I’ve officially finished my first month of working at Christian Relief Fund in Saltillo. According to CRF’s website, it’s “a non-profit relief organization based in Amarillo, Texas with a focus on rescuing orphans and vulnerable children from poverty. CRF operates child sponsorship programs that are dedicated to providing food, clean water, education, spiritual training, healthcare and disaster relief to the glory of God worldwide.”
CRF operates in various countries around the world, including Mexico. I’m one of 3 directors at our community center in Saltillo. The kids (usually with their moms) come Monday-Saturday to the center as a supplement to the education they receive at school. We offer classes such as English, crafts, science, emotions, “Trip Around the World,” and dance, and send them home with a healthy snack each day. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that we’re in the middle of our summer camp. It’s been so much fun, for everyone I think. It evolved into being somewhat of a “career camp.” We’ve had a different guest each day come and talk about what they do, how they got started in their field, etc. and we’ve tied all the activities and games of that day into that particular profession. Our goal has been for the kids’ vision to be expanded as to what they can be and do in the future.
In addition to the community center, at the core of CRF Saltillo is its sponsorship program. It is focused on education. Why are sponsors necessary in the communities we service? Well, the cost of public school is often too high for our families. Even though all of the kids in the program attend public schools, they must pay several things each year:
1. School fees, which vary depending on your age/what school you attend.
2. School supplies. Apparently, the Mexican government usually doesn’t send their schools all the supplies until a few months after the school year starts (though I’m sure this depends on the area-poor areas are always last on the government’s priority list), so teachers have no choice but to send home school supplies list that are very long. These lists go WAY beyond asking the parents to their kids pencils, notebooks, scissors and glue. They ask for all craft supplies that will be used inside the classroom, markers for the teacher to use on the wipe board, liters of cleaning supplies from each student, and sometimes even ludicrous things like sanitary pads.
3. School uniforms and school shoes
I asked one of our parents what happens if the student doesn’t bring everything on the list. She told me that the teacher is on their back constantly about when they’ll bring the supplies, which would obviously be horribly embarrassing for any kid. I expect that most parents would rather their kid drop out of school than to experience that.
If you have 4 or 5 school-aged kids in your family and live on a couple of hundred dollars a month, I don’t know how it would be possible to keep all of your kids in school. It really isn’t. Which explains why a lot of kids drop out of school in the communities we service, and why sponsors and very helpful. Sponsors aren’t paying for their kids’ families to be able to sit around and be lazy, using the money for whatever they’d like. The sponsorship money helps pay for the school fees, supplies, and uniforms. This gives each child has a better chance of staying in school through high school and continue onto college so they can break the “drop-out of school to-make-more-money” cycle in their community, which never works well in the long run. Of course, the child plays the most important role. Ultimately, they have to want to stay in school and to create a better life for themselves; just being sponsored can’t change a bad attitude. There is a lot of accountability within the program-the kids turn their report cards into us twice a year, and the minute they drop out of school or don’t pass a grade, they are removed from the program. They are also required to visit our community center at least once a month for after-school activities. Some come every day!
If you’re a Christian, you know that true change can’t really happen without Jesus. Social, mental, and physical development are nothing without spiritual development. That’s why, in everything we do, we do it in the name of Jesus. For the kids in our program to see and internalize that, and for them to ultimately go into their communities and live like Jesus did. For them to have the tools to not only be physically and intellectually richer one day, but to be richer because they know Jesus.
Though this job is certainly challenging at times and many days I leave feeling entirely inadequate, I am thankful that God is strong where I am weak. And the daily hugs from the kids make everything better.
P.S. The main goal of my post was merely to inform, but if you’d like to sponsor one of our kids or want to come to volunteer for a week, let me know. Carlos and I even decided to sponsor 2 of kids last week. I felt like it wasn’t fair to be making an income at CRF without giving any of it back to the community.