Foster youth meet with lawmakers to lobby and advocate

Local youth in foster care meet with Austin lawmakers to lobby for issues impacting foster care system

BCFS Health and Human Services’ youth travel to Youth In Action Capitol Day during Texas’ 84th Legislative Session

AUSTIN — Twenty youth in foster care from BCFS’ San Antonio, McAllen and Corpus Christi Transition Centers met with lawmakers to lobby for issues impacting Texas’ foster care system during the annual Youth In Action Capitol Day on March 27th. The youth led presentations regarding bills under discussion this legislative session, covering issues like the overuse of medications in foster youth, and the importance of higher education.

BCFS’ youth met with the offices of Texas State Senators Juan Hinojosa and Carlos Uresti, and State Representatives Ruth Jones McClendon, Diego Bernal and Justin Rodriguez to advocate for ten bills that would impact the state foster care system.

For weeks leading up to the event, BCFS worked with each youth to pore over the details of the ten relevant proposed bills. A series of morning presentations precluded the dignitary meetings in which the youth spoke on the issues they were most passionate about, including homelessness, mental health treatment, and foster parent certifications.

Kicharnae Earls was one of the youth who participated in the event. “I feel like my voice was heard,” says Earls. “I enjoyed that they listened to my concerns and took my opinions into consideration.”

“Youth in Action Capitol Day teaches our youth about the legislative process and policy-making,” said BCFS San Antonio Transition Center Program Director Stacy Lee. “It’s powerful to visit the Capitol where it all takes place, and learn first-hand how ideas become laws that eventually affect our daily lives.”

The BCFS San Antonio, McAllen and Corpus Christi Transition Centers serve youth in foster care, those who aged out of foster care, youth in the juvenile justice system, and those struggling with poverty, homelessness or an unstable home life. Youth rely on the centers for case management, life skills workshops, and help with education, employment and housing location. BCFS Health and Human Services operates seven youth transition centers across Texas.

Youth in Action Capitol Day, which draws about 300 youth and adults from all over Texas each session, is a program of  Texas Network of Youth Services. Youth from BCFS have participated in the event during every legislative session since 2005.

For more information about BCFS’ youth transition centers, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net.

# # #

BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

 

 

 

BCFS Education Services begins early registration

Program promotes academic achievement and school readiness for children ages 3-4

BCFS Education Services’ Head Start is now accepting applications for three and 4yearolds in Comal and Guadalupe counties. Marion and Seguin Independent School Districts are accepting both three and 4-year-olds. New Braunfels Independent School District is currently accepting 4yearolds only. On early enrollment days listed below, families may apply in-person for their child to join a BCFS Education Services’ Head Start classroom.

Head Start provides education, health and social services to pre-school children to help them build strong foundations for success rooted in academic achievement and healthy living. The program promotes school readiness by enhancing the child’s social and cognitive development, while connecting families to helpful community resources.

New Braunfels ISD
Only accepting 4-year-olds

Lone Star Elementary:
April 13th, 4 to 6 PM
April 16th and 17th, 8 AM to 3 PM

Klein Road Elementary:
April 14th, 4 to 6 PM

County Line Elementary:
April 15th, 4 to 6 PM

Seguin ISD

Ball Early Childhood Center
April 20th, 8 AM to 3 PM
April 21st and 22nd, 8 AM to 3 PM
April 23rd, noon to 7 PM

Marion ISD

Norma Krueger Elementary
March 28th, 9 to 11 AM

Services include:
  • Preschool
  • Individualized teaching
  • Degreed teachers
  • Bilingual services
  • Social services
  • Parent trainings
  • Meals and snacks
  • Disability services
  • Dental and wellness exams
  • Health services
  • Field trips
  • Bus and ADA transportation
    at some facilities

A child is eligible to enroll in Head Start if his or her family falls in one of these categories: Family is receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); family’s gross income falls below federal poverty guidelines; a family member living with and supported by the child’s family is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI); family is homeless; or the child is in foster care. To be eligible, the child must be three or 4yearsold on or before September 1, 2015 and live in Guadalupe, Comal, Atascosa, Wilson, Karnes or Kendall County. Children with disabilities may also be eligible.

To apply, call or visit the Head Start office in your county. Applications are available online at DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart, along with a list of necessary enrollment documents. For more information, residents of Guadalupe & Comal Counties can call (830) 331-8908.

