International Children's Care:
It's All About Family!
For most of us, life without a family is pretty hard to fathom. As rocky and tumultuous an upbringing many may have, we can still claim that we were part of a family and belong somewhere. Unfortunately, that is not the case for millions of children worldwide. Orphaned, abandoned, victims of violence and national strife, children pay the price everyday for the sinful world in which we live.
In fact, half of the world's children (1 billion) live in poverty, and quite literally are in a fight for basic survival. According to UNICEF, worldwide, nearly 30,000 children under the age of 5 die each day due to poverty. This translates to roughly 10 million deaths of children each year. The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Sadly, in spite of the scale of this daily tragic loss of human life, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.
Saving one abandoned child each year from the millions destined to die may seem as insignificant as a drop in the ocean--hardly worth the effort. That would be true if we weren't talking about human life. Fortunately, that is not how the heroic and visionary Alcyon Fleck viewed her mission when urged to open an "orphanage" following the lethal aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Guatemala in 1976. Fleck established and led International Children's Care (ICC), and better than thirty years later, ICC has made a difference in the lives of over 3,500 children, one child at a time.
For Fleck, it was all about restoring each child to a Christian family. Fleck resolved from the beginning that ICC's impact would be far different than the classic model of lonely, dank and impersonal institutional orphanages. Fleck broke the mold on how homeless children in poverty stricken countries ought to be cared for. She endeavored to assemble a village comprised of homes with a Christian mother and father who would care for all the needs of their abandoned children. By design, children who were previously left to die would find themselves in a healthy family unit, where their mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs were met. ICC would not simply provide food, water and a roof, but far more than that: a real home with real parents, in an atmosphere that would bring love and security to these children.
Learning and Growing
There is a clear spiritual emphasis in each ICC home, with morning and evening worship geared to the interests of the children. In this atmosphere the children learn to be true Christians, making the Bible the foundation of their faith.
Education is a key component of the ICC program. ICC operates elementary schools on their own grounds, accommodating the school program to the needs of the children. Most of the ICC children have fallen behind in their education when they arrive, so the educational programs are individually designed to meet the needs of each child. The child is offered an opportunity to attend high school, and in some instances college as well.
The blueprint for an ICC village campus includes ten homes for children, an administration building, an elementary school, a shop or industrial building, and in some cases there is also a receiving building. Frequently, these village buildings are placed on a hundred acre parcel of land, and as such, farming becomes an integral part of their program. The land provides work opportunities for the older children, as well as for the village parents during the day, but also provides food, which diminishes the need for outside help.
The children learn manual labor skills, thus preparing each child to face life on his own someday. The farm also offers opportunities for life lessons in sharing between houses, and even opens the door for many villages to create a cottage industry, as farm grown fruits, vegetables, or crafts can be sold at market for a profit. (Interestingly, at the General Conference World Session in Atlanta in 2010, ICC's booth space will feature many of these handmade crafts to promote awareness and generate additional revenue for ICC projects.)
Philosophically, ICC regards itself as a ministry, not a business. That said, ICC rivals most successful businesses today in having a track record of making intelligent business planning decisions. Every facet of this organization demonstrates that ICC is run by watchful stewards who take great pride in steering clear of the excess that many charitable organizations adorn on themselves and their facilities for doing "good works."
A stone's throw from the new Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital, ICC headquarters is a smartly run office housed in a professional building constructed by Maranatha some years back on a donated plot of land. ICC's Executive Director, Doug Congleton reports that according to annual independent auditing, better than 90 cents of each donated dollar reaches the 1,100 children spread across the 19 active programs that ICC currently operates. Congleton states, "Our vision for 2009 is to get every ICC child-all 1,100 of them-fully sponsored, and then start looking at the ability to add more children to existing projects."
ICC graciously receives donations of any size; however, many donors target $30 per month which represents an eighth of the actual monthly cost ($240) to fully cover the costs of caring for each child. Doug continues, "Currently we are operating 19 projects around the world and we would love to add more, but cannot at this time due to financial constraints. In 2009, we are working on constructed new buildings in our projects in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Romania and Dominican Republic."
The sinking economy has naturally taken its toll on ICC's incoming funds. To date, countries outside of the U.S. appear to be hardest hit, however there are signs of reduced donations domestically as well. And yet, the calls to ICC for more help for more children keep coming in.
One Church, One Child
The One Church, One Child (OCOC) project started in October of 2007, and is essentially a ‘call to arms' for Seventh-day Adventist churches to care for one child in an ICC project. Congleton explains, "The cost of fully sponsoring one child for a year is often more than one individual can support, however, a congregation of 20, 100, or 500+ can easily cover the cost for one or more children. We also find that when churches participate in the OCOC program and collect an offering for an ICC child/project, it doesn't draw away from the tithe or church budget." Of the approximately 6,400 congregations across the North America Division, 75 churches presently sponsor a child with ICC. "We would love to see additional churches this year take on a full sponsorship of an ICC child," reports Congleton.
There are many other creative ways to make a difference in the life of an ICC child, outside of the typical monthly or annual sponsorships. Some donors choose to underwrite various costs for the children or the village. For instance, for an individual child or an entire village, a donor can underwrite shoes ($20), access to medical care ($25), vehicle maintenance ($150), meals ($10), the monthly salary for a house father or mother ($175), etc.
Without a doubt, ICC makes a lasting mark on the lives of its children, and the impact goes well beyond the achievement of an educational certificate, or the successful entry into the social structure or workforce. "When we support a child at ICC, we are really going about the work of saving them twice. The first time, we may save their lives, and that is incredibly important. But the second time, we are making a spiritual impact that they will carry with them, hopefully spreading to countless others they encounter."
Interested in a mission project? ICC also greatly values the volunteer efforts of individuals, academies and churches to help with VBS, construction projects, and other administrative tasks. Please contact Alanna Jones at ICC at 1.800.ICC.PRAY.
Learn more about the ministry of International Children's Care by visiting http://www.forhiskids.org.