Behind the Scenes: The Backpack Program
Keeping children in school and feeding families are the main goals ER International has worked to accomplish with their backpack program in Honduras for the past four years.
The program is simple. In communities where poverty and other challenges often result in parents taking their kids out of school, or sending them there hungry, children are given a backpack filled with enough food to feed their entire family for the week, on the condition that they stay in school. In this way, families are encouraged to keep their kids enrolled in their education and children are empowered because they are helping to provide for their families. The backpacks are made possible by generous sponsors who donate just $22 each month to support a child.
But what goes on behind the scenes of filling all these backpacks with food? Just how much impact does this program have on the lives of the children and schools it serves? This month we took a deeper look into the day to day operations of running ER International to find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about the lives sponsors are helping each week by funding the backpacks.
A Day in the Life
On backpack day, ER International co-founder Robyn Breaux heads to a local grocery store in Honduras. Some days she purchases foods that are the main staples in the country like rice, beans, and tortillas. Other days she gets items like pasta, tomato sauce, and canned vegetables. “I like to mix it up and not get the same thing every week,” she explains.
After gathering supplies at the store, she goes to the schools to fill and hand out backpacks. Each child in the program has their own backpack with their name on it. She says she luckily has quite a few joyful helpers who assist her each week at the school, “The kids love to help with unloading the car, carrying the food into the school, bagging the food, and whatever else they can do. They have taken real ownership of the program.” The children are also learning important life skills by being responsible for bringing their backpacks every week and helping to fill them in an orderly manner. One of the best parts for Robyn of working closely with the children each week is the chance it gives her to spend time with them and let them know they are loved. Once the backpacks are filled, they are given to the children to take home.
More than Food
The backpack program’s influence reaches further than filling empty tummies. The children are also encouraged by the fact that they have a sponsor who cares about them and provides them with food each week. Far from being distant strangers, sponsors can take an even more active role in their child’s life by sending cards, letters, and little birthday or Christmas gifts.
The children love the interaction with their sponsors. Some have even traveled to Honduras to meet their sponsored child. “It’s really touching when the sponsor gets to meet the child and pretty emotional,” Robyn says.
It’s the Little Things
Having a backpack of food for the week means many things.
It means getting three meals a day instead of just one or two. During seasons when money is tight for families, many do not have enough to cover three meals a day and lunch is usually skipped. Therefore, parents are not able to send a lunch with their children to school. But with the backpack program, kids are able to sit down during their midday break from lessons and pull out sack lunches of rice and beans, juice, raisins, and fresh bread.
It means a better school day. Imagine trying to solve math problems or focus on a reading lesson on an empty stomach. Schools can serve their students better when they are getting the proper nutrition they need. It makes all the difference in their ability to have a good day at school.
It means less worry. Students know they won’t be going hungry, and that frees them to concentrate on their studies. In addition, parents have a burden taken off their shoulders and are grateful for the extra help.
ER International partners with two schools to find families in need of their backpack program and they are always looking to expand. Currently, they provide backpacks for a total of 98 children. That is 98 children that get to both keep learning and also help take care of their families. There are 16 other students like these waiting for sponsorship right now and the opportunity to do the same. If you or someone you know would like to sponsor one of these children, the process is so easy. Simply click the 'SPONSOR TODAY!' button below.
Stay tuned for our newsletter coming out next month to learn more about the ER International Backpack Program.