BCFS Education Services is part of the global BCFS system of health and human service non-profit organizations. To learn more about BCFS Education Services’ Head Start program, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected, assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services, medical services, transitional living services for at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system, residential camping and retreats for children and families, and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

Project HOPES hosts literacy event to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday

Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a Dr. Seuss book to the childrenLA FERIA – The BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center’s Project HOPES program hosted a literacy event for local children and families at La Feria Public Library to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s 111th birthday. Over 50 children attended, and each took home a Dr. Seuss book courtesy of the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center.

The event, held March 28th in conjunction with the National Education Association’s Read Across America initiative, featured readings from several Dr. Seuss books in Spanish and English, plus a Truffula Tree-making class, face-painting, and gift bags for kids and parents.

Leaders from across the city attended the event in support of Project HOPES. La Feria Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a book to the children, and Tabitha Outlaw, Special Event Coordinator for the City of La Feria, volunteered to help children make bookmarks. Commissioner Julian Guevara Jr. and Commissioner Olga Maldonado were also in attendance.

Photo: Children were given Dr. Seuss books and gift bags

“When a parent reads a book to their child, they’re not only helping them reach critical educational milestones, they’re strengthening the parent-child bond,” says BCFS Senior Program Director Jeff Wolpers. “Since the goal of Project HOPES is to help build healthy, stable families, we wanted to use the event to remind parents of creative, fun ways to build that bond, and also inspire a love of reading in children.”

Project HOPES is a community-based program for families with children five years old and younger that provides parenting education, support groups and counseling to help families overcome challenges. The program serves families in Cameron County and is funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“We are grateful for the support of city leaders and the La Feria Public Library,” says Wolpers. “The whole community has embraced the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center and been so welcoming to us. We are here to serve this community and touch as many lives as possible, so we treasure these opportunities to bring some light-hearted fun to families.”

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His wildly imaginative stories have captivated young readers for decades, teaching values like responsibility, caring for the environment, and positive thinking. Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears a Who are among his most popular works.

For more information about Project HOPES and the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center, call (956) 230-3849 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HOPES.

# # #

BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

 

 

 

National Day of Prayer Community Breakfast – Kerrville

BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The BCFS System leadership has elected to host and sponsor a community breakfast in Kerrville in support of the 2017 National Day of Prayer. Created in 1952 and signed into law by President Truman, the National Day of Prayer is an inspiring way to bring people of all faiths together to pray and mobilize with a common focus.

Time:
Coffee and music beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Where:
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church – Tucker Hall
321 St. Peter’s Street, Kerrville, TX

Theme:
Brining our Community together in honor of
National Day of Prayer

Menu:
Pancakes, Steak, Eggs & More!
Catering by Rails

Please RSVP by April 21, 2017 to kathleen.maxwell@BCFS.net or call (830) 928-9387

Baseball legend Jimmy Morris joins BCFS’ team

SAN ANTONIO — Many people know him as “The Rookie,” from the hit Disney film that captivated sports fans and moviegoers across the nation. From humble beginnings in Brownwood, Texas, Jimmy Morris rose from the ranks of high school baseball coach to Major League Baseball pitcher. At the age of 35, in a league where most players retire in their thirties, Jimmy made his rookie debut as a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Photo: Dennis Quaid, Jimmy Morris

Morris coached baseball at Reagan County High School in the 1990s in Big Lake, Texas, a west Texas oil drilling community. When his team of high school students challenged him to heed his own advice to never give up on your dreams, they made a friendly wager: If his team won the district championships, he would try out for the majors again, reigniting a dream extinguished ten years prior because of an injury.

While his major league career only lasted a few years due to persistent tendonitis, Morris defied the odds and became a living testament for the power of a can-do attitude. His inspirational story was captured in his memoir, The Oldest Rookie, and made famous when Dennis Quaid played Jimmy in the 2002 film “The Rookie.”

His journey led him to BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations headquartered in San Antonio. BCFS has named Jimmy Morris the agency’s new Motivational Specialist. In this role, he’ll speak to youth and families in BCFS programs and facilities around Texas, including youth transition centers and transitional housing for youth in foster care, and others struggling with issues like poverty, homelessness or abuse.

“I want to give back,” Morris says. “It’s not about me. It’s about what God can do through me.”

Jimmy has served as the keynote speaker at BCFS fundraising events in Lubbock, Abilene and Kerrville the past several years. Ben Delgado of BCFS’ Community Services Division called Jimmy’s story “truly inspiring.”

“BCFS aims to empower struggling teens and families to dream big, set goals, and work hard to achieve them,” says Delgado. “So it’s powerful to show them what the quintessential underdog is capable of. Jimmy is living proof that no dream is too big.”

