Tis the season to Get Ready, Get Safe!