by Diana Bulls
“We truly believe that we are the generation that will see extreme poverty kicked off the face of the planet,” Gilbert Foster, Co-Founder of When I Grow Up.
Sophy is 13 years old. She lives in the dangerous and oppressive slum of Huruma in Nairobi, Kenya. Sophy’s future would have been a bleak one except for one thing, she had the opportunity to attend school. Today she is attending the Furaha High School and is in the top 1% of success in the nation. This was made possible by the Furaha Community Foundation who runs a school in the slum, and the Foundation is just one of the organizations partnered with When I Grow Up in Reedley.
According to Gilbert Foster, Co-Founder and soon to be Executive Director, “The organization came about as a response to the global tragedy of our generation–extreme poverty.” Gilbert was part of a group of Californians traveling to Nairobi, Kenya in 2007. The group saw firsthand the devastation caused by poverty and disease, and how it affected thousands of children barely surviving in the city slum. The idea for forming a children’s charity began to take shape: What if reliable and effective local leaders could be found that could use resources not readily available? Resources like money, leadership support, friendship?
From the beginning, this is just what When I Grow Up did. They relied on the wisdom of those living closest to the needy to say what kind of help they needed and then provided the resources to attain success. Foster says When I Grow Up’s “central purpose is to empower children who live in extreme poverty. We do that primarily through education. We are committed to holistic community development with systemic long-term solutions to physical, social, intellectual, and economic change. We partner with indigenous leadership, and support sustainable self-autonomy models of operation.” In other words, they try to remain “a servant, not a savior” in assisting partners in what they do.
When I Grow Up currently partners with Iglesia Buenas Nuevas de Guatemala in Jocotillo, Guatemala, Foundation Bethesda Center in Palma, Haiti, in addition to Furaha Community Foundation in Huruma, Kenya. They also partner with businesses, non-profits and individuals.
The Furaha Community Foundation works under an NGO status within Kenya. The Furaha Community Centre includes a vibrant school of 550 children, grades pre-Kindergarten to class 8. 2012 brings a new endeavor of building a high school. The children are taught by committed and talented teachers. They also receive a nourishing meal every day, a girls and boys safe house, and health clinics.
Iglesia Buenas Nuevas de Guatemala works under an NGO status within Guatemala. Jocotillo is one of the multitudes of small rural villages in Guatemala that lack most resources. Erwin and Irma Xicol are native to Guatemala, with a few years of study in the U.S. who bring leadership, health and nutrition, primary school scholarships for qualified students, tutoring, and computer labs, their popular Chicos Vivos community children’s program which now serves 300 children.
The Foundation Bethesda Center works under an NGO status within Haiti. Current work in Haiti is led by Lucson Dervilous, a local Haitian, who studied for two years in the U.S. Lucson is an orphan himself, who wanted to come back to his home village in Hinche and surrounding small poor villages in Palma and Jacob to start a school for children who would never have a chance to be educated. Immediate endeavors include school expansion for the next graduating class, a daily feeding program in school, and a micro loan program for guardians to provide better support for the children. Entrepreneurial micro loans include such things as goat, pig, chicken, and banana farms all with the goal of becoming more self-sustaining.
These partnerships work because of the “vibrant, strong relationships with local indigenous leaders,” says Foster. “We stand alongside some amazing heroes who are empowering their own people. They are brave, committed and gifted. They simply lack resources–the resources of finance and the resource of friends and mentors. We seek to bring both to the relationship.”
Future goals and plans include the current construction of a High School and Boarding Facility for kids in the Kenyan slum of Huruma, as well as expanding the building of a school in Jacob in Haiti. Foster says “We seek to ensure that everything we do is sustainable and not a quick fix. Just now, we help nearly 2000 children and adults every day. We will continue to help more and more kids as more and more people stand with us.”
“For people to die of hunger related diseases due to where they live is a justice issue,” continues Foster. “Where you live should not determine if you live. This is the human rights tragedy of the 21st century.” When asked how working with this group makes him feel, he responded, “I feel excited that lives are being empowered and hope shared. I feel honored to have the friendship of talented and gifted young global leaders. I am amazed at the generosity of the people who are a part of When I Grow Up. I feel guilty that there’s not more we can do. I feel sad that millions of affluent people don’t give a rip about the plight of their fellow humankind.”
You can get involved in When I Grow Up by being committed to learning more about extreme poverty and raising awareness, by sharing with your friends and family, and by helping to support what they do. Visit their website and sign up for either their e-newsletters or become a Facebook friend. “It’s about everyone giving something to help someone.”
There’s power in a $30 donation:
• Food in the stomach of a hungry child.
• Essential medicines for a parent fighting AIDS.
• A teacher helping children learn how to read and write.
• The visit of a social worker to care and give a helping hand.
• Clean water to quench the thirst of the hot sun.
• A safe classroom in the middle of a threatening slum.
• Friendly hugs and listening ears from caring leaders.
• A micro loan to help a guardian work and be able to pay the rent.
• An After-School program to keep kids from going home to empty houses.
• Clubs that let children have fun while learning about faith and truth.