Throughout his major league career, Jimmy always kept in mind the lessons he learned from his grandfather, Ernest, about perseverance and success. “Remember who you are and where you came from,” his grandfather would say. Now 51, Jimmy lives those wise words daily.

As Jimmy works to inspire those in need, he confronts a daunting obstacle of his own. In 2013, Jimmy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes uncontrollable tremors throughout the body. As champions do, Jimmy has persevered through the diagnosis and pushes onward.

BCFS Health and Human Services operates transition centers across Texas that provide youth counseling, case management, and assistance with education, employment, and housing. Several BCFS transition centers also offer parenting education programs that connect parents to community resources to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Jimmy’s enthusiasm is evident and he’s eager to serve as motivational speaker, mentor and advocate for BCFS youth and families. “It’s about who I can help, and who I can push,” he says. “It’s my job to tell the kids what they’re capable of.”

All this coming from a man who can throw six different fast balls; his fastest was clocked at 102 mph. And while he admits that life can come at you fast, he stands firm in his belief that with God all things are possible, and it’s never too late to make a difference.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected, assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services, medical services, transitional living services for at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system, residential camping and retreats for children and families, and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

BVT Hosts Musical Night to Remember

Breckenridge Village of Tyler hosts musical benefit event
A Night to Remember: Doo Wop at the Soda Shoppe”

Photo: A group singing on stageTYLER – It was truly a night to remember for residents and friends of Breckenridge Village of Tyler at BVT’s musical benefit event, “A Night to Remember: Doo Wop at the Soda Shoppe.” The stage at Bushman’s Celebration Center was full of the sights and sounds of the ‘50s and ‘60s.  About 700 guests enjoyed performances by local and nationally-renowned musicians, but the highlight of the night came as residents of Breckenridge Village took the stage to sing and dance.

Breckenridge Village of Tyler is a faith-based residential community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The event raised over $33,000 that will be used for the care of BVT residents and day program participants.

On Friday February 27th, audience members dressed in poodle skirts, penny loafers and other nostalgic duds from the era. Neal Sharpe, a singer who traveled and performed with several of the original doo wop bands of the 50’s and 60’s, performed at the event. Casey Rivers, The GTOs, Shake Rattle n Roll, The C, November Roberts, and Tyler Junior College’s Apache Belles also graced the stage. Radio personality Mr. Tom Perryman from the Ranch Radio Group and his wife Billie were among the distinguished guests in attendance.

Photo: Women signing on stageWhen BVT resident Jesse sang the 1957 classic “My special angel,” the crowd erupted in applause and a standing ovation. Jesse’s friends from BVT danced behind him, and the act ended with residents dancing the twist to the music of Dale Cummings.

“Our 5th annual Night to Remember was a huge success thanks to an outpouring of support from so many folks in the community,” says Linda Taylor, Director of Development at Breckenridge Village. “Most importantly, our residents had an amazing time preparing and performing. We treasure every moment we get to put our residents in the spotlight.”

Donors and community partners who helped make the event possible include Kiepersol Enterprises’ Pierre de Wet, Debra and Jeff Johnston of the Chick-fil-A on South Broadway, and Allison and Ikey Eason of the Chick-fil-A on Troup Highway, and Brookshire’s Grocery. The star-studded, talented lineup was under the direction of Green Acres Baptist Church’s Penny and Kevin Burdette.

For more information about Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), contact Linda Taylor at 903-596-8100 or visit www.BreckenridgeVillage.com.

# # #

Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) is part of BCFS’ global system of health and human service non-profit organizations. BVT is a faith-based community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities. Located on a tranquil 70-acre campus just west of Tyler, Texas, our community offers exceptional residential and day enrichment programs to meet the needs of the persons entrusted to our care. We are dedicated to serving a group of amazing people—God’s Forever Children—in a warm, safe, family-like setting that seeks to empower each resident as he or she develops spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially in a safe, loving, and closely supervised environment. 

 

BCFS partners with Del Rio schools on teen dating violence

BCFS partners with Del Rio schools to instruct youth on healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention

DEL RIO — The statistics are staggering. One in four high school girls have been victims of date rape, or physical or sexual abuse. Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
Domestic violence outreach coordinators and child abuse prevention specialists from BCFS’ Del Rio Family Services Center visited local middle schools, high schools and alternative schools this month to educate students on dating violence and unhealthy relationships. BCFS met with approximately 980 students between 6th and 12th grade to lead discussions on the warning signs of abuse, and what to do if you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
BCFS leads community education and outreach events every month aimed at ending cycles of abuse in Del Rio for good. The organization amped up its outreach the past several weeks in honor of February as national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
BCFS encourages parents, other trusted adults and friends to look for the warning signs that a teen might be experiencing dating violence. Suspicious bruising, failing grades, and a disinterest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed are all cause for concern. Signs that a teen may be at risk for carrying out dating violence include issues with anger management, insulting or mean-spirited comments toward their partner, and threatening physical harm if there is talk about a break up.
BCFS Health and Human Services operates programs throughout Del Rio to serve those in need, including free counseling and crisis intervention through the Services To At Risk Youth (STAR) program, and domestic violence treatment and prevention through the Del Rio Domestic Violence (DRDV) program.
DRDV provides safety, support and resources to victims of domestic violence through legal assistance, referrals to access community resources, emergency medical care, and safety planning. Last year, the program helped over 100 adults and children through face-to-face services to stop the cycle of abuse, including violence intervention and safety planning.
“Our main goal is fostering safe and loving environments,” says BCFS Senior Program Director Raquel Frausto Rodriguez. “When someone affected by abuse looks to us for help, we use resources, counseling and education to try to help them see that violence is never the answer, and that there are more effective ways to handle problems.”
BCFS’ STAR program aims to reduce family conflict and prevent delinquent behaviors, runaways, truancy and child abuse by helping youths and their families learn to resolve crises and develop coping and parenting skills. Services include free counseling in a home or office setting, crisis intervention, training for parents and youth, and emergency residential placements.
BCFS’ Domestic Violence Hotline is available round-the-clock at (830) 768-2755.
For more information about BCFS’ Family Services Center in Del Rio, including help for someone in an abusive relationship, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/DomesticViolence or call (830) 768-2755.
*Statistics provided by Love Is Respect, Break the Cycle, and the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
# # #

 

BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected, assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services, medical services, transitional living services for at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system, residential camping and retreats for children and families, and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center receives Betenbough Homes grant

Photo: Holly Betenbough presents Kami Jackson with check

LUBBOCK – Betenbough Homes of Lubbock has awarded the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center its $10,000 Community Grant. The funds will be allocated to the transition center’s annual Hope Chest event and its emergency fund, which helps provide housing and other necessities for youth in a crisis. BCFS’ Hope Chest event equips high school and college graduates in foster care with necessities for their first dorm or apartment, like bedding, hygiene products and kitchenware.  Betenbough Homes is West Texas’ leading builder of new homes in Lubbock, Midland and Odessa and also operates a full-time ministry of support to area nonprofits.

The BCFS Lubbock Transition Center provides services for youth in, and aging out of, the foster care system and those at risk of homelessness and other challenges. The center provides youth with case management, counseling and assistance with education, employment and housing. Many of the youth have been removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect and spent time in foster care, or have been in the juvenile justice system. Other young adults make the center their “home away from home” to have a safe place to study after school, and mentors to keep them on the right path.

“As a company, we are passionate about the well-being of youth and families, so the center is a natural fit for our Community Grant,” said Betenbough’s Ministry Director Holly Betenbough. “Our employees were touched by the center’s ability to love and mentor youth so well. We feel the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center is vital to our community and are thankful for its positive impact in the lives of West Texas families.”

Betenbough and the Lubbock Transition Center have cultivated a relationship that began in 2012, when Betenbough helped sponsor the center’s Hope Chest event. Hope Chest celebrates high school and college graduates who are in foster care or who aged out of the system. The graduates are the guests of honor at a luncheon, after which they go shopping for the necessary housewares of college dorm life or the beginning of independent adulthood. BCFS staff and volunteers accompany the graduates during their shopping trip, helping youth stay under budget and stick to necessities on their shopping list.

Betenbough employees also contributed cash donations matched by the company, as well as gifts, party supplies and desserts for the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center’s 2014 Christmas Dreams event. At the annual Christmas Dreams party, youth in foster care and their children are paid a visit from Santa and given Christmas gifts from their wish lists.

“The generous folks at Betenbough are passionate about helping Lubbock’s youth in need through the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center,” said Kami Jackson, program director. “The Community Grant shows Betenbough’s commitment to Lubbock’s youth who need our help. We are thankful for their support and partnership.”

For more information about the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center, please visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Lubbock or call 806-792-0526.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

BCFS’ McAllen Transition Center Expands to Serve Youth and Families

Photo: Young woman ringing Job Bell

MCALLEN – Whenever a teen or young adult at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center gets a job, they get to ring the “Job Bell” to the sound of cheers and applause from staff. After hosting a Career Education Workshop last week for local youth looking for employment, the BCFS team is looking forward to a lot of bell-ringing.

The BCFS McAllen Transition Center serves local youth and families in need, providing assistance with education, employment and housing location, lifeskills courses, and parenting education.

BCFS opened the transition center in 2012 to help youth aging out of foster care prepare for independent living, but the facility has seen rapid growth and now also provides child abuse prevention programs, rehabilitation for youth in the juvenile justice system, parenting support groups, and services for any youth struggling with poverty, homelessness or a turbulent home life.

Serving about 200 people each month, the center quickly outgrew its office space. Their team of case managers, facilitators, mentoring coordinators and family educators has tripled in the past year. Renovations were completed last month to accommodate new staff, and create more room for family counseling sessions and mentor meetings.

BCFS hosted an Open House Friday, January 23 inviting community leaders and other non-profits to tour the newly-renovated space and learn about their services. Representatives from BCFS’ community partners attended, including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Tropical Behavior Center, Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary, RGV Play Therapy Center, and the Ramirez Center probation officers.

At the Career Education Workshop hosted by BCFS this month, young men and women in foster care and youth overcoming a past of criminal activity gathered to learn how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview, as well as complete a career inventory to assess what line of work suits them best.

“The youth we serve – like all teenagers – need to feel loved and supported,” said Marissa Cano, BCFS McAllen Transition Center Program Director. “Many of them were removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect and put in foster care. If they aren’t adopted, they age out of the system at 18 years old without a family. This lack of stability and accountability led some to make poor choices, but we help them overcome the trauma that makes them act out and work hard for a brighter future.”

This month, BCFS also hosted a seminar on AIDS awareness and sexual health in collaboration with the Valley AIDS organization.

“Our goal is to convey to our youth the importance of making smart choices when it comes to health and safety, and to connect them to resources that support these choices,” said Deyanira Garcia, case manager at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center.

About 950 families have graduated from BCFS’ parenting education program, which is aimed at reducing child abuse by teaching parents how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and deal with behavioral problems. Participating families meet weekly at the center or local schools, and receive childcare, transportation and necessities like food, diapers and clothing.

For more information about the BCFS McAllen Transition Center, call (956) 630-0010 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/McAllen.

Ten Years Later, Sri Lanka Hit by Another Devastating Natural Disaster

U.S.-based humanitarian organization, Children’s Emergency Relief International, aids families affected by widespread flooding

By: Leonard Favela
BATTICALOA , SRI LANKA — On December 23, 2014, nearing the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2004 tsunami that claimed more than 226,000 souls and left Indonesia’s island nations and the lives of their people utterly destroyed, BCFS’ overseas division Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) received notification of torrential rainfall in Sri Lanka. In only a few days, the rains sparked massive flooding and mudslides across the region, driving thousands out of their homes — and CERI into action.
Since responding to the tsunami a decade ago, CERI has operated a foster care program in two of the hardest hit cities — Batticaloa and Weligama — focused on reuniting or finding safe, loving families for children who are orphaned. In-country staff conduct trauma and loss counseling for children overcoming loss and hardships, and distribute microloans to ambitious foster parents who are entrepreneurs looking to break the cycles of poverty in their families and rural communities.
As the waters rose last month, CERI again found itself searching for children and families through waterlogged streets, and helping many among the 100,000 people affected by floods find refuge and food after their homes were destroyed.
Daily reports were sent back to the states by CERI South Asia National Director Anita Ramesh. Three CERI foster homes were damaged beyond repair, but by God’s grace, every family and child was accounted for. While the organization was able to coordinate temporary housing for families that were displaced, the organization’s goal is to rebuild the homes that were lost.
After flood waters completely receded, many families asked if they could return to their homes and neighborhoods. It is customary for Sri Lankan families to spend the New Year in their homes, performing thorough cleaning — symbolic of purging the previous year, and preparing for a prosperous year to come. CERI staff helped many families prepare their homes for their New Year’s customs, but others’ were too heavily damaged by the flooding. Those families moved in temporarily with relatives or neighbors.
CERI provided all families who returned to their neighborhoods with essential dry goods and water for immediate use. CERI staff asked families to list necessary household items destroyed by the disaster and, thanks to the support of its U.S.-based parent organization BCFS, was able to replace such items immediately.
“I am always inspired by the bravery and resiliency of those we serve around the world,” said Dr. Dearing Garner, CERI Executive Director. “In the wake of such tragedy, hope shined as brightly as it did a decade ago thanks to the prayers and support from not only our Sri Lanka staff but also our many friends and sponsors here in the United States.”
Check out pictures of CERI’s response and recovery efforts in Sri Lanka on Facebook.
For more information about CERI’s work around the world, please visit CERIkids.org.